I’ve been out several times this week and we’ve found clean, green and brown water in False Bay during this week’s dives. We’ll do double tank dives on both days of the weekend, starting early. I haven’t picked sites for the weekend as we will go looking for clean water when we launch. If you want to be on board, you know what to do.
Things to do
A Pint of Science is a series of evening science talks from Monday to Wednesday next week, combined with the exciting prospect, for enthusiasts, of beer. The talks will be held at the Empire Cafe in Muizenberg and Sgt Pepper in Long Street. Tickets are R35. Visit the website and see if anything takes your fancy.
We will not be diving this weekend, but if you are able to get into the water then do so. False Bay looks promising. We will be back to full dive mode on Monday morning.
Thank you to Jerrel for this week’s gorgeous photo of strawberry anemones, which he took on a dive off our boat to Roman Rock on Freedom Day.
Things to do
The winning photographs from the prestigious international Underwater Photographer of the Year Competition are on display at the Chavonnes Battery Museum until 30 September. The exhibition is in partnership with the NSRI. If you have a Wild Card, take it along for discounted entry.
So, we are into May and the southeaster soon starts to wane… Except for tomorrow and Saturday. The four graphs below show the direction (around the compass rose) and amount (the size and colour of the pie wedges) of wind during each season in 2015. Our home weather station recorded quite a bit of easterly to south easterly wind, circled in red below, during autumn last year, after which we enjoyed winter diving conditions. Click on the image below to enlarge.
We had a hectic long weekend last week, with pool training on Saturday, shore dives at Long Beach on Sunday, and boat dives in some very murky False Bay waters on Monday. Fortunately the macro specialists were on the boat!
The weekend the only real option is Atlantic diving. False Bay is not all that clean and neither is the Atlantic, but by Sunday morning it will look a whole lot better and we will launch out of Hout Bay.
Launch times will be 9.00 and 11.30 am, but sites will be decided on the morning as the swell predicted for Saturday will have an impact on where we dive. Text or email me if you are keen to dip yourself in some cold Atlantic water.
We had a small gremlin interfere with our newsletter timing yesterday and for this we apologise.
We had decent conditions on Wednesday with dives in the vicinity of Roman Rock. There was a dirty layer on the surface, but underneath there was clear water with visibility of about 12 metres. Today we are taking visitors from Port Elizabeth to explore some local dive sites.
This entails providing a straight course for the swimmer so as to minimise the distance swum, and keeping an eye on them to ensure that they don’t get too cold or show any other symptoms of hypothermia or distress. It requires communication with race control by radio, and a bit of boat and swimmer dodging in the early stages of the race when the water is thick with activity.
There was a 3.5 metre swell on the day, which made the ride out to the island a bit bumpy. As soon as we were in the shelter of the island, however, the sea was flattened as the swell diverted around the island. The water remained calm until we got quite close to shore, at which point the swell picked up. The final stretch from the rocks at Big Bay to the beach must have been very hairy for the swimmers!
Our swimmer, Maryna, swam in a wetsuit. She was part of the Lighthouse Swim relay team we supported last year. The water was relatively warm (13-16 degrees) clear at the island, and we could see kelp and quite far down into the sea. Great red streaks of water, probably an algae bloom, were filled with sea jellies (which stung Maryna, but she continued strongly). These were replaced by murky green water close to the shore, where the swell had lifted the sand particles into the water column.
It was a good day out, and always a pleasure to see Table Mountain in its majesty from the water.
I have been lax with book posts lately, but hope to remedy that in fairly short order (sorry for you!). This book, Cold by famed British explorer Ranulph Fiennes (not to be confused with Lord Voldemort), is the one that set me off on my recent epic binge on Arctic literature, which is far from over.
Fiennes has made a life of adventuring and exploring, crafting challenging itineraries across some of the most unforgiving terrain on the planet. He solicits sponsorship for the expeditions, and raises funds from book sales and speaking engagements.
This book focuses on his journeys through the world’s coldest regions. Fiennes intermingles historical accounts of exploration and discovery with his own adventures. It is surprising how, in the earth’s most extreme climates, life and travel has not gotten appreciably easier over the last several hundred years.
It was Fiennes’s historical account of the search for the Northwest Passage, represented in the greatest drama by Sir John Franklin’s final expedition, that drove me to seek out other books on the subject – I can recommend The Man Who Ate His Boots, Franklin’s Lost Ship, and Frozen in Time for starters. His accounts of his own travel in Norway, Greenland and the Canadian Arctic made me want to pack my bags and visit those magnificent places.
Fiennes faces death and disfigurement several times in the course of Cold. His determination and courage are notable but he is definitely a man of an earlier era. There are interviews with Fiennes here and here. A review of Cold can be read here.
You can get a copy of the book here (South Africa), here or here.
The course syllabus is comprehensive and spans 10 weeks of online study. You will cover topics from oceanography, marine biology, and geology. The aspects of the course related to humans include ocean governance, human-ocean interactions, changes happening along our coastline, and – most importantly – solutions from marine spatial planning to ecosystem management.
Sunday: Boat dives in False Bay (conditions permitting)
We are set for the first real winter swell and the forecast is saying that we should expect 10 metres with a 20 second period by tomorrow evening. It tapers off thereafter and Sunday will be a lot more mellow.
I am really not sure what False Bay will look like by Sunday so will make an early call on launching. We will however launch out of Hout Bayon Saturday and watch some of Cape Town’s top surfers ride the monster high speed slopes that Dungeons will produce.
Let me know if you want to come on the boat on Saturday, and whether you’d like to be notified of any dives that may take place on Sunday if the conditions pan out.
We ventured out to Long Beach last weekend and found the conditions to be less than ideal: surgy, especially for a 10 year old student, and with 3-4 m visibility. Winter diving is around the corner and we look forward to improved conditions.
The forecast for the weekend is not that great. The visibility is reasonable, but there is currently a 17 second period swell in False Bay and that won’t do much to maintain the viz. Saturday looks to be the best option for boating, but an early start is needed as the wind picks up around midday. I will make the call late tomorrow afternoon as to whether we have launch weather or not. Text, email, call, or Whatsapp me if you want to dive.
This is also a good opportunity to remember what a privilege it is to dive with the cowsharks by viewing a video Jerrel recently compiled from footage taken at the site just over a year ago. We have a cowshark diving protocol as a reminder of how we approach this amazing dive.
Dive gear sale
Monty of Scuba Culture is having a stock clearance sale, so if you’re in need of a hose, a cutting tool, or something else shiny or cool, contact him to find out what he’s got available.
Please remember to bring your permit to dive in a marine protected area with you when you come for a dive. Ideally they should be on the boat with you when you come diving (as that’s where they’ll get checked). If you don’t have a permit, the post office can help. We also have temporary permits available, valid for a month, but not very cost effective.
It’s not uncommon to come across marine wildlife – seabirds, seals, turtles – apparently in distress. This is not always the case, so before you mount a complex and dangerous rescue mission, or try to provide help where none is needed, it may be wise to get an expert on the telephone to help you determine whether it really is necessary. Fortunately there is a range of 24-hour wildlife hotlines to choose from, depending on what species you are dealing with.
Seals with plastic or fishing line around their necks should be reported to the Two Oceans Aquarium (if the seal was spotted around Cape Town harbour or the Waterfront), or, more generally to the SPCA Wildlife Unit on +27 (0) 21 700 4158/4159, or +27 (0) 83 326 1604 after hours and on weekends. Unfortunately the odds are your seal is probably not going to get the help it needs if it isn’t in the port of Cape Town or at the Waterfront; this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your darndest to advocate on its behalf.
You can help to deal with this problem at its source by retrieving any loops of plastic that you see floating in the water when you’re on a boat. Hout Bay harbour is a particular cesspit of plastic pollution, and with a nearby seal colony it’s a recipe for disaster. Cutting through any closed loops on plastic items (such as beer can holders) that you recycle or dispose of yourself also ensures that should the plastic end up in the wild, it won’t entangle an animal.
Seals found lying on the beach are usually not in trouble. Juvenile seals may rest for long periods – a couple of days at a time – on shore, and the most important thing to do is not to disturb them. They don’t need to be kept wet, they don’t need to be fed, and they can inflict a nasty bite. Encourage other members of the public to give the animal a wide berth, particularly if they have dogs. Lead by example. If the animal appears visibly unwell (fitting, for example) or is bleeding, then call the SPCA Wildlife Unit for a chat about what course of action is best.
Seabirds are most often found entangled in fishing line or plastic, pierced by fishing hooks, or, in the event of an oil spill, with oiled feathers. It is important to get help if possible, particularly for oiled birds.
SANCCOB has a 24 hour rescue centre which can be reached on +27 (0)21 557 6155 or +27 (0) 78 638 3731 (after hours & weekends). Their website provides the following advice to would-be seabird rescuers:
What to do when you have found an injured/sick/oiled seabird:
If you are unable to handle the seabird, SANCCOB will send out a unit to collect the bird.
If you approach any seabird, please approach with care. Some seabirds such as Cape Gannets and African Penguins have sharp beaks.
Have with you a towel, or blanket and wear protection over your hands and eyes. Use a towel/blanket to throw over the bird to catch it, ensuring that the bird is able to breathe.
If you have a large box ensure that there are holes for air before you place the injured/sick marine bird.
During the autumn and winter months, juvenile and sub-adult sea turtles sometimes strand on Western Cape beaches. These animals are often shocked by the cold and in poor shape – they do not typically occur in Cape waters but are washed down in eddies of the Agulhas current.
Do not put the turtle back in the sea or into water. It is probably weak, dehydrated and hypothermic, and is likely to drown. Keep it dry, and call the Two Oceans Aquarium for further instructions and assistance. The aquarium rehabilitates and releases the turtles in warmer water when they are healthy.
The City of Cape Town would like ocean users to report whale carcasses before they end up on the beach. This is mostly for public safety and resource allocation purposes, but if we can do anything to keep a whale carcass out at sea (or on a secluded non-swimming beach), it serves a conservation purpose as well. There’s a phone number you can use to do this – read more here.
If you come across a current or imminent live whale or dolphin stranding, contact the NSRI on +27 (0) 21 449 3500 immediately. They will activate the relevant authorities. Try to bear in mind that these events often do not end well for the animals concerned, as they are often sick or disoriented and impossible to assist. Be a help, not a hindrance, and obey whatever instructions you are given by the NSRI, SanParks, or whoever comes to take charge.
A free-swimming but entangled whale should be immediately reported to the NSRI as well – they will activate the South African Whale Disentanglement Network. Do not attempt to assist the whale yourself – this could be fatal for you (not the whale) – rather make a note of the direction it is swimming, and its precise location, and whatever other helpful information you can provide. Whale entanglements seem to be increasing in frequency around False Bay in particular, as more experimental fisheries are approved. (If this worries you, you could write a letter to DAFF about it.)