|SHETLANDS : BREI NESS|
The visibility is always clear in this canyon, due to the complete lack of sedimentation, which is carried away by a gentle current. Approach the first cliff wall, and you simply gaze in wonder at the incredible range of colours and variety of animals there. In some instances, the canyon walls are very close together, less than 1.5m, and halfway along you'll come across a tumble of boulders, some more than 3m across, which have to be negotiated. The near-vertical and, in some cases, underhanging walls are carpeted in jewel anemones (Corynactis viridis) and it is here that you'll find the largest aggregation of dahlia anemones (Urticina felina) that I have ever seen - there are thousands of these large, psychedelic-coloured anemones everywhere you look.
Interspaced along the walls, you can also find sea squirts, squat lobsters, spider crabs and edible crabs. Large pelagic lions' mane jellyfish (Cyanea lamarkii) move slowly through the canyon, with a host of juvenile herrings flitting among their tentacles, seemingly immune to the stinging cells. On the sandy floor, look hard and you'll spot sand eels, flounders and anglerfish.
I've dived at quite a few other, equally spectacular sites along the eastern cliffs of Muckle Roe and Papa Stour, but I keep returning to these gullies: they're the most picturesque I've dived in for a long time and, visually, they're everything an underwater photographer could ask for.
Gordon Ridley's Volume 111 of the Dive Scotland series
lists the Shetland archipelago as having a coastline of 1,450 km, with
405 rocky inlets, 351 caves, 246 bays and fjords, 205 skerries, 190 stacks,
158 natural arches and seven subterranean passageways - certainly plenty
to keep any diver occupied! These islands are truly astonishing, with
the most marine life I have ever seen in any area of the British Isles.
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