Bookshelf: Climate Change

Climate Change: Briefings from Southern Africa – Bob Scholes, Mary Scholes & Mike Lucas

Climate Change
Climate Change

This is the book on climate change that I never knew I needed. It is written in the form of 55 questions and answers, from a South African perspective. One of the three authors (Dr Mike Lucas) is a biological oceanographer, so there is ample information on the effect of climate change on the marine environment. The other two authors are climate change specialists.

The book is well illustrated with photographs and diagrams. The authors address sea level rise, El Niño, water scarcity, the effect of rising temperatures on the Southern Ocean and Antarctic, and the survival of coral reefs, among other topics. The final few questions deal specifically with practical actions that can be taken to adapt to and (perhaps) avoid climate change, and one’s personal carbon footprint.

You don’t have to be a weather nerd to benefit and learn from this book. I encourage you to seek it out.

Get a copy of the book here (South Africa), here or here.

A Christmas dive with cowsharks

One of Cape Town’s best known dive sites is called Shark Alley, located close to shore near Pyramid Rock in False Bay. Here, broadnose sevengill cowsharks may be seen fairly reliably. There are times when they aren’t around (perhaps owing to a recent orca predation, or some other mysterious cause).

Jerrel filmed this beautiful footage on a dive at Shark Alley in December 2014, on a calm day with pretty good visibility. Look out for our boat, Seahorse, and of course the sharks. Thanks to Jerrel for the video!

If you’re curious as to how one conducts a dive with three metre long apex predators, check our our protocol for scuba diving with cowsharks. An ethical dive operator will also inform you of the likelihood of seeing the cowsharks, and whether they have been seen recently (i.e. in the last few days) by divers, before accepting money to take you diving at the site.

Newsletter: Keeping it tidy

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: Boat dives, conditions dependent, in False Bay or the Atlantic

Several days of south easterly wind is not uncommon in winter, but it is a little unusual. Today, tomorrow and Saturday it is meant to blow around 25 km/h from the south east, so it’s likely we may dive the Atlantic on Sunday.

The False Bay water colour is not bad, however the surface conditions will be ropy on Saturday and not much better on Sunday. The Atlantic is horribly green today, but the water temperature has dropped a degree already so there is a chance it will have improved by Sunday. Granger Bay is also an option for Sunday, but that’s going to be a call we make late Saturday. If you want to dive on Sunday, somewhere, text or Whatsapp me and I will update you during the weekend regarding the development of our plans.

Kalk Bay Harbour clean up
Kalk Bay Harbour clean up

If you want to dive on Saturday, can I suggest the Kalk Bay harbour clean up organised by Kalk Bay backpackers. Details above, and send any enquiries to PJ!

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Bookshelf: Blue Mind

Blue Mind – Wallace J. Nichols

Blue Mind
Blue Mind

In Blue Mind, biologist (turtle researcher) Wallace J. Nichols articulates and elaborates upon an idea you’ve probably already had all on your own: that being close to water is good for you. More precisely, Nichols is interested in what proximity to water does for our brains. In this book he presents scientific evidence for the salutary effects of water on humans, but does not shy away from anecdote. His tone is vigorously optimistic.

I don’t need to look very far to see evidence of Nichols’s hypothesis: Waves for Change teaches youngsters from violent communities in Cape Town to surf, and in the process effects an almost miraculous change in their lives. (They deserve your support.) Nichols also says that he can see a change – a warming – in people’s body language when they enter an aquarium. I spend enough time at the Two Oceans Aquarium that I should have an opinion on this, but I don’t, so I need to look more closely.

I admit that this book is on the fringe of what I would usually read – it is what I would usually dismiss as touchy-feely pop psychology – but I do think Nichols is on to something (and here I am in very excellent company). He holds a Blue Mind Summit every year, bringing together neuroscientists, artists and conservationists to discuss the ocean and the brain, and how to use insights about water’s powers for good.

Read a review at The Guardian, and an interview with Nichols at Outside Magazine. For the extra curious, read a quite a detailed profile of Nichols, also at Outside Magazine.

Get a copy of the book here (South Africa), here or here.

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.

Newsletter: A raft of penguins

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

SaturdayLaunching from Simon’s Town jetty at 9.00 am for Roman Rock and at 12.00 for Photographer’s Reef or the wreck of SAS Pietermaritzburg

Sunday: Shore dive at Long Beach or A Frame at 9.30 am

Penguins near Boulders Beach
Penguins near Boulders Beach

Conditions in False Bay have been great this week, and I am sure they will be pretty good for the weekend. Some swell arrives tomorrow, so Saturday will be better for boating and Sunday for shore dives. Let me know if you want to get in the water.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Newsletter: Making friends

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: Double tank dive at 7.30am launching from Simon’s Town jetty

Sunday: Double tank dive at 7.30am launching from Simon’s Town jetty

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.

Friendly seal under the jetty at Simon's Town
Friendly seal under the jetty at Simon’s Town

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.

Also remember the Underwater Photographer of the year exhibition, mentioned in last week’s newsletter.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Newsletter: A weekend off

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

No dives planned

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.

Strawberry anemones, by Jerrel
Strawberry anemones, by Jerrel

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.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Newsletter: Last blast

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: Launching from Hout Bay at 9.00 and 11.30

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.

Seasonal wind in 2015
Seasonal wind in 2015

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.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Newsletter: Gremlins

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: shore dives at Long Beach

Monday: boat dives from Simon’s Town, conditions permitting

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.

Roman Rock lighthouse on Wednesday
Roman Rock lighthouse on Wednesday

It is the Cape Town Dive Festival this weekend, held at False Bay Yacht Club, so the slipway will be quite busy. I plan for student pool training on Saturday, shore dives at Long Beach on Sunday (working the students hard) and boat launches on Monday (a glorious public holiday).

If you are keen for a shore dive on Sunday or want to be kept in the loop about boat dives on Monday, 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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