Newsletter: Guests from the south

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Sunday: Boat dives from False Bay Yacht Club

Sunday will most likely be the better diving day in False Bay despite the swell forecast. The Atlantic temperature has dropped 5 degrees in the last 24 hours so there is a chance that Oudekraal would work on Saturday if you need to get wet.

I will plan launching from Simons Town, early on Sunday and both dives will be in the vicinity of Roman Rock. Let me know if you’re keen.

Flagellar sea fan at Roman Rock (and very respectable visibility)
Flagellar sea fan at Roman Rock (and very respectable visibility)

Penguin at large

There’s a king penguin currently visiting Buffels Bay in the Cape Point Nature Reserve. These animals are found on the subantarctic islands and the Antarctic continent, so it’s a long way from home. This is a rare chance for you to see the second largest species of penguin.

They aren’t rare (there are 2-3 million of them in the world), but they are highly threatened by climate change, and we’re very lucky to see one in Africa. This bird has no fear of humans, so be cautious and respectful if you go and see it. SANParks is guarding the animal to make sure it’s kept safe.

regards

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

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Newsletter: Electric sea

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

No diving

We won’t be diving this weekend, and there won’t be a newsletter (or diving) next week, but we’ll be back in business after the public holiday on Heritage Day (24 September). This weekend, Saturday looks good, and Sunday ok for diving.

I launched for divers on Tuesday, and they had fairly good conditions (5-6 metre visibility at Sherwood Forest and Castle Pinnacles) but the surface conditions deteriorated as the day progressed and the wind picked up.

Bioluminescence at Fish Hoek beach
Bioluminescence at Fish Hoek beach

This past weekend, helped by the south easter and then the heat, a thick red tide got caught in Fish Hoek bay and as a result we were treated to some incredible bioluminescence (caused by a type of plankton that fluoresces when disturbed by wave action) on Saturday evening.

This occurs at least a couple of times a year, usually in spring and autumn, on this side of False Bay (and it often makes its way around to the Kogel Bay area on the eastern shore). It is an incredible sight to see. There’s a little video here (pardon the screaming – the beach was packed and the people were excited).

Anyway – see you in 10 days.

regards

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

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Bookshelf: Beachcombing in South Africa

Beachcombing in South Africa – Rudy van der Elst

Beachcombing in South Africa
Beachcombing in South Africa

Why so quiet? What have we been doing? Working, mostly. Trying to stay alive. And a bit of reading, and some beachcombing. Enter this is marvellous little book from fish fundi Rudy van der Elst (A Field Guide to the Common Sea Fishes of South Africa).

Chapter by chapter, van der Elst describes the types of debris that one might find on a beach. After a brief orientation chapter covering the ocean current regime around South Africa, relevant regulations, safety, beach ecology, tides, pollution and more, we launch into a tour of washed-up treasures.

Predictably, many of the items to be found are organic in nature – plants, invertebrates of various types, eggs and egg cases, fishes, birds, and shells. There are also items such as oceanographic devices, tags from marine animals, fishing equipment, cyalumes, buoys – some of these (such as tags) should be returned to their owners, and others should be removed from the vicinity of the ocean (such as discarded fishing nets and lines).

The chapter on marine animals (resting, nesting and stranded) is exceptionally useful and it is almost for this alone that I’d like to put a copy of this book in every home in every coastal town in the country. Seals, whales, turtles and seabirds can end up on the beach, sometimes in difficulty and at other times not. It can be hard to tell, and well-meaning members of the public can unwittingly cause great harm while trying to assist. A list of useful contacts in this regard appears at the end of the book, such as the Two Oceans Aquarium and the SPCA (region-specific).

The final two chapters cover miscellaneous “treasures” such as fossilised sharks teeth, sea glass, logs, and actual treasure, as well as beachcombing through the ages in South Africa. Here we learn about tidal fish traps, coastal caves, and other historical coastal dwellers who made their living from the sea.

We’ve found some awesome things on the beach, from shipwrecks to goose barnacles to rare crabs. Beachcombing is an accessible hobby that requires nothing but time, observation skills, curiosity, and a beach to stroll on.

This is a beautifully illustrated, comprehensive little volume that deserves to come with you on your beach holiday. It’ll prompt more careful examination of the flotsam and jetsam on your local beach, and, probably, more early morning low-tide visits to find the best pickings!

Wild Card magazine featured this book when it was published. Get it online here if you’re in South Africa, or here for your Kindle.

Bookshelf: Seaweed Chronicles

Seaweed Chronicles: A World at the Water’s Edge – Susan Hand Shetterly

Seaweed Chronicles
Seaweed Chronicles

This is one of the best kinds of popular science book. It reads so easily that by the time you’ve absorbed enough material to attain a diploma in phycology (the study of seaweed), you also feel as though you’ve met and befriended a varied cast of individuals whose lives revolve – in various ways – around slippery marine algae.

It’s written by an American author, and the book centres squarely on the coast of Maine in the United States, obviously much loved by the author. It’s not clear initially that the geographical focus of the book is so narrow; some readers may want to know this in advance. While reading, I was grateful for the perspective that a Veld and Sea seaweed foraging course gave me on our local seaweeds.

Vignettes of seaweed-centred lives, from foragers turned businesspeople, to scientists, to shepherds whose flocks feast on seaweed during their coastal sojourns, introduce us to a cast of characters illustrating the many uses and commercial possibilities of seaweed, as well as the management and conservation challenges associated with its harvest. Seaweeds are pivotal in coastal ecosystems, providing vital habitat and sustenance. This isn’t just a science book (which some may find frustrating). It’s as much about the people as about the seaweed – but you will learn some science from it!

There’s a good review here at the New York Journal of Books.

Get the book here if you’re in South Africa, otherwise here.

 

Bookshelf: Sea Change

Sea Change: Primal Joy and the Art of Underwater Tracking – Craig Foster & Ross Frylinck

Sea Change
Sea Change

The Sea Change project may be familiar to you from their large format photographic displays, one of which was for a time along the promenade in Sea Point, and is currently in Lamberts Bay. You may have read about the project, or seen its members – ocean-loving filmmakers, journalists, scientists – diving in the cold water of False Bay year round, without wetsuits. You may even have seen the BBC’s Blue Planet II series, in which the filmmakers, guided by Craig Foster and his fellows, captured an incredible octopus sequence filmed on our doorstep in False Bay.

The Sea-Change book has been a long time in the making, and is the product of hours upon hours upon hours spent in the water, observing the animals that call the kelp forests home. The book contains a story of loss and discovery – that of Ross Frylinck – interwoven with large-format photographs of scenes from the kelp forest, taken by filmmaker and naturalist Craig Foster, a co-founder of the Sea-Change project. Foster also provides the captions.

As a diver, it was immediately clear to me that a great deal of patience and close observation was required to gain the deep understanding that Foster has of the smallest creatures living among the kelp. There is no substitute for time in the water. There is no substitute for swimming slowly, deliberately, and for spending extended time looking at one place. The marks that animals leave on rocks, kelp stipes, the sand, and even on each other’s shells, can tell a story.

I learned a huge amount about animal behaviour from this book, and about the interconnectedness of all the elements of the watery, beautiful world around the Cape Peninsula. The photographs are beautiful and striking, capturing moments that one would be extremely lucky to see during the normal course of things. Diving for more than an hour a day, every day of the year, however, makes such things more commonplace.

Sea Change presents a beautiful opportunity for the wider community of ocean lovers to learn from the unique approach taken by the Sea-Change team (this article gives a good sense of it), and to learn how to understand and observe the animals that surround us when we look beneath the surface of the inshore kelp forests. The project also has something to say about how science happens, and the vital connection between science and storytelling. Identifying animals is fun, but – as any veteran twitcher will tell you – the next level is understanding behaviour. This is a challenge I’m happy to take up.

Get a copy here, or directly from the Sea Change team.

Newsletter: The joy of kelp

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

No diving The forecasts vary wildly this weekend. Windy says howling south easter everywhere, whilst other sites say mild wind suitable for some Atlantic diving. The mountain will break some of the wind so I am sure Table Bay sites will be good, and Hout Bay much the same. I have students for the pool this weekend so there are no launches planned.

Kelp forest near Pyramid Rock
Kelp forest near Pyramid Rock

Kelp night

Learn all about kelp at the Two Oceans Aquarium next Thursday evening, 31 January. There will be talks on kelp science, kelp as a habitat, and kelp as a snack. Read more here, and book tickets at Quicket.

Camera housing

Clare is selling her Sony underwater housing that fits the Sony RX100 range of cameras. If you’re interested, drop me a mail and I’ll put you in touch with her.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Newsletter: Batten down the hatches

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

No diving

Fish Hoek Beach on a stormy evening
Fish Hoek Beach on a stormy evening

We have not had that much in the way of proper stormy weather this winter, however, that seems set to change for the weekend. Strong winds, big swell and lots of rain don’t bode well for any diving activities… Unless it is in the aquarium.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Newsletter: Signs of summer

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: Boat dives from False Bay Yacht Club

Sunday: Boat dives from False Bay Yacht Club

The Admiral's Waterfall after heavy rains
The Admiral’s Waterfall after heavy rains

We are certainly seeing some strange signs of summer despite the fact that this time of year is supposed to be wet and cold. While the warm weather this month does make surface intervals pleasant, they do also mean we’re not having the rain we need, and they encourage plankton blooms, which reduce the visibility.

There are some large patches of algae blooming around but I think there will be clean conditions by Saturday if the current north westerly winds hold. I am keen to launch on Saturday and Sunday but will decide tomorrow on where and when. Let me know if you want to dive!

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Newsletter: Signs of winter

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

No launches planned – diving on Tuesday and Wednesday next week!

The weekend has typical winter conditions. A long period swell of around 5-6 metres with 30 – 40 kilometre/hour winds means really rough and bumpy surface conditions, not the kind of conditions I enjoy diving in. We have no planned launches. Go flower hunting instead. (The flower in the picture, Hessea cinnamomea, only blooms the winter after a fire, and then goes dormant, sometimes for decades, until the next burn.)

Hessea cinnamomea at Cape Point
Hessea cinnamomea at Cape Point

The visibility is decent and that won’t change too soon. Tuesday and Wednesday have less swell and very little wind so we will launch then. Download a leave form and complete it, and send it in to whoever will miss you if you don’t turn up at work… And join us for some aquatic therapy.

regards

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

Diving is addictive!

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Goose barnacles in motion

Ok, so there had to be a video. Here are some of the goose barnacles (Lepas testudinata) that I found on Noordhoek beach last month. Bear in mind that they are out of their natural habitat (which is sea water) and were struggling in the sun. (I did try to drag some of the kelp back to the sea, but the pieces were huge and high up on the sand.) This group of barnacles was quite frisky, and shows you what a raft of kelp colonised by goose barnacles might look like if you swam underneath it.

For more on goose barnacles, visit this post.