Newsletter: Winter closing in

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: Boat dives from Simons Town jetty at 9.30 and 12.30 (suitable for Open Water divers)

It feels very much as though winter has arrived (minus the rain), mostly in the early mornings. When daytime temperatures rise into the twenties, it’s not totally unpleasant! Sunday is one of those days, and we will launch from Simons Town jetty at 9.30 and 12.30. Both sites will be a maximum depth of 18 metres as I have a bunch of Open Water students to qualify.

Catshark egg case
Catshark egg case

Citizen shark science

We are big fans of citizen science, so it is great to hear about ELMO’s catshark reproduction study, for which they need volunteer divers. Read more, and sign up, here.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Sea life: Brooding cushion star

The first time I spotted a brooding cushion star, on an eye-wateringly cold dive on the SS Maori, I was reminded of nothing so much as a cupcake or similar edible baked good. These sea stars are fairly rare (according to A Field Guide to Marine Animals of the Cape Peninsula) and are found all around the South African coastline. When threatened they apparently secrete mucous to deter their predators.

Brooding cushion star on the SS Maori
Brooding cushion star on the SS Maori

These sea stars have a soft outer skin that is supported by a layer of spines, beneath which lies another layer of skin. The space between the two skins is used as a brooding chamber for eggs, and once the eggs have hatched the young sea stars emerge from a ventilation hole on the top of the mother. Prior to the eggs’ hatching, the ventilation hole is used to suck in and expel water which aerates the eggs.

Brooding cushion star on 13th Apostle reef
Brooding cushion star on 13th Apostle reef

I saw another of these tasty-looking sea stars on 13th Apostle reef, also in the Atlantic. I haven’t seen one in False Bay yet.

Underwater alphabet

The finished alphabet
The finished alphabet

My sister and brother in law announced to us in September 2010 that they were expecting a baby boy. Asher was born on 9 March 2011, and his first Christmas present from me and Tony was an alphabet poster that we put together from (mostly) underwater photographs that we’ve taken (mostly) in Cape Town, Sodwana and Malta. When it was still a work in progress, I blogged about it here, here, here and here.

I am not a particularly arty or crafty person, and eschew the slightest digital manipulation of my pictures after I’ve taken them (I will crop at a push, but there’s nothing worse than seeing a picture taken in False Bay with a mysteriously metallic blue hue to it that you know has never been seen in real life). Also, I’m lazy. Putting the poster together, then, was a fairly (for me) mammoth undertaking.

The Cruse scanner at Artlab in action
The Cruse scanner at Artlab in action

It took more than a little while to sort through 16,000 underwater images and try to choose the best ones for the poster. I used BorderFX to overlay text on the photos, printed them, laid out the poster, scanned it at ArtLab, and then took it to Stephen at Art Assist for printing. Plastic Sandwich laminated it, and it was presented to Asher (now a bouncy 11 month old) on Christmas eve.

The upshot of this is that because I now have the poster in extremely, frighteningly high resolution digital form, I’m able to produce copies up to A0 size. I wouldn’t recommend the A0 version – it’s large and striking, but almost prohibitively expensive for what it is. Sizes between A1 and A0 work quite well, and can be reasonably cost-effective.

If you would like a copy of Asher’s Alphabet, send me an email.

Bookshelf: Citizens of the Sea

Citizens of the Sea – Nancy Knowlton

A project of the Census of Marine Life, this is the third book on the subject that I’ve read. The other two were (in increasing order of excellence) Discoveries of the Census of Marine Life and World Ocean Census. I think that this one is the best of the three, but it’s a close race with World Ocean Census. The two books have different aims, and this book is not so much about the process of census taking as its results.

Citizens of the Sea
Citizens of the Sea

Illustrated with lots of beautiful photographs, this is the sort of book one can dip into – I can even imagine reading it with my nephew when he’s old enough. Each two-page spread covers a single topic, like parasitic/symbiotic relationships, reproduction, moving about, schooling behaviour, life in the deep ocean, habitats chosen by different creatures, predation, diet, and more. There are side bars with short facts (such as, there are 30 kinds of barnacles that ONLY live on turtles), and just enough information to make one feel that you’ve learned something.

My only complaint is that the pages are black, which means that I left lots of fingerprints all over them!

I’d highly recommend this book – it’s definitely something a child with an interest in the ocean would enjoy, but it’s written for adults and the photographs of beautiful and exotic creatures from the ocean are magnificent and absorbing.

The book is available here if you’re in South Africa, otherwise click here.

Underwater Alphabet Part 4

Final installment of my nephew’s underwater alphabet… About time, since he was born on 9 March! Do you know how hard it was to find things for some of these letters?! Here are part one, part two and part three.

U is for urchin

Urchins at Fisherman's Beach
Urchins at Fisherman's Beach

V is for vessel

(can you feel me stretching?!)

Fishing vessel at Kalk Bay Harbour
Fishing vessel at Kalk Bay Harbour

W is for whale

Southern right whales
Southern right whales

X is for x-ray

X ray fish

X ray fish

Y is for yacht

Yacht at Long Beach
Yacht at Long Beach

Z is for zebra

Zebra fish
Zebra fish

As soon as I’ve figured out the layout of the poster and printed it off, I’ll share!

Underwater Alphabet Part 3

The third part of my nephew’s underwater alphabet… Here’s part one and here’s part two.

O is for octopus

Octopus at Long Beach on a night dive
Octopus at Long Beach on a night dive

P is for pufferfish

Puffer fish in Durban
Puffer fish in Durban

Q is for quay

Quay in Cape Town harbour
Quay in Cape Town harbour

R is for ray

Raymond the ray
Raymond the ray

S is for starfish

Sand sea star
Sand sea star

T is for turtle

Turtle in Jordan
Turtle in Jordan

Underwater Alphabet Part 2

Part the second of the underwater alphabet I am making for my nephew. Here’s part one.

H is for helmet shell

Helmet shell at Long Beach
Helmet shell at Long Beach

I is for isopod

Isopod at Long Beach
Isopod at Long Beach

J is for jellyfish

Comb jelly
Comb jelly

K is for klipfish

Klipfish getting his chin tickled
Klipfish getting his chin tickled

L is for lionfish

Lionfish
Lionfish

M is for manefish

Manefish (Caristius groenlandicus)
Manefish (Caristius groenlandicus)

N is for nudibranch

Gas Flame nudibranch on the SAS Pietermaritzburg
Gas Flame nudibranch on the SAS Pietermaritzburg

Underwater Alphabet Part 1

Tony and I are getting a little nephew soon (thanks to my sister and brother in law for doing the work), and I am making him a present for his bedroom wall. It’s a marine alphabet… Hopefully he’ll love the sea, as well as guitars and words (when his parents are done with him)!

A is for anemone

Anemone at Long Beach
Anemone at Long Beach

B is for batfish

Longfin batfish on the move
Longfin batfish on the move

C is for crab

Three spot swimming crab
Three spot swimming crab

D is for diver

Tony clowning around
Tony clowning around

E is for eel

Guinea fowl moray eel on Caves & Overhangs
Guinea fowl moray eel on Caves & Overhangs

F is for fanworm

Fanworms
Fanworms

G is for gurnard

Bluefin gurnard
Bluefin gurnard

Wreck specialty course… Part 3

Luke reads the Wreck Specialty manual
Luke reads the Wreck Specialty manual

Tami and I finished our Wreck Specialty course independently of Kate, because she was on a deadline and had to get back to Mud Island (which is so deep in snow at the moment that it should be renamed!). We finished the course in spectacular fashion with a dive of surpassing magnificence on the SS Maori just outside Hout Bay.

Dive 4: SS Maori

Like the dive we did on the SAS Pietermaritzburg for the second dive of our Wreck Specialty, the Maori is at a moderate depth and none of the stupidity that comes with deep diving (at least for me) or rapid air depletion is an issue. It’s a large, spectacular wreck but more broken up than the Smitswinkel Bay wrecks. It was carrying an interesting cargo, much of which is still visible at the site. The large amount of metal lying around means that a compass is next to useless.

Here’s a picture to whet your appetite, but more information can be found in a detailed post about the Maori, to follow!

Tami descends on the Maori
Tami descends on the Maori

Much to Tony’s relief (probably), the three of us – Kate, Tami and me – are now certified Wreck specialists. Tami and I did not do any penetrations as part of the course – the wrecks we ended up diving on didn’t permit it – but when we get a chance to visit the MV Aster in Hout Bay with Tony, we hope he’ll show us how!

Bookshelf: Novels and children’s books

Books about marine life for children:

Willard Price’s Hal and Roger Hunt adventure series:

A rare children’s offering from Arthur C Clarke:

Ocean-related novels:

If you have children (or nieces and nephews, or grandchildren) you should read: