Pink Sea Fans at the SS Volnay wreck

Today I went for my final dive this year, again with Atlantic Scuba, and this time to the wreck of the SS Volnay (see here and here for background). Just off Porthallow on the Lizard peninsula, at around 17 meters (at low tide) lie the remains of this WWI casualty, hit by a mine and dynamited twice after (probably to get rid of unexploded shells), so she is mostly flattened. The boilers still are largely intact and are very impressive though, see the first not very-well composed shot (should have used my buddy for scale); note the white Dead man’s fingers. This dive would guarantee two ‘lifers’ for me, first the European spiny lobster (or Crayfish or Rock lobster) Palinurus elephas, which seems to be getting more common the last few years. Indeed, we did not have to look hard and saw the long antennae sticking out of nooks and crannies everywhere (see also the Devonshire cupcorals on the second photo). Second, and the main thing I was looking forward too, were the Pink sea fans Eunicella verrucosa. I had found some pieces of this gorgonian washed up on the beach before but never seen it alive. Luckily, at this site it is a common species (many juveniles, unbranched little ‘sticks were also present). I took a whole bunch of snaps and edited the jpgs in the standard Windows photo viewer (I keep the RAW files but need to find some time for proper post-processing). Just reducing highlights etc does wonders, but what I really need to do is be more clever with my camera settings in the first place. My New Year’s resolution will be too think ISO and aperture and not lazily rely on presets. I might also invest in a strobe capable of manual control (thanks for tips kelpdiver @dpreview!) High time to up my game! Below, three of the sea fan photos that came out best. Lastly, a nice new species for me: Trumpet anemones Aiptasia mutabilis. My four recent dives with Atlantic Scuba have all been great; a boat full of friendly divers leaving from just down the road in Mylor, skippered by Mark Milburn who has a very deep knowledge of the area. Todays dive with buddy Jan was very relaxed but I still learned a thing or two. More diving next year! P.S. Mark Milburn just published “Falmouth Underwater: a Guide to Marine Life, Wrecks and Dive Sites around Falmouth” (available here) which I highly recommend to anyone planning to dive or snorkel in the area!

4 thoughts on “Pink Sea Fans at the SS Volnay wreck

  1. The pictures of crawfish really ‘tell the story’ of recovery but after 40 years since they were over-fished. Seasearch is ‘writing-up’ the crawfish story and I will let them know of your photos. The taxonomists are going crazy at the moment and changing scientific names all over the place. Aiptasia mutabilis has reverted to two species and the Cornish one is once again Aiptasia couchii. Keith Hiscock

    • Thanks for your comments Keith!
      I hope to get more serious with my photography next year, these were really just some ‘snaps’. (If my photos will not turn out well I will only have myself to blame, as there are so many crawfish there and they are not too shy!). I have seen many photo’s of Crawfish from other Cornish locations taken by Mike Etheridge; if you have not seen these I can point you to them. Thanks for the Aiptasia info, I was going from the excellent SeaSearch guide you wrote the foreword to, but that is slowly but surely getting out of date of course. I will try to find time to register my finds on the NBN atlas.
      One question for you: should we be looking out for washed up Blue buttons Porpita porpita in the coming years?
      cheers, Mick

  2. hi Mickey, You can register your crawfish sightings very easily by sending photos accompanied with a date/time/location to either me (info@seasearch.org.uk) or Matt Slater at Cornwall WT who is the Seasearch Co-ordinator in Cornwall. Either of us are very pleased to accept sightings/records via this route. Thanks in advance! Charlotte.

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