When you think of scuba diving, you often imagine tropical beaches, huge corals reefs, and exotic fish. Rarely is it thought of as being an activity you might do in the UK, especially in St Andrews. Yet one club is challenging that preconception. The Saint met with Sub-Aqua Club captain Fiona Lundin and dive officer Adam Chapman to discuss what they do.
The club itself is a branch of the wider British Sub-Aqua Club and provides weekly training for sport and ocean divers, as well as dive leaders, on Mondays in the pool. This varies across a wide range of skill levels from people who are complete beginners to the more experienced. They go on several trips across the year, starting off with several “cross-over” trips to Prestonhill quarry. These sessions are designed to acclimatise divers to British conditions,as funnily enough snorkelling in the Bahamas in your swimsuit is remarkably different to scuba-diving in a cumbersome dry suit in the icy North Sea. They also go down south to the Farne Islands to dive with seals, and have day trips to Crail, along with frequent visits to the west coast.
For those who aren’t particularly keen on the idea of diving in Scotland, the club also have a warm water trip over the Christmas break. Last year, they went away to Honduras. This time last year, however, the club was in a slight predicament over the state of their boat. It was due an upgrade, having reportedly been with the club since the 1980s. Constant repair costs and faults led to the boat ultimately breaking down. Stressing that without a boat there was no club, they went to the Athletic Union (AU) with several quotes for the different boats found through the designated boat officer.
Sympathetic and aware of the great work the club were doing, the AU covered the cost of the new boat. The interviewees at this point wanted to emphasise how supportive the AU were throughout the whole process. After several tests, a new boat was chosen and there is soon to be a fundraiser as well as a boat naming procedure. Apparently, it is bad luck to sail a boat that has no name. Unfazed by the boat’s namelessness and encouraged by several test dives, the club went off to Oban on their annual “Appin” trip over the spring break, so named after the area they first went to. There, a team of 16 people from beginners in British conditions to Alumni went for nine days to explore the incredible wrecks and wildlife.
A highpoint was touring round the SS Breda, one of the most dived wrecks in the UK. During World War Two, the Dutch cargo ship was hit by a German bomb in Scottish waters and sank off the coast of Oban. For Chapman, it was a personal highlight of the trip to guide some less experienced divers around the wreck, showing them the conger eels, soft corals, and sponges.
Other highlights included helping a dive leader pass their qualifications by assisting a depth progression test down to 40 metres, and getting to know their new boat. Other wildlife they saw on the trip included the protected brittle starfish, octopuses, and dogfish. They were also greeted by some seals near their boat, although none appeared when diving. Yet the trip wasn’t all about what was in the water.
The club had a great time socially, going on walks, watching films, and sitting by the fire. They were also able to scout out new diving areas for next year’s “Appin” trip when the weather was not suitable for diving.
Plans are already in place for trips next year. There is talk of pre-season being in either the Aberdeen or Coll areas in the hope they may be able to dive with Basking Sharks, the second-largest shark in the world. For their warm water trip at Christmas, there is talk of a potential return to Thailand, where they went to two years ago. Regardless, the club is in excellent shape, fresh from their boat’s maiden trip and has exciting plans lined up.