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Friday, February 24, 2017
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Scuba Diving

Discover the wonders of diving in the Outer Hebrides.  Adventure diving at its best.  The last unexplored frontier in British diving and rapidly proving to be the finest.  The centre has pioneered diving exploration around these islands and is the only dedicated diving facility available.  Our wealth of diving knowledge and experience is available for all resident divers.  All diving operations are managed by a qualified and experienced diving instructor and approved boat-handling instructor.

The centre owns and operates a Humber Offshore 8.5 metre New Generation Full Commercial Specification RIB with Twin Yamaha 150 horsepower 4 stroke engines, is coded to DfT requirements for 12 passengers and two crew  and has a top speed of 40 knots and crusing speed of 25 knots.  It can be chartered exclusively or to accompany club boats for larger groups.  The RIB is well equipped with safety and navigational gear.  A built-in fuel tank and bottle rack allows up to 10 divers to operate in comfort.

A 12-seater Land Rover County Station Wagon gives our divers maximum mobility enabling the boat and divers to be carried by road to a number of launch sites around North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist.  This gives us a vast operating range with hundreds of miles of coastline just waiting to be discovered.  It is a simple matter to dive as far south as Barra on one day, as far north Harris the next and all the islands in between at your leisure.

Location

The location of the Outer Hebrides creates a marine environment of international importance.  Dive in a variety of locations from offshore islands to sheltered sea lochs around The Minch.  The crystal clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean to the west coupled with spectacular drop offs and submerged cliffs promise diving of a quality unsurpassed in North Europe.

Uist is centrally situated, unspoiled and beautiful with diving to suit every taste.  Uist Outdoor Centre is proud to have been the base for a number of official BSAC Expeditions in recent years fitting tribute to the quality on offer.  We don't claim our diving is better than the Red Sea or the Mediterranean but our visitors do!

Why not come and see for yourselves?  We're confident you won't be disappointed.

Marine Life and The Mixing Zone

The diversity of underwater habitats plays host to unparalleled marine life.  The islands lie at the centre of an oceanographic mixing zone where warm waters of the Gulf Stream converge with cooler Arctic waters from the north.  Animals and plants characteristic or both regions are found giving greater variety than in more northerly or southerly latitudes.  This rich assemblage of life in turn supports large fish and mammal populations.

Seals abound, dolphins and porpoises are common with whales and basking sharks as frequent visitors.  The clear oceanic waters of the Atlantic offer visibility that most divers don't believe exists in the British Isles and when combined with the unique marine life and pollution free mixing zone, unforgettable diving is on offer.

Atlantic Coast and Offshore Islands

The Atlantic Ocean with its rugged coastline gives breathtaking panoramic views.  Impressive offshore islands lie beckoning to the west.  The flat, grassy Monach Isles with their dazzling white sandy beaches are home to one of the largest colonies of Atlantic Grey Seals in the world and are as inspiring below the sea as above.

The exposure of Hasgeir's towering stacks of dark rock leaves a lasting impression with colonies of sea birds and spectacular underwater gullies and cliffs. 
Some forty miles distant St. Kilda is tantalizingly close for the well equipped and prepared expedition.

The Minch

This sheltered channel of sea separates the Outer Hebrides from the Scottish mainland and provides limitless opportunities for exploration.  Submerged cliffs drop spectacularly to the seabed.  Sheets of colourful jewel anemonies carpet the cliffs, jostling for space with deadman's fingers.  Devonshire cup corals are plentiful too alongside plumose anemonies, sea fans and numerous sponges.  Many species flourish assisted by the water clarity allowing growth to greater depths than on other coastlines in the British Isles.

Sea Lochs

Around the mouth of the lochs the habitat is similar to the adjacent coast.  Further inland the lochs support a differing array of life due to greater shelter form wave action and tidal streams.  The lochs provide assorted diving depending on flow regimes and exchange with the open sea, a lively drift dive at the mouth or a more gentle exploration in sheltered bays.

Shipwrecks

There are many shipwrecks around these islands.  The centre holds a comprehensive record of wreck information including printouts as supplied by the Royal Navy Hydrographic office.  This information is at the disposal of resident divers and gives plenty of scope to practice wreck-finding skills.  Alternatively you can dive on the number of wrecks already located some of which are;

SS Stassa; The Outer Hebrides finest wreck to date!  A Panamanian steamship of 1.685 tons.  Sunk on 19 July 1966 after running aground en route from Russia to Ireland.  Lying on starboard side in 25 metres of water and virtually intact.  Large spare prop (cast iron) lies on seabed near stern.  Carrying a cargo of timber.  Some still in hold.

SS Politician; Perhaps the most famous wreck in the British Isles!  A British vessel of 7.939 tons.  Sunk on 5 February 1941.  Ran aground in fog and heavy weather during passage from Liverpool to New Orleans.  This ship was the inspiration for the novel "Whisky Galore" by Sir Compton Mackenzie, and star of the film of the same name- one of the classics of British comedy.  Carrying a general cargo including 24,000 cases of whisky!  Much of the cargo was "liberated" by islanders before the vessel was blown up by HM Customs and Excise to avoid further salvage efforts.  Remains of stern section lying in shallow water on beautiful white sand.  Intact bottles of whisky still liberated on occasion.  Definitely one for your logbook.

SS Burnside; The Centre's closest wreck.  Lost in March 1933.  This 916-ton British steamship was carrying a cargo of limestone and paraffin when fire broke out and the vessel was beached.  Almost intact with the upper part of the wheelhouse missing.  Lying in 7 metres.  Stern section heavily colonized with marine life.  Prop in position.

MV Eilean Roisin Dubh; A British motor vessel of 200 tons lost on 30 October.  1986 after engine failure in rough seas.  Ran aground and broke its back before slipping back into 15 metres of water.

SS Thala; A British cargo ship of 4,399 tons.  Ran aground and sunk on 8 February 1941 while on passage from Sierra Leone to Teeside.  Broken up and covering a large area in depths of up to 20 metres.

Henrietta Moller; A Norwegian ocean going tug which ran aground in 1947 while towing a Mulberry harbour section.  Lying in 10 metres.  Broken up with large parts such as boilers, engine, 4-bladed prop and plates remaining.  Mulberry harbour sunk nearby.

RFA Birchol; A fleet oiler of 2,407 tons.  Ran aground on 29 November 1939.  Bows lying in 6 meters and stern in 18 metres.  Large parts of superstructure intact.

Upon booking our boat services Uist Outdoor Centre provides:

Free advice with dive planning
Free moorings for visiting boats
Free compressed air to 250 bar
RIB charter with cox�n
Transport of people and equipment to dive sites
Comprehensive wreck survey and location assistance
Full collection of Admiralty charts
Gear rinsing area and drying room
Easy access to launch sites (no launch fees)
Assistance with maintenance and repair of equipment where necessary.