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Scuba diver gets up close and personal with Farne Islands seal

The winning photograph, taken off the coast of the Farne Islands Credit: Craig Ward

A scuba diver from has won national recognition for his photography after coming up close and personal with a grey seal.

The image of the seal, taken off the coast of Northumberland, was highly commended in the British Sub-Aqua Club’s (BSAC) nationwide Great British Diving photo competition.

The photo was taken by Craig Ward while on a diving trip in the Farne Islands, off the coast of Northumberland:

We had surfaced and we were waiting for the boat which you can see in the photo to come and pick us up.

About eight seals started circling us and I started taking some photos. One swam right up a lobster line and started chewing on the camera lens. It was a fantastic moment.

– Craig Ward

North East divers win award for Northumberland wreck work

Nicola Faulks and her partner Simon Smith, of Tyneside SAC.

Two scuba divers have won a top award after getting closer to solving a 300-year-old maritime mystery, hidden under the sea off the North East coast.

Modern day technology, like 3D imaging, is being used by the British Sub Aqua Club, which has spent decades researching an area known as the 'Gun Rocks Cannon Site' close to the Farne Islands.

Their work has lead to the discovery of what's thought to be an 18th century Dutch vessel. The Gateshead based club has won the coveted British Sub-Aqua Club’s (BSAC) 2015 Wreck Award for their work.

The name of the ship remains a mystery, and so does her story.

Robson Green when he dived with Tyneside SAC at the Gun Rocks project

"I thoroughly enjoyed my time diving at the Gun Rocks Cannon Site with members of Tyneside Sub Aqua Club. I am sure they thoroughly deserve their success having won BSAC’s 2015 Wreck Award.

I’m certain their hard work will continue as they try to solve more of the mysteries of the Gun Rocks wreck.

I wish club members well and hope to have the opportunity to dive with them again at some point in the future as they continue their mission to get to the bottom of this centuries old mystery.”

– Robson Green, who dived the site with Tyneside SAC members while making an episode of his successful TV series Tales from Northumberland
Underwater images and video showing dives on the Gun Rocks project Credit: Supplied by Wessex Archaeology which took the photos on behalf of Historic England (Crown Copyright)

“We simply do not know what the name of the ship was.

And there is nothing left of the vessel which would have been made of wood. Being in relatively shallow water it will have been pounded by the sea over many years and basically disintegrated.

We believe it was a Dutch vessel that was carrying cannons back to Holland for recycling. It would seem likely it was blown off course and floundered on Gun Rocks. There are six cannons at one site, thirteen at another.

There were Swedish and Dutch cannons on board.

The exciting development now, is that at a heritage ordnance conference in September 2015 a cannon expert, on seeing some of the 3D photogrammetry models, tentatively voiced opinion that some of the cannons may be of English origin, which wouldn’t quite tie in with our current theories.

So we are already planning new dives this year and will continue working hard to discover all we can about this important wreck site.”

– Tyneside SAC Club Diving Officer, Nic Faulks


Pictures: First seal pup of the year born on Farne Islands

The first seal pup of the year has been born on the Farne Islands off the Northumberland Coast, marking the start of this year’s annual seal count by the Islands’ resident rangers.

The seals only leave the colony when they've moulted their white fur Credit: National Trust
  • Every year over 1,500 pups are born on the islands
  • They have an estimated population of 5,000 seals
  • Rangers spend three months each autumn counting the seals
  • Breedings starts in mid-September and most pups are born in October and November
Mother and child catch the autumn sun Credit: National Trust

A typical day for the rangers involves landing on the seal colonies to monitor the birth of the pups. Once born, they’re sprayed with a harmless dye to indicate the week they are born, which allows the Rangers to keep an accurate count. The job is not as easy as it sounds, as protective mother seals can become aggressive when the rangers get too close.

Credit: National Trust

The public can visit the island - and its seals - by making a short boat trip from Seahouses.

Memorial service for three fishermen

A memorial service is due to be held in Fraserburgh for three fishermen who died when their boat sank off the coast of Northumberland.

Skipper James Noble, from Newcastle, was found in the water but died later, after the Ocean Way went down 100 miles east of the Farne Islands.

Crewmen Junito Antonio Junior and Michael Pulpul, both from the Philippines, have not been found. Two other Filipino crew members survived.

An investigation is underway.

Search for crew of trawler missing in North Sea

Two people have been winched to safety but a further three are still missing after a trawler began transmitting emergency signals in the North Sea, about 100 miles east of the Farne Islands.

The vessel, called Ocean Way, began using its emergency beacon earlier today (2nd November). Since then, Humber Coastguard has been trying to contact the skipper. It has also been broadcasting mayday relay messages, asking other ships to look out for the missing crew.

An RAF rescue helicopter has found two people alive in the water. They have been airlifted to hospital in Northumberland. The Norwegian helicopter Rescue 1 will arrive on scene shortly to relieve the RAF rescue helicopter.

We will continue searching as long as necessary. We still have the benefit of daylight and fairly favourable weather conditions for searching.

– Mike Puplett, Humber Coastguard Watch Manager


Extreme weather affecting birds in Northumberland

Extreme weather has severely affected breeding seabirds on the Northumberland coastline.

Atlantic puffins are threatened by extreme weather on the Northumberland coastline Credit: Patrick Pleul/DPA

According to the National Trust, Atlantic puffins are particularly threatened on the Farne Islands. Flooding of their burrows during the summer meant that one of the islands failed to produce any chicks.

Grounded ship operators fined: chief officer asleep on watch

The MV Danio. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The operators of a ship which crashed onto the Farne Islands have been fined £60,000, after a court heard how the chief officer had fallen asleep on watch and there was no look-out man on the deck either.

The MV Danio was grounded for several days on the island in March last year.

Judge Brian Forster agreed it was fortunate a major environmental and maritime disaster hasn't resulted from the failures.

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