Newsletter: Wreck penetration and night dives

Hi diving people

Last weekend

Valve handles in dodgy visibility on the SAS Fleur
Valve handles in dodgy visibility on the SAS Fleur

Last weekend we dived the SAS Fleur. This rates as the best wreck dive in Cape Town, in my book. It is closely followed by the MV Aster which we plan to dive and penetrate this weekend. Back to the Fleur: we did not have exceptional visibility (about 6 metres – Clare apologises for the dodgy pictures), and the current was quite strong at depth. But as we were doing a Deep Specialty, on Nitrox, this was a perfect site. We had lots of seals during the dive and many stayed with us during our deep stop and the extended 5 metre safety stop.

Being photo-bombed by seals at the safety stop on the Fleur
Being photo-bombed by seals at the safety stop on the Fleur

After the Fleur we did two dives at Long Beach, being dive 1 & 2 for Open Water students. We visited the new Lady Long Beach reef project being built by Pisces Dive Centre.

Slightly beaten up cuttlefish at Long Beach
Slightly beaten up cuttlefish at Long Beach

Many have heard of the sardine run, well Steve Benjamin from Animal Ocean will be doing a squid run, in Cape St Francis. Diving 25th Oct – 29th Oct (5 days), this is just as the Commercial squid season closes. Visit his website for more info and look at some of the sardine run photos.

Tami approaching a swarm of box jellies at Long Beach
Tami approaching a swarm of box jellies at Long Beach

This weekend

This weekend we are diving in Hout Bay harbour on Saturday morning as part of the clean up dive organised by OMSAC. Diving starts at 9.00 am and even if you are not diving come along and join the fun. The harbour will be alive with divers, boats and humans. This is also a very photogenic part of Cape Town so bring your camera.

If you plan to participate in the cleanup dive, you must register beforehand – visit the OMSAC website for more details.

You must ensure you have your dive card AND your MPA permit with you on Saturday.

Compass sea jelly at the deep stop on the Fleur
Compass sea jelly at the deep stop on the Fleur

We have booked two dives for the afternoon with Underwater Explorers (you may remember Alistair from this post). At 2.00 pm we will do a dive to the Aster wreck, lay lines and do some penetration. Entering the wreck is not for everyone and some of the divers will stay outside while a few of us are inside. We will also attach a few cyalumes as we are doing the second dive there at 6.30 pm.

There is still space on the afternoon dive but the night dive is almost full… Speak up quickly if you want to join. We will be making a day of it so bring chairs, braai stuff and chocolate. We have also ordered sun so bring sunscreen.

There are a lot of people doing these dives on Saturday so it’s important you mail me to book any gear you want to rent. I have bought a few more wetsuits, BCDs, cylinders and regulators so I am sure we will manage but don’t wait until Saturday to let me know what you need – I’ll pack on Friday evening and leave home very early on Saturday. I also only have 6 torches to rent. You can of course go and buy these things from Andre‘s shop in Simon’s Town – email him here!

Sunday we are doing dive 3 & 4 for Open Water and if conditions are good we will dive the Clan Stuart or Windmill. Meeting time will be 10.30 as all my cylinders will be empty from the night dive and I only have one bicycle pump.

Bits and pieces of the Fleur
Bits and pieces of the Fleur

Travel plans

The planning of a Mozambique trip is taking shape and within a few weeks we will have a solid plan. We will most likely go to Ponta Do Ouro and will do the same thing we did for the Sodwana trips: fly to Durban, rent cars and have cheap tents or upmarket chalet options for accommodation. Car sharing, tent sharing and sleeping bag sharing… are all options. If you missed the last two trips then you won’t know how much fun we had but you can read all about it here.

Salps at Long Beach
Salps at Long Beach

(For more information on exactly what a salp is, check out Wikipedia. They’re alive!)

Talks

There is a talk by Barry, the owner of Dive Action, at the Dive Action shop next Tuesday evening on diving in Norway with stunning pictures. Free, starts at 6.30pm.

On Wednesday night there is a talk at 7.00pm by George Branch, author of the classic The Living Shores of South Africa and expert on all things marine biology-related, at the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Centre in Kalk Bay. The topic is evolution, and the cost is R50. (It’s for a good cause and you also get soup and rolls.) Save Our Seas foundation does many things but the Kalk Bay centre focuses on shark conservation. They also have a marine tank that is amazing… You get to see that too. The talks here are always very good and worth the money.

Text me if you are coming to either talk (booking is essential for the Save Our Seas talk) and I will book for you and send you directions. (Well actually Clare will!)

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

Dive sites: Maidstone Rock

Sinuous sea fan with brittlestars on board
Sinuous sea fan with brittlestars on board

Maidstone Rock is an infrequently-dived site in the offshore region of Seaforth and Boulders Beach. The boat rides from Miller’s Point or Long Beach are only a few minutes (shorter from Long Beach). Grant took us to an area of the reef that is newly discovered, so we got to explore some virgin territory.

Klipfish in disguise
Klipfish in disguise

The reef is characteristic of the others we have dived in the area, with low rocky outcrops heavily encrusted with invertebrates. We found a small anchor and rope, but they had obviously been in the water for a long time and were almost unrecognisable.

Brass valve handle in situ
Brass valve handle in situ

I found an old brass valve handle or similar (treasure!), which Tony is cleaning up with diluted pool acid, tartaric acid and lots of patience, and we also came across a large (perhaps one metre diameter) brass or other metal ring that looked a bit like a truck tyre without sidewalls. It is heavily overgrown with feather stars and other invertebrate life.

Mysterious metal ring
Mysterious metal ring

I also found several well-camouflaged klipfish. Unlike our confident friends at Long Beach, these klipfish were hiding in crevices in the rocks and generally trying not to be seen.

Strawberry sea anemones
Strawberry sea anemones

Dive date: 5 June 2011

Air temperature: 23 degrees

Water temperature: 15 degrees

Maximum depth: 25.1 metres

Visibility: 10 metres

Dive duration: 39 minutes

Tony at the safety stop with the valve handle on his reel
Tony at the safety stop with the valve handle on his reel
Diver ascending past an SMB
Diver ascending past an SMB

Newsletter: The best of winter

Aaaah so you made it here!

On Friday we launched from OPBC and dived the wreck of the Matapan. This is an old fishing trawler lost since 1960. Peter Southwood has put up a lot of info on Wikivoyage. The sun shone all day, there was very little wind and 14 degree water. Seeing the city and the Waterfront, not to mention the mountain, from the ocean is quite special.

Cuttlefish on the SAS Pietermaritzburg
Cuttlefish on the SAS Pietermaritzburg

On Saturday a bunch of us attended the well organised OMSAC Treasure Hunt. We dived the wreck of the SAS Pietermaritzburg and had really good visibility and 14 degree water.

Broadnose sevengill cowshark at Shark Alley
Broadnose sevengill cowshark at Shark Alley

The second dive was to Shark Alley in front of Pyramid Rock, and had milky visibility but lots of cowsharks. Last time we dived there we saw a shark with a hook in its mouth, sticking out the left side and all encrusted. We saw this same shark over a year ago when the hook was shiny clean. Imagine the trauma having this huge thing in your face. Made of stainless steel, these hooks do not corrode and fall off, and may be there for years. On this dive we saw another shark with a hook out the left side of its face. It is still shiny and new but does not look like it is a pain free attachment.

Cecil's head emerging from a hole in the Aster
Cecil’s head emerging from a hole in the Aster

Sunday morning we launched from Hout Bay and dived the wreck of the MV Aster, scuttled in 1997 by divers for diving and we were lucky to spot this blue eyed head sticking out of a hatch. We also watched bubbles coming out of strange places as Peter Southwood did a penetration into the bowels of the ship.

Cecil ascending next to the mast of the Aster
Cecil ascending next to the mast of the Aster

Once back on land we drove off to Long Beach to continue an Open Water course.

A warty pleurobranch channelling Yoda from Star Wars
A warty pleurobranch channelling Yoda from Star Wars

Monday we were back at Long Beach for more student dives so four days of 14 degree water and nice visibility had me in a good mood. After the students were done I popped out to visit the artificial reef we have been building. I was in the water there again today and the conditions are very good, with lots of life around.

Bold klipfish on the pipeline at Long Beach
Bold klipfish on the pipeline at Long Beach

Weekend diving

On Saturday I am continuing with an Open Water course at Long Beach, and on Sunday we’ll be doing some shore dives – hopefully at  A Frame and the Clan Stuart, conditions permitting. Please let me know in good time if you’d like to join in.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

Newsletter: Birds and dolphins

Hello everyone

This was the sight that we experienced at Long Beach while kitting up for a days diving.

Sunrise at Long Beach
Sunrise at Long Beach

Finally a weekend of diving!!!! We had really good weather this weekend and despite a rather large swell in the Bay the conditions were good. Saturday we spent the morning doing a Divemaster mapping project, the target: a concrete yacht that sank some years ago and that now lies 25 metres inshore of the north western yellow marker buoy at Long Beach. You can read all about it here.

Corne at the surface next to the buoy
Corne at the surface next to the buoy

Navigating our way out there  it suddenly seemed to get a little darker, more so than when  the clouds cover the sun and at the same time Corne surfaced to get a bearing only to find the surface covered with hundreds of cormorants. I was waiting at the bottom and was amazed at these birds’ ability to dive, stop suddenly, look around, then swim off.  I am not sure who got a bigger fright, them or me, but suddenly they seemed to be everywhere, perhaps our bubbles made them think there was a school of fish they could feast on, but instead they just found neoprene clad divers, way bigger than they could muster so they went off somewhere else. We saw them all again on Sunday, this time further out and from the surface.

Cormorants underwater at Long Beach
Cormorants underwater at Long Beach
Flocking cormorants in False Bay
Flocking cormorants in False Bay

Saturday afternoon five of us were back in the water and whilst swimming around the centre platform of the wreck these klipfish seemed keen on conveying some form of message to us  so they all lined up. I never did get to work out what they were trying to say… So much to learn in the ocean.

Row of klipfish
Row of klipfish

I can honestly say that I cannot remember a dive where I have not seen something new, or a creature I have seen before doing something new. We see warty pleurobranchs  ploughing their way over everything lately but on Saturday I saw a few doing acrobatic swimming and performing the most amazing somersaults… So much for me thinking they were like snowploughs… They seem more like circus animals!

Cavorting warty pleurobranchs
Cavorting warty pleurobranchs

Sunday we spent on the boat, the first dive was to Maidstone Rock. Andrew was completing his Advanced course and Gerard and Cecil were … well, only they know! The second launch took us to a new reef discovered by Grant and Peter Southwood called Tivoli Pinnacles, near Roman Rock. Being  a new dive site we were possibly the first to see a few amazing features and Clare discovered her first underwater treasure… a hand wheel from either a stem valve or a fuel valve, with a diameter of 120mm and made of brass. It has clearly been in the ocean for some time given the amount of corrosion on the material (a salt water corrosion resistant material). We will clean it up and see what it looks like.

Valve handle at Tivoli Pinnacles
Valve handle at Tivoli Pinnacles
Cuttlefish at Maidstone Rock
Cuttlefish at Maidstone Rock

There was also what seemed to be a huge brass ring almost a metre across so this will be a dive site worth exploring further.

Long beaked common dolphin in False Bay
Long beaked common dolphin in False Bay

Despite two amazing dives on a flat calm sea with great visibility, the good stuff was not yet over and when we surfaced  we were treated to the sight of a flock of I would guess at least a thousand cormorants and then Grant took us for a ride to a point just off the Kalk Bay harbour where we witnessed a pod of around 300–400 Dolphins. All in all a very pleasant day of diving.

This weekend

On Friday I will be doing Discover Scuba  Diving students at Long Beach all day, then on Saturday will continue with the Open Water course started last weekend and more DSD students. There are also two promising boat days looming.

Sunday looks good for shore entries and we will dive with the cowsharks if the swell is small or perhaps A Frame and or Sunny Cove.

Congratulations

…are also in order for Kate, who last year in October arrived in Cape Town wanting to learn to dive. By the end of November she had done OpenWater, Advanced, Nitrox specialty, Night Diving specialty and Wreck specialty as well as Rescue and Divemaster. Back in the UK for Christmas she did a Drysuit specialty and an Equipment specialty, and returned here in April to do a Deep specialty and then achieve the highest non professional qualification, Master Scuba Diver. It did not stop here and we dived as often as possible over the last few weeks to get her log book up to 100 dives and today she finished her Instructor course and Instructor Examination in Sodwana and is now officially an Open Water Scuba Instructor. Well done Kate! To achieve this much in such a short period of time takes determination, hard work and commitment.

DAN talks

We attended a DAN talk last week on ears at one of the local dive centres. It was run by DAN SA and we had a doctor talk us through what goes on in the ear and why whilst diving and the importance looking after those pink bits. We also received a free diving emergency booklet that has lots of info on handling diving related issues. These talks will be on a monthly basis and the next one will most likely be about lungs… So if you dive and have lungs… You should be there… It’s free and its very valuable knowledge to have.

If you wish to dive this weekend please text me sooner rather than later because the weather is good and the bookings will fill up.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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!

Dive sites: North Paw (Northern Pinnacle)

Tony has dived North Paw before (while I sat, sick with jealousy, in front of an Excel spreadsheet at work). This time I went with him and some students, and we were to explore an unmapped pinnacle to the north of the site, which seems to be quite extensive. It rises to within 10-12 metres of the surface, and doesn’t actually have a name yet…

Tony and Cecil on the surface
Tony and Cecil on the surface

Grant’s best suggestion (which some on the boat were keen to override) is “Bokkie’s Rump” – the idea being that the lion (Lion’s head) has its two paws (North Lion’s Paw and South Lion’s Paw) resting on a little springbok that he’s caught. The bokkie’s rump (ahem) sticks out beyond the northern paw.

DC relaxing with North Paw rocks in the background and Grant's boat approaching
DC relaxing with North Paw rocks in the background and Grant's boat approaching

Grant put the shot on top of the pinnacle, which according to Peter Southwood, is about 8 by 10 metres. We descended next to it – a lovely sheer wall – down to the sand at about 20 metres. There are rock lobsters galore, and rich invertebrate life.

Rock lobsters at North Paw
Rock lobsters at North Paw

Georgina pointed out a large cuttlefish, well camouflaged on the reef. When he moved, he changed colour to match his new background. Tony also found four tiny cuttlefish – fingernail-sized – lined up as if for a race. When he turned to call me with the camera, they scattered, invisibly, on the sand.

Cuttlefish at North Paw
Cuttlefish at North Paw
Same cuttlefish, different colour
Same cuttlefish, different colour

I found a few different nudibranchs – black, gas flame and crowned – and Tony also found one for me, much to his delight. He claims to have been having a “nudibranch drought” lately!

Gas flame nudibranch under some coral
Gas flame nudibranch under some coral
Black nudibranch at North Paw
Black nudibranch at North Paw

The site is rocky with lots of crevices for rock lobster to hide in. We saw some large ones, but, Gerard assured me, no HUGE ones. He should know! We were highly amused to see one big guy eating a sea jelly – the ocean floor was littered with a few dead (or incapacitated) ones, and apparently rock lobsters enjoy that kind of treat. I also saw a large rock lobster carefully carrying a cluster of mussels!

Hungry rock lobster eating a night light sea jelly
Hungry rock lobster eating a night light sea jelly

At the safety stop I saw no fewer than four different kinds of sea jelly – the largest being a night light sea jelly that was almost as long as Tony, with a huge purple bell. He obligingly swam behind it to give some perspective to the photo but I carried on photographing the jelly as it swam off into the distance.

Night light sea jelly
Night light sea jelly

Gerard had gotten low on air earlier, and returned to the boat… While he was waiting for a pick-up, something bumped his leg hard, and he was convinced it was a shark. Instead, it was one of the friendly seals that had visited us during our dive. His comments on the subject are unprintable – suffice it to say he got a bit of a fright!

Brittle stars on a sponge
Brittle stars on a sponge

When the rest of us surfaced we got to chill for a while, looking at the magnificent scenery, because we’d come quite far from the original pinnacle. We had drifted with the current, roughly towards the Atlantic seaboard. It must be – as I announced when the boat arrived – the most beautiful place in the world to surface. The diving’s pretty good too!

Anemone at North Paw
Anemone at North Paw

Dive date: 20 February 2011

Air temperature: 27 degrees

Water temperature: 8 degrees

Maximum depth: 23.6 metres

Visibility: 10 metres

Dive duration: 36 minutes

Rocks and sand at North Paw
Rocks and sand at North Paw

Newsletter: Deep dives, Sodwana, and octopus don’t eat sweets

Hi everyone

Weekend diving

The weekend was not ideally suited to diving and Saturday was too windy for diving. Sunday saw a strong southeaster which dictated the only option for diving, OPBC.

Violet spotted anemones at North Paw
Violet spotted anemones at North Paw

Close to the V&A Waterfront, the boats launched from there and we went to explore a pinnacle close to North Paw. Almost directly in front of Lions Head there is a North and a South Paw, rocky ridges that resemble the lion’s paws.

Cuttlefish at North Paw
Cuttlefish at North Paw

Maximum depth was 25 metres, visibility around 10 metres and chilly water, 8-9 degrees celcius at the bottom. It is a newish dive site so we were lucky to find all sorts of creatures that had never seen divers before. It also looked like lobster country with hundreds of them, all different sizes, all over the place.

Rock lobster at North Paw
Rock lobster at North Paw

Fun with octopus

On Tuesday last week I spent 30 minutes with a video camera and an octopus. I had previously seen this same octopus become very excited at the sight of my brightly coloured weights some time ago. We were doing a peak performance buoyancy dive and when the students placed the coloured weights on the sand near the octopus it became very animated. I spent some time with this octopus last week and gave him some liquorice allsorts to play with. After tasting them all one by one they were spat out. Most entertaining. Watch the video here.

Night light sea jelly with Tony in the background
Night light sea jelly with Tony in the background

Deep Specialty

This weekend we start a Deep specialty course. As a deep diver you are qualified to dive to 40 metres, this makes many of Cape Town’s wrecks accessible for exploration (including those in Smitswinkel Bay, most of which are deeper than 30 metres on the sand). Experience an emergency decompression stop, navigation at depth and breathing from a hang tank. You will learn more about nitrogen narcosis, how to plan a dive using a dive computer and the use of dive computers. Drift diving and wall diving will also be experienced during this course. You will also learn proper deployment of an SMB. If you’re interested or want to discuss this course with me, drop me an email.

Cecil checking his computer at a safety stop
Cecil checking his computer at a safety stop

Congratulations to…

The following students have attained their qualifications since 1 January – welcome to the world of diving!

Open Water -Arieh, Michelle, Andrew, Lukas, Jamie-Lee, Danelene, DC, Sarah (all grown up)

Junior Open Water – Shira, Josh (nearly grown up, 10-15 years old)

Seal Team – Abby (9 years old)

Advanced – Oscar, Mark, DC, Cecil

Nitrox – Cecil

Tony, Cecil and SMB on the surface after the North Paw dive
Tony, Cecil and SMB on the surface after the North Paw dive

Plans

Wednesday and Thursday I am doing some Rescue training and an EFR course, a prerequisite for Rescue.

We will be finalising the arrangements for the chamber dive this week, and I will contact those of you who have expressed an interest in a separate mail. If you’d like to take part and haven’t let me know yet, or want to know more about it, please email me.

I’ll also be in touch about Sodwana (16-20 April). If you’re still on the fence or still need to pay your deposits, get moving and confirm whether you’re in or out.

And finally, permits – if you don’t have one, go to the post office NOW and get one!

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

Sea life: Cuttlefish

I love cuttlefish – they are cephalopods like octopus, and endlessly beautiful and entertaining to watch. Cephalopod means head-foot in Greek, and refers to their structure: large head, plus lots of tentacles.

We’ve spotted cuttlefish on a night dive before, vibrating its orange mantle underneath one of the Long Beach wrecks. Tony put up a video clip here.

Head-on view of mini cuttlefish
Head-on view of mini cuttlefish

The cutest thing I have EVER seen in the ocean was a toenail-sized cuttlefish I met while photographing Tony and Kate assembling the artificial reef at Long Beach. I was meant to be taking pictures of their work, but my eye was caught by this little dude moving across the sand. I first thought he was a warty pleurobranch, but he put on a burst of speed beyond the capabilities of any flavour of sea slug.

Very cute cuttlefish
Very cute cuttlefish

I followed him around for some time, watching as he changed colour to try and intimidate me, and then as he gave up and went about his business.

I'm brown so you can't see me!
I'm brown so you can't see me!

If I could have taken him home as a pet, I would have. Here’s a picture of him next to my finger (in my new gloves) for scale.

Clare's finger next to a tiny cuttlefish
Clare's finger next to a tiny cuttlefish

On the Atlantic side, Oscar located a large specimen for me on the wreck of the SS Maori near Hout Bay. He was quite happily nestled against a rock, and was undisturbed by me coming quite close to check him out. He was a beautiful, large fellow.

Cuttlefish on the Maori
Cuttlefish on the Maori

Watching a cuttlefish on the move is wonderful – their mantles (the frilly bit around their bodies) make hypnotic waves as they undulate through the water. They can be quite relaxed, and will allow divers to come close to them as they hover in the water column.

Dive sites: SS Maori

I have done one prior dive on the SS Maori, about a year ago. It was one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life, one I am not keen to repeat. The boat ride was harrowing – we took the narrow channel between Duiker Island and the mainland, and I had my eyes closed for most of it. I am not a good sailor, but Tony is, and even he was seeing his life flash before his eyes. Huge waves were coming from all directions and we later learned that the skipper had been so terrified negotiating the channel that he’d called the owner of the dive shop as soon as he’d dropped the divers into the water, and practically sobbed.

Klipfish on the Maori
Klipfish on the Maori

We were actually intending to visit the BOS 400, but when we got there the surge through the wreck was incredibly strong and the entire superstructure was creaking ominously.  A call was made to go to the SS Maori instead – it’s a couple of hundred metres from the crane and the wreck is scattered on the seabed rather than being still mostly intact. The dive itself was extremely stressful – maybe 3 metres visibility, temperatures so cold that I sucked my tank dry in about 20 minutes (ended up on Tony’s octo), strong surge on the bottom that made it impossible to control where one was going, and I honestly didn’t see anything that I could describe as a wreck.

Tami zoning in on something interesting
Tami zoning in on something interesting

The experience we had diving the Maori on Reconcilation Day could not have been more different. Tami and I were finishing our Wreck Specialty course, Cecil was finishing his Open Water course, and Tony had a group of casual divers with him. The boat ride was a pleasure, apart from the smell (or rather, taste!) of the seals on Duiker Island as we sped past. The water was so blue that Grant could see the wreck below us while he dropped the shot line.

Iron water pipes on the Maori
Iron water pipes on the Maori

The SS Maori ran aground in Maori Bay (named after it) in 1909 in thick fog. The ship lies perpendicular to the mainland, depth ranging from about 6 metres down to about 22 metres towards the centre of the bay. The ship was carrying a cargo of railway lines, cast iron pipes (visible in great stacks that are very tempting to try and swim through – common sense won out), explosives, and crockery. A fair amount of beautiful porcelain is still visible on the site, but apparently it’s been well worked and looted over the years.

Looking through a pipe
Looking through a pipe

The visiblity on this dive was sufficient (20 metres or so) for us to be able to see far down the ship as we explored. Parts of the wreckage are very broken up, but there are large parts of the wreck that are relatively intact. We descended on the engine block, at the shallow end of the wreck, and into beautiful kelp forests that glistened green in the clear water. It was cold, very cold, but having something amazing to look at tends to distract one from the inconvenience of chilly fingers.

Rock lobsters on the Maori
Rock lobsters on the Maori

As far as sea life goes, there’s a fair amount of kelp and other sea plants. Oscar found me a huge cuttlefish to photograph, just posing nicely on a rock, and there were some molluscs, the odd nudibranch, lots and lots of rock lobsters and crabs. We also saw a nice school of hottentot. Like the BOS 400, though, you visit this site first to look at the wreckage. Anything else you see is a bonus.

Cuttlefish on the Maori
Cuttlefish on the Maori

I can see why the Maori is such a popular dive site – we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and Tami and I were heartbroken when we had to ascend, as our air reached 70 bar. It’s a very large site and several dives are required to appreciate its full scope. I plan to do those several dives, and then some!

Wreckage of the Maori
Wreckage of the Maori

Dive date: 16 December 2010

Air temperature: 23 degrees

Water temperature: 4 degrees (that’s what my computer said!)

Maximum depth: 19.9 metres

Visibility: 20 metres

Dive duration: 32  minutes

Night dive at Long Beach (2010.06.05)

Here’s a video clip from a night dive we did in June this year at Long Beach. Look out for the box jelly with one tentacle, a klipfish, the beaked sandfish digging themselves into the sand, two warty pleurobranchs, an octopus hiding under a piece of plywood, a cuttlefish under the wreck, a two tone fingerfin, and a little jutjaw (we think).

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1oU7w_GFkk&w=540]

This is an early night effort taken on my Sea&Sea camera with torches instead of a strobe. The resulting hotspots are eliminated when using the Bonica Snapper, provided the light is positioned appropriately.