Newsletter: Under the rainbow

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Taking a wait and see approach – let me know if you want to be contacted for dives…

Rainbow at Glencairn
Rainbow at Glencairn

A 12 metre swell with an 18 second period arrived yesterday and hammered the Atlantic shoreline. The swell was very westerly, as were the howling winds, so False Bay experienced nothing even close to that intensity.

Despite the protection afforded by Cape Point, False Bay saw some of the swell today and surfing was popular at the Clan Stuart, Glencairn, Fish Hoek and Kalk Bay reefs.

By tomorrow the swell has dropped down, the wind has died and False Bay will start to settle. This changes for the weekend.  Saturday sees the arrival of a weaker and smaller front which comes with 50 km/h winds and some rain. The odds of decent diving are slim, as the wind is from the north, not a direction False Bay likes much.

Things can change, so to be safe will play it by ear and decide on the day whether we launch or not. Let me know if you want to be notified of any dives.

Celebrate World Ocean Day

What better way of adding to your World Ocean Day celebrations than by enrolling in a free online course on ocean science and solutions? Here’s the course blurb:

The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) One Planet – One Ocean: From Science to Solutions is a ten-week course presenting the challenges and opportunities facing oceans today. Led by the teams at GEOMAR, the International Ocean Institute, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, and Future Ocean, the course brings in some of the world’s leading experts on ocean science to present the issues and potential solutions grounded in rigorous scientific research.

You can view the introduction video here, and sign up at this link. It’s a repeat of a MOOC from last April, and is well worth following. Thanks to Peter Southwood for the heads up!


Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099

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Bookshelf: Are Dolphins Really Smart?

Are Dolphins Really Smart? – Justin Gregg

Are Dolphins Really Smart?
Are Dolphins Really Smart?

Beliefs about dolphins’ superior intelligence, bond with humans, mystical abilities and their disproportionate intellectual capabilities abound. There is a personhood movement that seeks to acquire rights for dolphins just like humans. In Are Dolphins Really Smart?, marine mammal scientist Justin Gregg examines the evidence for outsize dolphin intelligence, and compares it to other animals. I was pleased to see chickens get more than a mention!

Dr Gregg‘s frustration with the “woo” surrounding dolphins is palpable as he attempts to demolish the facade of pseudo-science and fantasy that dolphins seem to attract. Secretly I think that many people want to believe that there is something magical about dolphins, even without subscribing to the fact that they can heal at a distance or communicate with aliens. For that reason (I think), I found this a fairly uncomfortable and negative read. Predictably the book caused a bit of a media storm upon its release. It’s a short read, but requires careful scrutiny in order not to miss the subtleties and brutalise the message.

This book is perhaps less about dolphins than you might expect, and more about the difficulties in studying animal cognition and intelligence. It is enlightening, for someone who isn’t a scientist, to gain an understanding of the challenges involved – not just in studying, but in actually first defining the terms of reference.

You can also read reviews at Southern Fried Science (read the comments too), and Discover Magazine.

If you’re interested in animal intelligence and (dare I say it) emotions, let me recommend Carl Safina’s latest book, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel. If you’re particularly into dolphins, I suggest Susan Casey’s Voices in the Ocean for a broad layman’s overview with a focus that is not purely scientific, and Dolphin Confidential by Maddalena Bearzi for the field scientist’s perspective.

Get the book here (South Africa), here, or here.

Bookshelf: Deep Sea and Foreign Going

Deep Sea and Foreign Going – Rose George

Deep Sea and Foreign Going
Deep Sea and Foreign Going

An unexplored childhood ambition of mine was to work on a large seagoing vessel – first choice an oil rig, but a container ship would do. I went to an all girls school that paid enthusiastic lip service to the abilities of girls to become whatever they dreamed of (while forbidding me from taking computer science because I was “too gregarious” – excuse me while I fall over laughing – and additional maths because it involved unavoidable proximity to boys at a nearby high school). These career options did not seem available when I matriculated, however. Even game ranging seemed hopelessly exotic, never mind becoming a sailor!

It was therefore with a combination of anticipation and envy that I started Deep Sea and Foreign Going. Rose George structures her expose of world shipping around a voyage she was allowed to take on board Maersk Kendala 300 metre long container ship, while it transported goods from Felixstowe in the UK to Singapore. The best known shipping line, Danish company Maersk Line, has annual revenues the size of Microsoft.

Shipping is the most cost effective way to move things around – long distance air and road transportation are far too costly for the massive tonnage involved, and transportation by train is also limited by cost, terrain, track gauge incompatibility, and the vast distances involved. Containerisation itself is a modern miracle of organisation and automation – more on that in Marc Levinson’s The Box.

The paradox of the shipping industry is that while almost every appliance we have in our homes, the fuel in our vehicles, the clothes in our wardrobes and the food in our kitchen cupboards is transported to our shores by ship, by and large we are completely oblivious to of this fact. (If you’ve read The Docks, perhaps you are one of the few who are aware of the scale of the industry.) The chief of the British navy has accused government ministers – and by extension the rest of the public – of a lack of maritime knowledge that he characterised as “sea blindness”.

George explores a wide variety of subjects related to shipping, but, bizarrely appears to overlook the Filipino crew of Kendal, with whom she spent five weeks. She meets and interviews an impressively wide range of people, but does not – to my mind – give the human engine of the shipping world its due. George does acknowledge the contribution of sailors from developing countries, but doesn’t engage with any of her Filipino shipmates to any great degree. Five weeks at sea would seem to provide ample opportunity to find a common understanding. The crew work long weeks and months on board in frequently parlous conditions, for pay that is significantly higher than what they could earn in an 8-5 job at home but is accompanied by conditions often characterised by injustice and lack of safety. When something goes wrong, it is often the crew of the ship who are taken care of last. E-Whale, which languished in Table Bay for two years with its crew on board, is a case in point.

Deep Sea and Foreign Going was originally titled Ninety Percent of Everything. There’s an extract from the book available here alongside a TED talk by George, if you want to get a taste of what it’s about. You can read a New York Times review here, a Guardian review here, one from the Telegraph here, and the Wall Street Journal here. A more critical review can be found at gCaptain.

You can get a copy of the book here, here or here if you’re in South Africa. If this kind of book floats your boat, you must read The Outlaw Sea.

A chocolate box of search terms

We can see some of the search terms that lead people to this blog. Some of them are super special. Now and then I make a note of the most memorable ones. Here are some for your enjoyment:

Things you should not be asking the internet

how would i know the right sea condations for launching my deep sea boat off durban south africa

dive plan 60 metres

how do i become part of the perlemoen poachers in the eastern cape

A recurring theme

wetsuit girl

drysuit girl

scuba girl

freediving girl

snorkel girl

underwater photography girl

divers girl

girl in diving gear

fight scenes with female scuba divers with knives

women wetsuit selfies

women diving in pool

bikini scuba girls movies

Your guess is as good as mine

unashamedly hairy

body crawling sea seal

smelly wash cape town supplier

hair cap diving


will wshng the eye with savlon help rid the pink eyes?

diving for abelone in durban

A Day on the Bay: Swimming for Hope

Date: 6 March 2014

Seahorse trailered at Millers Point
Seahorse trailered at Millers Point

One misty morning early in March I provided boat support for Richard Child, a 61 year old engineer who is an experienced open water swimmer. Richard was one of a field of fifteen South African swimmers who planned to swim around Cape Point – from Diaz Beach on the western side of the peninsula, into False Bay and to Buffels Bay on the eastern side of the peninsula. This is a distance of approximately 8 kilometres. I launched Seahorse at Millers Point, and then battled through large waves to get around Cape Point to Diaz Beach, where the swimmers did a dry start from the sand.

The swimmers huddle on Diaz Beach at the start
The swimmers huddle on Diaz Beach at the start

This is an intense open water event that is not for the faint of heart. The swim was held to raise funds for the Little Fighters Cancer Trust. You can see how to donate, and what was raised, on this page. Well over R100,000 has been raised so far!

The swim started on Diaz Beach inside the Cape Point Nature Reserve. With the assistance of two experienced surfers, the swimmers were guided as to when to run into the water, so as to avoid being pounded by the breakers. In the waves, Richard lost his cap, but we had a spare on board and passed it to him when he rendezvoused with the boat after the start.

Cape Point shrouded in mist
Cape Point shrouded in mist

The conditions approaching Cape Point were quite hair raising for the swimmers. The sea was gunmetal grey, and choppy. The area just north west of Cape Point is foul ground with many rocks, and the waves came from all directions. Richard wanted to swim as close inshore as possible because it’s warmer there, and feels less exposed. I had to stay on my toes!

Richard on his way around Cape Point
Richard on his way around Cape Point

Rounding Cape Point, the sun broke through the clouds and we passed into False Bay, which was silky smooth. Things went much quicker from there. The distance to swim inside False Bay is longer than the distance from Diaz Beach to the Point, but conditions were a hundred times easier.

Rounding Cape Point into False Bay
Rounding Cape Point into False Bay

Each boat was fitted with a Shark Shield, on loan from Fish Hoek Lifesaving. This meant we had to stay within a certain distance of our swimmer. His (future) son in law was on board, shouting motivation to him, keeping him informed of his stroke rate and the water temperature, and providing snacks and liquids when required. I had brought our pool net along, for the purpose of passing Richard items. As per the rules of the swim, he was not allowed to touch the boat at all.

Richard swims into a glassy False Bay
Richard swims into a glassy False Bay

Swim for Hope is the brainchild of flautist Carina Bruwer, who completed the same swim alone in 2013, and before that in 2004. She holds the women’s record for this course.

Approaching Buffels Bay
Approaching Buffels Bay

Richard had anticipated that he would be the slowest swimmer on the day, because he was the oldest in the field, but he completed the swim in 3h08, with a couple of swimmers behind him. Seeing him approach the slipway at Buffels Bay, stand up and raise his arms in the air to signify a completed effort, was quite emotional. He is the oldest swimmer to have completed this swim, and an absolute hero in my book.

Liveaboard life: Boat parking

Our liveaboard in the marina at the end of our trip
Our liveaboard in the marina at the end of our trip

When we returned to the marina in Hurghada at the end of our Red Sea liveaboard trip, our captain did some of the most impressive parking I’ve ever seen. He put our boat into a space just wide enough, between two other liveaboards. First, he turned the boat around:

Then he reversed it towards the jetty:

Bookshelf: Moby-Duck

Moby-Duck – Donovan Hohn

Moby Duck
Moby Duck

I haven’t reproduced the full subtitle of this book – you can see it on the cover at left. It sets the tone for a work of astonishing verbosity, in which the author takes a fascinating concept and beats it to death with a surfeit of personal anecdote and tens of thousands of words. Donovan Hohn was a school teacher, who encouraged his writing students to practise the “archaeology of the ordinary“: scrutinising ordinary objects until their special essence reveals itself. Hohn’s imagination is captured by tales of bath toys washing up on far flung beaches, and in this book practices some of his own advice.

After nearly 29,000 plastic bath toys (ducks, beavers, frogs and turtles) spilled from a container that washed overboard in the Pacific Ocean in 1992, beachcombers began finding them on beaches from Australia to Alaska. (There’s a nice map on the Friendly Floatees wikipedia page.) Entranced by the journeys taken by these floating toys, Hohn takes a leave of absence from work, leaves his wife and infant son at home, and seeks out more information and understanding about the forces that sent the toys bobbing all over the world’s oceans.

He visits Alaskan beaches and speaks to beachcombers and environmentalists there, who pick through the mounds of ocean-borne debris and bag it for removal. He travels on an NSB container ship from Hong Kong to Seattle and on a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute research vessel to the Canadian Arctic (the latter two being my favourite parts of the book), and to a toy factory in China. He also visits Hawaii, and sees beaches whose sand is completely suffused with plastic nodules. He takes an ocean voyage to the North Pacific Gyre, and gives an excellent – and alarming – sense of just how saturated our earth and ocean are with plastic debris.

This is more a literary work than a scientific one, and I think that is where part of my frustration with Hohn’s treatment of the subject matter stems from. There are a couple of glaring errors (one that stung was the author referring to the “Alguhas” current that washes South Africa’s coast, rather than the “Agulhas” current). The Telegraph agrees with me on the overblown verbosity of this book; the New York Times is somewhat more favourable in their review, as is the Guardian.

You can read an author interviews here. You can get the book here if you’re in South Africa, otherwise here or here.