Newsletter: On the rocks

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: Shore dives at Long Beach at 9.30 am / Diversnight at the jetty in Simons Town at 7.30 pm

Sunday: Boat dives from the jetty in Simons Town at 9.30 am

False Bay is rather pleasant at the moment and Saturday looks to be an ideal day for student dives at Long Beach. We will start at 9.30 am. Sunday has some south easterly wind but I doubt it will be enough to spoil the conditions, so we will launch at 9.30 am from the jetty in Simons Town.  Let me know if you want to dive.

CV24, one of the yachts participating in the Clipper Race, aground at Olifantsbos
CV24 (team Greenings), one of the yachts participating in the Clipper Race, aground at Olifantsbos

Diversnight

Diversnight is this Saturday evening. It’s a night dive, free of charge (unless you need gear), and we are diving at the jetty in Simons Town. We’ll meet at 7.30 pm and get into the water at about 8.00 pm, as the aim is for divers around the world to be underwater at 20:17 (get it?). This year, so far, there are 135 dive sites registered, in 22 countries. Clare might even bake something for when we get out of the water. Join us!

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Bookshelf: Scuba Confidential

Scuba Confidential: An Insider’s Guide to Becoming a Better Diver – Simon Pridmore

The natural sequel to Scuba Fundamental (though it was written later), this book is aimed at qualified divers who may have reached a plateau with the sport, and want to improve their skills and explore more of what diving has to offer. Author Simon Pridmore does not shy away from subjects such as solo diving, deep diving and technical diving, and offers valuable perspectives from a lifetime in the dive industry.

Scuba Confidential
Scuba Confidential

Pridmore begins with a subject that isn’t discussed enough (because it would supposedly scare away potential new divers): safety. He talks about why divers die, survival strategies, and the essential mental preparation that should come before diving.

Many divers who have passed the first, awkward stage of their careers on scuba seek to improve their skills. Pridmore discusses buoyancy, navigation, and the touchy subject of deco. The following section addresses some of the specialty options available to divers who wish to extend their qualifications: night diving, wreck diving, drift diving, cave diving, ice diving, and technical diving. While you may decide that some of these types of diving are definitely not for you, there is still much to learn from the techniques and thought processes required to do these types of dives safely.

Pridmore also deals extensively with equipment issues, returning to the subject of deploying an SMB, care and use of dive cylinders, mastering your BCD, and dive computers. In many instances, these items of gear are a matter of life and death, and well worth talking about. Narcosis, nitrox, rebreathers and other gas-related subjects round up the sections of the book that pertain to dive safety.

The final chapters deal with dive travel, with a section on liveaboards and a recap of some etiquette, which becomes increasingly important when one is diving with people one doesn’t know.

This book will satisfy a growing diver’s thirst for knowledge, draw attention to areas that need improvement or reflection, and prompt further exploration of dive-related subjects. It’s an excellent gift for the curious diver in your life.

Get a copy of the book here (SA), here (US) or here (UK).

Bookshelf: Scuba Fundamental

Scuba Fundamental: Start Diving the Right Way – Simon Pridmore

When I first learned how to dive, all I wanted was to find books about scuba diving that were relevant to my stage of knowledge and skill, so that I could learn more (my learning style is by reading). Unfortunately at that time the only books about scuba diving in South Africa that I could find were absolute rubbish (fortunately the situation has improved immeasurably – here’s a quality example). I wish I’d had this book to hand, but it was only published last year, so sorry for me.

Scuba Fundamental
Scuba Fundamental

I read it anyway, with my jaded old eyes. It isn’t specific to South Africa, but it’s written for people who are contemplating learning to dive, who are busy learning, or who are still early in their diving careers. Many of the topics that Simon Pridmore covers are ones that Tony and I tried to deal with in the early days of this blog. He is eminently sensible, and writes from a position of deep, international experience in the dive industry.

How does one choose a dive course? How does one choose a diving instructorWhen shouldn’t one dive? Which certification agency is best? Should a new diver buy their own equipment, and where does one even begin with that? Once qualified, what next? What about diving in cold water and cold weather? How can divers keep safe on the surface? Pridmore also discusses some important elements of dive etiquette such as peeing in your wetsuit, entry techniques (giant strides, backward rolls, and so on), seasickness, dive boat etiquette, behaviour around marine animals, and what to do if your dive buddy surfaces with a giant booger.

If you’re thinking of learning to dive, are busy with your course, have done fewer than 30 dives, or are just seeking some direction in the early stages of your love affair with scuba diving, consider this guide. If you have a friend or family member you’d like to start a conversation with about diving, or would like to buy a dive course for but can’t afford it, this book is an excellent starting point. I found myself agreeing out loud with the author’s observations more times than I can count.

Get it here (South Africa), here (US) or here (UK).

Newsletter: A splash of colour

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: Launching from Hout Bay at 9.30 am

We launched yesterday and had pretty good conditions in False Bay at Fan Reef and the northern pinnacles of Roman Rock. It was grey and rainy, but great to be out on the bay.

I’m going to count on the strong south easterly wind tomorrow cleaning up the Atlantic. The very southerly swell on Saturday will not be felt as strongly in Hout Bay, so we will most likely go there for dives. I’ll check the water colour tomorrow afternoon and confirm the final destination. If you want to be on the boat, let me know.

A grey day out on False Bay
A grey day out on False Bay

Diversnight

Don’t forget that Diversnight is coming up next weekend, on Saturday 4 November. There is no charge for the dive, and the more the merrier. If you need to rent a cylinder or any other gear, please let me know in advance (i.e. not next Saturday)!

Farewell to Yoshi

Yoshi, the loggerhead turtle and undisputed star of the I&J Ocean Exhibit at the Two Oceans Aquarium, will be released soon. The aquarium is hosting a farewell event for her in November, with turtle experts and aquarists as guest speakers. More information here.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

To subscribe to receive this newsletter by email, use the form on this page!

Bookshelf: Nicole

Nicole: The True Story of a Great White Shark’s Journey into History – Richard Peirce

Nicole’s story is not new, and can be summarised briefly. She was a great white shark, tagged in Gansbaai near Dyer Island in November 2003. In February 2004, Nicole’s tag popped off as scheduled, 11,000 kilometres from where she was tagged, in a location off Western Australia. In August 2004 Nicole was again identified in Gansbaai, having made the return journey.

It was the first, furthest and fastest recorded transoceanic migration by a white shark. Its most important consequence was that it provided scientific grounds to advocate for extended protections for white sharks, outside of South Africa’s territorial waters.

Nicole
Nicole

The book Nicole chronicles Nicole’s journey, and the work of the researchers who studied her, many of whom have gone on to illustrious careers (but be warned, the names of several of the scientists are subject to creative misspellings). The book beautifully put together, with a lot of photographs. This and the simple, vivid writing style make it an ideal gift for shark-obsessed youngsters. In imaginative interludes the author describes what Nicole might have experienced as she swam to Australia and back.

The scientific paper describing Nicole’s migration can be found here (paywalled) and here (pdf), and there’s some excellent information about Nicole on Michael Scholl’s White Shark Trust website. He was the researcher – now CEO of Save Our Seas – who identified Nicole’s distinctive dorsal fin on her return to Gansbaai. Read a review of Nicole and an interview with the author here.

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

Article: Buzzfeed on what to do with a giant squid

I can’t remember how this story crossed my path – I usually only visit Buzzfeed when someone sends me a link containing cat pictures – but it’s definitely worth your time. I thought I’d share it now, before we (hopefully eventually) move on from the cephalopod obsession that I have been nurturing for a while.

The article describes how the curator of molluscs (cool job) at London’s Natural History Museum came into possession of a giant squid, accidentally caught by fishermen in the Falkland Islands, and what it took to preserve it.

She measures 8.62 metres in length and remains the largest wet specimen the Natural History Museum of London has ever preserved. No one has ever captured and preserved a giant squid as complete as this one. That said, she’s missing part of a leg – but it’s not her fault. The fact that she was so fresh meant a section of one of her tentacles could be immediately frozen for DNA research before decay set in.

You, too, can see a giant squid, if you do a behind the scenes tour at London’s Natural History Museum. If you’d like to remind yourself what a giant squid looks like in real life, this talk is a good place to start. Read about giant squid here.

Read the full article here – the accompanying photos are probably even more gripping than the text

Newsletter: Weathered

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

SaturdayStudent and Refresher dives at Long Beach from 9.00 am

I am having a tough time trying to understand the current weather. Despite days of westerly and north westerly wind the visibility has been very very slow to respond. At Long Beach the visibility today was only 3 metres. It should have have been better.

There is more wind, coming from the right direction, forecast for tomorrow so I am hoping for better viz by Saturday. I have student and Refresher dives to do so I will be at Long Beach from 9.00 am.

Yacht at Long Beach
Yacht at Long Beach

Clipper Yacht Race news

The Clipper Yacht Race vessels are arriving in Cape Town at the moment, and you can visit them at the V&A Waterfront. There are several excellent events planned while the yachts are here.

There’s also a talk about this round the world race at Hout Bay Yacht Club next Wednesday, 25 October, at 7.30 pm. Details here (on facebook).

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Bookshelf: Other Minds

Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness – Peter Godfrey-Smith

THIS is the octopus book you have been waiting for all your life. Philosopher of science (and, importantly, scuba diver) Peter Godfrey-Smith traces the origins of intelligence through the tree of life, pausing at length on the cephalopods. These animals – cuttlefish, octopus, squid – stand out as exceptionally intelligent among animals, but only live for a year or two, the females expiring after they finish nurturing their first and only clutch of eggs (this is called semelparity). Both they and the males undergo a brief and catastrophic period of senescence, during which time they lose limbs, lose pigmentation, and their cognitive functions appear to be in sharp decline. (As an aside, I think that this cuttlefish may have been experiencing this very late-life decline.) Why, speaking evolutionarily, invest the energy required to develop such a complex brain, if its owner is going to live for such a short time?

Other Minds
Other Minds

This is the ultimate question that Godfrey-Smith grapples with. Prior to arriving here, he leads us on wonderful explorations of octopus physiology, the origins of life, and the nature of intelligence. Refreshingly, he takes a nuanced view of intelligence in cephalopods and resists the ever-present temptation to anthropomorphise these fascinating creatures. He points out, for example, that it is easy to mistake dexterity – eight arms and all – for smarts. I read this book while recuperating from a head injury whose degree of seriousness was not yet clear at the time of reading (it was mild, and I’m fine now). This uncertainty as to the state of my own brain made my reading of the sections on intelligence and the nature of minds somewhat poignant. The octopus brain is distributed throughout its body, with neurons in its legs as well as in places you’d be more likely to look for them.

Godfrey-Smith commences this book with a description of giant cuttlefish (the same corgi-sized beings we read about here), and this cements my desire to one day meet such a creature. My favourite chapter, however, deals with how cephalopods change colour. The complexity of this process is incredible, and not yet fully understood. In particular, it seems that they cannot see in colour, and yet they perform feats of camouflage that would seem to be impossible without knowing what colour and pattern to aim for.

The book is beautifully, lyrically written with a gentleness and compassion that I think comes from Godfrey-Smith’s own extensive observation of cephalopods in their natural habitat. He returns compulsively to Octopolis, the first octopus “city” discovered off the coast of Australia. I’ll leave you with this quote:

The chemistry of life is an aquatic chemistry. We can get by on land only by carrying a huge amount of salt water around with us.

You can find a comprehensive list of reviews and interviews on the author’s website. There’s a fetching giant cuttlefish picture in this article from The Guardian. If you are in South Africa, get a copy of the book here. If in the US, here, and for the UK go here.

For an equally awe-struck but completely different take on octopus, written largely from the perspective of an aquarium volunteer, you could also check out Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus.

Article: Quartz on octopus cities

I’ve just finished reading another book about octopus (yet to be shared here), and the author talks at length about an octopus “city” off the coast of Australia, discovered in 2009 and dubbed Octopolis. Another, similar location, named Octlantis, has since been found, and scientists have recently published their research on these unusual places. Octopus are not social creatures – at least, they were not thought to be until these two locations, where up to 16 octopus live in close quarters and exhibit complex social behaviours, were discovered.

Octopus at Long Beach
Octopus in his hole at Long Beach. The reddish brown is an angry colour.

Team leader, marine biologist Professor David Scheel, believes that…

… octopus behavior probably hasn’t changed in [the last decade]. Rather, humans’ ability to observe the behavior has. Today more divers are in the water with cameras and better technology to quickly communicate findings amongst divers and scientists.

Once again, the potential for citizen scientists to make discoveries of this nature is highlighted.

Read about the discoveries here. This article, from Citylab, has a map of the most recently discovered octopus aggregation site.

Newsletter: Colouring in

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

No diving

Those dreaded purple crayons have been used on the weather forecast for the weekend, which mean 50+ kilometre per hour winds. Diving is sadly out of the question. Fortunately the direction is good for both improved visibility and some sorely needed rain. If the forecast holds we should have good rains and a week of northerly and/or westerly winds, which will translate into crystal clear water in False Bay once it drops off. Hold thumbs!

Table Mountain from Milnerton
Table Mountain from Milnerton

Dates for your diary

Don’t forget there’s a talk about South Africa’s inshore marine resources, scheduled for this coming Wednesday, 18 October, at 7.30 pm. More information can be found here.
The following (Thursday) evening, 19 October, there’s a talk about The Gantouw Project, which has reintroduced eland to conserve fynbos on the Cape Flats. Sound interesting? More details here.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

To subscribe to receive this newsletter by email, use the form on this page!