I devoted this weekend to snorkelling and freediving. Resplendent with shining new equipment from Galway’s finest outdoor stores, Louise and I took a thorough look below the surface at Spiddal, County Galway, on Saturday.
Having spent a good chunk of the previous year and a half below the water in tropical locations, it was a pleasure to survey the lush primary productivity of our temperate coast. Huge fronds of Laminaria were examined for the curious epiphytic anemones and other cnidarians, while beneath them too many red algal species to document occupied their reduced light niches.
On Sunday we reentered the water at An Trá Doilín or The Coral Beach in An Ceathru Rua. Of course, one is admiring the sub tidal algae long before reaching the waterline here; the beach is composed of the cast-up remains of articulated calcifying coralline algal species, in place of sand.
I couldn’t help but focus on the contrast with the subtidal urchin barrens of my previous posting in Galápagos. There, herbivores hold sway, with vast swathes of bare or tightly cropped rock testament to their indifference to whatever defence compounds the algae may hold.
In our cooler temperate isle, defence compounds have more of a say. This and other factors mean rock coverage is almost 100%, and it was a treat after so much time counting urchins to dive down through the forests of kelp species. To plunge into forests of Laminaria, Fucus and Himanthalia, Spiddal style, is an overwhelming upside down hanging gardens of Babylon experience; the gain in botanical delights more than makes up for the loss in centigrades, to me anyway. Here is to a summer of snorkelling.