Newton Stewart Sub Aqua Club - BSAC branch 1853

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A.  Port Yerrock Bay - Depth 10 to 20m

The seabed in Port Yerrock Bay is very silty, but the rocky reefs off the southern shore, despite the fine deposit of silt, are covered in various sponges, bryozoans and anemones.  There are also good numbers of wrasse, dogfish, lobsters and crabs as well as the smaller Leopard Spotted Gobies and Tompot Blennies hiding in crevices.

Below is a brief description of our scenic dive sites.  Scroll down to read more about specific sites A to D.  Some sites have additional information in the form of Seasearch reports.

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The bay is quite large and in it lie the remains of a number of wrecks.  The most intact one is the S.S. Jasper, (see the details in the wreck section) however the Cambridge and the Eidenger, both of which sank in 1879 carrying cargoes of coal, still remain to be found as does the small smack Fox which sank in 1868 about half a mile off shore.

Possibly the most interesting wreck in the bay though is the supposed Armada wreck, which according to Agnew in his book “The Hereditary Sherriffs of Wigtownshire,” foundered off Cruggleton Castle in 1588.  This really would be a find if it does exist, but what is certain is that it would now lie buried beneath many metres of silt!

The southern end of the bay was also the site of the Mulberry Harbour testing in 1943-1944.  Photographs of the access ramps and harbour sections can be seen in The Steampacket Inn at the Isle of Whithorn.  One “beetle” caisson lies partly exposed at low water in Cairnhead Bay and we have noted further anomolies on the fish finder which may be other sections.  However, those that we have dived have turned out to be large isolated boulders.

B.  Cairn Head - Depth 6 to 20m

Cairn Head is a low rocky spur which thrusts out to sea at the southern end of Port Yerrock Bay.  Under water the rocks deflect the strong tidal flow and create a still eddy close to shore.  The water here, therefore, can remain relatively clear whilst further out the swiftly flowing water is heavy with sediment.  This means that Cairn Head can be dived at any state of the tide provided that you do not go out beyond the protection of the headland.  

Under water low rocky ridges reach out from the shore down to a depth of around 12 metres.  Here they meet a number of isolated rocky outcrops which seem to run parallel to the shore out to a depth of around 18 metres.  This is the edge of the sheltered zone and from here a sandy / broken shell sea bed stretches away, scoured by the swift tidal stream.

This is a good area for a drift dive when the current is not too strong.  The sea bed is covered with short animal turf which as you drift down towards Stein Head changes and becomes covered with a carpet of brittle stars.  There are numerous lobster pots in this area which means that care needs to be taken if using an S.M.B.  (If you go under a line and your buoy goes over the top it is well nigh impossible to swim back and free it )  Delayed S.M.B.s deployed at the end of the dive are our usual practice.

To return to the sheltered area south of Cairn Head, this is a particularly good area to search for scallops since the parallel outcrops of rock prevent dredgers from getting in too close to shore.(However at the beginning of the 2011 diving season we noticed the there had been a recent mass extermination of scallops in the area. All other species were abundant but filter feeders such as scallops were dead suggesting a brief contamination of the river water which flows through this site.) The area is particularly scenic with kelp forest in the shallower depths opening out to sandy areas between the numerous rocky outcrops.  There are plenty of lobsters and crabs to be seen along with the usual wrasse and pollock.  Dogfish can also be found in the deeper areas.  The rocks too are scattered with plumose anemones and dead men’s fingers.

C.  Carrickaboys Rocks - Depth

This is an interesting dive site just south of Cairn Head where two rocky ridges extend out from the shore creating a small cove.  This is a good place to drop anchor as it is sheltered from any wind or current.  Diving is possible at all states of the tide since the ridges deflect the tidal stream leaving the large under water gullies current free, provided that one does not venture too far out from the shore.  

Underneath the boat is a dense kelp forest with red seaweeds beneath and on the stipes.  This begins at around 5m and extends down to 10m.  The bedrock here has many cracks and fissures where squat lobsters, shrimp and other small creatures can be found.  Heading downwards on a 90 degree bearing the large gullies begin to open up and the slab like bedrock walls are covered in dead men’s fingers, spiral bryozoans, hornwrack and various types of sponges.  The seabed lies at around 14m at the heads of the gullies and some are filled with cobbles and pebbles heavily covered in finger bryozoans and antenna hydroids while others are rough sand patches with tube anemones.  

Where the gullies open out, at around 15m there are large bedrock outcrops which are also covered in animal turf and grazed by sea urchins.  The fish life at this site is good and Ballan, Cuckoo and Goldsinny Wrasse are common and inquisitive.  Large Pollock cruise the upper areas while Dogfish are to be found on the seabed.  In the cracks and crevices Leopard Spotted Gobies and Tompot Blennies are common.

The water at this site can be quite clear, however there is a fine deposit of silt covering all surfaces, which means that careful fining is required.  It is recorded that the schooner Ada was wrecked on the rocks in 1899 carrying a cargo of 270 tons of coal.  So far no sign of wreckage or coal have been found.

D.  Stein Head - Depth 6 to 15m

At this site a ridge of rocks stretches out from the cliff face into the tidal stream. As at other nearby sites this provides a sheltered area for diving at most states of the tide, however swimming out to the flat seabed at around 20m exposes you to the strong tidal flow outside of slack water. The seabed here is of mixed ground and heavily covered with brittle star beds.

Closer in, the rocky ridges and pinnacles have the usual kelp forest on top with the sheer vertical faces dropping from sea level down to between 6m and 9m. these walls are covered in animal turf such as Dead Men’s Fingers and Plumose Anemones and are grazed by various starfish and urchins. The usual Ballan Wrasse, Goldsinny and Cuckoo Wrasse are present as are Pollack and Sea Bass. The seabed here is a tangled boulder field, frequently turned over south easterly storms, where Edible Crab and the smaller Velvet Swimming Crabs hide in crevices.

In 1863 the brig Bolina foundered in this area carrying a cargo of coal. We have found odd shaped pieces of metal here but we are still searching for any significant pieces of wreckage or coal deposits which might still exist after all this time.