Sub Aqua nibbled by seals in scuba dive

Members of the diving club spoke to Sports Editor Mark Sleightholm about their recent trip to the Farne Islands

Mark Sleightholm
27th November 2017
The divers made some friends of the pinniped kind. Source: Newcastle Sub Aqua Club

Farne Island seals got up close and personal with some of Newcastle’s student scuba divers during the Sub Aqua Club’s first trip of the year. A group of club members made the hour-long trip up the coast to explore the popular diving location and see the seals.

Over the course of two half-hour dives the club members got to see a range of wildlife and natural features, but it was the seals that were the main attraction. The sociable and apparently fearless animals kept the divers company as they explored the rocky underwater world.

The seals detect the movement of swimmers, and are certainly not backwards in coming forwards. “They’re really inquisitive animals,” explained Dive Officer Jack Walton. “They’ll come and have a little nibble, a cuddle; they’ll bop you in the face.”

Club Secretary Soraya Taleb was on her first visit to the Farne Islands, and was surprised by just how friendly the seals were. Like several Sub Aqua club members, Taleb began diving in the warmer seas of the Mediterranean, with a very different – and less populated – underwater environment.

The seals detect the movement of swimmers, and are certainly not backwards in coming forwards

Although both Walton and Taleb started diving when they were children, but beginners are also welcome to join Sub Aqua. The club runs training sessions, using a specialist pool in Benfield, in addition to outdoor training events in the Lake District and trips to locations such as the Farne Islands throughout the year.

The club also offers try dives through the Union’s Give it a Go programme, giving students the chance to try out some beginner activities in the pool for just £8, without needing to commit to anything long term. Walton admitted that learning to dive can be an expensive business, so it can be reassuring for students to try it out before signing up to a course.

The club has other trips planned for later in the year, including one to Lochaline in the Scottish Highlands and another to Lanzarote at Easter. They also plan to return to the Farne Islands to see the location at a different time of year. Both Taleb and Walton are marine biologists and have a keen interest in seeing different species in their natural habitats.

This interaction with nature is one of the biggest draws for Taleb. “It’s what you get to see down there. It’s a completely different world.

“We're not meant to be there but we're there anyway; we're not supposed to be able to breath underwater but somehow we've found a means to do that, and it's really rewarding when you see something that you've never seen before.”

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