Sea life (to be): Eggs

Two minute noodles
Two minute noodles

I find it very hard to identify eggs, unless (see below) I catch the creature in the act of laying. Then there’s no doubting their provenance. We see a lot of the two minute noodle kind, above, at Long Beach, but I am not sure who lays them. Does anyone know?

Orange clubbed nudibranch eggs on bryzoans on a kelp blade
Orange clubbed nudibranch eggs on bryzoans on a kelp blade

Orange clubbed nudibranchs live on kelp and have a very particular bryzoan diet. Their eggs are usually found near their food.

Shyshark egg cases at Long Beach
Shyshark egg cases at Long Beach

Shark egg cases – also referred to as mermaid’s purses, and much beloved of little girls at the aquarium – are easy to identify. Catshark egg cases are slightly larger, and usually whitish in colour.

Scaly dogwhelk eggs
Scaly dogwhelk eggs

We also see a lot of scaly dogwhelk eggs. Each little compartment has several eggs (the little yellow balls) in it. Only one snail will emerge from each compartment, however – the first hatcher or strongest whelk will eat all the other eggs he’s been sharing space with.

Scaly dogwhelk eggs (hatched) on a sea squirt
Scaly dogwhelk eggs (hatched) on a sea squirt

No one seems quite sure who lays these beautiful, pearlescent eggs, apart from the fact that it’s some kind of whelk. Tony found a pink lady with two of these eggs on its shell… So far that’s our best guess as to who they belong to!

Whelk eggs at A Frame
Whelk eggs at A Frame

Finally, here’s a warty pleurobranch caught in the act of laying its eggs. It has allowed the egg ribbon to get twined around some of the sea grass at Long Beach.

Warty pleurobranch and egg ribbon
Warty pleurobranch and egg ribbon

Friday poem: The Walrus and the Carpenter

Some more Lewis Carroll… This one is from Through the Looking Glass.

The Walrus and the Carpenter – Lewis Carroll

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might;
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright –
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done –
“It’s very rude of him,” she said,
“To come and spoil the fun!”

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky;
No birds were flying overhead –
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand –
“If this were only cleared away,”
They said, “it would be grand!”

“If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year,
Do you suppose,” the Walrus said,
“That they could get it clear?”
“I doubt it,” said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

“O Oysters, come and walk with us!”
The Walrus did beseech.
“A Pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach;
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.”

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said;
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head –
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat;
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat –
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn’t any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more –
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low –
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes – and ships – and sealing-wax –
Of cabbages – and kings –
And why the sea is boiling hot –
And whether pigs have wings.”

“But wait a bit,” the Oysters cried,
“Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!”
“No hurry!” said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

“A loaf of bread,” the Walrus said,
“Is what we chiefly need;
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed –
Now, if you’re ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.”

“But not on us!” the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
“After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!”
“The night is fine,” the Walrus said.
“Do you admire the view?”

“It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!”
The Carpenter said nothing but,
“Cut us another slice.
I wish you were not quite so deaf –
I’ve had to ask you twice!”

“It seems a shame,” the Walrus said,
“To play them such a trick.
After we’ve brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!”
The Carpenter said nothing but,
“The butter’s spread too thick!”

“I weep for you,” the Walrus said;
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?”
But answer came there none –
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.

Newsletter: Mozambique!

Hi all

I am sure most of you are happy that Christmas and New Year parties, expenses and rushing around are now behind you. Often this period is so taxing that a vacation early in the year is required for the purpose of recovery.


Nice visibility on the safety stop in Ponta do Ouro
Nice visibility on the safety stop in Ponta do Ouro

We are going to Ponta do Ouro in southern Mozambique for a five night/eight dive trip leaving on the morning of Tuesday 1 May, diving twice a day from 2 May to 5 May, and returning on Sunday 6 May.

The primary reason for avoiding the school holidays and long weekends in April is the high costs of car rentals, accommodation, flights and diving over these “peak periods”. Another bonus (hopefully) is avoiding the mad rush of divers from Gauteng who flood southern Mozambique and Sodwana on long weekends (since their other diving options are quarries)!

Turtle in Mozambique
Turtle in Mozambique

If you joined one of our trips last year you will know how it works. For this trip, it’ll be similar to a Sodwana trip but with some extra considerations:

  • We leave Cape Town real early on day one and try to all arrive at Durban airport early enough to pick up our rental cars and drive to the border.
  • The border to Mozambique is around 100 kilometres further than Sodwana Bay (about 5 hours drive) but the border post closes at 5pm so there is time pressure.
  • There is a safe lockup place for the rental cars and the dive camp send a vehicle to collect us at the border. The trip from the border to the beach (approximately 15 km) is very sandy and requires a 4×4 or hi rider style vehicle (even 4x4s get stuck sometimes).
  • You will obviously need a valid passport!

Like Sodwana, it’s warm water diving on beautiful coral reefs. The launches are also surf launches, meaning that you help push the rubber duck off the beach into the sea, hop on board, and hold tight as the skipper punches some waves to get you out into the open ocean!

We will do the accommodation and dives booking for the group, but flights and car rental bookings are up to you. If you’re traveling alone, we’ll hook you up with someone(s) to share a car with. We will have different options of accommodation but will aim for small self-catering cabins as opposed to tents (it can be very hot and there are mosquitoes). If you want to keep your costs down or if you have less leave you can join us for part of the time there – Clare and I will do the full trip, but you are welcome to do a four night/six dive or otherwise reduced version.

My favourite moray eel at Ponta do Ouro
My favourite moray eel at Ponta do Ouro

Mozambique is more expensive than Sodwana due partly to the remoteness of the coastal sites in the south. For example, dives on our last trip to Sodwana were R220 including tanks and weights, but in Mozambique it will cost about R380 per dive for the same deal. The other extra costs are more petrol, and border transfers. Accommodation costs are about the same as we had at Coral Divers.

Friendly potato bass in Mozambique
Friendly potato bass in Mozambique

We will limit the group to maximum 12 people as this is the maximum number of divers per group. This will mean we have a boat to ourselves and get to choose the dive sites. I worked and lived there so I have photos and videos of the sites and can assure you the diving is amazing. As before we will meet sometime before the trip to see some photos and videos and make plans.

If such a trip interests you please mail me as it will be on a first come first served basis. I’ll then let you have an idea of costs and more details! If you want to see more of what Mozambique diving is about, check out this playlist of videos on YouTube, as well as the photos in this newsletter.

Blue spotted ray
Blue spotted ray

What have we been up to?

During the few free days Clare had during the festive season I had her running me in and out of hospital (3 times) and despite this Clare managed to successfully completely redo the website as well as move both the website and the blog to a self hosted site that makes it far more user friendly.

Clare and I have spent many hours driving and diving but on the 1st of January instead of having her talk to me in the car she was in my speakers. Clare was interviewed by Cape Talk and 702 on a nature program (in her capacity as a blogger) on talk radio. Made me very proud.

What are we planning

Well, since the 3 January I have been unable to dive due to the untimely demise of some random body part that it appears we have no use for. I have mostly recovered now and am chomping at the bit to get in the water. Doctor’s orders mean that I have to sit out this weekend, however.

Fortunately… this weekend features a howling southeaster on Saturday which will eliminate diving on both sides of the peninsula for all but the most hardy and desperate. Grant is launching in the Atlantic on Sunday – if you want to be on the boat, let me know if you want assistance with arrangements, otherwise speak to the man directly. I will be back to a full diving schedule next weekend – I am sorry to those regular divers who’ve been sorely neglected the last couple of weeks!

Over the next few weeks we have a number of Open Water and a few Advanced students to dive with so hopefully we will be doing a day of shore entries and a day of boat dives every weekend coming up. The water temperature has been as high as 23 degrees in False Bay over the last few weeks and the current 30+ degree day time temperatures around will most likely keep it high. It is also southeaster winds that prevail this time of year so more often than not the Atlantic is the ocean dived.

We are having a theory evening on Wednesday (25 January) for Open Water students – if you haven’t written your exam or learned how to use the dive tables yet, this is for you. Please let me know if you’re attending so Clare can stock up on snacks in preparation.


Rescue training courses are my plan for February. I am going to try and get a group of six for this as it then brings the cost down dramatically, If you are a regular diver then this is a course that has a lot of value, more so to improve your own level of safety and ability to save yourself from a diving incident as well as assisting other divers. It is a lot of fun and includes the Emergency First Response course (you get to practice CPR by pounding the chest of my dummy, who is called Annie) as well as use of oxygen delivery equipment.

Once we have done Rescue we will focus on Wreck, Deep and Nitrox specialties as I am a firm believer that a regular diver should be comfortable with depth, Nitrox use and wreck diving as Cape Town has some stunning wrecks that lie between 30 and 40 metres.

Be good, have fun and get wet –

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099

Diving is addictive!

Shark “research”

It is true to say sharks are in trouble worldwide. Almost any attention to their plight is a step in the right direction. Sadly all too often the attention the sharks receive in the media is of little value to their plight and is purely an attempt to boost the participants’ perception of themselves as “great shark experts”.

This article describes a show that is a perfect example of this. It describes the National Geographic Shark Attack Experiment Live. Does the name make you skeptical? It should. The “experiment” sets out to show little concern for the sharks – a perspex cage was placed in the ocean that a shark would quite likely swim into and risk injury (and I am sure there would be no reporting on this if it happened).

The National Geographic Shark Experiment starts from a premise that comes straight out of Jaws: sharks want to eat people. The only refinement is that the experimenters planned to figure out what garnish they prefer. What is shocking is that the participants are all people who present themselves as being very concerned about sharks. This kind of so-called research is exploitative, tacky, and in poor taste – but, more fundamentally, it does nothing to remove the stigma associated with sharks as mindless predators. It panders to the Shark Week mentality of sharks as ravenous beasts with blood dripping from their jaws, tantalises viewers – exactly as Jaws did – with views of bikini-clad women swimming with apex predators, and has no scientific content whatsoever.

An assortment of other “experiments” were performed, such as dangling a string of plastic beads in front of a shark to prove a bling theory (who thinks this up? no one swims with a pearl necklace on). Once the diver dropped it the sharks followed it down and possibly ate it. The swimming and splashing surfer test was not done near great whites as this would “perk the interest” of any predator… So now reef sharks are no longer predators?

The best for me was diving with a dictaphone and making it seem like this was an earth shattering discovery. Divers dive with all these sharks all the time with video cameras, still cameras, video lights and strobes. What does a dictaphone do differently to all that other electronic equipment? Who swims with a dictaphone, anyway?

Science has proven sharks to most likely be colour blind and use contrast as a visual tool. Dispelling the myth of “yum yum yellow” whilst in a pink bikini is hardly a myth buster. It makes one fairly sure that the “science” was not actually the main feature here.

Pretending that three or four tests done by a single individual can help us to draw any conclusions about sharks is disingenuous and misleading to an often ignorant public who only know what the media tells them about sharks. Real science involves multiple tests, control groups, and the scientific method.

What we already know (real facts by unscientific people): thousands of divers worldwide dive with shiny, dangling scuba gadgets, strobes, cameras, bright shiny regulators, a multitude of brightly coloured fins, masks and wetsuits. Some dive in swimwear with bright shiny silver cylinders strapped to their backs. These people have black skin, pale skin, or bright red sunburned skin. A vast majority of them urinate in the water, their wetsuits and their swimsuits… And you’re more likely to be involved in a car accident on your way to the beach than you are to be bitten by a shark.

And yet, a respected (I think) institution such as National Geographic chooses to associate itself with a television special that takes, as its starting point, the view that sharks are looking for (appropriately dressed) humans to bite. How classy and scientifically up to date.

Handy hints: Winter boating

Do you remember what it’s like to dive in winter in Cape Town? Do you remember the freezing, spray-soaked boat rides to and from the dive site, buffeted by icy winds and pock-marked by blinding spray?

Here are three alternate solutions to the problem of freezing, bullet-like spray. Take your pick!

Safety in numbers

There are many reasons why animals would gather together in groups. It may be for safety, like the moulting Japanese spider crabs in the Oceans DVD, it may be to find a mate and to socialise, or it may be because something tasty has fallen to the ocean floor and everyone wants in on the action.

Starfish convocation at Long Beach
Starfish convocation at Long Beach

Certain creatures, like sea cucumbers, rock lobsters, brittle stars and abalone, are always seen together. Sea stars, however, are usually quite solitary and seem absorbed in their own little world. A dive at Windmill or occasionally at Long Beach may sometimes reveal starfish engaged in huge pile-ons like over-excited school boys. Usually there are mussels involved!

Rock lobsters on the Maori
Rock lobsters on the Maori

Rock lobsters generally congregate in cracks and crevices in the rocky reefs they frequent. Unfortunately this habit of living in close proximity to one another makes them particularly vulnerable to over-exploitation by poachers (and by that I mean anyone who operates without a crayfishing permit, in violation of its terms and conditions, or outside official crayfishing season).

A gas flame nudibranch among strawberry sea anemones at Partridge Point
A gas flame nudibranch among strawberry sea anemones at Partridge Point

Strawberry anemones are gregarious, and live in colonies that cover patches of reefs and wrecks, right down to over 40 metres. Other creatures (such as the nudibranch above) often show little regard for their personal space, and walk right over these tiny pink creatures.

Anemones at Partridge Point
Anemones at Partridge Point

In both the picture above and the one below, you can see the dense congregation of sea cucumbers – more than one different kind – that covers many of the reefs in Cape Town. Even on sandy sea floors, such as around the Cape Matapan, golden sea cucmbers form fields of delicate tentacles protruding from the sand. In terms of biomass, sea cucumbers of all sorts are believed to be among the most prolific creatures in the ocean.

Urchins and sea cucumbers at Partridge Point
Urchins and sea cucumbers at Partridge Point

Bookshelf: Archaeological Oceanography

Archaeological Oceanography – Robert D. Ballard (editor)

Archaeological Oceanography
Archaeological Oceanography - edited by Robert D. Ballard

Robert D. Ballard is the man behind the discovery of (amongst other shipwrecks in the deep) the Titanic where she lies in her final resting place. He’s the author of several books I’ve reviewed here, most of them aimed at a lay audience.

This is a more scholarly, textbook type work, with contributions from a number of his colleagues at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and from elsewhere. Ballard acts as editor, advisor, and author of a couple of chapters.

The book deals with discovery, archaeological study, and – to a lesser extent – preservation of shipwrecks, ancient and modern, in the deep ocean. Ballard has worked extensively in the North Atlantic, Mediterranean, Pacific Ocean and Baltic Sea and the chapters in this book draw on specific projects from these locales. There are ample illustrations (my favourite part!) showing everything from sonar search patterns, the tethered ROVs in action, to photomosaics of wreck sites, to paintings of massive shipwrecks as they now look (a photograph showing the entire Titanic, lying as it does in the darkness at 4000 metres, is impossible). The artist for most of these is Ken Marschall, and if I could find an entire book of his work – eerie, awe-inspiring and accurate – I’d buy ten copies!

This isn’t a light read, but as a reference for anyone who is particularly interested in underwater oceanography, ROV and submersible technology, or the intersection of oceanography and archaeology it is invaluable.

The book is available here and here.

Article: How Stuff Works on sharks

Here’s a link to the article on sharks. In case you need some light reading! If you’re in the mood, you can also check out these links, from the same website:

Friday poem: The Crocodile

If you’re concerned about the connection of crocodiles to diving, I suggest you check out this link.

Hearty thanks to Bernita for suggesting Lewis Carroll for our Friday poems.

The Crocodile – Lewis Carroll

How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!

How cheerfully he seems to grin!
How neatly spread his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!

Newsletter: Rays and rest

Hi divers

Happy new year! I’ve been out of the water for a week after emergency appendix surgery. Apologies for the lack of newsletter last week – I think we were on our way to the trauma unit for the second time in two days!

A GIANT short tailed sting ray at Long Beach
A GIANT short tailed sting ray at Long Beach

Last year ended and the new year started well, with some very pleasant dives. The water in False Bay has had tolerable visibility and been very warm for the last few weeks (as much as 23 degrees on the surface) and we’ve been thrilled to catch sight of the giant short-tailed sting rays that visit close inshore during the summer months. We saw our first ray of the season in mid October, and by the end of February they’re usually gone.

The pictures in this newsletter were all taken on a single dive at Long Beach, and show two different rays. These huge animals are quite harmless to divers, and typically rest on the sand in giant holes that they dig looking for white mussels and other good things to eat. Usually the first thing you notice when approaching them is that the visibility drops to about 30 centimetres, as they push sand over their bodies in great clouds, and they blow into the sand to dig out their prey. If you stay quiet and still, they will allow you to watch them for quite some time.

Giant short tailed sting ray resting on the sand
Giant short tailed sting ray resting on the sand

Open Water courses

While I’m out of the water I’d like to get the Open Water dive theory out of the way for those of you who are still busy with your courses. You know who you are! On Tuesday and Thursday evening next week (the 17th and 19th) I’ll be holding theory sessions at home in Kenilworth from 1900 until about 2100 (times can be adjusted if you want). If you behave, Clare will make you coffee and cake. Please send me an email or a text message if you’re able to attend one of these sessions. We’ll do your quizzes and exam, and learn about dive tables.

Giant short tailed sting ray taking off
Giant short tailed sting ray taking off

Boat dives

For those of you who are qualified, Grant is doing two boat dives early on Saturday morning before the wind picks up. I won’t be diving, but if you’re keen to get in the water let me know and I can assist with arrangements.


We’re going to work up some pricing for a dive trip to either Sodwana or Ponta do Ouro in southern Mozambique, hopefully to take place in late March. I’ll keep you posted…

I’m planning on being back in the water next weekend, all going well.


Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099

Diving is addictive!