Newsletter: Transformation

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: Boat dives at 9.00 and 11.30 from Simons Town jetty (maximum depth 18 metres)

This week we launched on Monday, Tuesday and again today. Monday and Tuesday were pleasant as there was no swell or wind to worry about, however the visibility was pretty lousy. Mostly pea soup around Roman Rock and a little further south and 4-5 metres in Smitswinkel Bay.

One day of westerly wind, not even that strong, and False Bay transformed. On the wreck of the Princess Elizabeth this morning the visibility was 20 metres plus. It is quite astonishing how quickly things change.

I think the viz will remain for the weekend and Saturday is probably going to be the best day. There’s less wind on Sunday but a lot more swell and therefore surge to deal with. I have students to qualify so both dives will be to a maximum depth of 18 metres. Most likely to Alpha Reef and the northern part of Roman Rock.

Gathering around the shot line in Smitswinkel Bay
Gathering around the shot line in Smitswinkel Bay

Shark Spotters fundraiser

Get the details of the next Shark Spotters fundraiser, happening on Wednesday 31 May, here. Book directly with the Two Oceans Aquarium. Greg Bertish, author of The Little Optimist, will talk about his adventures, and about the early days of the Shark Spotters program. We have donated an auction item/lucky draw prize!

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/

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Newsletter: Business as usual

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: Launching from Simons Town jetty at 9.00 and 11.30 am

Sunday: Launching from Simons Town jetty at 9.00 and 11.30 am (suitable for Open Water divers)

It is the time of year where we have more decent days for diving in a week than we experience during the windy summer months. This weekend looks pretty good for both days in False Bay. Not much wind or swell, and while it is doubtful this visibility will be in the double digits, it should be decent.

I will launch from Simons Town jetty at 9.00 and 11.30 am on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday will be for qualified divers, and you get to choose where we go. Sunday will be mostly students’ qualifying dives so max 18 metres, suitable for Open Water divers.

Musselcracker at the Two Oceans Aquarium
Musselcracker at the Two Oceans Aquarium

Shark Spotters fundraiser

Check out the details of an upcoming Shark Spotters fundraiser here. It promises to be an inspirational and enjoyable evening.

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/

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Newsletter: Never easy

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Boat dives on Saturday or Sunday, swell permitting

The weekend outlook is not that easy to call. A 4 metre, long period swell is due tomorrow. How much of it arrives and precisely when is difficult to say, as the forecasts on the more frequently used weather sites are quite different.

Hout Bay was surprisingly flat today when I went to take a look (the boat had its annual SAMSA survey today) and False Bay had far more swell than expected. For both days this weekend the wind is favourable, so it all really hangs on the swell.

I would like to launch either Saturday or Sunday but will make that decision midday tomorrow. If you’d like the option of diving, reply to this mail, sms or Whatsapp me.

Sandy the turtle checks out her reflection
Sandy the turtle checks out her reflection

Last weekend we dived in the I&J Ocean Exhibit at the Two Oceans Aquarium. It’s an experience that comes highly recommended. The picture above is of Sandy, a rescued green turtle whose shell was badly damaged by a boat propellor, looking at her reflection in my camera lens.

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/

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Newsletter: Turtle time

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: Boat dives from Simon’s Town jetty at 10.00 and 12.00, likely to Roman Rock (suitable for Open Water divers)

The weekend looks good for diving. We’ll be boat diving on Sunday. If you want to join us, you know what to do!

Green turtle on the move
Green turtle on the move

Turtles

It’s that time of year when turtle hatchlings get caught up in currents that bring them to Western Cape shores, where it’s too cold for them to survive. If you find one on the beach, please keep it dry and warm, and get it to the Two Oceans Aquarium as soon as possible. Read more about what to do on the aquarium blog here, and here.

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/

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Sharks! MOOC videos (part II)

Here is a selection of the videos for weeks three and four of the recent Sharks! MOOC hosted on edX. You can find weeks one and two here. All the videos are available on youtube if you’re really interested – you can check out the channel containing all this year’s videos, or a giant playlist containing all the videos from the 2015 iteration of the course.

Dark shyshark on the sand at Long Beach
Dark shyshark on the sand at Long Beach

Week 3: Thinking like a Shark – Brains and Behavior

Introduction – thinking like a shark

General organisation of the nervous system

Brain regions overview

Brain size

Prey localisation

Seeing underwater

Eyes for deep water

Lateral line system and Ampullae of Lorenzini

Electric snouts

Group hunting – broadnose sevengill sharks – an interview with Dave Ebert on research he did decades ago on the sevengill cowsharks of Millers Point

Week 4: Sharks in the World – Human Interactions, Ecology, and Conservation

Introduction – sharks in the world

What sharks eat

Food webs

What eats sharks?

Deep water communities

Shark struck

The problem with shark nets

Why are aquariums important?

Husbandry

Industrial fishing

The art of Ray Troll

Sawfish DNA

Newsletter: Diving 9 to 5

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: Shore dives at Long Beach

Sunday: Boat dives from Simon’s Town jetty at 10.00 to the wreck of the Brunswick and 12.30, site to be determined on the day

Liam and Christo near the Brunswick
Liam and Christo near the Brunswick

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.

If you want to dive, let me know!

Support Shark Spotters

Don’t forget to donate to help the Shark Spotters complete their beach info smartphone app! Also, there’s an auction and comedy evening (with Nik Rabinowitz!) at the Two Oceans Aquarium on Wednesday 27 July, also in aid of Shark Spotters’ research. There’s more information about the event here.

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/

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Newsletter: Planning ahead

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

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.

On the boat out of Simon's Town last week
On the boat out of Simon’s Town last week

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.
  • The Underwater Photographer of the Year exhibition is still on at the Chavonnes Battery Museum until 30 September…
  • While you’re at the Waterfront, pick up some NSRI gear to keep warm, look cool and lend them some support, and stop in at the Iziko Maritime Centre to experience something of South Africa’s shipping history.

Over and out! Hope to see you all on the boat next week. Message me to be kept in the loop.

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/

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A visit to the Blue Planet aquarium in Copenhagen

On our last day in Denmark, after a week-long family visit between Christmas 2015 and new year 2016, we went to Den Blå Planet, Denmark’s national aquarium. (Actually we were wrong about it being our last day in Denmark, but that’s another story involving Turkish Airlines, who seem to innovate in the field of disappointment.) The aquarium is situated in Kastrup, Copenhagen, quite close to the airport, and overlooks the narrow sound called the Øresund, which separates Denmark from Sweden.

The Blue Planet after the mist cleared
The Blue Planet after the mist cleared

We visited on 1 January, after (eventually) sleeping through the sounds of Copenhagen’s residents letting off five hundred metric tons of fireworks, starting at 5.00 pm the day before. We bought tickets online (a small saving in Danish krone that amounted to eleventy million ZAR) and arrived at opening time. The building is surrounded by a reflection pool, and is built in a spiral form inspired by the shape of a vortex. In the larger halls the high ceilings give a tremendous sense of space; at 10,000 square metres, the building is very large. The halls are generally wide and I imagine it could accommodate a very large number of people before feeling crowded.

Layout of The Blue Planet
Layout of The Blue Planet

The aquarium is divided into three sections. The first is focused on the life found in the lakes and ocean of Denmark and northern Europe. I particularly enjoyed this first part of the aquarium. The animals are adapted to the cold water, so some of them were very similar what we find around Cape Town, and the displays were creative and interesting. There was also the obligatory “anchor with fish” tank, which was (as always) mesmerising. One of the pictures in the gallery below is of Tony checking it out.

Two sea otters live at the aquarium, having been rescued as infants and raised by hand. The male and female otters were found in Alaska when they were four months old with a broken jaw and wounds after a boat strike, and as a 1.5 kg abandoned one day old respectively. As usual, seeing such an intelligent animal in captivity stirs up all sorts of conflicting feelings. That said, you are a stronger person than I am if you could have left these two baby otters to their natural fate (that is, death). The otters spend a lot of time (up to six hours per day) grooming, and in between keep very busy, requiring a lot of enrichment from their four keepers. It was magical to see them.

Also in the northern seas and lakes section is the puffin exhibit, mimicking the cliffs of the Faroe Islands, a Danish territory. Here, also, we found a touch pool (which the Danes call a sensing-aquarium), and a terrifying ambulatory mascot.

The second section of the building is devoted to tropical lakes and rivers, with incredible freshwater exhibits. We saw piranhas, terrapins, frogs, little black rays the size of pancakes, with white polka-dots, and electric eels. The rainforest exhibit is kept at a temperature and humidity level that are impressive in the Scandinavian winter, and I can imagine that this part of the aquarium is popular with expats from warmer climates!

The third part of the aquarium is for the rest of the ocean, and although it’s a big ask to cover (or summarise) so much in the remaining space, it does a fabulous job. The Ocean tank holds four million litres of water, and is home to rays and hammerhead sharks, and other warm water fish. Amongst many other things, there are seahorses, leafy seadragons and coral reef fish to see.

Feeding time in the Ocean tank
Feeding time in the Ocean tank

We watched feeding time for a while, which was quite funny – the aquarists row out onto the water in a small inflatable boat, and administer the snacks from on board. Standing in the tunnel, we could see the boat from below, with the oars working frantically against what I imagine was a bit of surface current.

One of the things that Den Blå Planet does really well is to integrate multimedia, virtual reality and interactive technology into the aquarium experience. This reduces the number of animals required to be on display, and – for the most part – probably takes care of itself, requiring no cleaning and feeding. My favourite such exhibit was the bouncy plankton wall in the ocean section of the aquarium. The photo below is pretty terrible because the display moves all the time, but I put a video on instagram which shows how the plankton clear a space for you when you walk along the wall.

Plankton multimedia display
Plankton multimedia display

We finished off our visit with a flæskesteg sandwich at ØST, the restaurant at the back of the aquarium. It was still a bit misty, but the large windows looking out over the sound let in a lot of light. There is a play area outside, and despite the midwinter temperatures, children in snow suits were making the most of it.

The restaurant at the aquarium, ØST
The restaurant at the aquarium, ØST

I did not get the same strong conservation message from my visit to The Blue Planet that I think the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town works so hard to propagate. This could be because of different cultural approaches to living a “green” lifestyle; in Scandinavia the government does a lot of the work for you, providing renewable energy, prioritising  pedestrian and bicycle traffic, and making it ridiculously easy to recycle, for example. In South Africa it is more of a conscious personal choice and effort to reduce one’s environmental footprint, and there is there is thus perhaps more of a requirement for direct conservation messaging.

Anyway, if you’re in Copenhagen, visit! Next time we’re in Denmark, we’ll check out the little Øresund Aquarium at Helsingor, which is entirely focused on local fauna.

How to help marine wildlife in distress

 

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

Bull seal with plastic around his neck, in Hout Bay
Bull seal with plastic around his neck, in Hout Bay

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

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.

More information can be found here.

Turtles

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.

Here’s detailed information from the Two Oceans Aquarium on what to do if you find a stranded turtle. Do the right thing!

Whales and dolphins

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.)

Newsletter: Blooming tides

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: Launching at 6.00am from Simon’s Town jetty for a double tank dive

Coral display at the aquarium in Copenhagen
Coral display at the aquarium in Copenhagen

The water is really doing its best to limit diving right now. It is either murky green or way too windy for decent diving on a regular basis. At some point it will change, but I doubt it will change in time for the weekend. There are areas in False Bay that are clean and free of red tide, but you need to go and look for them.

Saturday has pretty strong south easterly wind and a fair amount of swell, Sunday is not looking much better. I have students who require shore and boat dives so I will launch at 6.00am on Saturday for a quick look and double tank dive, and plan the weekend around what we find.

If you’d like to be notified of diving plans that may materialise if we find suitable conditions, let me know!

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/

Diving is addictive!

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