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4 May 2010

My Irish Sea: Chris Gregory

Chris Gregory began diving wrecks in the Liverpool Bay area of the Irish Sea 20 years ago.

“Hundreds of wrecks are strewn over the approaches to Liverpool,” says Chris. “I’ve dived all sorts – paddle steamers, World War Two ships, you name it.”

Liverpool Bay is one of the best places in the country for wreck diving. By the 1860s up to 70 ships a day could arrive in Liverpool’s thriving docks.

But the Mersey Estuary and Liverpool Bay are unusually dynamic, with dangerous shifting sandbanks. Accidents were inevitable and over 350 ships are thought to have sunk in the bay.

What surprises people is the multitude of marine life that the wrecks are home to.

“The Mersey has the second fastest flowing tides in the Northern hemisphere and animals flourish in the plankton soup carried by the currents.

"The wrecks are covered in plumose anemones and there are huge old lobsters that have been on the wrecks for decades. There are lots of rays, big crabs, dogfish, shoals of bib, flatfish of all kinds and the occasional angler fish,” says Chris.

What makes the wrecks all the more important is that they are beacons of marine life in an otherwise often featureless seabed of sand and gravel.

Chris Gregory and his wife Barbara have dived together all over the world and have over 1,500 dives between them, including a ‘couple of hundred’ in the Irish Sea.

Recently they have been talking to Emily Hardman, local liaison officer for the Irish Sea Conservation Zones project. The project has so far visited 13 clubs and dive centres around the North West, encouraging divers to get involved with recommending Marine Conservation Zones.

As Chris explains: “I’m all for marine protection because I’ve seen reefs around the world that are now barren. I like the idea of protecting the undersea environment and I’m especially concerned about my area, which is the Irish Sea.”