- 24 May 2013
- Published by Clare
Summer winds are fading and winter winds are slowly starting to arrive. The visibility of the Atlantic sites drops off and the water in False bay gets cleaner and cleaner as if pumped through a filter. A whole new range of creatures start to make an appearance while other creatures hide somewhere warmer. There are still several giant short tail stingrays hanging around at Miller’s Point, where the fishing boats drop the fish guts overboard near the slipway.
Many people feel it’s too cold to dive in winter… It is cold for sure, but with the right gear and on the right days, winter diving in Cape Town beats anything summer can come up with. Currently False Bay is clean and the temperature is around 15-16 degrees. By adding a shorty, decent gloves and a thicker hoodie you are all set. Dry suits, or damp suits as I call them, do also work, when they work. I don’t sell gear but I am very happy to give advice on whether a deal is a deal or a rip off!
We had fair conditions last weekend and dived with the sevengill cowsharks (thanks to Tamsyn again for the awesome photo!) and the seals on Sunday. It was surgy and the viz wasn’t the best but Shark Alley was swarming with sharks. Unfortunately the seals didn’t want to come and play because of the swell. Fortunately the reef around Partridge Point is stunning! The wind has been north and west a few days this week and the visibility has improved.
As for the weekend – tomorrow looks the best, but Saturday could work for one launch to Tivoli Pinnacles or an early double tank dive to Atlantis and Outer Castle. The wind comes up very strongly around lunchtime so we want to be out of the water early. Sunday will be wetter on the surface than it will below so I guess it’s a stay at home and watch Formula 1 instead.
As usual text me if you want to dive tomorrow or on Saturday. We are really looking forward to our Durban trip on 17 June, which is getting closer. There is still space on this trip and our Red Sea liveaboard trip in October, so give it some thought and let me know if you want more information.
Diving is addictive!Continue Reading →
I spent a relaxed day out on the boat in mid April with some casual divers and a couple of my Divemaster candidates, looking for clean water in the Atlantic and doing bounce dives. While searching for a good place to dive, we passed through Maori Bay where the SS Maori, SS Oakburn, and the BOS 400 wrecks are. The BOS 400 is a massive crane barge that is grounded on the boulders at the entrance to the bay. Much of the wreck is already underwater. In the picture below, you can see right through to the rocks behind the wreck.
The BOS 400 is spectacular to view from the surface, and has undergone some changes in the years we’ve been diving her. One day this entire wreck will probably end up submerged, and the diving will only get better. She’s a huge vessel with a complex, visually interesting structure.
Here’s an update of what the wreck of the BOS 400 looks like from the surface. These photos were taken on 13 April 2013.
Date: 13 April 2013
Saturday 13 April was a magnificent, windless day. I had only a few divers on the boat, as the Open Water student who was meant to do her qualifying dives that day (as a double tank dive) had woken up with sinusitis. We made the most of the amazing surface conditions to cruise around the area looking for clean water. The visibility wasn’t terrible, at around 8-10 metres, but it was inconsistent and wouldn’t qualify as a magnificent Atlantic day.
Despite that we had a great time – did three dives in various locations, checked out the BOS 400, and the wreckage on shore close to Middelmas Blinder (Hakka Reef), just around the corner from Maori Bay. I’ll share more photos of the BOS 400 tomorrow.
I thought I’d share a couple of photos from our very first bunch of students in the pool at home, when they came to take their first breaths underwater and do some of the basic skills for an Open Water diver.
That experience of inhaling underwater for the first time – and receiving clean air from one’s regulator instead of a mouthful of water – is unforgettable. This is a great thing to be able to share with students, and it’s exciting to have a safe, clean, unhurried environment to do it in.Continue Reading →
Date: 26 February 2013
Late in February we took an afternoon boat ride down to the broadnose sevengill cowsharks near Miller’s Point. I had students, so Mark skippered for us. The inimitable Kate had arrived from the UK a few weeks ago and wasted no time making trouble!
We were fortunate to see some dolphins in the distance on our way back from the dive.
It was late afternoon by the time I took the boat home. On the way past the wreck of the Clan Stuart I had to stop and take a photograph as the sun was setting.
If you’re wondering why every photo looks as though there’s a cloud of tiny black bats in the background, it’s because the sensor on my camera was BADLY in need of a clean. Thank you Orms for sorting it out!Continue Reading →
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This whale is often seen on the northern American coast. He has been frequently captured there, and towed into harbor. He has a great pack on him like a peddler; or you might call him the Elephant and Castle whale. At any rate, the popular name for him does not sufficiently distinguish him, since the sperm whale also has a hump though a smaller one. His oil is not very valuable. He has baleen. He is the most gamesome and light-hearted of all the whales, making more gay foam and white water generally than any other of them.
Despite summer doing its best to hold on, the winter diving has started and in general the viz in False Bay has improved. The sun takes its time getting up in the morning and goes to bed way before dinner time for me, not my favourite season… (I might be afraid of the dark.)
Last weekend was a perfect example of the ocean reminding me that my understanding of its intricacies is way below par. We dived at Pyramid Rock and had 4-5 metre viz on Saturday but went back on Sunday and had twice that. Waiting at the slipway to recover the boat we had a visit from a seal and it almost seemed as if he wanted to jump in the boat.
We attended a swell course run by Spike from Wavescape during the week and learnt a lot about reading and understanding weather forecasts and such stuff. The course is primarily aimed at surfers but is in fact of benefit to any ocean user.
What does the weekend hold? Well there is some swell, not too much, and some wind, but very little. So I think both days will be good with Sunday being the better option for the boat. The plan is then to do shore dives on Saturday, most likely at Long Beach as we are running a Rescue course.
On Sunday we will launch from the yacht club in Simon’s Town and dive with the cowsharks and then at Partridge Point. We have not dived the reef system around Partridge in a while. We are visiting the cowsharks quite often but there are many, many sharks there right now and it’s not always this good.
The shark photo in this newsletter was taken by renowned shark photographer Tamsyn Munnik (thanks Tamsyn!). Note how the cowshark is swimming high in the water column; they were all doing this on Sunday, and local shark scientist Alison Kock suggests that it was because they were swimming above the thermocline, avoiding the very cold water at the bottom.
Please text me if you want to dive on the weekend. If you want to go travelling and do some dives, text me about that too.
Diving is addictive!Continue Reading →
William Langewiesche is an American journalist (and pilot). He has written on a variety of subjects. This is the only one of his books I’ve read. I looked for it after reading an excerpt from its first chapter in The Penguin Book of the Ocean.
Langewiesche’s interest here is the wild, unregulated nature of the majority of the planet’s oceans (which, indeed, comprises the majority of the planet, covering 75% of the earth’s surface). Some measure of control – and even this is illusory – may be exercised by governments within their own territorial waters and close to shore. The size and privacy offered by the expanse of waters lying just over the horizon, however, is conducive to unchecked piracy, unregulated shipping activities (near-derelict vessels flying flags of convenience, transporting unexamined cargoes) and an atmosphere of lawlessness reminiscent of America’s Wild West.
Published in 2004, at a time when terrorism was front and centre in the minds of Americans in particular, the book also deals with the possibility of a ship-borne terrorist attack at one of the world’s harbours. The impossibility of scrutinising every container’s contents on the massive container ships that move from harbour to harbour across the globe means that this is a very plausible threat.
Much of the book is taken up with descriptions of vessels foundering, most notably a nondescript cargo vessel called the Kristal and the passenger ferry called the Estonia. These sections are absolutely gripping. Langewiesche’s command of language and ability to explain sequences of events using the testimony of witnesses – whose recollections are coloured by the highly stressful nature of a shipwreck – is supreme. Very little further motivation is required, in addition to these narratives, to convince one of the lawless and unregulated nature of worldwide marine transportation activities.
The final chapter of the book is about Alang, an Indian town in the state of Gujarat that is home to a shipbreaking operation of incredible proportions. Enormous vessels are driven up the beach at high tide, and once lodged on the sand they are systematically stripped and dismantled by thousands of workers. More than half the vessels scrapped worldwide are broken down at Alang. There is almost no regulation of activities there, and there is heavy criticism of the western nations that send derelict vessels across the world to pollute a distant Indian coast, and to sicken underpaid, desperately poor workers with their toxic effluents and fumes. This article and this one describe what happens at Alang. For a visual sense of what Alang is like, you can look at these, these or these photos. Langewiesche’s description of a ship being run aground at Alang is haunting, as is his description of a stripped vessel’s interior as being like a cathedral to modern industry. For an idea of what working conditions are like in these shipbreaking yards, this article has some amazing photographs.
The Outlaw Sea grew out of two articles Langewiesche wrote for The Atlantic. The first one concerns the sinking of the ferry Estonia in the Baltic sea (now chapter four of The Outlaw Sea), and the other deals with shipbreaking in Alang (this particular article is now the sixth and final chapter of The Outlaw Sea). I’d suggest you bookmark both articles and read them; they are fascinating, give a good idea of Langewiesche’s readable and clear style, and will probably make you want to read the remainder of this book.Continue Reading →