Bookshelf: 50 Ways to Save the Ocean

50 Ways to Save the Ocean – David Helvarg

50 Ways to Save the Ocean
50 Ways to Save the Ocean

Effective pro-ocean activism is something that everyone who cares about the marine environment can engage in. This is the strong message of the most recent of David Helvarg’s books, Saved by the Sea, and of this short volume, too. It is illustrated by Jim Toomey, creator of Sherman’s Lagoon.

Rather than being overwhelmed by ocean-related doom and gloom, there are very simple actions that we can incorporate as part of our everyday lives that have a direct impact on the health of the marine environment. The Two Oceans Aquarium does a great job of speaking about this aspect of responsible citizenship on their blog and on Twitter – you should follow them if this is important to you.

Some suggestions for simple actions that can make a difference include:

  • Don’t use single-use plastic bags
  • Say no to straws and balloons
  • Drink only tap, not bottled, water
  • Put cigarette butts in the bin
  • Cut all loops of plastic and other non-biodegradable materials before throwing them away (this prevents entanglement by seals and other marine life if/when the material ends up in the ocean)

Many of the actions that Helvarg suggests entail simply enjoying the marine environment, and this is a profound but familiar idea. When we care about something, we will protect it, and by enjoying the sea through diving, visiting the beach, or riding on a boat, we will come to care about it and its inhabitants. The emphasis in many of the sections is also on safe enjoyment of the ocean. Helvarg does not explain his focus on safety, but one reason I can think of for encouraging careful and safe enjoyment ocean-related activities is to ensure that these activities will remain available to everyone. Bad publicity after marine accidents can drive people away from the beach!

50 Ways to Save the Ocean connects patriotism and pride with care for the environment, which is an excellent approach for robustly patriotic people like Americans. For South Africans, whose feelings towards their country are – for historical reasons – often a little less straightforward than those of your average flag-waving American, this approach may not be the best one. Helvarg also provides the contact details of a large number of US-based organisations that espouse the values he advocates and engage in the kinds of conservation activities he describes. Someone needs to write a version of this book for South Africans!

This is the kind of book you could go through with a relatively young child, and decide together which actions you’re going to implement together. The reading level isn’t complex.

Get the book here, here or here (if you’re in South Africa).

Bookshelf: Whales and Dolphins in Question

Whales & Dolphins in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book – James G. Mead & Joy P. Gold

Whales and Dolphins in Question
Whales and Dolphins in Question

Bernita brought us this book as a gift from her travels in America early this year. It’s published by the Smithsonian Institution, which is an American conglomerate of museums and research institutions. (If you’ve watched Bones, think of the Jeffersonian – which is fictional but based on the Smithsonian – and you’ve got a good idea of what it’s like. I digress.) The book is arranged in question and answer format. The questions are drawn from the thousands of letters, emails and phone calls received from members of the public by the Smithsonian each year.

Every aspect of cetacean science is covered here. I appreciated the fact that where there is uncertainty or gaps in our knowledge, the authors said so. Science helps us to know things, but equally important is to recognise what we don’t know. Because they live so long, dive so deep and swim so far in such a big ocean, it is hard to learn some things about whales, but with diligent work and intelligent study design, we can still infer much.

The book is lavishly illustrated with photographs by National Geographic photographer Flip Nicklin. It’s beautiful to page through, if you don’t feel up to the demands of reading words, and also easy to dip into because of how it is divided up. I was a whale-obsessed seven year old; I think this book would be a great help to parents of similarly curious children whose every sentence is a question! That is not to say that it is aimed at kids – you might need to do a bit of interpretation if reading with a primary school child. There are extensive references at the back of the book, should you wish to track down the original papers from which the

There is another book in the series called Sharks in Question, which has one author in common with Whales in Question, and if this book is anything to go by, should be a wonderful read.

You can get a copy of Whales in Question here (South Africa), or here. Thank you Bernita!

Article: The Atlantic on motion sickness

Tony checking out the fishing boat
Tony checking out the fishing boat

Travelling – by boat, car, bus – is supposed to be fun. If you suffer from motion sickness (sea sickness while on a boat), it isn’t. This feels like punishment, and Julie Beck in The Atlantic puts it better than I could:

For so long as man has attempted to tame and traverse the sea, the sea has punished him for it. With barfing.

If you are susceptible, you may have attempted to manage your motion sickness by various means, not excluding ginger biscuits. You may have settled on a gentle medical solution, which works quite well if you remember to take it before setting off on a journey.

The science of motion sickness turns out to be fairly complex and our understanding of it is not yet settled. Beck’s article explains the physical mechanisms at work when we get motion sick and the theories that explain the phenomenon, some of which are supported by the results of new genetic studies done by 23andMe. Sufferers will receive small consolation to hear that their sea sickness can be partly explained by their gender  or age, but may glean some understanding of when they are most susceptible to an uncomfortable ride.

Read the full article here.

Article: The New Yorker on the social effects of overfishing

A fascinating article at the New Yorker reminds us that everything is connected, and that plundering the ocean may have an effect on more than just the ocean.

In short, overfishing of the waters off Ghana has led the country’s population to seek an alternative food source by hunting in the forests, shooting the wild animals there for bushmeat. As the number of large mammals declines, baboon populations increase unchecked, and parents keep their children home from school to guard crops and homes against packs of marauding, raiding baboons. The ultimate result of overfishing in Ghana is a cohort of under-educated children; in other countries it may be human trafficking, child slavery and other grave social ills.

This causal chain from the health of ocean fisheries to educational success was so straightforward that Brashares initially didn’t believe it. “I thought, ‘Oh, that’s interesting, but these uninformed people aren’t aware of some bigger dynamic,’” Brashares told me. “Of course, they were right all along.” With the Ghanaian park data and extensive surveys of twelve Ghanaian markets over several years, Brashares and his colleagues eventually showed that when fish populations were low, fish prices were high, and bushmeat hunting increased, a relationship that was especially strong near the coast. Other researchers documented similar patterns elsewhere in Africa and in South America, further proving what Ghanaian farmers already knew: wildlife declines aren’t only a result of social ills but also a cause.

Read the article here. A journal article on the findings was published in Science.

Scuba diving parties for kids

Learning to snorkel
Learning to snorkel

Earlier this month we hosted a scuba diving birthday party in our pool, for a group of extremely excited eight year olds. It was a slightly chaotic but enormously enjoyable day! The boys first mastered the use of snorkels, making drawings on slates while submerged. We were impressed by how well they took to skin diving, and they rocketed up and down the pool like sea otters.

After that they tried out scuba gear, and we were amused by the various ways they found to enjoy themselves. One of the boys kept inflating his BCD because he liked the sound the over-pressure valve made. Another made foamy fountains of water by purging his octo in the shallows. Others seemed to feel like Jacques Cousteau as they explored the pool! We taught them how to inflate an SMB using their spare regulator, and brought out our collection of underwater cameras for them to take innumerable selfies and group portraits that they could take home with them.

Parties like this are ideal for small groups of four to six participants, as they are supervision-intensive and a small group lets each child fully enjoy their turn to try out scuba gear under the supervision of the instructor. A little bit of advance planning is recommended for the purposes of paperwork, so get in touch sooner rather than later if you think this is something your child might enjoy. We can conduct the event in your swimming pool at home if it’s less than two metres deep, or at our pool. We have conducted a similar event at the Virgin Active gym, but that requires special permission. Be warned, the scuba diving bug might bite!

Sketching on slates
Sketching on slates

The PADI Bubblemakers and Seal Team programs are designed for kids aged 8-10, and enable them to master the use of scuba gear in the swimming pool. You can read more about those programs on the PADI website. From the age of 10, children can obtain a Junior Open Water qualification, which upgrades to a full Open Water qualification when they turn 15.

I’ve carefully chosen these photos so you can’t identify the kids, hence their mixed quality! The big kid with the silver hair is Tony.

Video (TED): Tanya Streeter on freediving and plastic pollution

If you watched yesterday’s freediving documentary, “No Limits”, you may enjoy this talk by Tanya Streeter, a (now retired) British/Caymanian freediver who features in that film. She gave a talk at TEDxAustin in 2012. In it she talks about the sport of freediving, gas narcosis, motherhood, and plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.

Bookshelf: Southern African Sea Life

Southern African Sea Life: A Guide for Young Explorers – Sophie von der Heyden

Southern African Sea Life
Southern African Sea Life

Marine biologist and geneticist Sophie von der Heyden has produced a beautiful, practical and useful book for young people wanting to know more about the life found in Southern African coastal waters. Von der Heyden provides information about the different species found on the coast, along with tips on how to spot them, and what gear to take along to the beach for a day of exploration. Care is taken to advise young fishermen how to handle fish (gently) and when to put them back in their rockpools (quickly).

The book’s many photographs were mostly provided by Guido Zsilavecz of SURG, author of two of our favourite nudibranch and local fish identification books. There are images of the marine life as well as the habitats in which it is found, both large and fine scale. The book’s design and layout are varied and colourful, which makes it a pleasure to page through and a source of inspiration for rockpool exploration.

I appreciated the book’s fair treatment of our entire coastline. It is tempting to view the coral reefs of Sodwana and Durban as more romantic and visually striking than the dense carpet of invertebrate life that characterises the Cape’s waters, but the interested explorer is rewarded in both areas. Children’s books about coral reefs are not unusual, but a book that teaches appreciation of the abundance of life along the south western Cape coast is a rare thing indeed.

You can get a copy of this book here. In a couple of years’ time it’ll be on my niece and nephew’s Christmas list!

Newsletter: Round the Point

Hi divers

Launches

FridayRoman Rock and Photographer’s Reef , and a night dive at Long Beach. Text me before 10am on Friday if you want to do the night dive.

Saturday (at the crack of dawn): Ark Rock wrecks and Phoenix Shoal

Monday: divers’ choice and Shark Alley

The week’s dives

We were boatless last week so could do shore dives only, but by Friday the boat was back after repontooning.

Leaving the jetty in Simon's Town with our new pontoons
Leaving the jetty in Simon’s Town with our new pontoons

This week we have been blown out most days, but today we headed off to Diaz Beach inside the Cape Point Nature Reserve with a group of very tough and brave swimmers that swam from Diaz Beach to Buffels Bay, a distance of approximately 8 kilometres around the tip of Cape Point. The swim was called Swim for Hope and was in aid of the Little Fighters Cancer Trust.

Swimmers waiting to tackle the shore break
Swimmers waiting to tackle the shore break

Each swimmer had a support boat and each boat had a shark shield, but there was nothing to shield them from the cold or the huge shore-break they faced at the start. Once round the Point the wind eased and the swell dropped and it was far better. Our swimmer, 61 year old Richard Child, swam tirelessly and had nothing more than a few swigs of hot chocolate on the way. He started with a stroke rate of 70 strokes per minute and ended on 68. Very impressive.

Rounding Cape Point
Rounding Cape Point

Weekend dives

Tomorrow is a good westerly wind, this will improve the viz inshore so we will do two dives tomorrow from the boat and then a night dive at Long Beach. There is a fair swell this weekend so I think Long Beach would be the best option . Saturday we launch again but it will be really early as the wind is set to pump from midday. On Sunday we are staying home while 35,000 very energetic cyclists compete for space on the peninsula road network.

On Monday we are also launching, and the first dive has not yet been decided (if you book first you get to choose!) but after lunch we will run down to Pyramid Rock to see the cowsharks.

Courses and travel

Currently busy with Open Water, Enriched Air, Rescue and Divemaster. The Sodwana trip is creeping up on us – twelve of us will head off for some warm water on the 26th of April.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Scuba diving for kids

Underwater exploration in the pool
Underwater exploration in the pool
  • Are you looking for a way to keep your family busy during the school holidays?
  • Do you enjoy being outdoors and exploring the beautiful environment around us?
  • Would your child benefit from the sense of achievement that comes from mastering a new set of skills, and the enjoyment that comes from spending time in the ocean?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, read on!

It is a little known fact that children as young as 10 years old can qualify as scuba divers, allowing them to dive with a certified adult diver or scuba instructor. It’s often easier for children to learn the new skills that are associated with scuba diving, because they listen and imitate well, they usually don’t have a lot of built-in hang ups and fears, and it’s really exciting for them to be learning something new.

Kids aged 8-9 are too young to become certified divers, but there is a choice of programs available that allow them to experience breathing underwater in the safe, controlled environment of a swimming pool. If the bug bites, they can complete the course to become fully qualified Junior Open Water divers once they turn 10.

Scuba diving is a great activity for the family to do together – I have taught family groups comprising parents and children, and it’s always a lot of fun. Alternatively, if your kids are keen to dive but you would rather sunbathe on the beach or go for a run with the dogs, that’s also fine! I conduct childrens’ dive course with a high ratio of supervisors (Instructors and Divemasters) to participants.

The confined-water (swimming pool) part of all our dive courses is conducted at our pool in Sun Valley, and the sea dives (for courses with participants age 10+) are usually conducted from Long Beach in Simon’s Town, and off our boat, Seahorse, launching from False Bay Yacht Club or Hout Bay depending on the weather conditions.

Ages 8-9

The PADI Bubblemakers and and SDI Future Buddies programs are for kids aged eight and up, and introduce scuba diving in a swimming pool environment. The PADI Seal Team program is available for the same age group, and involve some basic scuba skills and underwater missions to further increase diving competence.

Ages 10 – 15

SDI Junior Open Water or PADI Junior Open Water course is for wannabe divers aged 10 and up. These courses qualify kids to dive to 12 metres while with a certified adult diver or instructor, and when they turn 15 it is possible to upgrade to a regular Open Water qualification.

Age 12-15

From the age of 12, youngsters can earn the PADI Junior Advanced Diver (qualifying them to dive to 21 metres while with a certified adult diver) and Junior Rescue Diver qualifications.

To see all the dive courses we offer, visit our website. For more information about scuba courses for kids or any other diving related enquiries, use the contact form below to send a message:

Christmas gift guide 2013

Ok so this is a bit late, and if you haven’t done your Christmas, Hannukah and Festivus shopping yet, shame on you. Or just shame. Most of these ideas don’t entail going to a mall and having your personal space invaded by ten thousand hormonal adolescents. You can order online, or make a phone call or two. Get going!

Christmas at Sandy Cove
Christmas at Sandy Cove

Books

For the reader, you could check out our book reviews, arranged by topic:

I’m not going to suggest a magazine subscription – I’ve let most of ours lapse as we seem to have entered a long dark teatime of the soul when it comes to South African diving magazines. If the quality picks up, they’ll be back on the gift list at the end of 2014.

Dive gear

Check out What’s in My Dive Bag for some ideas… You can contact Andre for most of these:

Make sure you know the returns/exchanges policy of wherever you make your purchases. Some places can be difficult, and if the mask doesn’t fit it’s no good at all!

For lady divers

For the diving lady in your life (or your man friend with too much hair), what about some rich hair conditioner to apply before going in the water? Suggestions here. A pack of cheap, soft fabric elasticated hairbands is a good stocking filler.

Some high SPF, waterproof sunscreen, or a nice hooded towel for grown ups (available in one or two of the surf shops in Muizenberg) would also not go amiss.

Experiences

Don’t forget to add a memory card for the lucky recipient’s camera if you plan to gift any of these! Contact Tony for prices.

For the non diver, you could inspire a love for our oceans with one of these:

For those who need (or like) to relax

Memberships

Wall art

Clip Clop designs and prints beautiful tide charts for Cape Town and Durban and moon phase charts for the year. You can order online or usually find them at Exclusive Books.

My underwater alphabet is available for R200 in A1 size, fully laminated. Shout if you want a copy.

If you take your own photos, you could print and frame a couple, or experiment with stretched canvas prints if that’s your thing. A digital photo frame pre-loaded with underwater images is also a lovely gift for a diving friend.

Donations

For the person who has everything, or because you’re feeling grateful: