Dive sites: Klein Tafelberg Reef

I’ve dived Klein Tafelberg before, with Tony. It’s a short boat trip straight out of Hout Bay harbour, and forms part of a large reef complex comprising Tafelberg Reef, Tafelberg Deep, and Klein Tafelberg.

Tony has been ragging Grant incessantly about the existence (or lack thereof) of a yacht that lies at Klein Tafelberg, so when we visited Klein Tafelberg Grant dropped the shotline practically on top of the hapless Patti. Klein Tafelberg is characterised by a pinnacle that extends from the sand at about 34 metres, up to 15 metres.

Wreck of the yacht Patti
Wreck of the yacht Patti

Next to the pinnacle lie the remains of Patti, the yacht, at a precipitous angle (my pictures of the yacht aren’t great). I can attest that she does exist, but is missing her propellor. We explored her for a few minutes, and then swam north east to a sandy patch where Cecil did some skills.

Yacht wreckage
Yacht wreckage

There are a few things that make this a magnificent dive.

Visibility

Both times I’ve dived the Tafelberg Reef complex, the visibility has been magnificent. The water is cold (very cold!) but so clean you almost feel dizzy when you fall over the side of the boat. Clean water means that even below 30 metres, light penetrates. There isn’t so much colour loss, and it isn’t dark like the dive we did on the SAS Fleur a couple of weekends ago. The day we did this dive was sunny, which made for a very beautiful experience.

Topography

Side of the pinnacle at Klein Tafelberg
Side of the pinnacle at Klein Tafelberg

The Tafelberg Reef complex is huge, and very spectacular. The clean water allowed us to appreciate the massive granite boulders and pinnacles, some split dramatically. The yacht wreck stands almost vertically with lots of railings and piping lying around her.

Marine life

This is an Atlantic dive site, and is characterised by a fair amount of kelp and the usual red seaweeds that we found on the Maori and BOS 400. Because the reef is so spectacular, my focus wasn’t so much on hunting for nudibranchs (though I’m sure they’re there) as appreciating the awesome landscape we found ourselves in. I couldn’t miss the many West coast rock lobster hiding between the boulders, though.

There are two really special inhabitants of Tafelberg Reef I’d like to mention.

Basket stars

Basket stars at Tafelberg Reef
Basket stars at Tafelberg Reef

Basket stars are related to starfish and brittle stars. They are usually found in deep water and last time we visited Tafelberg Reef I (with no camera) was totally enchanted with their beautiful curly arms. They extend them into the water column to feed. I was determined to find myself a basket star on this dive, and I located several. They are so extravagantly beautiful that it’s hard to believe that they’re fully functional creatures as well!

Basket star feeding
Basket star feeding

Seals

We were doing a dive for Cecil’s Deep Specialty course, and needed to do two things: one was to let him breathe off an alternate air source (Tony took a 7 litre stage cylinder along for this purpose) and the other was to do an eight minute safety stop, as a simulated deco requirement. Our computers were all set on air, although we were all using a fairly rich mix of Nitrox, so although our computers went into deco and demanded the safety stop, it wasn’t actually required. As part of Cecil’s training, however, it was essential.

Anyway… During our extremely long safety stop we were visited by several frisky Cape fur seals from the nearby colony at Duiker Island. They came to investigate the boat when we arrived at the dive site, and stuck around until we surfaced.

Cape fur seal silhouetted from below
Cape fur seal silhouetted from below

Seals are lots of fun in the water. They’re like dogs. Sometimes they bare their (large, yellow) teeth at you and bark, and sometimes they like to bite things. Fortunately, as long as you keep your fingers out the way, they can’t get a proper grip on any sensitive body parts.

Dancing Cape fur seal
Dancing Cape fur seal

Tony had his head munched, as well as one of his fins, and Cecil nearly lost part of his buttocks and had his pillar valve investigated thoroughly. I was torn between laughing and taking photographs, and wondering whether the seal needed me to bitch slap it to show who was boss.

Colonial ascidians
Colonial ascidians

Dive date: 10 April 2011

Air temperature: 24 degrees

Water temperature: 10 degrees

Maximum depth: 37.1 metres

Visibility: 20 metres

Dive duration: 36 minutes

We descended and ascended through a beautiful cloud of tiny jellyfish, illuminated by the sun.

Jellyfish, bubbles and sunlight
Jellyfish, bubbles and sunlight

Newsletter: Seasons of the sea

Hi divers

We have had some amazing diving days of late. Friday saw conditions at Long Beach that we have been longing for for months. Warm, clean water with an abundance of life. The ocean’s seasons are very interesting aspects of diving for Clare and I, and thanks to Clare’s logbook and amazing photos we have a much better idea now than we had a year ago of what you can find and when.

Pint size octopus at Long Beach
Pint size octopus at Long Beach

We have been fortunate enough to see tiny octopus, warty pleurobranchs spawning egg ribbons, klipfish mating, huge rays feeding and shysharks having a feeding frenzy. We visited the cowsharks, watched sadly as injured and hooked sharks struggled to adapt to the harm inflicted upon them by man, and watched a juvenile jutjaw and a doublesash butterflyfish grow from 2 centimetres to close to 6 centimetres before they moved off from their tiny safe house to brave the ocean.

Carpet flatworm at Long Beach
Carpet flatworm at Long Beach

On the weekend Clare found a juvenile sole so small and so well camouflaged it almost avoided her beady eyes. We always find something new and interesting in the ocean. We have watched our small artificial reef go from bits of wood and plastic to a small colony of life. The list is endless.

Transparent anemone at Long Beach
Transparent anemone at Long Beach

Diving at this time of year is not to be missed. (That applies all year round!)

Recent dives

Basket star on Tafelberg Reef
Basket star on Tafelberg Reef

We dived the Atlantic early Sunday, Grant taking us to the yacht wreck on Klein Tafelberg reef. We were looking for depth to continue the Deep Specialty and our maximum depth was 37 metres in 10 degree water with amazing visibility, 15-20 metres. We had to perform a simulated emergency deco stop for 8 minutes and during this time we had seals nipping at Cecil and I, and a jellyfish bonanza. We had a dive time of 36 minutes and we dived on Nitrox.

Cecil and a curious seal
Cecil and a curious seal

From Hout Bay we dashed to Long Beach to dive with the two Divemaster candidates and continue the Advanced Course doing navigation. Back in the water once more for a Refresher, and home to download the photos. The ocean was warm at Long Beach, 17 degrees, calm and the visibility was 5-6 metres.

Part of the yacht wreck on Tafelberg Reef
Part of the yacht wreck on Tafelberg Reef

Atlantic diving should start to fade soon as the seasons change and the prevailing winds come from the north west. This cleans and cools to False Bay area and the visibility gets better and better.

Side of the pinnacle at Klein Tafelberg
Side of the pinnacle at Klein Tafelberg

Trips

We are off to Sodwana on Saturday for a four night/six dive trip, and the group, 13 in total, are all looking forward to this. We will post photos and video when we get back. I think we have five or six cameras for this event so there are bound to be loads of good photos.

Planned dives

We are hoping to book two launches for the Friday after we return from Sodwana, that being Easter Friday and booking is essential. We will plan to go to a wreck for the first dive and possibly a barge wreck or reef for the second launch. I need to give Grant some numbers before I leave for Sodwana so please let me know as soon as possible.

Courses

I am starting a new Deep Specialty course as soon as we get back from travelling. It’s a good idea to do the enriched air/Nitrox specialty at the same time. This combination qualifies you to dive to 40 metres, and gives you longer bottom times and safer diving.

Regards


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

Diving is addictive!

Newsletter: Summer’s last fling

Hi divers

Recent Dives

As part of the Deep Specialty course currently on the go, we visited the SAS Fleur on Saturday morning. The Fleur lies in 42 metres of water (on the sand), and is quite far out in the middle of False Bay. Her sister ship, the SAS Somerset, is that curved grey navy vessel parked behind the Two Oceans Aquarium at the Waterfront. The Fleur is a spectacular wreck and we were fortunate to have perfect conditions both above and below the surface, with calm seas and 10-12 metres of visibility on the wreck (though it was dark).

Some photos taken on the SAS Fleur in False Bay, in 35-40 metres of water:

Overgrown wreckage of the Fleur
Overgrown wreckage of the Fleur
Sea urchin and sea cucumber on the Fleur
Sea urchin and sea cucumber on the Fleur
Rusted deck plates on the Fleur
Rusted deck plates on the Fleur

On Saturday afternoon we took a group of Open Water students on the boat to Castor Rock to finish their course. Castor Rock is a rocky reef system behind Roman Rock lighthouse, which stands near the entrance to Simon’s Town harbour. It was a short boat ride from Long Beach but very scenic.

Marinus and Dean showing off their perfect buoyancy
Marinus and Dean showing off their perfect buoyancy
Reef life at Castor Rock
Reef life at Castor Rock
Robyn (with a flooded mask!)
Robyn (with a flooded mask!)

On Sunday we visited the sevengill cowsharks at Shark Alley near Pyramid Rock. This is a physically demanding dive to do as a shore entry, involving a steep climb up and down the side of the shore and a tricky entry over the rocks. The rewards, however, are great. Even though the visibility was only about three metres, we had a super dive and were visited by lots of sharks. It was sad to see that several of the sharks have been injured by boat propellers and fishing hooks.

Sevengill cowshark emerging from the kelp
Sevengill cowshark emerging from the kelp
Cowshark passing overhead
Cowshark passing overhead
Sevengill cowshark with divers in the background
Sevengill cowshark with divers in the background

Weekend plans

The southeaster will continue to howl for one more day this week. Friday and Saturday should be less windy and we will dive at Long Beach both days doing Rescue and Divemaster training. We will be continuing the Deep Specialty course with a dive from Hout Bay on Sunday morning. Sunday late morning and afternoon will be spent in the pool, doing a Refresher and some Open Water students’ confined water skills.

There is a chance we could do a dive to the Aster, a wreck in Hout Bay Sunday afternoon, if there are enough people. Text me if you want in. It’s for Advanced divers, or you could do it as a deep Adventure dive, because it lies at about 28 metres with an average depth of over 20 metres.

Sodwana is getting close. For those coming along the water is warm, 26 degrees today, sunny and 28 degrees on the beach… For those not coming along the water is warm, 26 degrees today, sunny and 28 degrees on the beach… Hehehe!

Courses

There is a group of Open Water students starting on Monday whom I hope to finish diving during the course of next week.

I am also going to run an Advanced course special starting in the next week or two. It will consist of four boat dives and a shore dive and will focus on the skills and knowledge required to enjoy Cape diving and many of the wrecks we have here. We will focus on deep diving safety and this opens up a whole lot of dive sites in Cape Town. Mail me for more info.

Miscellaneous

Please remember your MPA permits. If you’re coming to Sodwana you will most certainly have yours checked, so make sure it’s in date. Also they’re required for all the diving we do in Cape Town, so please make sure you bring yours with you whenever we dive.

Just a reminder, if you don’t want to be on the mailing list please let me know. Also, feel free to forward this to any of your friends who might be interested in diving with us.

Regards

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

Diving is addictive!

Dive sites: SAS Fleur

SAS Somerset (on the right) at anchor in the V&A Waterfront
SAS Somerset (on the right) at anchor in the V&A Waterfront

The current Deep Specialty we are running took us to visit the wreck of the SAS Fleur last weekend. She lies in 42 metres of water in the middle of False Bay. It was a 25 minute boat ride from our Long Beach pickup on a flat calm sea.

The bow of the SAS Somerset (the Fleur's sister ship)
The bow of the SAS Somerset (the Fleur's sister ship)

This is the sister ship to the SAS Somerset moored behind the Two Oceans Aquarium and the rounded form is clearly visible along the length of the hull. The Fleur was sunk by naval gunfire near Simon’s Town on 8 October 1965.

Descending into the darkness
Descending into the darkness

We descended on the shot line and slowed at 20 metres. We were already able to see the whole wreck below us – the conditions were exceptional but it was quite dark. We stopped briefly at 25 metres to ensure everyone was in good shape without any nitrogen narcosis, dropped a little lower to 30 metres and checked again. A final check took place at 35 metres on the deck of the wreck.

The superstructure of the ship seen from above
The superstructure of the ship seen from above

The ship is rusted extensively and most if not all the decking and side plates are rusted through, giving you an extremely clear view of everything inside the shell. We found several sleeping pyjama sharks and a catshark inside one of the hatches on the deck of the ship.

Bollard on deck
Bollard on deck

The visibilty was a good 10 to 12 metres on the wreck with a water temperature of 14 degrees. There was a strong current running parallel to the orientation of the ship on the sand. Large schools of fish hung over the wreck, facing into the current.

Mussels, urchins and strawberry anemones
Mussels, urchins and strawberry anemones

The wreck is heavily encrusted with mussels, each of which is in turn encrusted with strawberry sea anemones in beautiful shades of pink. There are many urchins, and also some large tube worms, which really give the feel of being in deep water!

Tube worm
Tube worm

We returned to the line and started a slow ascent with a stop at 20 metres, 10 metres and finally a 5 metre stop. We deployed SMBs as we started our series of safety stops, because given the exposed nature of the site and the possiblity of seeing sharks on the way up, it was very important for Grant to know exactly where to expect our heads to break the surface.

Rusted decking
Rusted decking

Cecil, Clare and I were using 15 litre Nitrox 30% cylinders, and ascended with plenty of air to spare. We were entertained by seals at our safety stops, and a large group of them frolicked near the dive boat as we waited to climb in after the dive. The dive site is quite close to Seal Island, but happy and comfortable seals indicated that we didn’t need to worry about sharks that day.

Cecil in the dark
Cecil in the dark

This is a spectacular dive, and we were very fortunate to do it in perfect conditions.

Dive date: 2 April 2011

Air temperature: 23 degrees

Water temperature: 12 degrees

Maximum depth: 36.4 metres

Visibility: 12 metres

Dive duration: 29 minutes

Scaly dogwhelks on the wreck
Scaly dogwhelks on the wreck

Newsletter: Deep wrecks and warm water

Hello everyone

The new consumer protection act prohibits the sending of unsolicited mail so if you want to opt out of these newsletters send me a mail with the word REMOVE in the subject line.

Recent Dives

The weather is changing, many weeks of planned launches being cancelled seem to soon be a thing of the past. Last weekend we went to the quarry in Somerset West to find some depth for the Deep diver specialty. The water looks clear and inviting but soon gets dark.

Blue Rock Quarry - looks inviting, yes?
Blue Rock Quarry - looks inviting, yes?

We descended down the line below this buoy at Blue Rock Quarry (above). Below are the walls of the quarry, while the water was still fairly shallow.

The walls of Blue Rock quarry
The walls of Blue Rock quarry

This photo was taken around 30 metres, where it’s dark and obstructed by large dead trees.

Dark diving in the quarry
Dark diving in the quarry

On Sunday we went to Long Beach for some rescue skills and for Cecil to get used to using a sling tank, a requirement for deep technical diving and cave diving, something Cecil is preparing for.

Cecil practising with a pony bottle
Cecil practising with a pony bottle

Here’s a picture of Clare exhaling into her SMB. A good way to fill an SMB rather than using a regulator (your octo): you can hold your SMB open just above your head and exhale into it.

Clare inflating an SMB
Clare inflating an SMB

On Tuesday I started a new Open Water course and we dived in a warm 19 degree water with 6 metre visibility.

Sodwana

The Sodwana trip is close and we leave on the 16th April for a four night, 6 dive warm water experience. For anyone that has suddenly decided “why not?” there are still places, it won’t be too bad diving there as the water is only 27 degrees at the moment and the visibility is a little poor for Sodwana, about 25 metres . The diving and accommodation is around R1800 for four nights and six dives including tanks and weights. You will be hard pressed to find a better location than Sodwana within such easy range of Cape Town.

This weekend

On Saturday we are diving the wreck of the Fleur at 0830. This is the sister ship to the grey ship moored outside the Two Oceans Aquarium and I believe she was scuttled in the bay not too far from Seal Island and lies on the sand at around 42 metres. This is a dive for Deep Specialty only.

The next launch will be shallower with a maximum depth of 18 metres and will be a qualifying dive for several Open Water students. There is space on this launch for now, Grant will launch from Millers Point and then pick us up at Long Beach. Please SMS if you want to be on the boat.

Sunday we will dive the sevengill cowsharks, weather and swell permitting.

Courses

The weather is good so I have new courses running every week. We have Open Water, Deep, Rescue and Divemaster courses running at the moment but the conditions are getting to be ideal for a Night diving specialty. If you would like to try this give me a shout.

With regular good boat diving in our near future I will run a special on the Advanced course for four people. If you want to know who else is keen let me know and we can get started
The specialty for April will be Night diving so dig out your torch and charge the batteries.

The Dive Site

This is a free magazine and by far the best diving magazine in South Africa. You get a free online weekly version and a print version every quarter for free. All you have to do is sign up for it. I have been on the list since day one and have never been spammed so I can assure you it is produced by a quality company: www.thedivesite.co.za.

Permits

I can’t end a mail without a gentle reminder about permits. If you don’t have one, please get it tomorrow!!!

For those of you that read our blog you should know that thanks to Clare it was rated as one of the top blogs worldwide and had over two thousand reads in 24 hours. If you have not visited it you should as there are most likely pictures of you on it plus it has a lot of diving related information.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

Dive sites: Blue Rock Quarry

We have had a lot of lousy weather lately resulting in the boat diving being cancelled almost every week since the beginning of the year. With a Deep Specialty in progress this has been a huge setback. With the prospects of a deep boat dive diminishing we decided to do a deep dive in the quarry.

Blue Rock Quarry
Blue Rock Quarry

Blue Rock Quarry is situated just outside of Somerset West and is so named for the blue rock harvested there years ago. When it fell into disuse, it was filled up with water and now plays host to a range of watersports and recreational activities.

Blue Rock Quarry - looks inviting, yes?
Blue Rock Quarry - looks inviting, yes?

We chose a spot that had a depth of close to 50 metres as we were looking for a maximum depth of 40 metres. The water looks clean and inviting from the surface and in fact the visibility is very good despite the total darkness that surrounds you from around 30 metres.

Buoy line dropping to 25 metres
Buoy line dropping to 25 metres

Cecil, Clare and I entered the water here, where a line goes down the wall to a ledge at about 25 metres. The water is clear providing you do not rub a fin, finger or bubble on the walls as this results in a cascade of silt and fine rock rubble which takes a fair amount of time to clear.

Rocky slope
Rocky slope

We had planned to stop at 20 and again at 30 metres on the way down but due to the poor visiblity  we stopped a few more times just for me to make sure Clare and Cecil were still above me on the line.

Cecil descending down the buoy line
Cecil descending down the buoy line

At 30 metres we encountered a tree. The branches sticking out in all directions are a huge hazard in low visibility as entanglement is a real possibility. We moved away from the tree and picked up another cable that I reckon runs down to nearly 50 metres.

Dark diving in the quarry
Dark diving in the quarry

At 34 metres the water was very dark, and visibility was reduced to almost zero due to the silt dislodged by us on the cable. I stopped at 34 metres and shone my light down; directly below me was another tree.

The walls of Blue Rock quarry
The walls of Blue Rock quarry

We could move away from the line and descend further or turn the dive here. We did the skills required for the dive at this depth and started our ascent. Ascending was slow and deliberate, with planned stops at 20, 10 and 5 metres.

Tree stump at 5 metres
Tree stump at 5 metres

We did not see any life except for one small freshwater crab spotted by Clare. You don’t do this dive to sightsee!

Cecil doing his safety stop
Cecil doing his safety stop

Things to remember for a fresh water dive: weighting is critical, and you must remove weight for this dive. A good dive light, a back-up and cyalumes or strobes are also required plus a detailed dive plan. The quarry is also used for wake boarding and cable water skiing and a circular raised cable drags the skiiers around the perimeter so an ascent off the line is out of the question.

Dive date: 26 March 2011

Air temperature: 25 degrees

Water temperature: 12 degrees (much warmer on the surface, over 20 degrees)

Maximum depth: 34.4 metres (33.6 metres according to the dive computer, adjusted by 2.5% for fresh water)

Visibility: 4 metres

Dive duration: 23 minutes

As a facility for training the quarry is an option but having dived many quarries in my life I would much rather choose an angry dirty ocean to a quarry.

Newsletter: To boat or not to, that is the question

Hi divers

Puffadder shyshark at Long Beach
Puffadder shyshark at Long Beach

Last weekend surprised us with some nice visibility (about six metres) at Long Beach for the Advanced navigation dive on Saturday, and then some equally pleasant visibility in False Bay for two boat dives that we managed to squeeze onto on Monday. The first was a deep dive for an Advanced course, where we went to 30 metres on the SAS Good Hope, and the second was a fun dive that Clare and I were lucky to do with some False Bay Underwater Club members.

Gas flame nudibranch on the SAS Good Hope
Gas flame nudibranch on the SAS Good Hope

This weekend the weather may deliver the same as last weekend making it hard to decide to launch the boat until the last minute.

Tony checking out a boiler near Ark Rock
Tony checking out a boiler near Ark Rock

Weekend diving

This weekend Grant is uncertain as to whether we will be able to go out on the boat. At this stage unfortunately it looks as though we’ll only be able to do one dive on the Saturday morning, for the Deep Specialty course, to 40 metres. And that’s if we’re lucky. If we can’t get on the boat, we will be doing a deep dive in Blue Rock Quarry in Somerset West for the Deep Specialty course. This isn’t ideal, but we have had so much bad weather that we just have to get going!

A diver exploring the Eastern Ark Rock wreck
A diver exploring the Eastern Ark Rock wreck

Sunday looks as though it might be decent for Long Beach, so we will plan to finish the Advanced course then, with a search and recovery dive, and start the new Open Water students. If you’d like to tag along for a fun dive at a very familiar spot, let me know…

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

Diving is addictive!

Newsletter: Get wet weekend

Hi there

There are no underwater photos this week. I dived Long Beach yesterday in pea soup with visibility of around 1 metre. We did Rescue skills so visibility was not too important but there was certainly nothing to see.

It’s a long weekend we have on the horizon so I want to plan early. For what seems like ages we have been hammered by the southeaster but this weekend, starting Friday, it turns and the wind drops off so every diver in Cape Town will be looking to put their bum on a boat. Grant will be launching every day but he will be booked quickly as he is by far the best charter around.

This is the plan: I have a Deep specialty on the go so we will do deep dives first launch on two of the days, shallow dives for the third launch on the same two days and fun dives on the third of the days in no specific order.

All I require from you is a SMS with the day you would prefer to dive plus a second option… e.g. Sat Mon before tomorrow evening…

I will the endeavour to organize the bookings to suit the masses. With a long weekend and perfect weather on the cards it will be a scramble so please let me know by tomorrow afternoon if you are diving this weekend. At this point it looks like the Atlantic as the strong southeaster this week will bring clean cold water. The deep dives are going to be close to the 40 metre mark for deep specialty so Atlantic is the best for this. Grant will make the call Thursday as to where we go but we need to have numbers sooner rather than later.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

Chamber diving for dummies

I’ve been wanting to arrange a chamber dive for a while. Hyperbaric chambers are like large geysers that can be pressurised to higher than atmospheric pressure. They are used in medical applications – breathing oxygen-rich gas at high pressure assists with all manner of complaints – and of course, in diving medicine for the treatment of decompression sickness. They are also used in commercial diver training.

Checking out the chamber
Checking out the chamber

A chamber dive doesn’t involve water, scuba gear or buddy checks. It simulates the experience of breathing compressed air from a cylinder at the bottom of the ocean by putting you in a sealed metal chamber, pumping air into it to the required pressure, and decompressing you slowly after leaving you there for a while. It’s perfectly safe. There’s an intercom so the chamber operator can hear you at all times, and we were supplied with a rubber mallet for knocking on the chamber wall in emergencies while the pressure was being adjusted (which is a noisy process, like sitting inside a jet engine).

Goot settles in inside the chamber
Goot settles in inside the chamber

The chamber we visited is on campus at the University of Cape Town and is used for commercial diver training. Eight of us did a chamber dive to 50 metres (in two groups of four). This is 10 metres deeper than Tony and I are qualified to dive in the ocean (with a Deep specialty qualification), and 20 metres deeper than an Advanced diver is qualified to go. An Open Water diver can go to 18 metres. The only requirement for this dive was an entry-level dive qualification, so Open Water was fine.

Paul the chamber operator at the controls
Paul the chamber operator at the controls

Paul, the chamber operator, checked that none of us had any plates, pins or bolts in our bodies. It turns out that both Goot and Tami are semi-bionic, and they were told to move the affected limb (or jaw, as the case may be) to ensure blood flow throughout the process. Nitrogen bubbles would be more prone to form around a screw or other metal fixture interrupting the natural shape of the bone. We were told to sit with our legs as straight as possible, arms uncrossed, to ensure that blood circulates well throughout the dive. He warned us that if we have a panic attack at 50 metres there’s nothing to do except sit on the affected diver, because once the chamber is pressurised it cannot be depressurised quickly without serious – life-threatening – risk to the occupants. For this reason we had a stop on the way down, at 9 metres, to check that everyone was still happy.

It's crowded in there - Bernita, Sophie, Tracy and Goot do their dive
It's crowded in there - Bernita, Sophie, Tracy and Goot do their dive

The chamber is pressurised to six atmospheres by pumping air into it. The pressurisation was done quickly – it took two minutes (with a brief stop at 9 metres to check that we were all right) to take us down to 50 metres. We had to equalise like MAD, literally every couple of seconds, and the chamber got very very hot inside as the air was pumped in. Boyle’s law at work… Constant volume, increasing pressure!

Starting the ascent
Starting the ascent

We spent about eight minutes at 50 metres. It was an intensely strange sensation. I felt the same light-headed hot scalp feeling that I experienced last time I was seriously narcosed, in Smitswinkel Bay, but magnified to the point that I felt drowsy and woozy and quite chilled. Our voices sounded as though we’d been inhaling helium, and EVERYTHING was very funny. I had a very nice feeling of well-being but wasn’t really interested in complicated conversations.

We had our dive computers with us in a bucket of water, and checked them periodically to see what they were telling us. Tony had his Mares Nemo Wide set on nitrox 32%, and it was flashing at him that we were perilously close to the maximum depth at which it’s safe to breathe that mixture. As expected, it gave us more bottom time than the computers that were set on air before it went into deco.

I distinctly remember trying to interpret the array of numbers on the screen of one of the dive computers, and handing it back to Tony and saying vaguely, “I don’t understand what all these numbers mean” – VERY odd for me because my entire job revolves around the complex manipulation of numbers, and I have a great fondness for statistics of all kinds!

Still feeling rather jolly, and hot - emerging from the chamber
Still feeling rather jolly, and hot - emerging from the chamber

As the chamber was depressurised, we experienced Boyle’s law in the opposite (very welcome) direction: the air cooled rapidly and mist formed to such an extent that at times I couldn’t see Tami, who was a metre away from me. There was a little bit of coughing from irritated lungs at this point!

The first group degassed by spending 5 minutes at 9 metres, 5 minutes at 6 metres, and 10 minutes at 3 metres. This is an extremely conservative decompression schedule and fulfilled all deco obligations plus more after the bottom time that was experienced. All our dive computers would have allowed us to ascend long before Paul let us out of the chamber! The second group, in which Tony and I were, had an even more conservative decompression schedule because of the particular age and physical profile of our group, and we spent 5 minutes at 9 metres, 10 minutes at 6 metres and  a full 15 minutes at 3 metres.

Tracy, Goot, Sophie, Tami, Bernita, me and Cecil - Tony took the picture
Tracy, Goot, Sophie, Tami, Bernita, me and Cecil - Tony took the picture

Dive date: 8 March 2011

Air temperature: 26-31 degrees (inside the chamber)

Water temperature: what water?

Maximum depth: 50.4m

Visibility: wall to wall (so about 1.5 metres!)

Dive duration: 40 minutes

Newsletter: 50 metres and Gordon’s Bay

Hello all you divers

Tracy, Goot, Sophie, me, Tami, Bernita, Clare and Cecil outside the chamber
Tracy, Goot, Sophie, me, Tami, Bernita, Clare and Cecil outside the chamber

We have just come home from a 50 metre chamber dive. We were two groups of four on each dive and the profile went like this: surface to a brief stop at 9 metres to check that everyone was okay and then a plunge down to 50 metres in two minutes, ten minutes at this depth and then around 25 minutes for the ascent with a few stops to decompress.

50 metres down...
50 metres down...

We took a small sample of a wetsuit with us, this compressed to paper thin material. Two balloons, inflated before the descent, shrank to the size of a fist at 50 metres. We took several dive computers and a wrist mount depth gauge. The computers agreed more or less on the depth we reached, 50.2, 50.4 and 50.1 metres. The analogue depth gauge showed almost 60 metres. Great fun and a safe way to experience chronic nitrogen narcosis.

Clare examining the controls of the chamber
Clare examining the controls of the chamber

Last week

Evil-eye pufferfish at Long Beach
Evil-eye pufferfish at Long Beach

We had three good days of diving last week and saw a huge ray, several cuttlefish, puffer fish, and of course the regular octopus. There have also been huge schools of yellowtail, the fishermen were netting a few hundred an hour on the northern end of Long Beach. All the dives last week were interesting as a big school of tiny anchovies followed us around.

Two tiny cuttlefish at Long Beach
Two tiny cuttlefish at Long Beach

We dived at Long Beach on the weekend, Corne doing Divemaster training, Marinus and Dean doing dive three and compass work for their Open Water course, and Sarah finishing her Open Water course.

Dean practising compass work under a towel while Marinus and Corne look on
Dean practising compass work under a towel while Marinus and Corne look on

The water was 15 degrees and the visibility was low, perhaps 3-4 metres. We were able to capture a small feeding frenzy on camera below the bow of the wreck where a few species were after the same food, the winner being the shyshark who took it all in one bite. I’ll send a link to the video in the next newsletter.

Sarah impersonating a manta ray
Sarah impersonating a manta ray

Sunday’s planned boat dives were cancelled due to a red tide hitting the coastline and turning the water into coffee. Clare, Lukas and I did a photography dive to check it out and had less than 2 metres visibility.

This weekend

This weekend will be a little tricky. The Argus Cycle Tour is on and its around the peninsula so there are going to be road closures on Saturday evening and Sunday. Saturday they are closing the road late so we may be able to dive from Hout Bay but will only know on Thursday if this is going to happen.

Sunday is definitely out so we are planning to head off to Gordon’s Bay, weather permitting. The plan is for Grant to take the boat out really early, check out the conditions and then give us a call. You will need to either escape the race, participate, or stay home so why not come to Gordon’s Bay and we go wreck hunting. The diving there is lovely and conditions are good there when our side of False Bay is a mess because of the southeaster. We’re going to make a day of it and have lunch and an ice cream afterwards.

If you want to come diving on Sunday please let me know before midday on Friday because the boat will fill up very quickly with NON-cyclists!

Sodwana

Sodwana divers please send me a list of gear you will require so we can get it planned and arranged. We will have a dinner at our house for the group about 10 days before we leave to get all the final arrangements sorted out. I will let you know amounts owing in a separate mail.

Courses

I am currently running Open Water courses, Deep specialty, Rescue and Divemaster. The Deep specialty qualifies you to 40 metres so if proper exploration of those wrecks in Smitswinkel Bay is on your bucket list let me know and we can do some deep diving.

I am going to run two special programs over the next month, one being a package of Open Water, Advanced and a Specialty – e.g. Wreck, Deep or Nitrox – at a half price. Secondly do Discover Scuba Diving any weekday for R350 and if it is for a friend of yours you can tag along for free.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!