ON March 27, 2004, Whitsand Bay became the arena for one of
the most spectacular pieces of maritime history in recent years
as thousands of onlookers lined the cliffs and scores of vessels,
ranging from canoes to catamarans, gathered to witness the creation
of the UK's first-ever artificial reef - the sinking of the 113-metre
long, 2,500 tonne vessel HMS Scylla. As the last frigate to be
built at Devonport Royal Navy Dockyard, it was somehow fitting
that the Exocet Leander class vessel HMS Scylla would end her
days so close to the place where she was constructed.
From Day 1 the Scylla has been an unqualified success story
as thousands of divers from all over the world have visited her
and watched as she has changed from a sterile-looking piece of
bare metal, to a reef in the true sense, brimming with spectacular
marine life. Now, just a little over two-and-a-half years after
her sinking, Plymouth's National Marine Aquarium last night launched
their first-ever "Scylla Shots" Underwater Photography
Competition with a presentation by marine photographer Paul Naylor. As a prelude to the contest,
I took the opportunity earlier this week to see for myself how
life was progressing on the vessel lying 23-metres down.
Since last I dived her some months ago, the Scylla has changed
beyond recognition, the eerie light reflected from her former
battleship grey colour has now gone - all but obliterated by
the marine organisms which have encrusted her hull and decks,
while her starboard side is covered with a spectacular display
of red, white and orange plumose anemones. Fish life is well
represented, shoaling fish such as pollock patrolling her companionways,
while wrasse are frequently seen on the shallower superstructure.
The last two winters have seen some expected changes to the Scylla
as a collapsed hangar roof now allows shafts of natural light
to penetrate the wreck. Far from detracting from the diving experience,
it actually enhances things for the diver, giving the structure
its own character and making Scylla more wreck-like in appearance.
Although some way off from the colonisation of the nearby James
Eagan Layne wreck, the Scylla offers endless photographic opportunities,
and with literally thousands of divers visiting her since her
sinking, the NMA is expecting a good response to the competition.
Hannah Pritchard of the National Marine Aquarium said: "We
are launching 'Scylla Shots' to celebrate the rich diversity
of British marine life which now inhabits the popular diving
wreck HMS Scylla. We're very excited about seeing all the amazing
photographs that divers have taken over the last two years and
more recently, and to see how the marine life has changed during
that time." The "Scylla Shots" Underwater Photography
Competition is open to any suitably qualified diver and runs
throughout the summer with a closing date of August 21, 2006.
For more information on the competition contact Emma Knapman
on 01752 600301 or visit www.national-aquarium.co.uk