Lunna Kirk is a small, historic church on the Lunna Ness peninsula situated close to the waters edge. Next to the kirk a small stony, south facing beach makes an interesting and easy shore dive with a variety of habitats, starting with kelp forest leading to open sand and rocky reef outcrops. Overhead large shoals of saithe can be seen throughout the spring and summer, sometimes completely surrounding divers. Seals are also a common sighting and otters have been swimming on the surface looking down on the divers bubbles, sadly with the divers completely oblivious! Although seeing otters while diving would make a great dive (if only I would notice them) this dive is great for critter spotting, with the varied habitat offering homes to a wide variety of species.
Pogge with it barbels
The dive starts from the beach, swimming out over a broad band of impenetrable kelp forest. The seabed follows a gentle gradient close to the shore enabling the kelp forest to extend over 50m out from the shore down to a depth of 12m. The kelp fronds are often home to the seaslugs, decorator crabs and marine snails. Two-spotted gobies are common in the shallows, swimming amongst the kelp as are mysids. Delving beneath the kelp layer reveals a small community of animals clinging to the kelp stipes including sea urchins, edible crabs, shrimps and lump suckers. Eventually the kelp gives way to sand with rocky outcrops. This boundary between the kelp and sand seems to be particularly abundant with life and is where shoals of saithe can be seen as well as grey seals, who seem equally curious about the divers as they do the fish.
The sand offers a surprising amount and variety of life when you get looking. Some of the more visible inhabitants include sand gobies, tube anemones, dragonets, harbour crabs, gapers, hermit crabs, scorpion fish and scallops. Juvenile flat fish dart away at the approaching diver. Rarer spots include the pogge (also known as a hooknose) which uses its chin barbels to hunt out prey hiding in the sediment. Many animals can be found half buried in the sand, such as this harbour crab as well as the more difficult to spot little cuttle, a small species of cuttle fish that is only a few cm’s long. Amongst the courser sand there is also an amazing variety and abundance of juvenile fish, including scorpion fish, flat fish and cling fish, with Lunna Kirk seeming to offer a nursery ground for many species who hide between old broken worm casts and broken shell. It was while photographing some of these juvenile species that we came across Europe’s smallest marine fish the Guillets goby that only grows up to 2.5cm in length. The gobies size can be compared to the limpet shell in the image below and the full story can be read in the ‘Blog’ section.
Although rocky outcrops can be found all the way along the kelp / sand boundary there is a prominent rocky reef on the NE edge of the bay found by following the sand / kelp line east. Although the rocky reef is not densely carpeted with life it is home to feather stars, brittle stars, sea urchins, dahlia anemones, plumose anemones, edible crabs, scorpion fish, crevice sea cucumber, strawberry worms, humpback shrimps, chitons and squat lobsters with the occasional octopus sighting. The rocky reef extends down to 25m and along the coast several hundred meters, certainly further than can be swum in one dive, particularly as you have to swim back again. Swimming back into the shallows allows easy decompression and a chance to explore the kelp again and hunt for my favourite fish, lump suckers.