10:30 meet, for 11am ropes off after an 8hour drinking spree the previous day… It sounded like an ideal day, especially as we were going to dive the Mixon Hole, one of my favourite dives (pick you depth from 6 to 28m). After going to the wrong part of the marina at Littlehampton, I turned up with 5 minutes to spare find everyone onboard and loaded up. There were some glum faces, apparently not everyone wanted to do the Mixon, but with the experience on board there wasn’t much choice. I also found out that some people had arrived there 2 hours before for some reason (?), about the same time I was getting out of bed (and before you say I was late, I checked that I had the right time) oh well…
We were diving off Voyager, which I hadn’t been on in over 7 years. It is a big catamaran which can take 12 divers with room to spare. The wind was light but the sun was lacking and the threat of rain was promised for later in the day, for the second week in a row I was the only one in shorts. I also found I was one of the few onboard who had dived the Mixon before, so I explained how stunning the dive was going to be and what you could see.
On a long, slow poodle out towards Selsey Bill, we passed over the dive sites of my diving education, the Waldrons, the Mulberries, the sandbar in Littlehampton marina that the club RHiB got stuck on… We arrived at the Mixon to see the Wittering Divers boat on-site and preparing to dive. Paul, our skipper, shotted the site and we prepared to dive shortly after 1pm, Dave K and I were the last in. On my previous visits we’d had stunning viz, loads of life – one buddy pair had swam with a tope (small shark), dolphins had swam under the boat and then there was crab juggling by Ben Stock, the funniest thing I have ever seen underwater.
The viz wasn’t going to be great, the shot was halfway between the wall and the bottom of the hole, and came down to a featureless, gravel and silt bottom. The viz here seemed about 4m and very grey-brown water. We headed west with the current and came across numerous dogfish, pretending not to be there. I caught a few on video, but was really only testing out the camera after last year’s service.
After 10minutes we came upon the grey mud slope of the wall at around 17m, the current here turned to an easterly direction and I motioned to follow the wall back to the east. Life at 17m was very sparse and it was like gliding over a moonscape, with the huge grey mud wall. I decided that we should shallow up to try to find the life. At around 12m we came across shore crab and velvet swimming crabs, in crevices amongst the mud. Then brown crabs could be seen digging burrows in the mud, smaller wrasse were cruising up and down the wall and here and there were small spider crabs which I always feel should be in the south west, not here off Sussex and Hampshire. Above us seaweed throngs stirred in the swell. We shallowed up to around 8m and Dave drew my attention to a large fish darting down into the depths of the wall, it was round and its fins reminded me of a titan trigger fish. I didn’t get a clear look, but it was a fair sized lumpsucker, quite rare around here. At the swallower depths there was much more life, although nowhere near what I had experienced on previous visits. I found a large cuttlefish which I filmed as he retreated to shallower waters, I left it at 4m and returned to Dave who was busy looking for Squat Lobsters. The viz here was between 5 and 6m, I then darted off as I saw another lump sucker and lost contact with Dave who was fighting the current with the SMB to stay with me. We both surfaced soon afterwards and returned to grab a sandwich and hot cup of tea. I would have preferred to have been dropped on the wall top and descended the wall rather than grope my way to the wall from the bottom. The guys who drifted on the bottom of the Hole said the viz improved. However what I noticed most was the May plankton bloom was coming up the channel from the west.
The next dive was the Waldrons, a drift on a broken seabed littered with rocky outcrops. I left the video behind and carried the blob, and descended the 12m to the bed, at first we drifted over sand, sand and more sand. Then out of the murk (the viz was 5m at best, and much worst if we kicked up the sand), came the first of the low rocky outcrops, the seaweed flustering in the current. A number of male cuckoo wrasse cruised in close, their vibrant blue and orange colouring standing out in the brown water. I found a large scallop, picked it up and kissed it (still probably feel the effects of yesterday) and put it back as I know it would be the only one I would find – and it was. There were small crabs and wrasse around and under the outcrops, colourful tube worms strangely oblivious of us, filter feeding, although I could find no flatties on the large sandy areas. Dave had suffered my crazy video actions on the first dive, but we were both getting cold so after 40 minutes of shivering I called time and we ascended. Everyone came back safely and we motored back into Littlehampton for 6pm, loaded up the cars, thanked everyone for another good day and drove home for a nice hot Chilli…
The Mixon wasn’t anywhere near as good as my previous visits to it, but then I could have been very, very lucky back then. I would still go back on a sunny day and find the top of the wall and examine the life to be found between the fields of cabbage weed and the grey mud wall and maybe juggle some crabs.
Some pics from the dives taken by Jason Street: