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.
Ice Blink: The Tragic Fate of Sir John Franklin’s Lost Polar Expedition – Scott Cookman
In Ice Blink, Scott Cookman provides another account of the much-reported final expedition of Sir John Franklin to the Canadian Arctic, in search of a Northwest Passage. The story has been told many times, in many ways, and Cookman’s rendition is gripping.
Several theories have been advanced to account for the failure of any members of Franklin’s expedition to return. A few bodies have been found, and eyewitness accounts from Inuits in the areas that the Erebusand Terror were trapped in the ice provide some clues as to what happened. A conclusive explanation, however, has not been found.
Cookman advances the idea the the men were killed by botulinium toxin, introduced into their diets from poorly prepared tinned food. He is dogmatic about this theory to the exclusion of all others, and at times makes it sound misleadingly certain that this was the cause of the disaster. In fact, experts fail to agree on what killed the men; other theories include lead poisoning (from the canned food), or simply just the cold and poor preparation.
I would recommend you read this book after you’ve familiarised yourself with some of the other literature about Arctic exploration and Sir John Franklin in particular, and are equipped to separate fact from hypothesis. If you’re interested in the subject, may I strongly recommend The Man Who Ate His Boots and Frozen in Time.
You can read the first chapter of the book here and a New York Times review here.
We have been out a couple of times this week and False Bay is really clean. Visibility today south of Partridge Point was easily 15 metres and the water is 15 degrees. There is some south easter and some swell for tomorrow and Saturday, but by Sunday it will all be gone and the water should still be clean.
The boat is booked by a group of up country divers on Sunday and I will launch for them at 10.00 am and 12.00 pm. I will do an early launch at 7.45 am to Roman Rock, for those of you interested in an early morning dip in False Bay. Let me know if you’re keen.
Climate Change: Briefings from Southern Africa – Bob Scholes, Mary Scholes & Mike Lucas
This is the book on climate change that I never knew I needed. It is written in the form of 55 questions and answers, from a South African perspective. One of the three authors (Dr Mike Lucas) is a biological oceanographer, so there is ample information on the effect of climate change on the marine environment. The other two authors are climate change specialists.
The book is well illustrated with photographs and diagrams. The authors address sea level rise, El Niño, water scarcity, the effect of rising temperatures on the Southern Ocean and Antarctic, and the survival of coral reefs, among other topics. The final few questions deal specifically with practical actions that can be taken to adapt to and (perhaps) avoid climate change, and one’s personal carbon footprint.
You don’t have to be a weather nerd to benefit and learn from this book. I encourage you to seek it out.
One of Cape Town’s best known dive sites is called Shark Alley, located close to shore near Pyramid Rock in False Bay. Here, broadnose sevengill cowsharks may be seen fairly reliably. There are times when they aren’t around (perhaps owing to a recent orca predation, or some other mysterious cause).
Jerrel filmed this beautiful footage on a dive at Shark Alley in December 2014, on a calm day with pretty good visibility. Look out for our boat, Seahorse, and of course the sharks. Thanks to Jerrel for the video!
If you’re curious as to how one conducts a dive with three metre long apex predators, check our our protocol for scuba diving with cowsharks. An ethical dive operator will also inform you of the likelihood of seeing the cowsharks, and whether they have been seen recently (i.e. in the last few days) by divers, before accepting money to take you diving at the site.
Sunday: Boat dives, conditions dependent, in False Bay or the Atlantic
Several days of south easterly wind is not uncommon in winter, but it is a little unusual. Today, tomorrow and Saturday it is meant to blow around 25 km/h from the south east, so it’s likely we may dive the Atlantic on Sunday.
The False Bay water colour is not bad, however the surface conditions will be ropy on Saturday and not much better on Sunday. The Atlantic is horribly green today, but the water temperature has dropped a degree already so there is a chance it will have improved by Sunday. Granger Bay is also an option for Sunday, but that’s going to be a call we make late Saturday. If you want to dive on Sunday, somewhere, text or Whatsapp me and I will update you during the weekend regarding the development of our plans.
If you want to dive on Saturday, can I suggest the Kalk Bay harbour clean up organised by Kalk Bay backpackers. Details above, and send any enquiries to PJ!
In BlueMind, biologist (turtle researcher)Wallace J. Nichols articulates and elaborates upon an idea you’ve probably already had all on your own: that being close to water is good for you. More precisely, Nichols is interested in what proximity to water does for our brains. In this book he presents scientific evidence for the salutary effects of water on humans, but does not shy away from anecdote. His tone is vigorously optimistic.
I don’t need to look very far to see evidence of Nichols’s hypothesis: Waves for Change teaches youngsters from violent communities in Cape Town to surf, and in the process effects an almost miraculous change in their lives. (They deserve your support.) Nichols also says that he can see a change – a warming – in people’s body language when they enter an aquarium. I spend enough time at the Two Oceans Aquarium that I should have an opinion on this, but I don’t, so I need to look more closely.
I admit that this book is on the fringe of what I would usually read – it is what I would usually dismiss as touchy-feely pop psychology – but I do think Nichols is on to something (and here I am in very excellent company). He holds a Blue Mind Summit every year, bringing together neuroscientists, artists and conservationists to discuss the ocean and the brain, and how to use insights about water’s powers for good.