Stompneuspunt beacon

View of Stompneuspunt beacon from inside Shelly Point
View of Stompneuspunt beacon from inside Shelly Point

During the course of a West Coast road trip late last year, we stopped at the unmanned Stompneuspunt beacon. This striking, squat structure sits at the southern end of St Helena Bay. To get there, we had to drive through the eerie, deserted, badly laid out Shelley Point golf estate development (tell the guard at the gate that you want to visit the lighthouse). Persistence through the maze of narrow roads turning in upon each other is well rewarded.

Stompneuspunt beacon
Stompneuspunt beacon

The green-painted lantern house atop the structure looks like a minaret, and the whole building looks like an exotic transplant from the Middle East. The beacon is situated on a beach of coarse sand covered with thousands of empty mussel shells and inhabited by flocks of cormorants. The mussel shells wash up after winter storms and red tides, and because of predation by rock lobsters and other shellfish.

Stompneuspunt beacon
Stompneuspunt beacon

The beacon was commissioned in 1934, at which time it was a pyramid-shaped wooden structure. The present building was completed in 2001. The tower is 8 metres high, and the focal plane of the light is 12 metres above sea level. The intensity of the light is a modest 1,403 candelas, but this beacon doesn’t have to compete with much in the way of onshore light pollution. It’s visible from 10 nautical miles away.

Stompneuspunt beacon
Stompneuspunt beacon

Hit up Lighthouses of South Africa for more information on this charming light.

Newsletter: Making plans

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: Boat dives from Hout Bay at 9.00 am, otherwise shore dives at Long Beach
Looking south towards Cape Point from Buffels Bay
Looking south towards Cape Point from Buffels Bay
Long Beach delivered up surgy, murky (less than a metre viz) water on Monday. There hasn’t been much this week to clear that up, except for the light westerly wind that is (hold thumbs) bringing us rain tomorrow. Odds are fair that Sunday could have decent visibility out of Hout Bay. If it looks like that’s happening, we will launch at 9.00 for Tafelberg Reef with a second dive to wherever the visibility looks best, possibly Vulcan Rock. If Hout Bay does not look good on Saturday afternoon, I will shore dive, most likely at Long Beach. 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!

Cape Recife lighthouse

The road to Cape Recife lighthouse
The road to Cape Recife lighthouse

My favourite lighthouse in Port Elizabeth (the others are the Hill lighthouse and the Deal light) – and possibly anywhere in South Africa – is Cape Recife. It’s magnificently situated on a headland at the south end of Algoa Bay, surrounded by shifting sand dunes (which sometimes complicate road access after high winds) and rocky reefs. I visited it very early one morning, with only fishermen about.

Cape Recife lighthouse
Cape Recife lighthouse

Cape Recife lighthouse was commissioned in 1851, the fourth lighthouse to be commissioned in South Africa. Of those still operational, it is the third oldest (after Green Point and Cape Agulhas). It comprises an octagonal masonry tower. It was originally painted with bands of white and red; today (as you can see from the eleventy million pictures I took) it’s painted black and white. This change was made in 1929.

Cape Recife lighthouse
Cape Recife lighthouse

The tower is 24 metres high, with focal plane 28 metres above sea level. The light’s intensity is 4,000,000 candelas (compare the Deal light’s 592,000 candelas) and is visible from 29 nautical miles away.

Lantern house of Cape Recife lighthouse
Lantern house of Cape Recife lighthouse

The Cape Recife light has the only large lens in South Africa that rotates on a steel track, resting on brass and steel rollers. The other large lenses (for example at Slangkop) float on a bath of mercury, an arrangement which has the advantage of being virtually frictionless. This allows for much faster and smoother rotation, with no wear and tear on the component parts. Unfortunately frequent exposure to mercury entails serious health hazards.

Tower of Cape Recife lighthouse
Tower of Cape Recife lighthouse

The lighthouse is situated next to the Cape Recife nature reserve, which has excellent bird watching. A small fee to enter the area is required – permits obtainable at Pine Lodge Resort (or possibly at the gate). Check before visiting. No diving is allowed in the area, and you will be fined if you are found with dive gear in your vehicle. SANCCOB (formerly SAMREC) runs a seabird rescue centre on the way to the lighthouse. If you visit SANCCOB, and get your entry ticket stamped to prove it, the permit fee is waived.

Cape Recife lighthouse
Cape Recife lighthouse

It’s possible to go inside the lighthouse on weekdays, by calling ahead to make an appointment. The number on the sign outside was (041) 507 2484. If dialling from outside South Africa, replace the (041) with +27 41.

Footsteps on the sand outside Cape Recife lighthouse
Footsteps on the sand outside Cape Recife lighthouse

Lighthouses of South Africa has a lot more information about this gorgeous lighthouse, along with extensive pictures of its interior.

Newsletter: All systems go!

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: Shore dives at Long Beach

Christmas at Kungsträdgården in Stockholm
Christmas at Kungsträdgården in Stockholm

We’re back from the far north, and almost forgot that it’s newsletter day.

But we’re getting back into the swing of things immediately, with a launch for some film work in Hout Bay today, students in the pool on Saturday, and shore dives with students at Long Beach on Sunday.

If you’d like to tag along for a shore dive or two on Sunday, let me know!

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!

Deal lighthouse

The Deal lighthouse replaced Port Elizabeth’s Hill lighthouse in November 1973. It is situated close to a tangle of freeways just north of the Port Elizabeth city centre, and is as ordinary looking as its location.

Deal light, Port Elizabeth
Deal light, Port Elizabeth

The light is atop a 22 metre high aluminium lattice tower, with a square daymark on the seaward side (not visible in these photos). A daymark serves the same function to mariners as the light does at night, and helps them to distinguish one lighthouse from another during daylight.

Its focal plane is 28 metres above sea level, and its 592,000 candela light has a range of 24 nautical miles. It flashes once every 10 seconds. This light is entirely automated, and is monitored from Cape Point lighthouse.

The lantern house of the Deal light
The lantern house of the Deal light

The Deal light is located at approximate co-ordinates -33.915740, 25.614069. There are popular fishing spots around the light, which I think can be accessed through the industrial area on the landward side of the N2. I was travelling alone, so I didn’t try to get any closer, but some close analysis of Google maps’ satellite view, or a conversation with a local fisherman, should assist you if you really want to see it close up.

Base of the Deal light
Base of the Deal light

I recommend Lighthouses of South Africa if you’re interested in these magical marine outposts!

You need this: the Shark Spotters smartphone app

The Shark Spotters app
The Shark Spotters app

After a successful Back a Buddy campaign, Shark Spotters launched their free shark safety smartphone app in the summer of 2016. The app has had excellent uptake by water users of all stripes, but I’d like to draw it to your attention in case you aren’t familiar with the ways in which it can make your beach life better and safer! Whether you’re a surfer, a diver, an ocean swimmer, a beach comber, or someone who looks forward to long summer days under an umbrella on the sand, the Shark Spotters app can make a difference to you.

The list of Shark Spotters beaches
The list of Shark Spotters beaches

Shark Spotters operate at eight beaches around the Cape Peninsula: four (Muizenberg, St James/Kalk Bay, Fish Hoek & Caves, Kogel Bay) year-round, and another four (Glencairn, Clovelly, Monwabisi and the Hoek, Noordhoek) from October to April, during the warmer months.

The app allows one to set a home beach – you can see from the image above that mine is Fish Hoek – and when you start the app, you’ll get information for your home beach immediately. Tapping on the home beach block at the top of the screen (where it says “Tap for more”) brings one to a series of screens that you can navigate through by swiping the bottom block on the screen.

The information provided is extensive. You can see information on the last three shark sightings at your home beach, the weather and sea conditions (temperature, wind direction, tides, moon phase, swell), and information on what marine life is in the area. This latter information is not a nice to have so you can look out for dolphins from shore, but an important indicator of the likelihood of a shark being in the area. Dolphins, rays and schools of fish can draw white sharks, while sunfish (and even seals) may be mistaken for a shark when viewed from a distance by an untrained observer.

There’s also information on what facilities are available at the beach, and a short video for each beach, usually taken each morning, showing the prevailing conditions.

All this information is available for all the Shark Spotters beaches, not just your home beach, and you can view a different beach by selecting it from the list that appears under your home beach on the home screen.

Digging into the app, you can find a detailed list of all the recorded shark sightings, and in the settings you can turn notifications of sightings on or off according to your preference. I have them switched on, because I like to be reminded of a world outside the office.

Shark Spotters app menu options
Shark Spotters app menu options

The further menu options, shown above, give you access to a large amount of data about the Shark Spotters program, the exclusion net at Fish Hoek beach, how the flag system works, great white sharks, and more. Most of the menu options also provide links to more detailed information online, if you want to know more.

You can download the app for iOS here, for Android here, or use the download links from the Shark Spotters website. The app is completely free of charge, but Shark Spotters is funded by the City of Cape Town, Save Our Seas Foundation, and other generous sponsors, including individuals. Shark Spotters welcomes donations. Click here to donate.

Happy new year!

Detail of the Piazza Mosaic a the Donkin Reserve Detail of the Piazza Mosaic at the Donkin Reserve

Happy new year to all of you! May 2019 be less “interesting” than 2018 was. And in case it isn’t, let’s all continue to do what we can to make our corner of the world happier, safer, cleaner, and more sustainable.

Merry Christmas divers!

If you celebrate Christmas, here are our very best wishes to you and your family. This year we’re having a white Christmas in Stockholm (Clare’s first proper brush with snow… I’ll let you know how many snowballs I manage to land before she exacts retribution)!

If you’re in or on the water this week, be safe and have fun, and spare a thought for – and say thank you to – the first responders who work to keep us all safe, even during holidays. These often unseen angels include the NSRI, lifeguards, Volunteer Wildfire Services, police, traffic officers, and law enforcement.

Santa feeding the fish at the Two Oceans Aquarium
Santa feeding the fish at the Two Oceans Aquarium

Here, also, is a (cellphone) picture of one of the aquarists from the Two Oceans Aquarium, feeding the fish in the I&J Ocean Exhibit this December. The apparent rain of snow is tiny bits of whatever the fish were getting for lunch that day – most likely chopped up squid and white mussel.

Newsletter: Up, up and away

Hi divers

This will be the last newsletter from us until Thursday 10 January. We’re off north to look for reindeer, the aurora borealis, snow, and maybe some orca.

Baboon footprints on Olifantsbos beach
Baboon footprints on Olifantsbos beach

The conditions in False Bay are remarkably good for this time of year, and the wind in the forecast is more modest than many a December we’ve experienced, so you should try to get some diving in if you can.

Stay safe, have a great festive season, and see you in 2019.

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!

The Hill lighthouse (decommissioned)

A visit to Port Elizabeth can be very rewarding for the lighthouse enthusiast, with no less than three lights in close proximity. The Hill lighthouse is the oldest, and is almost in the centre of the town. It was commissioned in 1861, at which time it was seven metres high, and retired in 1973 when the competition from surrounding city lights became too intense.

The Hill lighthouse in Port Elizabeth
The Hill lighthouse in Port Elizabeth

It is a brick structure, and was originally stone coloured. In 1903 the eight panels of the tower were painted alternate bands of white and red, and in 1907 the entire tower was painted white (as it is today). In about 1921 a red band was painted half way up the tower.

The old lighthouse keeper's house (now home to NMB Tourism)
The old lighthouse keeper’s house (now home to NMB Tourism)

The lighthouse keeper’s cottage below the tower was built in 1865 for Charles Hammond, the first lighthouse keeper, who served until 1881.

The lantern room of the Hill lighthouse
The lantern room of the Hill lighthouse

The Hill lighthouse was raised by nine metres during 1929-1930 in an attempt to distinguish it from the lights of Port Elizabeth, and was finally replaced by the Deal light, a short distance out of town, when it became apparent that as the city got larger and brighter, the Hill light was being overwhelmed.

The lens of the Hill lighthouse
The lens of the Hill lighthouse

There isn’t a lot of information available about the optics of this lighthouse, given that it hasn’t been in use for 45 years. It appears that a Chance Brothers lamp apparatus was installed in 1903, with a German-built optic, but more than that I haven’t found. Chance Brothers were glassmakers, who pioneered surrounding lighthouse lamps with a cage of fresnel lenses to make the light visible over greater distances.

The lantern room of the Hill lighthouse
The lantern room of the Hill lighthouse

The Hill lighthouse is situated in the Donkin Reserve, a surprising open space high on a hill overlooking the city and the harbour. The area is planted with indigenous vegetation, and boasts beautiful open spaces and a magnificent 470 square metre mosaic (the Piazza Mosaic) showing elements of the history and natural attributes of the city and surrounds.

A detail from the mosaic at the Donkin Reserve
A detail from the mosaic at the Donkin Reserve

Also on the Donkin Reserve, and right next to the lighthouse, is a ten metre high stone pyramid erected by Sir Rufane Donkin in memory of his wife, Elizabeth, after whom the city was named. Donkin was acting Governor General of the Cape Colony from 1820-1821, sent here to recover from the death of his young wife.

View of Port Elizabeth harbour from the Hill lighthouse
View of Port Elizabeth harbour from the Hill lighthouse

It’s possible for the public to visit and climb the lighthouse, from which beautiful views of the city are visible. As with most lighthouses, the climb is narrow and vertiginous, but recommended! You can find more information about visiting hours here. There’s a nominal fee but the opening hours are far more favourable than most lighthouses I’ve visited. You just need to go into the tourism office under the lighthouse, tell the person on duty you want to climb the tower, and get further instructions there.

For more on South Africa’s lighthouses, check out Lighthouses of South Africa.