Diving the Gletness Isles, on the east side of Shetland and offers a vast number of potential dive sites. We have tried around a dozen different dives around the islands there are still many more to explore.
Soft coral Deadman’s Fingers
My favourite so far is a circumnavigation of a rocky reef extending from the NE corner of the South Isle of Gletness. It is a quite straightforward dive, to a maximum of 20m, following the reef edge and using a large underwater archway to complete the circumnavigation. Like most of Shetland the Gletness Isles has very little tide and we have dived here at a variety of tidal states and never experienced any noticeable current, although the isles are quite exposed in easterly winds and swell.
Shallow kelp forest
To start the dive we tend to anchor the boat in a small sheltered bay on the north end of the isle and start the dive from there, dropping down into the shallow kelp forest and following the edge of the island NE.
Diver amongst the kelp
The island corner starts with a shallow wall, covered in kelp, down to around ten meters. The rocky seabed comprises stones and small rocks, which offer shelter to a variety of small beasties and is always worth exploring. Humpback shrimps, (Panadalus montagui), can be found amongst the rocks and if your patient and hold your ungloved hand out they can be enticed into cleaning your finger nails for you! Another beastie to look out for is the mysid shrimp that can often be found in large groups. The wall itself is home to a variety of life including a variety of nudibranchs and deadman’s fingers.
The island wall eventually gives way to a rocky reef, which has a large archway running through the rock which is covered in deadmans fingers, allowing passage to the other side of the reef. This arch plays home to many Yarrel’s blennies but they can be difficult to find in the day. Normally we choose to pass through the arch at the beginning of the dive then turn north-east and follow the reef, keeping it to our left hand side. On one occasion when passing through the arch we realised we were joined by a Guillemot, who seemed to be curious to see what we were doing. Gently gliding through the arch, with a covering of air bubbles giving a ghostly appearance, it seemed just at home under the water as it does on the surface. Not content with only coming past us once a few moments later we noticed it swimming back passed us again. This time going the other way, presumably wanting to get a second look.
On the south side of the reef a bouldery seabed is covered in short red algae, and is home to seaslugs, crabs and fish. The stalked jellyfish can be found attached to the red algae and sways in the water. Stalked jellyfish, like their name suggests, are a type of jellyfish that live their life upside down. They have a small stalk from what should be the top of the jellyfish anchoring it to the algae. It is however the crustaceans which dominate on this dive, with edible crabs, harbour crabs, squat lobsters, decorator crabs and shrimps. My favourite shrimp species is the feather star shrimp (Hippolyte prideauxiana). Living in feather stars the feather star shrimp has adopted a camouflage pattern to match with pink and white stripes.
Velvet swimming crabs mating, the female is at the bottom and they can stay like this for several days
The feather star shrimp isn’t the only one that has this ability for camouflage, the Chameleon prawn (Hippolyte varians) also has the ability to change its colour to match its surroundings and can also be found on this dive. Circumnavigating the reef takes around 30-40 minutes and eventually you return to the arch and the island edge.
The beautiful Feather Star Shrimp