Researchers capture ‘stunning’ images of St Kilda sea caves

Researchers have captured “stunning” images of marine life in the waters around St Kilda as a survey revealed its reefs and sea caves are in good condition.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has just published the findings of the wide-reaching survey which was carried out in 2015 by a team of divers.

Home to nearly one million seabirds, the St Kilda archipelago is the UK’s only dual Unesco World Heritage Site for both its natural and cultural significance.

Jewel anemones
Researchers found jewel anemones in St Kilda (SNH/PA)

It was evacuated on August 29, 1930 after the remaining 36 islanders voted to leave as their way of life was no longer sustainable.

The survey aimed to judge the current condition of the sea caves in the archipelago, which is situated around 40 miles west of the outer Hebrides and, in North Rona, north-west of Cape Wrath.

SNH said: “The purpose of the St Kilda survey was to judge the current condition of the site and to establish a baseline against which future assessments of its special features could be made.

“Weather conditions severely interrupted the team’s plans but they managed to survey four caves at St Kilda, returning with valuable data and a collection of stunning photographs.”

The team concluded that the site was in “good condition”.

Divers explore
Divers explored several sea caves during their research (SNH/PA)

The researchers also discovered a new species of soft coral (Clavularia) within one of the St Kilda caves.

SNH said that St Kilda hosts huge seabird populations, including the world’s second largest colony of North Atlantic gannets.

The waters around St Kilda are part of Scotland’s Marine Protected Areas (MPA) network, designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for their reefs and sea caves, which attract a wealth of spectacular sea life.

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