Diving at Flamborough by Reg Thomson

© Chrys Mellor
Three of us regularly dived at Selwick Bay (also known as Silex) at Flamborough. It only needed someone to say, “It’s gin clear” for all thoughts of tea to be forgotten. Chick would pick me up in the car and we would wait outside Bob’s place for him to finish work, then it was first stop Flamborough.

As I have said before, money was very tight and Chick and Bob shared the car. Each one had it for a week in turn and they shared the expense of running it. The old Hillman Minx was called Emmy and always ended up at the change over point with the tank bone dry. To this day, I still don’t know how this was accomplished.

As we belted along to Flamborough, sometimes topping 35 miles per hour we sorted out the goody bags that we’d scrounged from the greengrocer. They were onion bags and had string threaded round the neck to draw it together. We dumped the car near the lighthouse and ran to the cliff edge to check the visibility. The water was crystal clear with only a slight swell.

It was the top of the tide and only a small strip of sand was showing. A long swim out but quite worth it when you got there. We had two resting places on the way out, one a ledge on the left of the bay, the other on the headland. At the first stop Bob King would take a small brass cylinder, as thick as a cigar tube, from under his suit and from it would take one cigarette and one match. After a leisurely smoke we would continue the swim.

All of our diving was done at this relaxed pace. We had no opposition, no other divers went there but as diving became more popular, more and more came until now, on a Sunday, its like Piccadilly Circus.

Before entering the water we would check our “lobby tongs” and eventually we would swim and snorkel, spreading out until we lost sight of each other and then the serious business of Lobby hunting would begin.

The drill was to work a gully then surface with your catch, snorkel to the next gully to save air and then dive again to work the new gully. For the uninformed, the gullies are ravines about thirty feet across with jungles of kelp on the top and silver sand on the bottom with lobbies living on the left hand side in cracks and crevices. Hence the lobby tongs. Ours were developed from Blacksmiths tongs.

One particular night we did very well. I even swam back, with one of Chick’s bags full to the brim, to hide it in a rock pool for later collection. That night we got three onion bags full of lobbies.

The following Sunday we let the rest of the club into our favourite spot and organised a club shore dive. I had thought about dragging a goody bag behind me but found that a bit tedious so I devised my own floating cache.

A car inner tube was inflated then a string of nylon loops were fastened round it. An onion bag with small lead weights was attached to the loops together with sixty feet of nylon parachute cord wrapped around a small anchor which was made from the axle of a child’s push chair. The net was rolled up and tucked under the nylon loops to reduce drag.


We had our own rules for Selwick Bay, if you could see the Coast Guard Station at North Landing you were too far out Sad to say, this is another landmark that the authorities (in their wisdom) decided to knock down. If you could see the station it was a very long swim back to the shore. The other option was a quick trip to Norway if the current caught you and you could not make the “last chance bay.” Its some way south of Selwick, the name is self explanatory, the fishermen call it “Stacks” but I called it Last Chance Bay and the name stuck. I have a chalet on the cliff top at North Landing, where I have lived for many years, and have many fishermen friends including one very good one who comes in our place every day. He served in the Lifeboat for thirty-five years. One day, in the course of conversation, he referred to the Stacks twice as Last Chance Bay, proving that the name had stuck.

I finned out into the bay, bobbing under now and again to see if I had passed the tidal zone where only bladder wrack grows. Finally I came across the big stalks of kelp, to all the world like palm trees, with big spreading leaves on a four to five foot long stalk, set so close together that it needed a lot of effort to force yourself through. Each kelp stalk was held to the rock by a “holdfast”, a bunch of tough fibrous fingers ideal for slotting a small anchor through, making sure it was secure.

I finned down the gully heading further out to sea, just skimming the bottom, lobby tongs at the ready. As I got to the end of the gully I saw a small cave, but big enough to get my head and shoulders in with my cylinder banging the roof. It wasn’t very deep and I could see, by reflected sunlight, the back wall. Suddenly the wall moved! It was not a wall but a giant lobster with barnacles on it’s back.
Underwater, looking though the glass of the diving mask and the air in it makes everything look bigger. I knew of this phenomenon but even knowing that it looked a third bigger than it really was didn’t worry me because a quick subtraction sum still left me with a big lobby.

He had now adopted a defensive stance with claws as big as my hands opening and closing menacingly. One claw, the holding claw had stubby bumps on it for holding prey was about a foot from my mask while the other claw was wide open showing me the serrations inside, like a big hack saw blade. So I backed off.

Lobsters, as a rule, if they are startled immediately swim backwards into a warren of holes in the rock. All you see is a dusting of sand settling as they vanish like lightning. The technique I used was to quietly approach the hole. When I saw long feelers I waited. Lobsters are very curious and will come a small way out of their lair, not far enough to be grabbed but far enough to be seen. Then I would back off as if I was scared. In nature if an animal backs down in front of another one – the victor closes in and this worked with lobbies too. As I backed away the lobbies would come out and rest on their elbows, but they’d only do it once. This was the time to reach behind them with the lobby tongs. A quick snap and you either had your lobby or you hadn’t. This lobby true to tradition went through the stock moves. I backed off but this time I wasn’t pretending to be scared.

As he came further out I saw how big he really was and the thought stuck me – I’ve got to get him even if it kills me – if I don’t no one will believe that a lobby as big as this exists. With a thought of shit or Bust I grabbed him with my tongs. After a tussle I managed to drag him out of the cave by putting one foot on the rock face for leverage and pulling hard.

Finning back to my float I dropped him headfirst into the onion bag, deciding that that was quite enough for one day as his tail was sticking out of the net and I was afraid that he might escape. On reaching the beach I was soon surrounded by the club to cries of “Lucky Bugger.” We weighed him on a coal merchants scale in Flamborough village, as he was too big for an ordinary scale. He weighed just over eight pounds and was thirty-seven inches long. A Daily Mail photographer took pictures of my wife holding him, then we took him home and boiled him in a baby’s bath (the only thing we had big enough to hold him) on two rings of the gas cooker. It was like a turkey at Christmas, we got fed up with lobster teas.

The picture of the lobster being held by my wife was published in the Daily Mail on a Monday in August 1967. Needless to say, after this Selwick became a very popular place for divers.

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