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Scuba Diving in the Scilly Isles, England
Dive Site: Gilstone Reef
Location: St. Mary's, Scilly Isles (49°54'40"N 06°17'20"W)
Depth: 8 - 23 metres (26 - 75 feet)
Visibility: 10 metres (30 feet)
There are at least two Gilstone Rocks in the Scilly Isles, this one located a short distance east of St. Mary's southern and most prominent point Peninnis Head, barely breaking the surface. Insignificant in its terrestrial outlook, but go below the waterline and it's a jewel in the Scilly's crown. I've heard other excited divers say that it is a superb site, as they describe one particular route around the rock, approx. 4-5m diameter at the surface. I've concluded that many dives are needed on this reef to appreciate all its qualities but it's now our turn to dive it!
This particular profile starts down the shot line as always, and as the other divers of the group descend to the shelf at 21-23m below us and make their own memorable journey, we spot are sharp corner on the left, at 17m. Coming off the shot and turning left, the whole slightly under hanging vertical rock is on view. A dense plastering of closed orange & yellow plumose anemones extend some 10m in height above and below, and about 10m across. A delight to see, and if that wasn't enough to occupy for 20mins or more, straight after are a series of vertical angular rocky outcrops all containing large conurbations of same coloured jewel anemones. These anemones are different to many others seen as they have much more subtle colour undertones, blending colours in a completely different way. It's as if someone has gone into one of the DIY stores mixed some of the paints that wouldn't otherwise be mixed and thrown the resulting colour on a wall! Yellows & greens, lilacs & oranges, the list is endless, as is the pleasure, its hypnotic! Always wondering what is around the next corner, you can easily forget the depth of 18m, bottom time and air. The whole dive could be spent in the first 20m of wall or less but if you do move on, a plateau at 20m is encountered covered in a sparse head of kelp fronds behind which are deep cut gullies leading into the rocks centre.
Dogfish can be encountered, but look into the water column for the numerous pollack, mackerel, and in the fissures for the plentiful wrasse varieties. Ascent is probably needed now either due to air or lack of bottom time remaining. If you follow the dive into the rock, it naturally goes upwards and provides for a great multilevel dive, enabling more time to be spent around 8-10m. Any higher and surge can become problematic. Fields of deep green kelp are interspersed with yet more rocks daubed in anemones and filter feeders, whilst numerous fish varieties idle by. All too soon (60 minutes is not enough) it's time to launch the delayed SMB, safety stop and surface.
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