The health of fresh water ecosystems are just as important to divers as those in the ocean. There's nothing worse than descending on a dive only to find it strewn with debris. Unfortunately, this is the case for rivers, lakes and oceans all over the planet. The "out of sight, out of mind" mentality of the majority of the population means they don't realise the impact litter has on the underwater world. Scuba divers, however witness the devastation first hand. They see the entangled animals, the choking plants and corals, marine life mistaking plastic rubbish as food. Thankfully, it's also divers who have the skill set to do something about it!
As conditions have been pretty grim in the sea these last few weeks, we decided to turn our attention to Cawfields Quarry for a clean up. Firstly, we knew it needed some help. We've dived here a few times and were disappointed at the amount of litter (unfortunately the majority originates from hikers and visitors to Hadrian's Wall). And Secondly, we knew we were guaranteed a dive!
The Dive Against Debris Specialty Course
Our environmentally conscious divers joined us on Saturday evening for a relaxed theory presentation. Some came all the way from London! We had nibbles and refreshments and enjoyed getting on our soap boxes to complain about the state of our underwater environment. We learnt about the messy problem of marine debris, where all the rubbish comes from and what we can do about it.
This specialty course teaches divers how to remove debris, weigh it, sort it, record it and report the findings to Project AWARE. To date, over 1 million pieces of litter have been removed from the underwater world by divers. Having this kind of data allows Project AWARE to facilitate changes in environmental management and policy across the globe.
All qualified divers are welcome to take this course. On completion, you'll have the skills required to carry out your own Dive Against Debris survey dives and encourage your buddies to get involved! Plus, it counts towards your PADI Master Scuba Diver Rating. This kind of diving does require very good buoyancy skills - we want to remove litter without damaging anything in the process! If this is something you think could need a little work, why not take one of our Neutral Buoyancy and Trim Workshops where we'll help fine tune your weighting and equipment set up in our training tank. We'll teach you some tricks that you can use on every dive to achieve your goals.
The Survey Dive
On Sunday we headed to the quarry armed with Project AWARE mesh bags and cutting tools. Our divers braved the cold and found as much litter as they could in very murky conditions. The bottom of Cawfields is VERY silty. Every piece of rubbish picked up created a dark brown cloud in the water, reducing the visibility in that spot to zero! With good buddy communication and a few trips back to the surface to reunite, our divers did a great job!
There's no houses or industry right next to the quarry. Just a car park, picnic benches and a public footpath leading up to Hadrian's Wall and the most famous tree in Britain - Sycamore Gap. This means that all the litter in the water comes from visitors to the area. We found plastic bags, food wrappers, drinks cans, the brim of an old hat and a waterproof jacket. Perhaps lost accidentally. We'd like to think that no one threw their trash in the water on purpose.
In all, we recovered 1.1kg of rubbish. Some of it had been down there a LONG time. Tudor Crisps went out of business over 20 years ago! We also found a Ribena can will the old style ring pull that might be even older!
You can see the full breakdown of the results on the Project AWARE Dive Against Debris Map.
The Northumberland National Park Wardens do a cracking job of keeping the area clean, we've seen them on their rounds chatting to visitors and dutifully picking up trash. There's even bins with heavy duty lids so that no rubbish can be blown away by the wind. On our hunt for litter, we also found some frogs. The shoreline and weeds were crammed full of frogspawn. We were very careful to only use one entry and exit point into the quarry so as not to disturb the newts in the vegetation.
So, What Next?
This is just the first of many Dive Against Debris survey dives and courses. We're committed to keeping Our Sea Trash Free, along with every freshwater dive site we visit. We also don't wait until we arrange a special event - every dive we do is a Dive Against Debris. We rarely come up from a dive empty handed! We'll pick up everything we find that doesn't belong in the water, and we never take anything from its natural environment. We're proud to be one of the few dive centres in the UK that doesn't catch lobsters or crabs. In fact, we help sustain the populations through baby lobster releases instead!