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Safe wetsuit diving on the Northumberland coast


While it’s becoming increasingly popular among the diving fraternity to head off to exotic (and relatively warm) locations like the Red Sea diving resorts, the UK still has a great deal to offer both the novice and the more experienced diver.  The temperature of the water may deter some less hardy individuals, but the North Sea needn’t be a problem for wetsuit divers and clearly a decent drysuit will mean that you shouldn’t have any difficulty acclimatising at all.

Any novice divers, or those uncertain about the correct equipment for diving UK coastal waters like Northumberland can always get advice from their diving club or from one of the excellent specialist diving and wetsuit suppliers who will be only too happy to share their expert knowledge.

There are a few issues that less experienced divers, or those visiting Northumberland for the first time need to bear in mind.  However, the area in general is a great place to experience coastal diving with much to hold the interest and to keep you coming back for more.

The waters off north Northumberland are famous for the number and diversity of wrecks of ships which have ended their days in these treacherous waters. Then there are the playful, inquisitive, almost tame seals which colonise the Farne islands. The geology of the seabed around the area, with the igneous dolerite of the Great Whin Sill stretching out eastward from the coast marked by a number of volcanic islets rising sheer from the seabed is also remarkable for exploration, whether in wetsuits or drysuits.

The area is well equipped for diving.  A number of charter hardboats operate from Seahouses (North Sunderland) harbour and from nearby Beadnell (the only harbour on the East coast which faces west).  Slipway facilities for your club’s own boats are available and most of the B&Bs and small hotels around the area are extremely “dive friendly”.

It’s easiest to get some idea of the attraction of the area by looking at two particularly well known dive sites.  Most visitors to the Northumberland coast will, at some time or other, dive the Somali.  Lying in 25 metres of water and relatively close to land off Beadnell Point, Somali is a large and interesting wreck to dive.  The large cargo liner (over 450’ long) was the commodore’s ship of an outbound convoy which was bombed and sunk in 1941. She is identified by one or two permanent dive buoys and provides an excellent introduction to wreck diving, with much to see, relatively clear water and a host of identifiable seabed debris.  Monofilament line and hooks are an ever-present hazard as the wreck attracts a large number of fish and other marine life (and therefore anglers!).  As with all diving around the Northumberland coast, it’s vital to keep dive times close to slack water (1.5 - 2 hours after high and low water) due to the strong tidal currents.

Aclivity was a small coastal tanker which sank in 1952 after striking a submerged obstruction. Lying in around 30 metres, the wreck is still largely complete, although broken in two, but is now in a relatively advanced state of decay and in danger of collapse.  Great care should therefore be taken when exploring her hull.  As she was a relatively small vessel, Aclivity can be explored in a single dive, especially if nitrox is used.  As with Somali, it’s vital to keep your dive to slack water due to the often fierce tidal currents.

As ever, make you obtain the best advice to keep your dives safe and enjoyable.

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