The scenery found below the waves is just as dramatic as that above. The amazing variety of seascapes includes cliffs, valleys, canyons, rock pinnacles and plains of mud, sand and gravel. This variety produces a range of natural homes, habitats, for an amazing diversity of plants and animals.
The rocky shores of Lundy provide the perfect opportunity to discover marine life which may be otherwise inaccessible. The intertidal area is the part of the shore which is covered and uncovered by the tides twice a day. The plants and animals that live in this area have to be extremely hardy to survive the various stresses they are exposed to such as desiccation (drying out), extreme changes in temperature, changes in oxygen levels and sporadic access to food. Each animal and plant has developed its own adaptations to deal with these pressures.
Devil’s Kitchen, behind Rat Island, is one of the best places to encounter shore life. Here the slate bed rock has been worn away to form a series of rock pools and gullies which are full of marine animals and plants. Even at a glance you will see brown, red and green seaweeds, barnacles, limpets, and beadlet, strawberry and snakelocks anemones. For those not afraid to get their hands dirty, shore crabs, cushion stars, pipefish and even small fish can be found under small rocks and seaweed.
On the East coast below the level of the kelp forests you will also find sand banks that are sheltered by the island from the strong Atlantic swells. Although the sand banks may appear to be desert-like, they are in fact home to a variety and abundance of highly adapted and some bizarre looking marine creatures. Species commonly found include sea urchins, razor shells, flat fish such as plaice, sand stars, scallops and swimming crabs.
The sand banks are also home to the burrowing Red Band fish. These eel like fish are normally found in deep water, however, on Lundy they are found in comparatively shallow parts of the sand banks.
Below the low water mark you come into a zone dominated by kelp. Kelp grows in dense forests, with Laminaria species such as Sugar Kelp, Oarweed, Furbelows and Dabberlocks being common finds. The species found in kelp forests vary in abundance depending on the strength of the wave action, and so, species composition varies according to location along the coastline. Kelp extends down to about 15-20m below the surface. Beneath this, light levels are not sufficient for photosynthesis. On Lundy kelp forests can be seen in the Landing Bay, Devil’s Kitchen and Lametry Bay. They provide shelter and food for many animals meaning that they are often referred to as underwater rainforests. Sea urchins climb the kelp stipes (the plant’s stalk like structure), crabs crawl amongst the holdfasts, and carpets of anemones coat the reef between them. As well as being home to seals, crustaceans and star fish, kelp forests also form fish nurseries.
Lundy’s location in the Bristol Channel means that it lies across one of Britain’s busiest shipping routes. Over the years the Island has claimed the lives of countless ships, with more than 200 shipwrecks chartered around Lundy’s coastline. Whilst many of these wrecks have become broken up by the tidal action, some form an important habitat for marine life to settle on. The artificial habitats created by wrecks provide space for settlement and shelter from light and predators, forming an artificial reef and allowing many species to flourish. Wrecks become colonised very quickly, with these artificial species having a similar species composition and community structure to natural reefs
On Lundy, the wrecks of the MV Robert (pictured) and Carmine Filomena are two such wrecks which have become a magnet for marine life. Located on the East coast and South East point respectively, these wrecks are covered in animals such as plumose anemones, jewel anemones, spiny lobster, trigger fish and conger eel. Due to the richness and diversity of wildlife found on these wrecks, they are frequently used by divers. Although many of the wrecks surrounding Lundy can be dived without notice, the Gull Rock Wreck and the Iona II Wreck site are legally protected under the Protection of Wrecks Act (1973), and so divers require a licence to dive these sites.