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The Canada-UK Deep Submillimetre Survey - VIII. Source identifications in the 3-hour field

We present optical, near-infrared (IR) and radio observations of the 3-hour field of the Canada–UK Deep Submillimetre Survey (CUDSS). Of the 27 submillimetre sources in the field, nine have secure identifications with either a radio source or a near-IR source. We show that the percentage of sources with secure identifications in the CUDSS is consistent with that found for the bright ‘8-mJy’ submillimetre survey, once allowance is made for the different submillimetre and radio flux limits. Of the 14 secure identifications in the two CUDSS fields, eight are very red objects (VROs) or extremely red objects (EROs), five have colours typical of normal galaxies and one is a radio source that has not yet been detected at optical/near-IR wavelengths. 11 of the identifications have optical/near-IR structures which are either disturbed or have some peculiarity that suggests that the host galaxy is part of an interacting system. One difference between the CUDSS results and the results from the 8-mJy survey is the large number of low-redshift objects in the CUDSS. We give several arguments why these are genuine low-redshift submillimetre sources rather than being gravitational lenses that are gravitationally amplifying a high-z submillimetre source. We construct a K–z diagram for various classes of high-redshift galaxy and show that the SCUBA galaxies are on average less luminous than classical radio galaxies, but are very similar in both their optical/IR luminosities and their colours to the host galaxies of the radio sources detected in μJy radio surveys.