You can link into our daily photographic updates at CHESIL BEACH WATCH and you can follow our regular monitoring of/interaction with environmental and wildlife issues at CHESIL COVE GUARDIANS. Please do get involved!
Who are we?
Chesil Beach Watch is a voluntary initiative launched by staff at Underwater Explorers to provide daily updates on conditions at Chesil Cove - both underwater and on the surface. It has taken the place of our Project Baseline venture and is based on our 15+ years experience on (and under) Chesil. We are trying to monitor and share changing conditions, sea life, wildlife as well as outside influences like pollution, daily litter, fishing waste etc. on a regular and daily basis.
Chesil Cove Guardians is an accumulation of these efforts and a somewhat ambitious "next phase" in attempting to create a genuine community to record, research, share & respond to environmental issues at Chesil Cove. Our ultimate target is to raise awareness of the environmental importance of Chesil Beach/Cove (and the threats it faces) while creating an infrastructure for timely response through cooperation. It is open to everyone, divers and non-divers alike. (Check our Happenings on Chesil Album)
What's so hot about Chesil?
Chesil Beach stretches 16 miles between Portland (Chesil Cove) to West Bay and is best known for its pebbles and post-card quality sunsets. A shallow area of saline water called the Fleet Lagoon separates it from the mainland at the south.
Both the beach and lagoon are part of the Jurassic Coast - a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Chesil Beach has also been designated as a Marine Conservation Zone since 2013. What doesn't get on the post cards is that despite its natural beauty, environmental importance and abundance of wildlife, this part of the Jurrassic Coast is under a constant threat of extreme pollution and we are here to do something about it.
The "Cove part" of the beach which is our main project zone (see underneath) is visited by thousands year-round including conservationists, bird watchers, anglers, divers and many others. Underwater, from rocks to kelp forests, natural reefs to sand banks, thousands of pieces of wreckage and gullies, the beach offers shelter to various kinds of diverse marine life. It's global attraction to anglers and divers alike reflects the abundance of fish life in its depths. And with that and the location of Portland & the Fleet, comes a diverse population of migrating birds. Which means we all have a vast responsibility in protecting and defending this precious jewel of the south coast.
What's the problem?
Chesil is in Trouble!... Despite its natural beauty and international recognition, the southernmost side of the beach also acts as a main catchment zone for pollution of all kinds especially after storms. The beach is often littered with plastic pollution and commercial fishing debris (even all the way from across the Atlantic!) after heavy winds and is regularly subject to what we dub "flash pollution" -- where floating islands of pollution (garbage patches) break up in the Channel or off the beach and rapidly get washed ashore and smother the whole beach.
The most immediate threat to wildlife on Chesil appears to be from Ghost Fishing gear: Disused, lost or abandoned (mainly commercial) fishing gear such as nets and lines which, if not recovered, will return to the sea and continue to entrap and kill wildlife in their unattended state. We have also had several serious episodes of waxy substance landings in various colours, formation and scent, from palm oil to tar and genuine wax.
During the winter it is not uncommon to find tens of stranded or dead birds (some covered in oil or entangled in plastic) and/or individual dead marine mammals washing in. Chesil has witnessed many wildlife and environmental crisis' in the recent years -- specifically after the record storms of 2014 (you can see photos of some of the recent ones in our Albums.)
Being divers with environmental awareness and concerns, we have always placed a great importance on Chesil Beach and Cove from the earliest days of our local experience when we organised cleanups for the-then "Scuba Centre". We have now evolved our monitoring of Chesil Beach into Chesil Beach Watch and subsequently a future community group under the name Chesil Cove Guardians - as a project to take action.
What are we doing?
As those who voluntarily run and contribute to Chesil Beach Watch, we are monitoring conditions at Chesil Cove every day and sharing it through public channels. We are also working together as a team and with other volunteers to create a stronger and more coordinated infrastructure to regularly monitor a larger part of the beach and initiate, promote or support a public response where necessary to environmental issues.
Our priority is to monitor, report and take action against signs of any immediate threat to wildlife which includes sightings of stranded or dead birds and mammals, ghost fishing gear, potentially toxic or harmful substances, smothering flash pollution and any plastic or other pollutants which could present an immediate danger to wildlife whether while on the beach or when washed back into the sea. While doing this, we are also monitoring against buildup of general pollution and/or pollutants with longer term effects on the environment which are lesser of the evil and often allow for organised community action.
Our current monitoring area is made up of 4 primary and one extended zone (see above or click for a larger version here). Zone 1 (Steps to Gabion Defences) and Zone 2 (Gabion Defences to end of Masonic Car Park) are "the Cove" and areas we monitor daily with easy visual access -- also visited by volunteers and guests who often note or report pollution and wildlife issues. These two zones are also a main catchment area for pollution and other environmental/wildlife hazards. Zone 3 is from the Masonic Car Park to the stretch of beach across from the Sailing Academy roundabout which we try to monitor regularly if not daily. Zone 4 is the stretch of beach from the steps at the end of the Cove promenade to (and inclusive of) Hallelulaj Bay which is subject to massive plastic pollution year-round but due to distance and conditions monitored only occasionally. Zone 5 from the Sailing Academy Roundabout to and through the Chesil Beach Centre is where we believe we could be able to render assistance if necessary.
If you want to help, let us know if you see anything of interest in any of these zones or have an activity of your own by emailing us at:
chesilbeachwatch(at)gmail.com -- replace (at) with @
or calling us at Underwater Explorers on 01305 824 555 (9 to 5 seven days a week) - where you can speak to either of us, Cheryl, Nina or Izzy.
You can start supporting and following us by LIKING our pages http://www.facebook.com/diveportland and http://www.facebook.com/chesilcoveguardians and if you want to give friends a quick link about us - don't forget we're registered as:
Zones 1 & 2 - Information for Divers
Part of what we are doing is to document any environmental changes, notable fauna and flora throughout the seasons (both on the surface and underwater - Zones 1 & 2). This effort naturally encompasses the monitoring of water or land based pollution. Our aim is to work closely together with non-diving locals, environmental campaigners and groups & cooperate with or instigate land-based activities (beach cleanups, recording and documenting litter, pollution etc.).
If you are a diver and considering coming to Chesil Beach/Cove for the first time, we have prepared a DIVE GUIDE ON CHESIL COVE for you with useful images, video and information. For divers and non-divers we have also prepared a series of visual information which you can find below:
We are doing our very best to make your diving interest in Chesil a safe, enjoyable and rewarding one. If you are a diver like us and visiting Chesil Cove anytime of the year, please take a moment after your dive and drop in to tell us about your experience or let us know so we can also share with others.
Daily Monitoring on the "surface" - Regular monitoring underwater:
On Chesil Beach we are monitoring changing conditions and sea life - sharing this with you on a regular basis. The overall plan is to monitor Chesil Cove on a more structured regular basis while also documenting any changes, notable fauna and flora throughout the seasons. This also encompasses the monitoring of water or land based pollution in an interactive and responsive way. The Chesil Cove side of our project which has been continuing for several years to date involves cooperation with non-diving locals, environmental groups and land-based activities (beach cleanups, recording and documenting litter, pollution etc.)
Through the above we hope to be able to produce record of logs and images that will raise public awareness in environmental issues while providing first-hand feedback for a range of other projects and studies. The divers involved in the Chesil Beach monitoring are the ears and eyes of the public as well as citizen scientists doing what they can in an (underwater) environment not accessible to everyone.
Details of this 'prime' site:
You can find detailed information on Diving Chesil Here. Chesil Cove is the most southerly point of Chesil Beach and part of the Jurassic Coast. The shingle beach is 18 miles long, some 200 metres wide and 15 metres high. The beach on this side provides shelter from prevailing winds and waves for the village of Chiswell (Portland underhill) and the nearby town of Weymouth. Although Chesil is open only into the English Channel, it is heavily under the 'Atlantic influence' when it comes to weather, wind and waves. A continuous long-shore drift and the regular storms have shaped Chesil in such a way that it's said fishermen landing on shore on a pitch black night would roughly know where they are from the size of the pebbles. Very small and sandy grain to the West end of the beach pebbles grow in size towards the South/East until Chesil gets it's new nickname around the Cove: Pebble beach. Waves and currents have also shaped most of the beach line - creating the steep and sharply shelving profile of Chesil. The Cove itself is not uniform underwater and consists of sand beds, kelp forests, rocks and boulders and gullies with pieces of wreckage to be found almost everywhere.
Chesil Beach can be regarded a medium risk dive with all risks associated to shore diving applicable. Special care is required to dive with a surface marker against any boat traffic (though it is not an area of heavy traffic it is subject to smaller fishing boats and the occasional anchoring yachts) and to carry a cutting tool in case of entanglement on the hundreds of fishing lines lost and left behind by shore anglers. The most genuine risk on Chesil Beach though are conditions encountered by divers during entry and exit. The steep and sharply shelving structure of the beach is bad enough without millions of loose, wet and sometimes slippery pebbles moving under the feet. This can make the downward entry dangerous and the upward exit extremely difficult where there is swell. Chesil's "rule of thumb" is not to dive if there is a 2'+ swell or an undertow due to long shore drift can be observed. If a dive has already commenced and such conditions are encountered, a tug-rope extended by surface cover on the beach can be used. Alternatively, divers prefer to 'crawl' up the first shelf on their knees where they de-kit before the haul up to the road.
Please remember we're involved in a series of ongoing projects related to Chesil Beach & Cove and our pages are being constantly updated. We will soon have information here regarding dive site details for Chesil, entry and exit methods together with information on local facilities and access points. In the meantime we are always here to help you and give advice if you are coming to Portland or diving Chesil Beach. You can also get updates on underwater conditions for your upcoming trip to make it more enjoyable at Chesil Beach Watch.
For more information you can also look at the following online articles from Diver Magazine's Divernet:
2014 © Underwater Explorers Ltd. - Last updated November 2014