FOR 50 years members of the Eyemouth and District Sub Aqua Club have been exploring life beneath the sea, as well as helping with conservation surveys, retrieving lost lobster pots and carrying out minor repairs of the harbour’s fishing boats, and last weekend they celebrated their anniversary.
Diving started to become popular as a sport in the years following the Second World War and the Eyemouth and District Sub Aqua Club was founded on May 23, 1961, members undertaking their first dive in April 1962, in St Abbs Harbour under Royal Navy instructions.
At that time there were only 10 clubs in Scotland, most of them affiliated to the Scottish Sub Aqua Club - the Eyemouth Club started off independently and has continued to be so.
Although not a training club members still require open water certificates.
There are currently 18 members - a couple of marine biologists, business managers, joiners, elecrtician, students - ages tranging from late teens up to the age of 70+, coming from north east England, the Borders, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
The divers have their own boat ‘Aquanaut’, built at Eyemouth Boat Yard in 1969 courtesy of a Scottish Office grant which is moored permanently in Eyemouth harbour, and club numbers are restricted by the size of the boat which limits the number of divers that can go out on each expedition.
“It’s good diving and we have easy access to St Abbs,” said the elder statesman of the club, Alexander Struthers.
“Cave, reef and local wreck dives are particularly popular with members.
“A big change for me has been the weather conditions. Over the last several years the winds have been seawards. But despite the higher winds nothing else has really changed under the sea.”
They go out for around 50 minutes to an hour at a time, all carry health and safety log books and technology has made its way underwater, through modern underwater cameras and computerised dive logs.
Back in the 1960s and 70s sub aqua club members played an important role in keeping the local fishing fleet shipshape.
“Apart from diving for pleasure, members over the years have worked in local harbours and estuaries to free obstructions from boats propellors and to carry out inspections,” said Alexander.
“Divers also retrieved numerous lost lobster pots for local fishermen. This provided a valuable service to the local fishing industry and in the first 10 years the club assisted 119 fishing vessels”
“Diving on shipwrecks is still a favourite pastime but with focus on conservation issues increasing some members are now actively engaged in habitat surveys to increase Scotland’s knowledge of the local sea bed, its creatures and fauna,” said Alexander.
Evidence of the assistance given to the fishermen is all logged and an early entry in 1962, gives an indication of how their role was expanding: “The club now has a hacksaw, splicing iron, two divers knives, two gutting knives, chisel and hammer.”
Nowadays there is less demand from fishing vessels - there are fewer boats at Eyemouth requiring their help - but there is still the odd lobster pot to recover every now and again.
Early records of the club also describe ambitious expeditions to the caves below Fast Castle to search for gold.
The author of a book who was researching the tale of Mary Queen of Scots’ gold hidden there and called on their help to find out if there was a route from the caves to the castle. They found neither a link to the castle or the gold!
Club members hit the national headlines and television screens in 1967 when ‘Danny’ the dolphin joined them in Eyemouth bay.
The entry in the club log said: “While Archie Veitch and Ian Eaton were diving in the bay they were surprised by the silent appearance of a large dolphin about 12 feet in length which approached very close to them.
“The dolphin was sighted in the bay today ( May 9, 1967) by divers Ian Eaton and Fred Nicoll.
“As they snorkelled in 20 feet of water the dolphin swam in circles around them breaking the surface every so often.
“While underwater it swam at times at an angle of 45 degrees to the horizontal so that it could move and keep an eye on them. At times it swam about three feet below the surface, tilted its nose up and then broke the surface.
“Later it swam under the divers doing so upside down. It approached within two to three feet of the divers.
“Twice in 20-30 feet of water it went to the bottom, seemed to stand on its tail and then drove vertically upwards with great force and velocity, so much so, that the whole of it shot through the air. At one time it landed with a smack within a few feet of Ian’s shoulder.”
Over the past 50 years 156 members of the Sub Aqua Club have contributed to Eyemouth’s marine life and current and future members will continue to do so.