It's the dive you've always wanted to do, but have always been too scared. So, how do you plan for diving there? Rumours of the recompression chamber being on standby whenever divers were near the bridge and a section called 'the washing machine' don't help matters. Even driving past in a car shows the seriousness of the turbulent waters.
I planned a dive there recently and dug up a fair bit of info about it. There's not enough information around and a lot of it contradicts other articles. Below are a list of facts from my recent planning of a dive here, and what we found when we actually did it. Do with them what you want, let me (remove the .nospam bit) know if you have any other findings to add. A very rough chart we produced is here, though there are no guarantees as to it's accuracy!! Please also let me know if you find this useful!
#Do not assume anything you have read or heard is correct (including this!)
#The seabed is very undulating... this is what makes the dive hard. See our soundings here
#When we did this dive (on neap tides), slack was at HW Oban + 1:30, lasted for about 15-20 mins and within 1hr after that was very much a challenging drift (2-3kt). slack+1:30 was becoming seriously dangerous!
#Plan to do this dive at-or very shortly after-slack, when you feel comfortable with the conditions. Get there early and watch the tide change, it's a good chance to see what the falls are capable of, even on neaps. There's no harm doing the dive on slack, and to be honest, slack doesn't last long.
#Slack is very easy to spot-watch the flow (and build-up) of water against the pillars of the bridge, see how much your boat drifts when under the bridge
#It is worth being very very cautious in planning and choosing your divers
#Consider doing a less risky drift with the same divers/pairs beforehand, such as ballachullish bridge, to get them used to powerful and safer drifts
#Don't be afraid to stop divers going in if the conditions get too much
#Avoid diving in a three-it isn't much fun on a drift like this
#Each diver should take a bright torch (especially on ebb), strobe, DSMB and flag
#Deploying a DSMB is tricky as it instantly causes drag on the surface and gets caught by the current. Leave to the last minute
#Visibility is poorer on the ebb, as all the sediment, run-off and freshwater from loch etive rushes out
#Your boat will really struggle against the flow of water when not slack - make sure your engine is up to it
#Echo-sounding the site beforehand gives some very interesting results! See ours here no guarantee of the accuracy.
#Obviously the flow is stronger in the middle of the channel. Drop your divers off at the edge of the channel and let them swim into the flow
#SMBs not recommended on this dive due to overhangs and wreckage
#All the other rules of drift dives apply - divers should consider separation, up/down currents etc
#It is possible to shore dive the Falls, I've never done it but would guess it would be best on the ebb and as long as you keep to the south shore.
Divers should be well-practised buddy pairs who are familiar each other and with their kit. An *experienced* Sports Diver or similar should be the minimum requirement.
A description of the site: obviously the main feature on land is the Connell bridge. Water from either the sea or loch rushes under this bridge through a narrow channel. Underwater, there are many gulleys and undulating terrain around the bridge and further east (seaward) the seabed becomes flatter, before a cliff from around 14m to 25m (ish) sweeps across the flow. This is worth considering if diving on the ebb-there will come a stage when you're wanting to end your dive, it makes a nice cliff but who knows what the water does when it gets stronger near this drop off. To the East (loch etive), about 20m from the bridge-the exciting bit which causes a lot of the turbulence is found-is a cliff which makes the Falls of Lora. This drops to 30m, after which there is more very undulating terrain. This would be worth diving at slack first, or if diving on the ebb, dropping divers on the seaward side. A safe point after the cliff to drop divers is on the south shore, near the pipes of the grey house, which enter the water down the small cliff. You can see these on the bottom of my chart, here
Just Westward of the bridge, on the north side of the channel are a couple of large rocks (skerries), which are covered at and around HW, avoid motoring at speed around this area. These aren't shown on my chart besides a few ripples.
Photos from diving here are here
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