Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Some fishy goings on in the Sound of Bute.

As we paddled down the Sound of Bute we were aware that strange swell lines were suddenly appearing. They came from different directions and were not what we expected in the relatively sheltered waters of the Firth of Clyde. Nor were there any  large ships visible that might have created such waves in their wake.

Then the peace was shattered by the appearance and sound of a SeaKing helicopter from HMS Gannet. It dotted about dropping its sonar into the sea and was joined by SD Omagh, the naval support vessel which we had seen berthed in Tarbert the previous evening. It was now clear that the swell was the wake of a submarine(s) and that the helicopter was hunting it.

The whole area is identified as a submarine training area but usually the Coastguard  broadcast MSI VHF SubFacts warning of such operations but we did not hear them. Whatever, they do not like to publicise these exercises too much. SD Omagh was not transmitting any AIS information about her whereabouts. For a long while the SeaKing helicopter hovered directly over SD Omagh then they both broke off and left us in peace.

 No sooner had they gone than  common dolphins (above) and porpoises began to appear again.

Please excuse the quality of these photos. They were taken with a standard lens and cropped to give a telephoto effect. Behind Phil you can see a series of great...


...caused by dolphins leaping out of the water as if in celebration of the submarine exercise finishing. Thank goodness peace was restored.


  1. Douglas, fabulous pictures as always. When did this event occur? The RN has an agreement with the Clyde Fishermen's Association that they will only operate in the Inner Areas (where you were) at weekends. This agreement stems from the tragic sinking of the FV Antares by HMS Trenchant in Nov 90. The RN also no longer has dipping sonar equipped Seakings so it is likely that this one was purely conducting a Winching Exercise with the RMAS vessel. That is not to say that there wasn't a submarine around though - you will be aware that we are approaching the time for the twice-annual Joint Warrior Exercise off the West Coast.

    1. Hello Stuart, it was on Friday 7th June 2013 so it was well after the Joint Warrior spring 2013. Unusually for this area, there were no fishing boats around so maybe we did miss a SubFacts warning.

      The SeaKing helicopter spent 30 minutes hovering, both over the sea and above SD Omagh.

      On Monday 26/3/12 there was another exercise on the Arran side of the Sound of Bute, which involved a submarine which spent some time on the surface and a SeaKing helicopter. Again it was flat calm but strange wakes would suddenly appear. That time there was a SubFacts warning on VHF.

      Thank you far calling by. :o)