Christmas gift guide 2018

Chaps, Festivus (for those of you who find tinsel distracting) is around the corner. This year, as a principle, the gifts that I’m giving to the people I care about are skewed towards experiences, and when they are things, I’m trying to make them beautiful things that will enable my chums to live more sustainable lives.

Before I get going, however, can I point you to this excellent, far more comprehensive, far more inspired gifting guide over at twyg? Their first suggestion is “don’t gift at all”, and this is probably something well worth considering, if it won’t cause a domestic diplomatic incident.

Tinsel from the sea (Champia compressa)
Tinsel from the sea (Champia compressa)

Here’s a quick list of ideas in case you’re struggling.

An experience

A dive course or boat dive with Tony, a family photo shoot, a day out at Cape Point or up Table Mountain in the cable car, a digital magazine or streaming television subscription – use your imagination!

Something water wise

It’s likely that most of us will never, in good conscience, be able to resume watering our gardens the way we used to. For this reason, water wise plants are high on my list of excellent gifts for keen gardeners. For ideas of what plants to choose, your local nursery will help, or you and the avid coastal gardener in your life can consult this excellent book.

Something to minimise waste

  • A set of stainless steel or glass straws (Sustainable.co.za is one stockist), glass or copper straws (check out EbonyMoon for these), or a pack of paper or other biodegradeable straws to keep at home and/or carry around like a dork for use at restaurants.
  • A reusable coffee cup – Seattle Coffee Company sells beautiful Keep Cups, as do Vida e Caffe and many supermarkets. ecoffee cup sells beautiful bamboo cups, with a range of designs to choose from.
  • A reusable shopping bag – most supermarkets stock bags of some description, as does Faithful to Nature. 3friends has beautiful Shweshwe printed bags that are very special. We should all have a reusable shopping bag in our handbags, as well as several in the car.
  • A bokashi bin, which you can find at Builders Warehouse or at many nurseries. Don’t be grossed out – we have significantly improved the soil quality in our garden, and don’t put out any food waste or scraps with our garbage any more, thanks to diligent use of this nifty indoor composter!

Something to lift up someone else

Some deserving, marine-related recipients of a donation on your friend’s behalf are:

There are many more excellent non profits than just these three, and so much need, but do your research carefully. My rule of thumb is, if the founder’s face is plastered everywhere and it looks more like a personality cult than an NPO, it’s not a cause that I want to give my bucks to.

A donation of time is a way to do something great, and spend time with someone you care about. Promising to join a friend for a beach cleanup followed by a coffee (in your reusable cup, your treat) gives a gift to the planet, and the gift of time to someone you value. To find a local clean up, follow the Beach Co-Op (facebook) and Cape Town Beach Clean Up (facebook). The Two Oceans Aquarium also arranges periodic beach cleans. (Non-Capetonians, facebook and google search are your friend.)

Looking back

Previous years’ gift guides, which contain some good ideas – if I say so myself:

  • 2017 – for info on Wild Cards or My Green Cards, small specific gifts for divers and water people
  • 2015
  • 2014
  • 2013 – for info on gift ideas for readers
  • 2012
  • 2011
  • 2010

Be safe, be kind, be frugal, be wise! Thanks for reading.

Newsletter: Who you gonna call?

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: Boat dives from False Bay Yacht Club

The forecast for Saturday looks rosy so we will launch from the Simon’s Town jetty at 9.30 and 12.00. Both dives will be shallow, most likely Roman Rock and Photographer’s Reef. False Bay is a little patchy so dive sites might change.

Yoshi the loggerhead turtle
Yoshi the loggerhead turtle

Turtles

Amazingly, we still meet people who don’t realise that baby sea turtles – and even big ones, if they’re poorly – can’t survive for long in the cold waters around the Western Cape. Luckily the Two Oceans Aquarium has a well-developed turtle rehab facility, where they look after turtle hatchlings and older turtles brought in by members of the public.

The turtles receive veterinary treatment, vitamin supplements, a healthy diet, and excellent care from a dedicated team of aquarists. The aim is to return all the turtles that regain sufficient health to survive independently, to the wild, as most sea turtle species are vulnerable. These turtles are released in each year in December, when the warm Agulhas current is at its closest to Cape Point, giving the turtles their best chance of survival. The most famous release story is Yoshi, who swam all the way to Angolan waters, and is now off Namibia again, heading south. Maybe she misses us.

If you find a stranded sea turtle, keep it safe and dry, and notify the aquarium as soon as possible. The NSRI can assist with large turtles, and know how to help. There’s more information on what to do here.

Like turtles? Want to read about turtle science in South Africa? We have just the book for you.

Diversnight 2018

This year, Diversnight is on Saturday 3 November. The aim is for as many divers to be underwater at 20h18 as possible. More details to follow closer to the time!

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: Love is…

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Maybe, maybe not (read on!)

I would love to be writing to you, claiming a weekend ahead with stunning dive conditions…. But I am not. The week has had some looooong period large (i.e. Dungeons) sized swell. Although the swell drops off for the weekend, the wind (mostly northerly) and its strength (strong), don’t look all that great.

Heart-shaped sea star
Heart-shaped sea star

I am out on the boat tomorrow and the conditions should be the same for Saturday so if it’s good… I will change my plans, otherwise it is most likely going to be a dry weekend. If you want the option of diving based on tomorrow’s conditions, let me know.

What to do if you find a stranded sea turtle?

A tiny little chap was found at Kommetjie this past week. If you find a stranded turtle, keep it dry, and transport it as soon as possible to your nearest turtle rescue point. If you’re in Cape Town, this is most likely the Two Oceans Aquarium directly, or the Shark Spotters info centre at Muizenberg, who will make sure the turtle gets to the aquarium for rehabilitation and future release. Read more about what to do on the Two Oceans Aquarium website, 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!

#CitSciDay2018 at Kirstenbosch

Citizen Science Day 2018 was on Saturday 14 April, and the day was dedicated to a Citizen Science Fair in the conference facilities at Kirstenbosch Gardens. I attended most of the talks, and took a stroll around the expo to see what projects are on offer.

The Citizen Science Fair exhibition hall at Kirstenbosch
The Citizen Science Fair exhibition hall at Kirstenbosch

I tweeted throughout the day, and have embedded the tweets starting each of my threads below. Click on the tweet (just in the middle, on the white background) to open it on twitter and see the full thread of everything that was shared, or just click on the links in the text preceding each of the three tweets. I included lots of links, so if you want to get more information on any of the citizen science projects in question, half the legwork has been done for you.

Here’s a thread of what took place before teatime:

Before lunch this is what happened:

And after lunch we heard all this!

Not surprisingly, iNaturalist featured strongly. It’s replaced iSpot, and many of the projects rely on iNaturalist for recording of sightings, and identification. You can create an account for yourself and start contributing to several projects by submitting photographs of what you’ve seen, and tagging them appropriately. Here’s SeaKeys on iNaturalist, and more information on this important project – which is a good place to start as a diver in Cape Town.

Peter & Georgina talking about SeaKeys
Peter & Georgina talking about SeaKeys

We’ve posted before about citizen science opportunities in Cape Town; here’s the info on marine projects, and here is more detail on a few of the terrestrial ones. There’s a LOT going on in this wonderful world, so you can definitely find what interests you!

Bookshelf: Shark

Shark – Brian Skerry

Brian Skerry is a National Geographic photojournalist, with whose TED Talk you may be familiar. This book is a collection of articles – about sharks – that appeared in National Geographic magazine, accompanied by one magnificent shark photograph after another. Each chapter’s text is reasonably short. Here, the photos are the primary focus.

Shark
Shark

The chapters focus on four species of shark: great white, white tip, tiger sharks, and mako sharks. Additional text is contributed by several National Geographic writers, and experiencing the familiar editorial quality and stylistic approach of the magazine is like settling down for a chat with an old friend.

The final chapter of the book, written by Skerry, is an appeal for increased understanding of sharks and their vital place in ecosystems, and increased protection for them – in the form of marine reserves, and less fishing, for example. The photographs selected for this chapter makes it clear that in Skerry’s view, science (especially tagging studies) is vital to the endeavour of better understanding sharks, and protecting them.

Get a copy of the book here (South Africa), here or here.

Bookshelf: Manta

Manta: Secret Life of Devil Rays – Guy Stevens & Thomas Peschak

I found this book to fill a significant gap in my manta ray knowledge, which was (to be honest) virtually nonexistent. Author Guy Stevens is founder of the Manta Trust and a Save Our Seas project leader, and has spent 15 years in the Maldives studying these enormous, charismatic elasmobranchs. The Manta Trust co-ordinates global manta research efforts, with the aim of protecting and conserving mantas and their relatives.

Manta
Manta

The photographs in this book are by Thomas Peschak, co-founder of the Manta Trust, with whose extraordinary work you should be familiar. (If not, look here, here and here.)

Everything you might want to know about mantas is here, without being glib about the fact that there is still much we do not understand about these animals. The text covers their biology, life histories, threats to their survival, an identification guide, and numerous accounts by field scientists who study mantas and devil rays. (It was hard not to be envious reading some of the day-in-the-life bits!)

This is a beautiful, substantial book. Get it here.

Bookshelf: Pain Forms the Character

Pain Forms the Character: Doc Bester, Cat Hunters & Sealers – Nico de Bruyn & Chris Oosthuizen

Marion Island is one of South Africa’s two sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands, technically part of the Western Cape province. The South African National Antarctic Programme runs a meteorological and biological station there, dedicated to research. The researchers study weather and climate, ecosystem studies, seals (southern elephant seals, and Antarctic and sub-Antarctic fur seals), killer whales and seabirds such as albatross, that nest on the island. Researchers usually spend either three or 15 months at a stretch on the island, whose rugged terrain, intimidating wildlife and challenging weather can be said to “form the character”!

Pain Forms the Character
Pain Forms the Character

Marion Island is also infested by rats, introduced from whaling ships in the 1800s. With no predators, they multiplied to the extent that they threatened seabird populations. Cats were introduced in 1949, and by the 1970s there were 3,400 cats on the island. The cats ate mice, of course, and seabirds. An ambitious eradication program – of which our incredible friend Andre was part – eliminated the last of the cats in the early 1990s. The rat problem has resurged since the cats were removed, but work is in progress to get rid of them, too.

The research programs that currently exist on Marion Island are the legacy of Dr Marthan “Doc” Bester’s 40 year career as a scientist and researcher, and this book is a tribute to him. For this book, authors compiled photographs and testimonies from Bester’s colleagues, former cat hunters, and students, and he is the thread that ties this beautifully produced volume together. The focus is less on the scientific findings (you can find those online), and more on what it’s like to live on Marion Island, with the text complemented by many, beautifully evocative photographs.

Get a copy of the book here.

Bookshelf: Between the Tides

Between the Tides: In Search of Sea Turtles – George Hughes

I have been late in coming to this book, which was published about five years ago. George Hughes is a world-renowned, South African turtle scientist whose work has done much to ensure protection for sea turtles in the southern Indian Ocean. He was the guest speaker at an event held at the Two Oceans Aquarium to celebrate the release of Yoshi, the loggerhead turtle who spent over 20 years at the aquarium and is now powering along the Namibian coastline in rude health.

Between the Tides
Between the Tides

Dr Hughes was CEO of the Natal Parks Board and then Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, but Between the Tides relates his early career as a student looking for turtles along South Africa’s wild north east coast, in places that today support thriving dive and fishing charters. His legacy of turtle research continues.

Turtle surveys were conducted around Madagascar, the Comores, Reunion, the Seychelles, and on the Mozambique coast. The fact that the iSimangaliso Wetland Park now exists, offering a protected and well-regulated breeding environment for three species of turtles (loggerhead, leatherback and green – discovered there in 2014) is thanks to the early and persistent work of Dr Hughes and his colleagues. Turtles were first found nesting on this piece of coast in 1963, when it was still completely wild and mostly neglected by the authorities. In this book Dr Hughes recounts the development of the tagging program that he started, in which over 350,000 hatchlings were flipper tagged and/or marked over a period of 31 years.

Only about two out of every 1,000 hatchlings survive to return to the area in which they hatched, to breed. Female loggerheads are estimated to reach maturity around the age of 36 years, during which time they navigate an ocean of threats. This makes every surviving hatchling incredibly valuable.

The recovery of the number of loggerheads, in particular, has been quite spectacular, with more modest but noticeable gains in the leatherback population. More recently, as technology has allowed it, satellite tagging has shown their movements around the Indian ocean

If you find a baby sea turtle on the beach (this is the time of year when they start washing up), here is what you should do. The most important thing is to keep it dry, and to contact the aquarium as soon as possible.

Dr Hughes also discusses the sustainable use of sea turtles (for example, for food), something which I’d never thought about and which for that reason is fascinating – and very challenging to come at with an open mind, and appreciating the viewpoints of a scientist who has been steeped in turtle research for most of his life.  This is an excellent, proudly South African marine science book, written to be accessible even to those who aren’t turtle fanatics a priori. Highly recommended.

Get a copy of the book here (South Africa), here or here.

Farewell (for now) to the short tailed stingrays

This my the final video (for now) of short tailed stingrays (Dasyatis brevicaudata) swimming under the boat on a sunny February day in between dives.

The IUCN Red List has these rays as of “least concern”, but they are protected in Western Australia because of their tourism value. There are locations in this region where tame stingrays interact with visitors; much like the rays at Struisbaai harbour.

Bookshelf: Nicole

Nicole: The True Story of a Great White Shark’s Journey into History – Richard Peirce

Nicole’s story is not new, and can be summarised briefly. She was a great white shark, tagged in Gansbaai near Dyer Island in November 2003. In February 2004, Nicole’s tag popped off as scheduled, 11,000 kilometres from where she was tagged, in a location off Western Australia. In August 2004 Nicole was again identified in Gansbaai, having made the return journey.

It was the first, furthest and fastest recorded transoceanic migration by a white shark. Its most important consequence was that it provided scientific grounds to advocate for extended protections for white sharks, outside of South Africa’s territorial waters.

Nicole
Nicole

The book Nicole chronicles Nicole’s journey, and the work of the researchers who studied her, many of whom have gone on to illustrious careers (but be warned, the names of several of the scientists are subject to creative misspellings). The book beautifully put together, with a lot of photographs. This and the simple, vivid writing style make it an ideal gift for shark-obsessed youngsters. In imaginative interludes the author describes what Nicole might have experienced as she swam to Australia and back.

The scientific paper describing Nicole’s migration can be found here (paywalled) and here (pdf), and there’s some excellent information about Nicole on Michael Scholl’s White Shark Trust website. He was the researcher – now CEO of Save Our Seas – who identified Nicole’s distinctive dorsal fin on her return to Gansbaai. Read a review of Nicole and an interview with the author here.

Get a copy of Nicole here (South Africa), or here.