All about Diversnight (and the unifying power of cake)

November is around the corner, and with it one of the regular fixtures on our diving calendar: Diversnight. Diversnight is a community diving event, which aims to get as many divers underwater as possible for a night dive on the first Saturday of November, at a time corresponding to the current year. So last year we dived at 20:17, and this year, we’ll all try to be underwater at 20:18 (8.18 pm). Get it?

Night diving for Diversnight 2017
Night diving for Diversnight 2017

Diversnight is a Norwegian invention that has spread around the world. It’s a great way to meet and mingle with fellow divers. The event is for everybody and the aim is a collective one (which is very Scandinavian, now that I think about it) rather than a quest for individual glory. In the past we’ve been grateful to share the shallows with divers from various local clubs and origins. I’d encourage you to join in if there’s a Diversnight event near you, or start your own one, even if it’s small.

There is some information about the history of this mysterious Nordic scuba event on the Diversnight website, but (as usual) I had a lot more questions, so I contacted the Diversnight team to see if they’d be willing to submit to an interview.

Ludvig and the rest of the team were very kind to answer all of my questions, and the interview follows below. When Ludvig mentioned the Diversnight team’s belief in the unifying power of cake, I felt that we were kindred spirits. Hope to see you at one of the Diversnight events in Cape Town on Saturday 3 November at 20:18!

Traffic on the jetty for Diversnight 2017
Traffic on the jetty for Diversnight 2017

Who is the Diversnight team? Is Tone, who founded Diversnight (according to your website) still involved? Do you all live in the same town, or are you spread far and wide?

The Diversnight Team consists of three people:
Tone Svee Dahl – The founder of Diversnight. Still involved in keeping the rest of us in line with the Diversnight spirit.
Thomas Kalve – Designed and built the new Diversnight website, keeping all the technical doohickeys up and running making sure people can register both sites and numbers.
Ludvig F. Aarstad – Mainly running Diversnight communications on a semi-daily basis. Keeping the Diversnight Facebook page up to date with registrations from the Diversnight website, and generally trying to bring the word out to as many people as possible.

What kind of diving do you all usually do – are you recreational divers, or hardcore ice or cave divers?

The Diversnight Team is all recreational divers, though some of us has been known to dive under the ice on a couple of occasions.

How did you start to spread the word of Diversnight outside Norway?

According to the Diversnight History, Diversnight started off as a regional night dive through the website Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Finnish divers frequented this site. Most of the foreign users of the site were Swedish, and when they heard about Diversnight they wanted to participate and the Danes were also offered to join. When we saw that this was a great success, we actively contacted various diving websites on the internet.

How do you publicise Diversnight every year? It looks as though the number of divers participating each year changes quite a lot (up and down) – do you know why?

The date and time of Diversnight each year is published at both the website and the Diversnight page on facebook. We have also sent out this info via email to all registered contacts on the website, but we are now mainly focusing on using facebook as the communications channel.

Every year we see some sites dropping off and new ones joining due to various reasons. The weather has a huge impact in some areas, but it also boils down to how good we are in promoting the event.

Still we see that this has now become an important, yearly event for many divers, dive centers and diving clubs.

There was a very big increase in number of divers and number of countries from 2008-2009. Can you remember what caused that jump in numbers?

The reason for the huge jump in numbers from 2008 to 2009 is probably due to the massive use of facebook, and a real effort from all the Diversnight Team, when promoting the event. The Diversnight Team used to be bigger, and we then had more capacity then we have today. More people reach out to more people.

Can you tell me what a typical Diversnight dive is like for you in Norway? I am from Cape Town, so the sun sets at around 7.30pm in November. So it is not yet dark when we get into the water. The air temperature can be 15-20 degrees and the water 14-16 degrees. So it is a little cold, but not terrible. Most people wear wetsuits not drysuits. I imagine it is a bit different in Scandinavia?

In Norway, based on where you are located, the water temperature will range from 6 to 8 degrees. Surface temperature will be about 3 degrees, and it will be dark. Drysuit is a must :).

Speaking for my own club, the actual dive/event takes place like this:
People will gather maybe an hour before the actual dive time to ready their gear and register with the dive leader. We also usually have a treasure hunt during the dive, where sunken tokens can be exchanged for prizes, if found. If many prizes are left, the remaining will be in a raffle amongst all the registered divers.

Cake, coffee, mulled wine (non-alcoholic) etc. is served, and we have bonfires. Also, one year in Estonia they were more than 20 divers, diving between ice flakes. Still they were in the water with huge smiles after a fantastic night dive, even if most of them were using semi-dry suits!

On that subject, why did you choose November (originally December) and not June or July, when it is warmer weather? Or was it just by accident that it ended up being at that time of year?

The reason it was started in December is that the idea of a nationwide night dive was conceived by Tone at a place called Scuba Bar in Oslo, one November night in 2005. It took her/them roughly three weeks to get the concept together, with the idea of showing everyone that diving wasn’t just a summer activity and that even if the temperature shows -10 degrees celsius and it is pitch black it is still fantastic to dive and very social at the same time, being key.

The reason it was moved to November is because almost all of the Nordic dive sites were frozen over in December 2010, and the reason it was moved from being on a Thursday to being on a Saturday is simply by request of the Diversnight community.

Nigella's blondies for Diversnight 2017 - these were good (if I say so myself)
Nigella’s blondies for Diversnight 2017 – these were good (if I say so myself)

Is cake still a big part of Diversnight for you? What kind of cake did you have last year (if any)? We had blondies, which are chocolate brownies but made with white chocolate instead of dark chocolate.

Cake is still an essential part of Diversnight, and the Diversnight Team try to emphasize this as often as we can. On the first cake dive, Tone noticed how incredibly unifying a cake can be, so she kept inviting people to cake dives. The rest of Norway adopted this, and the tradition was born. By these cakes, people got to know one another, new friendships were established, and new buddy teams were formed. Cake proved to have a way more unifying effect than simply eating your food with others.

Again, speaking for my own club, last year we had a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting coloured ocean blue for the occasion and decorated with edible sea creature ornaments.

There is no special Diversnight cake, even though Tone has baked the same cake for years. The recipe was posted, by Tone, on the Diversnight facebook page, and on the website recently.

Is there anything that you want people to know about Diversnight, or any cool story you’d like to share?

Well, the story of Diversnight is cool by itself, and is covered by the article written by Tone herself on the website. We would like everyone to help us spread the word about Diversnight. We want Diversnight to keep living as a worldwide night dive, connecting people from the diving community all over the world through and the Diversnight facebook page.

Diversnight is a great way of showing the world that diving is a sport that can be enjoyed all hours of the day, all days of the week, all year round, even if you live in the cold north somewhere.

Through Diversnight, we all dive together, even if some are in Africa and others in Norway. The idea is to be together, have fun doing what you love, experience something together, and eat cake!

My husband’s children live in Denmark, so each time we visit them we try to explore a little more around Scandinavia. Last year we spent some time in Sweden, and Norway is definitely on the agenda for a future trip. What is the diving like where you are? Does it vary a lot around the coast? Do you dive in lakes too?

We dive in fjords and also out toward the open sea. The Norwegian coastline is very long, and offers a lot of excellent places to dive. To my knowledge, there is not much diving in lakes in Norway.

Getting into the water close to 20:17 for Diversnight 2017åç
Getting into the water close to 20:17 for Diversnight 2017

Many thanks to Ludvig for getting together answers to my many questions! We hope that Diversnight goes from strength to strength.

A visit to the Blue Planet aquarium in Copenhagen

On our last day in Denmark, after a week-long family visit between Christmas 2015 and new year 2016, we went to Den Blå Planet, Denmark’s national aquarium. (Actually we were wrong about it being our last day in Denmark, but that’s another story involving Turkish Airlines, who seem to innovate in the field of disappointment.) The aquarium is situated in Kastrup, Copenhagen, quite close to the airport, and overlooks the narrow sound called the Øresund, which separates Denmark from Sweden.

The Blue Planet after the mist cleared
The Blue Planet after the mist cleared

We visited on 1 January, after (eventually) sleeping through the sounds of Copenhagen’s residents letting off five hundred metric tons of fireworks, starting at 5.00 pm the day before. We bought tickets online (a small saving in Danish krone that amounted to eleventy million ZAR) and arrived at opening time. The building is surrounded by a reflection pool, and is built in a spiral form inspired by the shape of a vortex. In the larger halls the high ceilings give a tremendous sense of space; at 10,000 square metres, the building is very large. The halls are generally wide and I imagine it could accommodate a very large number of people before feeling crowded.

Layout of The Blue Planet
Layout of The Blue Planet

The aquarium is divided into three sections. The first is focused on the life found in the lakes and ocean of Denmark and northern Europe. I particularly enjoyed this first part of the aquarium. The animals are adapted to the cold water, so some of them were very similar what we find around Cape Town, and the displays were creative and interesting. There was also the obligatory “anchor with fish” tank, which was (as always) mesmerising. One of the pictures in the gallery below is of Tony checking it out.

Two sea otters live at the aquarium, having been rescued as infants and raised by hand. The male and female otters were found in Alaska when they were four months old with a broken jaw and wounds after a boat strike, and as a 1.5 kg abandoned one day old respectively. As usual, seeing such an intelligent animal in captivity stirs up all sorts of conflicting feelings. That said, you are a stronger person than I am if you could have left these two baby otters to their natural fate (that is, death). The otters spend a lot of time (up to six hours per day) grooming, and in between keep very busy, requiring a lot of enrichment from their four keepers. It was magical to see them.

Also in the northern seas and lakes section is the puffin exhibit, mimicking the cliffs of the Faroe Islands, a Danish territory. Here, also, we found a touch pool (which the Danes call a sensing-aquarium), and a terrifying ambulatory mascot.

The second section of the building is devoted to tropical lakes and rivers, with incredible freshwater exhibits. We saw piranhas, terrapins, frogs, little black rays the size of pancakes, with white polka-dots, and electric eels. The rainforest exhibit is kept at a temperature and humidity level that are impressive in the Scandinavian winter, and I can imagine that this part of the aquarium is popular with expats from warmer climates!

The third part of the aquarium is for the rest of the ocean, and although it’s a big ask to cover (or summarise) so much in the remaining space, it does a fabulous job. The Ocean tank holds four million litres of water, and is home to rays and hammerhead sharks, and other warm water fish. Amongst many other things, there are seahorses, leafy seadragons and coral reef fish to see.

Feeding time in the Ocean tank
Feeding time in the Ocean tank

We watched feeding time for a while, which was quite funny – the aquarists row out onto the water in a small inflatable boat, and administer the snacks from on board. Standing in the tunnel, we could see the boat from below, with the oars working frantically against what I imagine was a bit of surface current.

One of the things that Den Blå Planet does really well is to integrate multimedia, virtual reality and interactive technology into the aquarium experience. This reduces the number of animals required to be on display, and – for the most part – probably takes care of itself, requiring no cleaning and feeding. My favourite such exhibit was the bouncy plankton wall in the ocean section of the aquarium. The photo below is pretty terrible because the display moves all the time, but I put a video on instagram which shows how the plankton clear a space for you when you walk along the wall.

Plankton multimedia display
Plankton multimedia display

We finished off our visit with a flæskesteg sandwich at ØST, the restaurant at the back of the aquarium. It was still a bit misty, but the large windows looking out over the sound let in a lot of light. There is a play area outside, and despite the midwinter temperatures, children in snow suits were making the most of it.

The restaurant at the aquarium, ØST
The restaurant at the aquarium, ØST

I did not get the same strong conservation message from my visit to The Blue Planet that I think the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town works so hard to propagate. This could be because of different cultural approaches to living a “green” lifestyle; in Scandinavia the government does a lot of the work for you, providing renewable energy, prioritising  pedestrian and bicycle traffic, and making it ridiculously easy to recycle, for example. In South Africa it is more of a conscious personal choice and effort to reduce one’s environmental footprint, and there is there is thus perhaps more of a requirement for direct conservation messaging.

Anyway, if you’re in Copenhagen, visit! Next time we’re in Denmark, we’ll check out the little Øresund Aquarium at Helsingor, which is entirely focused on local fauna.

Newsletter: In from the cold

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: Launching at 9.00 from Oceana Powerboat Club, conditions permitting

We are back from a trip up north… Really far north – so far north that the temperatures, so I was told, were 0 – 2 degrees Celcius but to me felt like minus 50 degrees. It was great diving in False Bay this week in 22 degree water.

Clare in the (fake) snow at Tivoli
Clare in the (fake) snow at Tivoli

The weekend is a little on the questionable side as the wind and swell forecasts are not promising. I think the best option is going to be Table Bay, and If we go it will be to North and South Paw. I will take a look there tomorrow at the conditions and confirm late afternoon to those on the list if we are diving. Let me know if you’re keen to dive by email, text, or message in a bottle.

Den Blå Planet aquarium in Copenhagen
Den Blå Planet aquarium in Copenhagen

Enrichment activities

If you’re at  a loose end in the wind and feel like braving the Waterfront, check out the highly-recommended Titanic exhibition, on until March. If you buy tickets using this link, 20% of the ticket price will be donated to the NSRI.

While at the Waterfront, there’s also the 2015 Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Chavonnes Battery Museum.


Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099

Diving is addictive!

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Article: Wired on the Maersk Triple E

The CMA CGM Alexander von Humboldt, one of the world's largest container ships
The CMA CGM Alexander von Humboldt, one of the world’s largest container ships

Photographer Alastair Philip Wiper visited a South Korean shipyard to photograph a Maersk Triple E container ship under construction. These ships are designed to be fuel efficient and more environmentally friendly than existing ships. They are 400 metres long and everything about them is dauntingly huge. Wiper is a photographer who appreciates the beauty of industrial spaces, and his images of the Triple E are breathtaking. You can read more about the Triple E class ships here.

It is my fervent hope that next time we visit family in Denmark, one of these Maersk ships is open to the public for a walkabout…

Read the article and see Wiper’s images here.

A Day on the Bay: Around the world

Date: 26 December 2013

This Danish vessel is sailing around the world
This Danish vessel is sailing around the world

It’s not often I get to crack out some Danish here in Cape Town, but I had that opportunity just after Christmas when I met the crew of this amazing looking yacht. (It reminded us of this Danish fishing boat.) You can see the red and white Dannebrog on the stern. The group were sailing around the world, and were spending some time relaxing in Simon’s Town before the next leg of the journey.

We motored past the boat several times before the conditions were suitable for me to greet them and shoot the breeze a bit. The skipper told me (in Danish) that the rest of the crew all needed a break from the pressures of modern society, and the teamwork and focus required to skipper across the world’s oceans was just what they would benefit from. We would probably all benefit from something like that!

Afterwards we headed south towards Smitswinkel Bay, and looked for clean water.

Hej hej!

Friday photo: Record breaking shark

Record breaking great white shark
Record breaking great white shark

This model of a white shark hangs in the entrance foyer of the Guinness World Records museum on the pedestrianised street called Strøget in Copenhagen, Denmark. I’m surprised by how detailed it is; you can see the ampullae of Lorenzini on its snout.

We didn’t go inside the museum – it was a sunny day, and luckily for us we can see live great white sharks with not too much effort, right at home.

Friday photo: Danish fishing boat

A Danish fishing vessel
A Danish fishing vessel

This photo of a traditional Danish fishing boat was taken at the harbour in Aabenraa, where we saw some sea jellies and some ducks. I confess to having intoned “Aaaabenraaaa” to myself for several kilometres of driving after we passed through the town.

Friday photo: Farø south bridge

One of the Farø Bridges
One of the Farø Bridges

The Danish island of Farø is connected to the islands of Falster and Zealand (Copenhagen is on Zealand) by two bridges called (surprise!) the Farø Bridges. They’re lovely. Here’s one of them, the south bridge, just under two kilometres long, seen from a rest stop on Farø. It is a cable-stayed bridge and joins Falster to Farø.