The cold front seems to have passed by and the second one that was meant to arrive tomorrow seems now to be giving us a miss. We had 40 mm of rain at home on Thursday, for which we are grateful. The break in the weather means there is a good chance some diving might happen this weekend!
I am going to shore dive on Saturday at Long Beach and launch on Sunday, the first dive being to the Brunswick, meeting on the jetty in Simon’s Town at 10.00am. The second dive will be at 12.30, the location weather and viz dependent.
I know we are barely past the halfway mark of winter, but the last few warm and pleasant days have got me wishing summer was here.
Some swell and lots of south easterly wind are in the forecast for Saturday, so Sunday will be the better option for diving. We will aim for a later start to see how well False Bay fares during Saturday’s onslaught. If we decide to launch the boat it will be from the Simon’s Town Jetty at 9.30 and 12.00 and the most likely sites will be Photographer’s Reef and Roman Rock.
If the conditions aren’t boat-worthy on Sunday, we’ll shore dive at Long Beach.
One Breath: Freediving, Death, and the Quest to Shatter Human Limits – Adam Skolnick
This is the book on freediving that has long needed to be written. Structured, well researched, and focused, you must to read it if you have an interest in the sport. It is the best book by far that I, a rank outsider to freediving, have read on the subject.
Skolnick explains the development of the sport, and narrates the life of Nick Mevoli, attempting to unravel the obsession that freediving engenders in its participants. With detailed descriptions of freedving competitions, such as the Vertical Blue series of events, this is the closest I have gotten to understand the mechanics of the sport, and the impulse that drives its participants. There is no attempt to airbrush the physical toll exacted by freediving or to gloss over the dangers of the sport.
We went out hunting for cowsharks (they’re still AWOL) and visited the seals this afternoon. The visibility is not great, about 4-5 metres at Patridge Point and about 3 metres at Shark Alley.
This weekend we will launch the boat for dives on Sunday, should the swell permit. It’s not a very large swell, but the period is long which could make diving uncomfortable. Let me know if you’d like to be on board and I’ll keep you posted.
The great white shark is the ocean’s iconic fish, yet we know little about it—and much of what we think we know simply isn’t true. White sharks aren’t merciless hunters (if anything, attacks are cautious), they aren’t always loners, and they may be smarter than experts have thought. Even the 1916 Jersey Shore attacks famously mentioned in Jaws may have been perpetrated by a bull shark, not a great white.
We don’t know for sure how long they live, how many months they gestate, when they reach maturity. No one has seen great whites mate or give birth. We don’t really know how many there are or where, exactly, they spend most of their lives. Imagine that a land animal the size of a pickup truck hunted along the coasts of California, South Africa, and Australia. Scientists would know every detail of its mating habits, migrations, and behavior after observing it in zoos, research facilities, perhaps even circuses. But the rules are different underwater. Great whites appear and disappear at will, making it nearly impossible to follow them in deep water. They refuse to live behind glass—in captivity some have starved themselves or slammed their heads against walls.
The photographs are by Brian Skerry. It’s worth checking out. Read the article here, or pick up a copy of the magazine when you see it on the shelves.
And for the inveterate shark fans and those who want to pursue some further education, it’s not too late to sign up for the Shark MOOC on edX that started on 28 June. Click here to join in.
Sala’s current project is to explore and protect the last pristine marine ecosystems on the planet, and to this end he has led expeditions to comparatively untouched locations around the world. This book documents ten of those expeditions, from tropical to Arctic waters. Rich with photographs, contextualised with beautiful National Geographic-style maps, it is a delight.
The Bay has been on and off this week with some swell interfering with good diving. A 7 metre swell is expected tomorrow and this means that Dungeons may be worth a look early on Saturday. Odds are the swell doesn’t quite reach the forecast size, and Sunday diving in False Bay may pan out.
Text, whatsapp or email me if you want to be on either list and I will keep you posted… Saturday big wave watching or Sunday False Bay diving.
Michael Muller is probably best known for his work as a portrait photographer (focusing on celebrity subjects). He also has, it turns out, a longstanding fascination with sharks. While working as a commercial photographer for Speedo, Muller designed and built a waterproof housing for his 1,200 watt studio strobe lights. Incredibly, he takes these lights underwater – assisted by two to six divers and at least one person on the boat – and has spent a couple of years travelling the world to photograph sharks.
The resulting photos, of bull, tiger, white, hammerhead and several other species of shark, are fascinating. They are unlike any shark photographs I have seen before, with a cinematic quality and the intensely unusual property – for most underwater photos – of being filled with light. Sharks swim out of bright white light towards the camera, and many of the images are deliberately over-exposed, heightening the dramatic effect. The jump from having professional-quality camera strobes to essentially a full studio lighting rig underwater is enormous, and the results are visually stunning.
Muller’s pictures, to me, emphasise the otherness of sharks. They do not look like cuddly, approachable (although in many cases Muller went very, very close to his subjects) or easy to fathom animals. I like this. Some approaches to conservation try to emphasise how sharks do not intend harm, and attempt to demystify them, with the aim of making them comprehensible and thus worthy of protection. The genre of photography that shows divers and sharks apparently harmoniously inhabiting the watery realm is invariably more about the humans than it is about sharks. That criticism cannot be levelled at these images.
The final sections of the book contain a species guide, essays about shark ecology and conservation, and technical information about the photographic equipment and shot set up. Some of the shark biology and conservation information was contributed by Capetonian shark conservation biologist Alison Kock, who put False Bay’s white sharks on the scientific map.
You can preview some of the images from the book here, and an interview with Muller here. The Washington Post and Wired have image-rich features on this project, too.
This is an enormous book (standard Taschen fare). You’re going to need a bigger bookshelf (a joke about this book which has no doubt been made forty times – I apologise). You can get a copy here (South Africa), here or here.
This week the visibility was good in False Bay and the water was around 13 degrees. There seems to be a lot of wind and rain in the forecast for the next week, however Saturday does look like a good option for diving. I am still not done with the backlog of students for boat dives so the boat is pretty much full this Saturday.
Tuesday and Wednesday are also possible diving days so if you are not on the list for Saturday, or are taking some time off in the school holidays, you will be up soon.
The excitement when the 21 June comes around has always amazed me. It’s not like the temperatures start climbing or the sun shines 6 hours more each day, but my wife tells me that the psychological effect of passing the winter solstice is tremendous. While the shortest day of the year was on 20 June, the latest sunrise of the year is still ahead of us, on 30 June. The earliest sunset was on 13 June.
Shop with a purpose
Shark Spotters have recently been added as a beneficiary on the MySchool Card programme. If this sounds mysterious to you, don’t worry. Apparently it’s a way of getting MySchool partners (mostly shops) to donate a portion of your shopping bill to a school, charity or NGO. It doesn’t cost you anything. If you have an existing MySchool card and would like to add Shark Spotters as a beneficiary but don’t know how, let me know and I will hook you up with Clare to talk you through the process.
No diving this weekend, but conditions are promising for weekday dives next week!
A six metre swell put paid to any hopes of celebrating Youth Day with a dive, but we have a week of very favourable conditions coming up. This coincides with school holidays (for some lucky ones) and we hope to get some good diving done.
We won’t be diving this weekend, but if you’d like to be informed of any planned aquatic excursions next week, let me know.
Things to do
It’s cold out now and then, and if you’re looking for things to do on your non-diving days, here are some suggestions:
The new I&J Ocean Exhibit and the jelly hall opened today at the Two Oceans Aquarium. Read about it here and here, and check out some photos on Instagram. The full tunnel is the closest feeling to being underwater that you can have while on land, and might persuade some of your non-diving friends to take the plunge.