Bookshelf: The Annotated Old Fourlegs

The Annotated Old Fourlegs – Mike Bruton (and Prof J.L.B. Smith)

This is a beautifully designed and produced annotated version of Old Fourlegs, J.L.B. Smith’s account of the discovery and positive identification of a living coelacanth in 1938. Wide margins around the original text allow Mike Bruton to bring Old Fourlegs up to date with additional scientific information, as well as photographs, explanations, and other curiosities.

The Annotated Old Fourlegs
The Annotated Old Fourlegs

Old Fourlegs describes the months in 1938-1939 during which Smith confirmed the identity of the coelacanth with the essential assistance of Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer of the East London Museum. Ms Courtenay-Latimer acquired a fish specimen from a trawler captain, and, realising that it was an exceptional find, contacted Smith, an ichthyologist at Rhodes University. A rollercoaster of events – which involved the chartering of a South African Airforce plane and stretched all the way to then-Prime Minister D.F. Malan – was set in motion. Old Fourlegs is a surprisingly emotional, thrilling book by a man deeply invested in his work, and whose world was upended by the discovery of living coelacanths in the waters of the southern Indian Ocean.

It is also a book of its time, and today’s readers will find some parts by turns mystifying, and others offensive. The offensive bits – including lionising D.F. Malan, who, with his government, laid the foundations of the edifice of South Africa’s apartheid legislation – remain so, but Bruton’s annotated version provides context for readers unfamiliar with the history.

The book concludes with an examination of the cultural legacy of the coelacanth, which is disproportionately significant. The fish also has deep and wide links to South Africa and our research and diving community. If you have the appropriate (very deep diving) qualifications, you can dive with them in Jesser Canyon in Sodwana Bay. If you’ve never seen a video of one of these magical animals in motion, I encourage you to hit up youtube. Watch with the sound off for best effect.

Get the book here (South Africa), here or here. This is a volume you should read in hard copy, not as an ebook.

Newsletter: Happy Blue Year

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: Launching from False Bay Yacht Club at 8am for a Smitswinkel Bay wreck / at 10.30 am for cowsharks

African penguin at Boulders
African penguin at Boulders

I’m launching early on Saturday for a student dive to one of the Smitswinkel Bay wrecks, and at 10.30 am for (most likely) cowsharks. They’ve been spotted by a couple of reliable witnesses this week!

The boat is already almost full, but if you’d like a spot let me know as soon as possible. We may also be able to go out on Sunday – let me know if you’d like to dive.

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!

Newsletter: Slightly swelly

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday and Monday: Boat dives (location to be decided)

Last weekend we did some boating in Table Bay as a support boat for the Robben Island to Big Bay Freedom Swim. The remnants of the swell on Thursday and Friday was enough to give the swimmers a sizeable challenge with strong currents, choppy surface conditions and very cold patches of water.

Colin swimming across Table Bay
Colin swimming across Table Bay

The swell climbed from under 2 metres to a little over 5 metres this morning.  This means diving tomorrow is pretty much out, as is diving on Saturday (thanks also to the Two Oceans Marathon). The swell drops off during the day on Saturday so both Sunday and Monday should deliver some reasonable diving conditions.

It is difficult to say whether Hout Bay or False Bay would be better on Sunday and Monday, but I will make that decision late on Saturday afternoon. I have Open Water and Advanced Open Water students so one day is likely to include a deep dive to more than 18 metres.

If you are keen to dive on Sunday or Monday, let me know and I’ll schedule you in!

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!

Newsletter: Smoky

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: Launching from Hout Bay at 8.00 for Tafelberg Reef and the BOS 400

Sunday: Launching from Simon’s Town jetty at 9.30 for Roman Rock and Atlantis

This picture was taken a year ago, where the fire burned today
This picture was taken a year ago, where the fire burned today

This will be a quick newsletter as we are downwind of a raging vegetation fire and the smoke is unbelievably thick. Even our tortoises are going to spend the night indoors. Firefighters, many of whom are volunteers, have been have a rough time of late and I admire their endurance, skills and management of these situations.

We had really good conditions in Hout Bay last weekend with clean and cold being the main factor. 8 degrees celcius is chilly but the viz was easy 15 metres.
The south easter has humped all week long and False Bay is a little messy. The visibility in the yacht basin today was actually very good but I think the rest of False Bay would have been messy. The yacht basin is protected from the south easter by the naval harbour.

The forecast leads me to believe that Hout Bay will be good on Saturday and False Bay on Sunday. I would also like to slip in a night dive on Saturday if the conditions permit.

We will launch from Hout Bay on Saturday at 8.00 for Tafelberg Reef and the BOS 400, and on Sunday from Simon’s Town jetty at 9.30 for Roman Rock and Atlantis. Call, email, text or Whatsapp me if you want to dive.

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!

Documentary: James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge

James Cameron's Deepsea Challenge
James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge

James Cameron is best known (to people of my *ahem* vintage) as the director of Titanic, or (to those slightly younger) as the director of Avatar. As a result of these multi-billion dollar grossing films, he has more leisure time than most of us. He has used this to excellent effect in recent years, and achieved something that very few others could have done.

Cameron’s interest in deep ocean exploration seems to have been born out of his interest in the Titanic, and he has used tethered ROVs to explore the Titanic as described in Ghosts of the Abyss. He partially funded and spearheaded a project to build a submersible capable of carrying one person down into deepest known part of the ocean, the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, between Japan, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines.

Deepsea Challenger is that craft, and Cameron ultimately piloted it to nearly 11,000 metres underwater, and returned safely. James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge is the story of the design, construction, and testing of Deepsea Challenger, and of her dive to Challenger Deep. Unlike Robert Ballard, who favours unmanned ROVs, James Cameron is a proponent of manned ocean exploration, and I can identify with his enthusiasm for putting human eyes on the seabed (in a figuratively literal sense).

Fewer people have seen the bottom of Challenger Deep than have been on the moon. The last (and first) manned voyage there was in 1960, when Jacques Piccard and US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh piloted Trieste, a bathyscaphe, there and back. Trieste used gasoline for buoyancy, whereas a special, extremely buoyant foam was developed to do the same job for Deepsea Challenger. The challenges of descending to and ascending from such a depth meant that here and there, seemingly archaic pieces of technology were included in the craft. I was tickled by the release of steel ball bearings to establish initial neutral or slightly positive buoyancy at times.

An aspect of the documentary that I found particularly touching was the presence of Don Walsh on Cameron’s ship, to witness the dive to Challenger Deep. You can read a bit of a review of the documentary here. There is an excellent series of National Geographic articles that will give you a feel for the project: part one, part two, a photo gallery, details of the submersible, and a video.

Get the DVD of James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge here, here or here (South Africa).

Newsletter: Two bays

Hi divers

We had an early start last weekend and launched from Simon’s Town at 7.30 am to get in and out before the wind arrived. Conditions were good and we dived the Atlantis area.

False Bay on Sunday
False Bay on Sunday

On Tuesday we launched from Hout Bay and despite a few days of south easterly winds the visibility was around 6 metres, but the swell created quite considerable surge. Both dives were around deep Tafelberg Reef and the surge could be felt below 30 metres.

Hout Bay on Tuesday
Hout Bay on Tuesday

The forecast for the weekend looks a little bleak. Much wind and much swell means slim odds of finding nice diving conditions anywhere. However should conditions change we will keep you posted by text and Whatsapp, and go diving.

Diversnight

Don’t forget Diversnight, happening at Long Beach on Saturday 7th November. Read more about this venerable Norwegian night diving tradition on the Diversnight website. (We like the cake aspect.) There’s a facebook event for your diary 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!

Newsletter: Fan club

Hi divers

Saturday: Boat dives with OMSAC from Buffels Bay

Sunday: Deep dives, conditions dependent

Sinuous sea fan at Atlantis
Sinuous sea fan at Atlantis

Conditions report

We dived Long Beach on Saturday, and on Sunday went to Atlantis and Maidstone Rock. Conditions were good but then the south easter arrived! On Wednesday we launched in Hout Bay. The swell was around 2.5 metres and the wind started out light but eventually was gusting to closer to 40 km/h. Tafelberg Reef had around 6m visibility and about the same at the Katsu Maru. Below the surface it was okay, but the boat trip was a little hairy.

Strawberry anemones at Maidstone Rock
Strawberry anemones at Maidstone Rock

Weekend plans

This weekend looks really good from a wind point of view, but finding good viz will require going out and looking for it. False Bay and the Atlantic are both very patchy with a whole range of different colours offshore. Our plan is to Launch from Buffels Bay and go and look for viz. We are joining OMSAC for the day and they are going to dive, snorkel and braai.

Sunday will really depend on what the bay delivers on Saturday but I think it will be better at deeper sites like the Fleur and Outer Photographer’s Reef. There is a 14 second, 3 metre swell that will be felt on the shallower sites closer in shore. Sunday may be a day where we just cruise around and look for cleaner viz.

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!

Video (TED): Richard Pyle on exploring the reef’s twilight zone

In this TED talk, self proclaimed “fish nerd” Pyle speaks about his work studying coral reef fish that live in the 100-200 metre depth range. This depth is too deep for scuba, and too shallow for submersibles, so Pyle pioneered the use of rebreathers (he was an early adopter, in 1994) to access this part of the ocean. This is a high risk pursuit, but the diversity and numbers of new species to be discovered here is stunning.

I first heard about Richard Pyle through Monty, who encouraged the readers of his Scuba Culture newsletter to check out an article Pyle wrote about an incident of decompression sickness when he was nineteen. The article is called Confessions of a Mortal Diver: Learning the Hard Way, and Monty is right – you should read it. Pyle actually mentions this incident right at the start of his talk. Watch below:

 

Sodwana 2014 trip report

Happy divers on the beach in Sodwana
Happy divers on the beach in Sodwana

Our third Sodwana trip (prior ones were in October 2010 and April 2011, with a Mozambique trip and a Durban trip in between) was from 26-30 April 2014. As usual we flew from Cape Town to Durban, rented vehicles (three cars between ten of us – two other reprobates drove ALL the way from Cape Town, although we suspect Shane hitched a lift on a car carrier for part of the way…) and drove the 350 kilometres from Durban to Sodwana. We stopped in Ballito for food, as we were planning to self cater.

Sodwana beach early in the morning
Sodwana beach early in the morning

Coral Divers was our destination. Most of us had already dived with them on prior trips (Angie even learned to dive there!), and their position inside the park and excellent facilities and staff led us to choose to dive with them again. They have a gazebo on the beach, regular transport between the camp and the beach, and dive planning and organisation runs like clockwork. Our only quibble this time around was that their school rental gear – which several of our divers made use of – was in quite poor condition. Matthijs tried four different masks before he found one that didn’t leak, and the well ventilated wetsuits left something to be desired. Fortunately the water was a comfortable 25 degrees!

On the tractor heading to the beach - picture by Otti
On the tractor heading to the beach – picture by Otti

We did six dives over three days, all on Two Mile reef. This is the cheapest option, and if conditions are dubious (as they were on our first day on the water), the best option. The further reefs (Five, Seven and Nine Mile) are magnificent, but require excellent buoyancy skills from visiting divers to protect the coral there, as well as favourable sea conditions for the longer boat ride.

The dives are for 50 minutes or until you reach 50 bar of air, whichever comes first. We visited mostly shallow sites (some of the Advanced divers did a deep dive on one of the days) so we were able to dive for a full 50 minutes most of the time. Because we were a group of twelve, we were generally split across two boats. We did manage some dives where we were all together at the same site, which was lots of fun! Some of the dives were lovely drift dives, which are fantastic because you use so little air. The surge (which has previously bedevilled me in Sodwana) was only severe on one of the days we dived.

After our two morning dives each day, we ate and then napped (me) or went exploring. In the evenings we braaied, cooked in the communal kitchen or ordered from the on site restaurant, and actually ended up going to bed fairly early. This was partly to escape Gerard when he got out of hand (on one notable occasion!), and partly because we were completely exhausted from our dives. We were also getting up very early to be ready to head down to the beach at 0645 each day.

Dinner time braai
Dinner time braai

It was a pleasure to spend time with such hilarious and interesting people, to do lovely long, warm, colourful dives, and to walk around in shorts and a t shirt while a warm 28 degree breeze blew. I hadn’t really scuba dived since last December, so it was great to get back into it again and remember how it’s done. Unfortunately I didn’t take many (or many nice…) photos underwater, as I was struggling with my (own, not rented) mask and I also initially didn’t feel confident enough to get close to anything. Once I settled my buoyancy – on the last day, alas! – I got going a bit more with my camera.

At the end of our trip, we said good bye to the other divers, and Tony and I stuck around in northern KwaZulu Natal to go to the bush for a couple of days. That’s another story…