28 February 2005

Scuba dive sites in South Africa: Mosselbaai

Great White Shark cage diving in Mosselbaai
The Mediterranean style seaside town of Mossel Bay is situated on a sun washed peninsula embraced by the Indian Ocean. The Guinness Book of Records features the town as having the mildest year round climate in the world, second only to Hawaii. Mossel Bay is a very rich area with its abundant sea life of diverse fish, seals, whales, penguins and other sea birds, dolphins, the occasional Orcas and of course a plentiful supply of the Great White shark.

Mossel Bay is not an industrial town but a delightful place with beautiful north facing beaches, good surfing, sailing, windsurfing, hiking trails, dive spots, bungi jumping and is central to the Garden route with an abundance of things to do and see. There is accommodation to suit all pockets, with a variety of restaurants available.

Statistics kept of Great White sightings over the last five years help to pick the best possible time of the year being April to July and September to November.
Read the full article:
Scuba dive sites in South Africa: Mosselbaai

Port Elizabeth's famous dolphin dies

Dolly the dolphin has followed Max the gorilla into animal history, after Port Elizabeth's famous bottlenose died on Thursday, aged 36.

The oldest Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphin to be born and bred in captivity died at Port Elizabeth's Bayworld oceanarium late on Thursday afternoon, Bayworld spokesperson Eluise Matthys said.

There are as yet no physical indications of what may have caused her death.

An autopsy had been performed and tissue samples had been sent away for analysis.

"They are all very shocked. Some of them dedicated their lives to her," Matthys said of the oceanarium's staff.

"Dolly was an icon for Port Elizabeth. She's always been there and although she was old it happened so suddenly," she said.

"She had her own character. Dolly was well known for doing what she wanted to do, she was a very special lady."

She is survived by her three calves, Domino, Thumzi and Dumisa.

Dumisa, born in September last year, is still suckling.

The oceanarium's staff are now concentrating their energies on ensuring her well-being, introducing her to fish while feeding her electrolyte solutions.
Read the full article:
Port Elizabeth's famous dolphin dies

Tsunami reveals ancient port

Indian archaeologists have found what they believe are undersea "stone structures" that could be the remains of an ancient port city off India's southern coast, officials say.

The archaeologists learnt of the structures after locals reported spotting a temple and several sculptures when the sea pulled back briefly just before deadly tsunamis smashed into the coastline December 26.

Divers discovered the stone remains close to India's famous beachfront Mahabalipuram temple in Tamil Nadu state, Alok Tripathi, an official from the state-run Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), said on Saturday.

"We've found some stone structures which are clearly man-made. They're perfect rectangular blocks, arranged in a clear pattern," he said aboard the Indian naval vessel Ghorpad.

Tripathi headed a diving expedition after the tsunamis uncovered the remains of a stone house, a half-completed rock elephant and two exquisite giant granite lions, one seated and another poised to charge in Mahabalipuram, 70km south of Madras.

The objects were found when the towering waves withdrew from the beach, carrying huge amounts of sand with them.

Tsunami 'gifts'
Experts say the tsunami "gifts" discovered in Mahabalipuram belong to the Hindu Pallava dynasty that dominated much of South India from as early as the first century BC to the eighth century AD.

Mahabalipuram is recognised as the site of some of India's greatest architectural and sculptural achievements.

Since February 11, Tripathi's team of a dozen divers have been scouring the seabed, diving three to eight metres, to examine rocks with "geometrical patterns".

"European mariners and travellers, who visited Mahabalipuram in the 18th century, wrote about the existence of seven pagodas (temples) here," he said.

"Some believed it was a myth, others thought six of the pagodas sank under the sea while one remained as a rock temple on the shore.

"In fact, some scholars believe the entire city, barring a few rock structures and carvings, were submerged under the sea."

The divers have brought up pottery pieces and small stone blocks from the seabed.

"We'll study everything to gain an insight into early settlement in this area," said Tripathi.

Indian Navy commodore Brian Thomas said "extensive diving" had taken place east of Mahabalipuram's shore temple with underwater cameras used to record findings.

"The sea was often rough due to the wind and underwater visibility was very poor," Thomas told AFP. "But we found that the area was strewn with a number of blocks of various shapes and sizes."

Coastline redrawn
The findings were expected to be presented at an international seminar on maritime archaeology in New Delhi between March 17-19, archaeology officials said.

Tripathi said experts would study how old the rocks were to fix the date of the ancient civilisation at Mahabalipuram.

Cartographers say the waves which left nearly 16 400 dead or missing in southern India and the country's far-flung Andaman and Nicobar islands have redrawn the entire Mahabalipuram coastline.

One of a clutch of temples is partially submerged. But the magnificent eighth century Shore Temple, a UN World Heritage Site famed for its carvings representing characters from Hindu scriptures, survived the sea's fury.

This was thanks to a move by India's then prime minister, Indira Gandhi, who ordered that huge rocks be piled around the building to protect it from sea erosion after visiting the site in the late 1970s, officials say.
Read the full article:
Tsunami reveals ancient port

24 February 2005

Solo diving, a forbidden fruit?

It?s a cardinal sin. I know it, you know it, your buddy knows it.

Your instructor in your open water class (as close to clergy as we get in the SCUBA industry) told you so in just about every class session.

NEVER EVER DIVE ALONE! Second in importance perhaps to always keep breathing, never hold your breath, the taboo of diving without a buddy is stressed more than any other theme in SCUBA. We even created a workshop (Sea Wolff Diving Buddy Procedures Workshop) to fine tune buddy skills. Although we strive and train to be self sufficient divers, choosing to dive with a buddy is the easiest and most effective step we can take to ensure our own safety.

The first time a new diver sees a diver enter the water without a buddy, the cross comes up, the garlic is used like deodorant, and their instructor is deluged with the question /statement: He?s not supposed to do that! is he? Invariably, the instructor shows a little grin and shrugs his shoulders.

Although the buddy system is heavily emphasized in the industry today, there are many divers that dive alone. We see them on the wrecks in the northeast, on the reefs in the Caribbean, in the lakes and quarries; probably every place but under the ice. The truth of the matter is, right or wrong, solo diving is practiced by many divers. Some do it as part of work (the divemaster that goes down alone to set or release the hook) and some do it for convenience (the photographer waiting for the coral polyp to open). There is no machismo associated with solo diving, just a perceived need. Regardless of why people solo dive, it is important that they are adequately prepared for the task.

Before I go any further I wish to make it perfectly clear that I DO NOT CONDONE NOR PROMOTE SOLO DIVING, regardless of a diver?s experience level. For those of you that solo, there is no condemnation from here; I have no doubt you have your reasons and hope you are adequately prepared for the task. The purpose of this article is to provide divers with an intelligent basis for answering the question - ?Should I go solo??

Solo diving for the sake of solo diving doesn?t really make sense to me, just like we don?t go deep without a purpose, but if you have a need to solo dive you should approach the subject from a conservative and rational point of view. Despite what you have been told by your grade school instructor, priest, and boss at work, ?Negative Thinking? can be a good thing. The decision to become a solo diver should be the result of careful analysis, and not made on the spur of the moment due to a seasick buddy. Take some time to compile a list of reasons that you should not go solo. I have taken the liberty of filling a side bar with general reasons not to go it alone. There may be other, more personal reasons not to attempt or practice solo diving. These range from competence and confidence issues to health and other circumstances.

If you are not sure about your qualifications for going solo and find yourself asking other people if they think you are ready, immediately disqualify yourself from consideration as a solo diver, at least for the time being. Competence and confidence are two qualities that are mandatory for solo divers. Hopefully the competence is real and the confidence is well founded. Here are some other immediate disqualifying points to consider.

Do I have any medical conditions that are normally OK to dive with but would put me at too great a risk if I am by myself? Conditions that people sometimes dive with that may put them at too great a risk to go solo include asthma and heart arrhythmia. Both conditions are generally recognized as contra indications for diving, but there are active divers with both conditions..

Am I in good enough physical shape to beat the stresses involved in an out of air situation? Free ascents from depth can be physically demanding.

Do I have the appropriate equipment to do a dive alone? Reliability and redundancy can?t be stressed enough. Do I maintain my equipment adequately? Annual overhauls and servicing as needed - forget about diving with that slow leaking low pressure inflator.

Am I adequately trained? No agency (to my knowledge) offers a Solo Diver Specialty Rating, so no one but you can answer this question for you (this is true for dives of any type). Your entry level certification prepared you to dive to depths of 60 feet in similar conditions as your check-out dives but not to a 100 feet in zero visibility. The same rationale holds true for solo diving. You may think you are prepared to go solo on a beach dive in Hawaii but that you are not prepared to solo when diving back in Long Island Sound.

What is enough training and experience? The answer to this question is quite subjective so I?ll just say ?a lot!? From a training point of view, I recommend that all divers in the northeast hold a minimum rating of Rescue Diver, not so much for the ability to assist other divers, but for the self rescue skills that are developed during the course. For divers choosing to go solo, I further recommend a training level of Divemaster, Dive Control Specialist, or the equivalent rating from your agency. The skills taught to prospective divemaster candidates include problem recognition, environmental assessments, diver assessments and dive planning are of extreme importance to the solo diver.

Having attained a high certification level is really just the beginning. Are you planning to dive deep? on wrecks? in caves? A high level of expertise must be developed for the type of diving you will be doing. The various specialty courses help you approach the expertise level, but you graduate a specialty course with only basic knowledge of the skills, which must be honed by practice, diving, and more diving prior to your solo dive. To round out your knowledge base you should give yourself extra-curricula reading assignments. There are now dozens of books by recognized experts like Farber, Keatts and Gentile on advanced, deep, and wreck diving. Before diving any wreck by yourself, you should be totally familiar with the wreck, not only from performing many dives on the wreck, but read about it. There are many publications and even TV shows available on the wrecks from North Carolina to Maine. In the NY area, there is Wreck Valley (the book and the TV show) from Dan Berg and Aqua Explorers. Check your local dive shop for the best book or show in your area.

ARE YOU EXPERIENCED? Or I should ask, are you experienced enough to go solo? Experience is another one of those relative terms. It is entirely possible that even after 1000 dives you will not be experienced enough to go solo, and experience in one type of diving can still leave you a neophyte for other types of diving. One of the markers of an experienced diver is the ability to apply common sense. Even the most experienced solo diver knows that he or she can?t go solo in all circumstances. Is the vis too poor? Is the dive too deep? Am I feeling less than 100%? Is the current too strong? Have I done this type of dive enough? Has my equipment been behaving? Is there an appropriate safety structure in place?

Diving under the best of circumstance, is potentially hazardous. Solo diving is sometimes compared to driving in a rainstorm without a seat belt. Not wearing a seat belt is not a guarantee of an accident, but if an accident occurs, the ramifications can be far worse than if the driver is wearing a seat belt, has anti-lock breaks and an air bag. An entangled diver can be freed by his or her buddy, two divers are less likely to get lost, with good buddy teams, neither diver is likely to run out of air or to surface too fast. Unconsciousness (caused by any reason) occurring during a diving accident can be addressed by an attentive buddy. The buddy can help the unconscious diver surface, can pull the diver from the water, can administer CPR, first-aid, and oxygen as necessary, and can summon assistance. There is no help available to the solo diver, so any type of accident is more likely to result in a fatality. Going solo increases your risk of dying in the event of an accident, it may even increase your chances of having an accident. Assess yourself and your skills before deciding to practice Solo Diving. Like in a court of law, only proceed if you are beyond a shadow of a doubt!

Alex Wolff, a SCUBA instructor, is Principal and Technical Director of Sea Wolff Diving. Sea Wolff Diving developed the Sea Wolff Dive Log for Windows, Sea Wolff Diving Buddy Procedures Workshop, SWD Recreational Intensive Training program, the SCUBA Serenity Workshop and consults on PC systems development for the dive industry.

6 reasons to dive with a buddy and NOT to dive alone:

A buddy;
- Has extra air
- can monitor my air consumption, time and depth
- can check my equipment before and during a dive
- can help in case of entanglement
- can perform CPR, First-Aid
- can summon assistance

Source: www.scubadivingplanet.com
Read the full article:
Solo diving, a forbidden fruit?

Elephant kills ranger at Kruger National Park

An elephant has killed a ranger in the Kruger National Park, a rare fatality for those who work among dangerous animals in the reserve, the park said on Wednesday.

The park said in a statement that field ranger Wilson Ndlovu was killed on Tuesday morning while on a bicycle patrol.

It gave no details of the attack but said the area was surrounded by two-metre-high grass and the rangers wouldn't have seen the elephants "until the last possible moment".

Rangers in the park are typically armed with heavy-calibre rifles in case they are charged by big game, which in the Kruger includes elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard - or in case they are confronted by heavily-armed poachers.

Park spokesperson William Mabasa said Ndlovu and another ranger who survived the incident had come across a pair of adult female elephants and one attacked for no apparent reason. Neither animal had calves, ruling out an aggressive defence of young. "It doesn't happen very often... In the five years I've been here we've had no fatal attacks on rangers," Mabasa said.
Read the full article:
Elephant kills ranger at Kruger National Park

23 February 2005

Tips for Controlled Buoyancy

Many factors in diving effect buoyancy control in the water. Divers need to be aware of them and the various means of control. The principal means of buoyancy control are: the amount of weight you wear, the amount of air in your BC, and the amount of air in your lungs.

You must begin your dive properly weighted. Buoyancy testing begins at the surface with your BC completely deflated. Take a deep breath and hold it. Assume an upright motionless position. If you are weighted correctly, you will float at eye level in the water. It may be necessary to adjust the weight in your weight belt to achieve this. Also, if you pick up anything from the ocean floor, that will add weight to you and you may have to compensate.

At depth, you may notice your BC or dry suit expands as you ascend. This happens because, as you ascend, the air inside decompresses and expands. As you move upward, it may be necessary to dump air from your BC. You do not want to ascend too fast. The amount of air to be dumped depends on the depth and the situation. You may gauge your buoyancy during an ascent by your progress and your swimming efforts. If you find yourself rising through the water, you should exhale, turn upright, and dump the air.

You can also use your breathing pattern to control buoyancy until adjustments can be made to your BC. As you inhale, you will notice your body rise. As you exhale, you will notice you body descend. You can learn to use these small subtle movements to help control buoyancy. Other skills, such as properly kicking, can also help.
Read the full article:
Tips for Controlled Buoyancy

Tsunami moved Bangkok 9cm

Bangkok has shifted 9cm because of the December 26 earthquake that measured 9.0 on the Richter scale and sent devastating tsunamis across the Indian Ocean, local newspapers reported on Wednesday.

The tourist island of Phuket also moved 32cm since the quake, said the Chulalongkorn University researchers, who used Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites to measures the shifts during a January 20-24 survey.

"We found that around one month after the earthquake, Bangkok had moved horizontally southwestwards by about 9cm, and Phuket moved horizontally by about 32cm southwestwards as well," researcher Itthi Trisirisattayawong told the Bangkok Post.

"We don't want people to panic. We insist that it is common for land to move by one centimetre a year," Itthi said.

The movements were not expected to affect people's daily lives, he said, but technicians would have to draft new technical maps with the changes geographical positions.

But he told the paper that researchers in Malaysia had found that country has been moving westwards by one centimeter every week since the quake, and that a similar phenomenon was probably happening in southern Thailand.

Itthi's survey engineering department at Chulalongkorn is collecting data from six other locations in Thailand to get a better picture of how the nation's geography has changed, the Nation newspaper reported.

The quake was one of the most powerful on record, and unleashed deadly waves that killed 289 000 people.

The tsunamis killed 5 395 people in southern Thailand, roughly half of them believed to be foreign tourists. Some 3 000 people are still listed as missing.
Read the full article:
Tsunami moved Bangkok 9cm

2004 the 4th hottest year

Greenhouse gases and to a lesser extent the El Nino current in the Pacific Ocean contributed to making 2004 the fourth warmest year on Earth since temperature measurements began worldwide at the end of the 19th century, Nasa scientists said.

"There has been a strong warming trend over the past 30 years, a trend that has been shown to be due primarily to increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," said James Hansen, a climatologist at Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, outside Washington.

The warmest years on record were, in descending order, 1998, 2002 and 2003, the National Aeronautics and Space administration said on its website.

In 2004, the average global temperature was 14� degrees Celsius, or 0.48� Celsius warmer than any year between 1951 and 1980, Hansen said.

The regions with the highest rise in average temperatures last year were Alaska, the Caspian Sea region and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Solar heat trapped by the accumulation of greenhouse gases - especially carbon dioxide spewed out by cars and industries - and the warming effect of the El Nino current could make 2005 approach the record warmth of 1998, Nasa said.

The scientists said the warming trend is already significant enough to permanently make the seasons warmer.

Nasa determines planetary cooling or warming by measuring the temperature at numerous spots around the world, both at ground level and over the oceans from orbiting satellites.

The issue of global warming is controversial, especially in the United States, whose administration has opposed mandatory curbs on the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, which researchers agree is one of the main causes of global warming.
Read the full article:
2004 the 4th hottest year

22 February 2005

Diver meets grisly death in harbour accident

A young diver was killed in a gruesome accident in Durban harbour on Tuesday. Troy Allison, the SAPS dive point commander for the search and rescue unit in the Durban area, said Andre Wolmarans, 20, was killed while cleaning the propeller of a fishing trawler.

Wolmarans was polishing the propeller at the ship repair quay 2 in Durban harbour when the propeller was activated.

Allison said a case of culpable homicide was being investigated by police.

Wolmarans, who was from Vereeniging in Gauteng, had been employed for the past 10 months by Subtech Diving and Marine, a company established in 1995 and operating largely in the port of Durban.

The company's head of health, safety and environmental equality, Andre Krugel, said: "Wolmarans was standing on the propeller and conducting a routine polish when the propeller was accidentally engaged from inside the vessel and he was killed."

Allison said the accident had occurred at about 2pm on Tuesday afternoon.

Attempts to find the diver's body had continued well into the evening as police searched a large area of the harbour.

The body had been found at about 9pm.

Police and Subtech Diving and Marine are investigating.
Read the full article:
Diver meets grisly death in harbour accident

Shark attacks on the rise

Shark attacks on humans, while rare, rose slightly in 2004 to 61 worldwide, and will rise more, said a study released on Monday.

The 2004 International Shark Attack Files reported 61 unprovoked shark attacks including seven deaths: two in Australia; two in the United States; and one each in Brazil, Egypt and South Africa.

The attacks rose above 57 in 2003, but were fewer than 63 in 2002, 68 in 2001 and 78 in 2000.

However, the attacks have been rising since the beginning of the 20th century, and reached their high point in 1990, with 481 in 10 years, according to the group, which keeps the worldwide statistics.

The cause is not a growing appetite for human flesh among sharks, George Burgess, the group's director, said.

"There's more people, each year there's more people on the face of the Earth and more of those people in fact, are going into the water each year," he told AFP.

Burgess said that the 1975 film Jaws helped raise awareness and lower injuries, but for the wrong reasons.

"I'm sure it did have some effect, but in this case is purely bad science," said the scientist based at the University of Florida in Gainsville.
Read the full article:
Shark attacks on the rise

Perlemoen worth R1.2m seized

Police seized 715kg of dried perlemoen (abalone) valued at about R1.2m at Johannesburg International Airport on Monday morning.

The consignment was destined for Hong Kong via Dubai, but was returned to South Africa from Dubai, said Tumi Golding, spokesperson for the police divisional commissioner of crime intelligence.

Police had opened a case of smuggling, she said.

This is the third large haul of contraband goods this month. Police seized 5 000 Dynabol steroids valued at R600 000 from a home in Olympic Park in Pretoria after noticing a suspicious waybill on February 16.

One person was arrested, and after appearing in court was out on bail of R5 000.
Read the full article:
Perlemoen worth R1.2m seized

South African Hornbill faces extinction

Loss of habitat looks set to put paid to one of South Africa's more distinctive and charismatic bird species, the southern ground hornbill.

The savannah-dwelling birds, once widespread across the country's grasslands, now face a "very real possibility" of extinction, says the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

There were less than 1 500 of the birds left in South Africa. The species had experienced a 50% decline in range and a 10 percent decline in numbers over the past three decades.

"A recent national workshop to evaluate the current status of the southern ground hornbill in South Africa and develop a conservation strategy for the species, revealed (they) are a lot more threatened than previously thought.

"A very real possibility exists that South Africa may lose its ground hornbills in the near future unless something radical is done. As an indicator of the current status of South Africa's savannah biome, the status of this species is alarming," EWT said in a statement.

According to the trust's Ground Hornbill Working Group manager, Kerryn Morrison, populations of the birds still exist along the Limpopo River valley, the Kruger National Park, the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, and as far south as the Transkei region of the Eastern Cape.

She told Sapa the main reason for the decline in the number of hornbills was transformation of its habitat and disturbance of its nesting sites, usually made in old trees or on cliff faces.

The southern ground hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri) is classified as "vulnerable" in the Eskom Red Data Book.

The turkey-sized birds, which can grow up to a metre in height, are easily recognised by their large bills and distinctive red face and throat markings.
Read the full article:
South African Hornbill faces extinction

Oil slick in lake angers residents

Angry residents complained on Monday that a thick oil slick had appeared on the surface of Top Lake at Umbilo Park, Durban, killing marine and bird life.

Simon Dean, the chairperson of the Umbilo Conservancy, said that the water in the two lakes in the park was fed through the stormwater drains.

"It seems that somebody dumped a great deal of oil into the stormwater drains. We now have a thick rim of oil on the Top Lake.

"The water surface has oil. The lilies are covered with oil and now the birds are getting into it," said Dean.

He said he had reported the matter to the Fire and emergency department, which had referred it to the water and waste department.

"There has been no sign of them, and I have been told that a team will be sent in some time today. It might be too late," said Dean.

A spokesperson for the water and waste department said the problem would get attention.
Read the full article:
Oil slick in lake angers residents

Experts warn of changing weather patterns

One day after the Kyoto Protocol went into effect climate experts issued a report on Thursday saying the Earth is getting warmer with polar ice melting resulting in dramatic climate changes, especially in the north.

"The debate over whether or not there is a global warming signal is now over, at least for rational people," said Tim Barnett of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Using new computer models that look at ocean temperatures instead of the atmosphere, the United States marine physicist evaluated nine million temperature readings made by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to calculate a steady ocean warming of a half degree Celsius from 1969 to 1999.

The observed temperature changes in the oceans is conclusive proof that global warming is being caused by human activities, according to the researchers speaking at at an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

At the same time sea levels are being changed by the melting of Greenland's ice cap, which contains enough ice to raise sea levels globally by seven metres, according to Ruth Curry of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Curry found that between 1965 and 1995, melting ice from the Arctic region poured into the normally salty northern Atlantic, changing the water cycle, which in turn affects ocean currents and, ultimately, climate.

"As the Earth warms, its water cycle is changing, being pushed out of kilter," she said. "Ice is in decline everywhere on the planet."

If the trend continues, it threatens the sensitive circulation system called the Ocean Conveyer Belt. Curry warned it is in danger of shutting down, and the last time that happened, 8 000 years ago, northern Europe suffered extremely cold winters.

Though Curry is concerned the ice cap is in danger of collapsing, she added that the ocean currents are now intact but said "the system is moving in that direction".

Melting Artic ice is also depleting important food supplies for animals and shrinking ice shelves meant big animals such as walruses, polar bears and seals were losing their homes, according to Sharon Smith of the University of Miami.

Smith found birds were also suffering. "In 1997 there was a mass die-off of a bird called the short-tailed shearwater in the Bering Sea."

Warmer waters caused a plankton called a coccolithophore to bloom in huge numbers, turning the water an opaque turquoise colour, preventing the shearwater from seeing its prey.
Read the full article:
Experts warn of changing weather patterns

Sri Lanka's coral reef reserves still intact

The first assessment of damage to wildlife caused by the Asian tsunami has found that nature has been surprisingly resilient to the devastating effects of the giant waves.

More than 200 000 people are believed to have been killed and entire coastal settlements wiped out in the aftermath of the Boxing Day earthquake which sent a huge tsunami across the Indian ocean, affecting a dozen countries.

But scientists who have just completed an extensive investigation into the tsunami's impact on the wildlife of Sri Lanka - one of the worst affected countries - have found little lasting damage to the natural landscape.

Sanjayan Muttulingam, a Sri Lankan born scientist with the Nature Conservancy in the United States, said that the two-and-a-half week field trip with the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society entailed a survey of the country's largest coral reefs and terrestrial wildlife parks.

"We carried out four different surveys of the marine environment and we found low to minimum damage to the coral reef although the water is still very murky," said Muttulingam.

Scuba divers who visited the reef saw much evidence of the mayhem caused on land in the form of debris ranging from shoes to large metal poles and abandoned fishing nets, although much of the coral was still healthy and intact.

"The coral showed only minimal signs of recent breakage, most notably at Hikkaduwa (a marine park) where several large fragments of live coral were found. In all, the live coral seemed to have fared well through the tsunami," Muttulingam said.

In terms of Sri Lanka's coral reefs, which are an important attraction for the tourist industry, the main threat now is from the debris that still continues to scrape away and destroy the delicate coral lifeforms, he said.

The survey team also investigated the impact on Yala National Park, which constitutes 250 000 acres of protected dry scrub forest and estuaries.

Yala has 85km of mostly undisturbed coastline.

Land along the coast had been devastated and the human settlements reduced to fields of rubble but the destruction was localised.

"The impact of the tsunami on the intact coastline of the Bundala and Yala National Parks is severe, at least at first look, but localised."

"There is major structural damage to the vegetation and the grass is almost uniformly brown in areas inundated by the water. However, there is already extensive signs of re-growth and regeneration," Muttulingam said. "As we went deeper into the jungle, the signs of obvious destruction and human loss receded," he said.

In one place, the tsunami inundated the forest for up to 3km and the land looks like a moonscape. But most other areas look untouched, he said.

The scientists estimated that between five and eight percent of Yala National Park has been affected but even in many of the affected areas the grass and trees are already beginning to regenerate, he said.

One of the worst problems could be the invasion of the forest by prickly pear cactus plants - an alien species to Sri Lanka - which have been dispersed by the wave from towns to the countryside.

A British expert on tsunamis left this week for the Maldives where she will attempt to assess the damage caused to these remote, low-lying islands.

Sue Dawson of the University of St Andrews, an expert on coastal erosion and sea-level change, said that she will study the sediment left behind by the tsunami to assess its wider impact.

"We are gathering a geological record of the damage previous tsunamis have caused," she said.
Read the full article:
Sri Lanka's coral reef reserves still intact

Ocean cooler, less salty

Scientists have discovered a rapid change in the temperature and salinity of deep waters in the Southern Ocean that could have a major impact on global climate, the team's leader said on Thursday.

Australian Steve Rintoul said the multinational group of researchers had found that waters at the bottom of the Southern Ocean were cooler and less salty than they were 10 years ago.

The size and speed of the change surprised the scientists and could indicate a slowdown in the flow of deep water currents, he said.

"Ocean circulation is a big influence on global climate, so it is critical that we understand why this is happening and why it is happening so quickly," Rintoul said after he and his team docked on Thursday at Hobart on the Australian island state of Tasmania.

"We really need to dig into this much more than we were able to do on the ship to try to be more definitive about whether this is climate change or a natural climate cycle," he said.

The team sampled 3 000km of the Southern Ocean basin during an eight-week expedition aboard the Australian Antarctic Division's research ship Aurora Australis.

Their findings added new urgency to the study of climate change, he said.

"It's another indication that the climate is capable of changing and is changing now," he said.

"What we need to do is sort out if this is human-induced change and if so, how rapidly is the climate going to change and what will the impacts of that change be?" he said.

A huge boost to climate research
The new findings emerged a day after the UN's Kyoto Protocol on climate change came into force. The treaty aims to cut production of so-called greenhouse gases believed responsible for a warming of the Earth's climate.

During its expedition, the Australian-led team released 19 free-floating ocean robots known as Argo floats, which are designed to drift with ocean currents to better measure temperature and salinity.

The floats, part of an international ocean-monitoring effort, drift about 2 000m underwater and surface every 10 days to deliver findings.

Rintoul said the Argos would provide a huge boost to climate research.

"They will revolutionise how we understand the ocean, in particular to determining climate change and shorter climate cycles," he said.

"One of the real challenges for us when we try to answer the question of 'is this climate change?' is that we only have measurements from a few southern snapshots," he said.

"We haven't measured it continuously in time so it's hard for us to tell the difference between a cycle, something moving up and down, and a long-term trend. That's the real challenge."
Read the full article:
Ocean cooler, less salty

17 February 2005

Mixed reaction to South African wind farm

Initial reaction to government's first experimental wind energy farm at Klipheuwel near Stellenbosch has been mixed, Eskom said on Monday.

"In local conditions it will have to be horses for courses with the correct turbine chosen for the weather conditions in that area," said Dr Louis van Heerden, Eskom's energy research manager.

This sentiment was borne out in the Klipheuwel research, which showed that of the three turbines, the smallest was performing the best under high wind (summer) conditions, while the largest turbine was performing the best under weak wind (winter) conditions.

Van Heerden said overall annual production for the three imported turbines, which rise like giant aircraft propellers on towers out of the flat farmlands, was just over four gigawatt hours (GWh) or one thousand megawatts.

An average house uses two to three kilowatts at peak times.

He said the three-year research programme has provided valuable information, including information about the turbines' operation and maintenance requirements.

Asked if wind power could be successfully used in the Western Cape, Van Heerden said it could indeed be harnessed from a "technical perspective", in that the equipment worked, but the technology was not economically viable.

"The dispatchability, predictability and generation cost of wind is a concern. Storage technologies, in specific battery type, are continuously monitored but the technology at this stage is non-commercial and not a viable option yet."

Van Heerden said wind power was still very expensive compared to conventional technologies in South Africa. The addition of bulk energy storage something might have an impact in future, if the energy could be stored and dispatched whenever necessary.

"This (bulk energy storage) has the potential to increase the plant capacity factor and provide dispatchable power. The critical issue is, however, to provide this energy storage on a cost competitive basis," said Van Heerden.

He said the cost of wind energy was decreasing constantly, but it would be some time before it was cheaper than conventional generating technologies.
Read the full article:
Mixed reaction to South African wind farm

Drought: Govt gives R130m

The cabinet decided on Wednesday to review the country's disaster management system completely and has allocated more than R200m for drought and disaster relief.

Government spokesperson Joel Netshitenzhe said R75m would go towards local disasters and R130m to drought relief.

A further R15m had been allocated to victims of the December 26 Asian tsunami disaster, he said.

The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting where a "programme of action" for the coming year was finalised, said Netshitenzhe.

Another matter discussed was the government's obligation in terms of combating terrorism.

South Africa, as a United Nations member state, was obliged to prosecute or extradite anyone supporting or taking part in terrorist acts, Netshitenzhe said.

He said the government already had instituted all measures to comply with the United Nations resolution, and was committed to work to "combat this scourge (terrorism)".

The cabinet also approved changes to the correctional services system to promote a more-integrated approach with civil society, and a focus on rehabilitation, said Netshitenzhe.

These changes would be promulgated in a white paper on corrections shortly.

The government also allocated R1m to the South African Development Community HIV/Aids trust fund, which contributes to HIV/Aids programmes on the basis of need.
Read the full article:
Drought: Govt gives R130m

Tons of tsunami aid stuck at Durban airport

About 100 tons of clothing and food aid collected for South Asian tsunami victims is sitting at Durban International Airport and will never reach the people it was intended for.

This is because aid workers in the affected areas have been inundated with relief aid and have requested that no more food and clothing be sent.

The Acting Director General of the Sri Lankan Red Cross, Ranjith Mudalide, said: "We are moving away from the relief phase and into the second phase, focusing on reconstruction. We need materials for housing to rebuild and to restore the economic livelihood of the people."

Mudalide said there was still a need for medical supplies.

At the airport, tons of clothing and food donated by organisations, private donors and companies stands unused.

The Airports Company of South Africa's Manager of Data and Research, Chris Jacobs, pleaded for companies to stop donating food.

He said the company hoped that the goods at the airport could be distributed among the needy in KwaZulu-Natal.

The airport has approached the South African Red Cross Society in an effort to get the goods distributed locally.

However, KwaZulu-Natal Red Cross Manager Derick Naidoo said it was difficult to redistribute aid because the donors had given the goods in the expectation that they would be sent to tsunami-hit areas.

"We cannot take this stuff and distribute it locally without the donors' permission," he said.

Naidoo said he would like to remove the goods from the airport within the next few weeks. He said about 40 tons of goods had been sent from South Africa.

Cash donations can be made to: SA Red Cross Standard Bank; Westville branch; code 045426; account number 050 28 3359
Read the full article:
Tons of tsunami aid stuck at Durban airport

Kyoto Protocol may yet benefit South Africa

South Africa is well positioned to take advantage of the Kyoto Protocol provision allowing countries to trade carbon credits, says Sterling Waterford Securities CEO Gregor Paterson-Jones.

Minerals and energy department spokeswoman Yvonne Mfolo said yesterday that the scheme could see the country reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 21-million tons and generate revenue of about R618m by 2012.

The Kyoto Protocol, which comes into effect today, is a legally binding international agreement to reduce emissions of gases such as carbon dioxide to pre-1990 levels.

The protocol's clean development mechanism allows developed countries to trade carbon credits in international markets.

The credits allow companies in developed countries that are struggling to meet stringent emissionreduction targets to buy credits from countries that pollute less than their allotted limits.

Although it is one of the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide in the world, SA is not defined as an industrialised country under the protocol and is not required to reduce its gas emissions.

Paterson-Jones said SA had the potential to create significant amount of credits by supporting emission-reduction projects locally and at the same time bring in much-needed foreign direct investment.

His company is on the verge of listing instruments derived from carbon credits on the JSE Securities Exchange SA, subject to approval from the stock exchange.

Anton-Louis Olivier, director of Dutch energy company NuPlanet, said the European Union was the biggest market for carbon credits because of laws forcing countries there to reduce their gas emissions.

Sterling Waterford Securities director and former environmental affairs and tourism minister Valli Moosa said yesterday that the emerging carbon market would force industrial companies to comply with the protocol, especially because SA had one of the highest per-capita rates of gas emissions in the world.

Moosa said reducing greenhouse gas emissions would require regulation through legislation and market forces.

The Bethlehem Hydro energy project in Free State, currently being developed by NuPlanet, is one of six projects that the minerals and energy department has identified under the Kyoto Protocol's cleandevelopment mechanism.

Construction at the project is set to begin in three months' time.

Olivier said the planned hydro-powered plant would reduce carbon dioxide about 25 000 tons a year.

The project's financiers include NuPlanet, Development Bank of Southern Africa and the Energy Development Corporation.

Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said yesterday that although SA was not required to reduce its gas emissions it had to diversify its energy sources by developing alternative renewable and noncarbon-based sources of energy.

Van Schalkwyk said he was concerned that US, one of the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, had not ratified the United Nations-backed Kyoto Protocol.

Nongovernment organisation SA Climate Action Network is expected to demonstrate outside the US consulate in Johannesburg today in protest against the failure of the US to ratify the international protocol.
Read the full article:
Kyoto Protocol may yet benefit South Africa

Sea Squirts May Wield Power Over Human Disease

A small and humble sea creature akin to a tube of slime might play a key role in saving the lives of many as a new treatment for cancers that have become resistant to current drugs. These tiny creatures use strong chemicals to defend themelves against fungi and bacteria that may cause disease in the sea squirt.

The Subphylum Tunicata (Urochordata) contains about 1,600 species of marine animals called tunicates, or sea squirts. The name tunicate comes from the cellulose-containing tunic that surrounds the animal. The creatures have either spherical or cylindrical bodies that are attached to the underwater rock and strata at the base or stalk.

On the outside are two projections, a siphon that brings water into a pharyngeal chamber and a siphon through which the water is then expelled. It feeds using a mucous net that traps plankton which are then transported to the stomach for digestion. The tunicate larva (sometimes called "tadpole larva") has a well-developed notochord, propulsive tail, dorsal-tubular nerve cord plus a brain, balancing organ and an eye, complete with lens!

Scientific researchers from Scotland's Aberdeen University are working to identify the methods used by the slug-like creatures to defend themselves from infection. Professor Marcel Jaspers from the university?s chemistry department was given a grant of �157,000 to find a way to capitalize on the sea squirt's unique infection fighting "mechanisms.
Read the full article:
Sea Squirts May Wield Power Over Human Disease

16 February 2005

How To Equalize Your Ears

Because of the pressure that water causes on the eardrums, you need to be able to equalize when diving. It's similar to "popping" your ears while flying. Here are a few easy steps to equalise your ears.

Here's How:
- Descend into the water.
- Lightly pinch your nose.
- You may either swallow or gently blow against your pinched nose.
- Continue the technique as you descend or as needed.

Do not wait until you feel pain or discomfort to equalize.
Colds, allergies, and sinus problems make the situation worse.
Read the full article:
How To Equalize Your Ears

Kyoto Protocol receives mixed response

After years of delays, a world plan to fight global warming goes into force on Wednesday, feted by its backers as a lifeline for the planet but rejected as an economic straitjacket by the United States and Australia.

The 141-nation Kyoto Protocol formally takes effect at midnight New York time with celebrations in the ancient Japanese city of Kyoto where it was signed in 1997.

Green groups and the United Nations say it is a crucial first step in trying to limit the onslaught of higher temperatures, rising seas and greater extremes of weather.

But some developed nations say the pact is unfair because it excludes major developing nations India, China and Brazil, whose growing economies comprise more than a third of humanity.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for global unity.

"Climate change is a global problem. It requires a concerted global response," he said in pre-recorded remarks to be aired during a ceremony in Kyoto later on Wednesday.

"I call on the world community to be bold, to adhere to the Kyoto Protocol, and to act quickly in taking the next steps. There is no time to lose!"

The pact is the first legally binding plan to tackle climate change, building on a scheme launched at an Earth Summit in 1992 to stabilise emissions at 1990 levels by 2000, a goal not met.

In Sydney, ice sculptures of kangaroos and koalas melted during a protest by green groups over Australia's refusal to ratify the pact. Prime Minister John Howard says Kyoto is bad for industry and unfairly excludes rapidly growing India and China.

Australian Conservation Foundation vice president Peter Christoff berated Howard for his stance.

"It's time that he actually got involved in the only game in town when it comes to dealing with climate change globally. Australia has just completely missed out. I think it is shameful," he told protesters in the southern city of Melbourne.

Kyoto aims to brake a rise in temperatures widely blamed on human emissions of heat-trapping gases that may spur ever more hurricanes, floods and droughts and could drive thousands of species of animals and plants to extinction by 2100.

Under the deal, developed nations have to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels in power plants, factories and cars, by 5,2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

"Kyoto gives us a very solid basis for our climate policy," said Klaus Toepfer, head of the UN Environment Programme, praising it as a small first step towards preventing what could be catastrophic climate change in coming decades.

But Kyoto has been weakened by a 2001 pullout by the United States, the world's top polluter and source of almost a quarter of human emissions of carbon dioxide.

US President George Bush has dismissed Kyoto as too costly and misguided for excluding developing nations from the first phase to 2012. His administration once denounced it as "an unrealistic and ever-tightening regulatory straitjacket".

Kyoto backers say rich nations are probably the main cause of a 0,6C (1F) rise in world temperatures since the industrial revolution and so should take the lead by cutting use of fossil fuels and shifting to cleaner energy such as wind and solar.

"Kyoto won't do very much in itself but it creates a framework for action," said Kristian Tangen, head of Point Carbon analysis group in Oslo. "But there is a a real risk that the whole thing will collapse after 2012."

Big developing nations are unlikely to sign up after 2012 unless the United States joins, he said.

The United States is not alone in snubbing Kyoto. Many Kyoto supporters are far above 1990 benchmarks.

Spain and Portugal were 40,5 percent above 1990 emissions levels in 2002, Ireland 28,9 percent and Greece 26 percent, according to UN data. By comparison, Australia was 22,2 percent above 1990 levels and the United States 13,1 percent.

"Until such time as the major polluters of the world, including the United States and China, are made part of the Kyoto regime it is next to useless and indeed harmful for a country such as Australia to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol," Prime Minister Howard told parliament on Wednesday.

In India, the world's second most populous nation, editorials in leading newspapers gave mixed reactions to Kyoto.

"The Kyoto Protocol ... comes into force on February 16 under circumstances that do not reflect well on policy-makers in many countries," the Hindu said.

"They swear by a 'globalising world' when it comes to economic phenomena but are hesitant to recognise the common threat to humanity from global warming, the causative factors behind which do not respect national borders or customs gateways."

Even if fully implemented, Kyoto would cut a projected rise in temperatures by just 0,1C by 2100, according to UN projections, tiny compared to forecasts by a UN climate panel of an overall rise of 1,4-5,8C by 2100.

For some, any reduction would be better than nothing. Remote south Pacific islands are already seeing the future of global warming and rising sea levels, as extreme high tides crash over crumbling sea-walls and flood their homes.

Around the globe, glaciers are melting rapidly and there is a growing fear warming could cause huge ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica to melt in the long term, triggering a sea level rise of many metres. Coastlines around the world would be swamped and major cities such as London, Shanghai and New York flooded.
Read the full article:
Kyoto Protocol receives mixed response

Nipper blown out to sea

A teenage trainee surf lifeguard has been rescued after setting out from Milnerton beach on a paddle-ski during routine training and getting into trouble in a strong south-easter, gusting to 60-knots, and a two-metre swell.

Milnerton Surf Lifesaving Club lifeguards on the beach raised the alarm and the club's rubber duck was sent to help Kevin Lemner, 17, while the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) and Metro Rescue were alerted.

Kevin, a nipper, was found struggling in the surf line 10 metres off Sunset Beach, while his paddle-ski had been blown several hundred metres out to sea by the wind, said Paul Teuchert, SA Lifesaving's chairperson of the Milnerton Surf Lifesaving Club.

The teenager was severely hypothermic and had swallowed a large quantity of water.

"We assisted him out of the water and immediately began treatment for severe hypothermia and secondary drowning," Teuchert said.

Emergency rescue paramedics arrived on the scene minutes later and also treated Kevin before taking him to the Milnerton Medi-Clinic. Kevin was said to be in a stable condition.

Teuchert said the wind had blown the teenager rapidly out to sea after he set out from the beach during training early on Tuesday evening, but the club's shore crew had realised he was in trouble.
The rescue crew had spotted the paddle-ski before they found the nipper.

Cape Town Port Control had called the NSRI's Bakoven and Melkbosstrand rescue teams, but they were told soon after that Kevin had been rescued, NSRI spokesperson Craig Lambinon said.
Read the full article:
Nipper blown out to sea

KwaZulu Natal ranger saves colleague from crocodile

A KwaZulu-Natal wildlife ranger, Siphiso Nxumalo, has been recommended for the conservation organisation's highest bravery award for saving a colleague who was attacked by a crocodile in the Black Umfolozi River at the weekend.

Eric Mziwandile Ngcobo, 29, is recovering in hospital in Richards Bay after losing his left hand as a result of the attack.

Craig Reid, conservation manager at Umfolozi, said Ngcobo and Nxumalo were on an anti-poaching patrol when a large crocodile grabbed Ngcobo. Nxumalo fired shots from his R-1 into the water to get the crocodile to release Ngcobo.

After emptying his magazine, Nxumalo then hit the crocodile with his rifle butt.

"His efforts to disturb the reptile worked and it let Ngcobo go and he was able to pull him on to the sandbank," Reid said.

Nxumalo radioed for help and a private helicopter was dispatched from Richards Bay.

The crew located the two along the river and airlifted the badly-injured ranger to the Centenary Game Capture Centre, where Ngcobo was stabilised by paramedics and then taken to hospital.

Ngcobo is said to be in a stable condition.

Both rangers have 10 years' service in the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park.
Read the full article:
KwaZulu Natal ranger saves colleague from crocodile

Kyoto Protocol is about to make waves

Rejected by the United States, the world's plan to combat global warming goes into force on Wednesday amid scant fanfare and United Nations warnings that it is only a tiny first step.

The 141-nation Kyoto Protocol aims to brake a rise in temperatures widely blamed on mounting human emissions of heat-trapping gases that could trigger droughts and floods, raise sea levels and wipe out thousands of species by 2100.

Yet even some backers of the pact, which will be feted on Wednesday mainly in the Japanese city of Kyoto where it was signed in 1997, seem to be lacking enthusiasm.

Many nations, including Spain, Portugal and Ireland, are far above targets for cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases. Britain is in a legal dispute with the European Commission over London's easing of goals for industry and Italy is fretting about costs.

And the United Nations says that fighting climate change will be a long, hard slog.

"Kyoto is without doubt only the first step," Klaus Toepfer, head of the UN Environment Programme, told Reuters. "We will have to do more to fight this rapid increase in temperature on our wonderful blue planet. It will be hard work."

"But if you calculate the cost of acting against the cost of not acting you will see this is the best return on investment you ever had," he said.

Kyoto sets legally binding goals of cutting rich nations' emissions of greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide emitted by burning fossil fuels in power plants, factories and cars, by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.
Read the full article:
Kyoto Protocol is about to make waves

15 February 2005

Scuba dive sites in South Africa: Gansbaai

Great White Shark cage diving in Gansbaai
Gansbaai is little holiday and fishing village situated a 160km from Cape Town. The area has several attractions for the nature lover with whale watching being the most popular. Accommodation may be taken in any of the Bed & Breakfast establishments and the few restaurants offer good quality food. The daily cage diving/sighting trips are launched from the neighbouring Kleinbaai.
Dyer Island has become known as one of only two unique areas in the world where there is an exceptionally good chance to chances see the Great White shark. Other wildlife species such as Cape Fur Seals, Cape Gannets, Cape Cormorants, Jackass penguins, whales and dolphins are also likely to be sighted.

Cage diving is strictly regulated by the authorities and conducted in an ethical way in accordance with international standards. It is absolutely safe and you need not have any diving experience at all, only a short course on safety and the use of the equipment.

The best time of the year is in April - September, when the sharks are particularly active in their feeding patterns (80-99%). Even though you still have a good chance of seeing the sharks during the other months (October - February), their feeding patterns are different and sightings are less consistent (80%).
Read the full article:
Scuba dive sites in South Africa: Gansbaai

Tips for Using a Point and Shoot Underwater Camera

Operating a point and shoot underwater camera is pretty simple, but taking quality pictures is a little harder, especially if your subject is a person. To avoid disappointing pictures, try some of the following tips.

Underwater Lighting
Lighting is the single most important factor in taking decent pictures. Water filters out the sunlight and the deeper you go, the less color you see. Without light, your pictures will end up blue. The flash on your camera helps put back some of the lost colors. However, there is no substitute for the sun. Plan to take your underwater pictures on a sunny day. If it?s a partly cloudy day, wait until the sun comes out from behind a cloud to snap your picture. If the sky is overcast, you won?t have enough natural light for quality pictures.

Lens Focusing
Distance is the key factor in taking well-focused pictures. Because they have fixed lenses, most point and shoot cameras have the best focus at about three to five feet. If you are closer or farther away from your subject than the recommended distance, the picture will be out of focus. Read your camera?s specification papers to find out what distance is recommended for your camera.

Dive Preparation
Before entering the water, discuss with your subject how and where you want him/her to pose for the pictures. If you just want to take snapshots of just about anything, that?s fine. But if you are planning something artistic, coordinating ahead of time will make the dive go smoothly. Also discuss hand signals before entering the water.

Subject Shooting
To get the subject to appear striking in the photograph, position yourself a little lower and shoot upwards. This puts your subject in a prominent position against a lighter background of blue water. You?ll get eye-catching results. Also use your camera in a horizontal or vertical position. You?ll get two perspectives: short and wide or tall and narrow. And remember, you don?t want bubbles in front of your subject?s face, so time yourself to snap the picture before he/she exhales.

Bring plenty of film. You?ll find that taking underwater photographs is fun and addicting.
Read the full article:
Tips for Using a Point and Shoot Underwater Camera

Two hurt as Shosholoza hits whale in Table Bay

Two yachtsmen were seriously injured and another was flung overboard when South Africa's America's Cup training yacht Shosholoza hit a whale in Table Bay.

Such was the impact yesterday that it brought the 25-ton boat to a stop and sent its navigator and a crew member crashing through reinforced carbon steering wheels, which broke clean off.

The boat's skipper, Geoff Meek, fractured a knee. Navigator Marc Lagesse had a narrow escape as one of the steering's spokes pierced his neck, narrowly missing his jugular vein.

"I was checking the compass reading on the starboard steering wheel," he said.

"I hit the steering with my face and part of it pressed my throat. I hurt my collarbone in the process.

"A doctor at the hospital said there appeared to be a hairline fracture."

It would take a few days before he could sail again as his shoulder was painful, Lagesse said.

"I'll be fine by the time Shosho-loza has been repaired," Lagesse said.

Shosholoza sailing manager Paul Standbridge said the rest of the crew had minor injuries and the man overboard was pulled from the sea minutes later.

"It was shortly after midday and we were doing 10 knots. It was definitely not a glancing blow. We saw the whale surface minutes later."

No one could see injuries on the animal.

"The contrast from sailing quietly under spinnaker was dramatic. We came to such an abrupt stop, the sound of the steering wheels snapping sounded like rifle shots," he said.

The team will not be able to sail for the rest of the week while the yacht is being repaired.

"There is some internal structural damage and the mast will have to be taken out.

"We think the keel might have hit the whale full-on," he said.

Shosholoza will be making South Africa's maiden bid for the America's Cup, which takes place in Spain in 2007.
Read the full article:
Two hurt as Shosholoza hits whale in Table Bay

14 February 2005

Causes, Preventions and Treatments for Dive Headaches

Diving headaches have spoiled many a scuba diver?s vacation or dive trip. There are several different causes associated with headaches and diving. It can be as simple as your mask strap being overly tight or as complicated as a symptom of DCS. Here are some common causes, preventions and treatments for diving headaches.

Sinus Headache
A sinus headache is caused by a sinus squeeze during ascents and descents. The symptoms are pain in the forehead, pain in the face or pain in the cheekbone area. A diving headache caused by a sinus squeeze is due to the failure to equalize pressure. Other causes include inflammation of the sinuses or nasal cavity due to allergies or a cold. Remedies include slowing your ascents and descents or using decongestants. The best medicine of all is to not dive when you are sick.

Tension Headache
Symptoms of a tension headache are pain in the head and pain in the back of the neck. Tension headaches are caused by muscle strain due to anxiety and muscular rigidity. Clenching your jaw during the dive can also cause a tension headache. To prevent the development of muscle strain, and consequently a tension headache, you must learn to relax in the water. Eventually you will stop getting this type of headache if you dive within your abilities, gain experience and become comfortable in the water.

Migraine Headache
Symptoms of migraine headaches include severe pain, visual changes, weakness or numbness of an arm and nausea. These symptoms will prevent a migraine sufferer from scuba diving because of the risk of an injury or an accident. Also, many of the medications used to treat migraines contain drugs which will increase the risk of nitrogen narcosis. Anyone who suffers from migraine headaches and wishes to scuba dive must consult a physician, preferably one who has knowledge of scuba diving medicine.

Carbon Dioxide Toxicity
A dull throbbing head pain after diving is usually a symptom of a headache caused by carbon dioxide toxicity. This type of headache is common to divers and is caused by a build up of carbon dioxide in the body. This increase in waste gas is usually due to hypoventilation (too little air intake). Hypoventilation usually happens because a scuba diver doesn?t take large enough breaths from his or her air tank or doesn?t breathe often enough. Simply put, not breathing enough to get rid of the carbon dioxide created in the body will lead to a build up and cause a headache. The best treatment for this type of headache is to take slow, deep breaths to reduce the build up. Carbon dioxide headaches don?t respond well to pain relievers.

DCS Headache
Headaches can also be a sign of decompression sickness (DCS). DCS is caused by the formation of bubbles as dissolved nitrogen comes out of the tissues on ascent. DCS can lead to permanent physical impairment or death. Seek immediate medical attention if a diver complains of a headache and has other signs of DCS: joint pain, swelling, skin rash, itching, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, and extreme exhaustion. A scuba diver is at risk of DCS when he or she does not decompress after long or deep dives, before surfacing, or when he or she ascends too quickly or makes a panic ascent.

Things you can do to help prevent headaches and enjoy your dive are: loosen your mask strap to avoid excess pressure, relax during the dive, take slow deep breaths, avoid caffeine and tobacco, perform a safety stop before surfacing, practice safe diving, and wear sufficient thermal protection
Read the full article:
Causes, Preventions and Treatments for Dive Headaches

Barrier Reef on death row

It could take less than 20 years for rising sea temperatures caused by global warming to kill Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest chain of living coral, a newspaper reported on Saturday.

"We may see a complete devastation of coral communities on the reef and a major change to the pristine values, which at the moment are our pride and joy," professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the Centre for Marine Studies at the University of Queensland, told The Age.

"We are likely to see corals rapidly disappear from great parts of the Barrier Reef, as it has already from large parts of the Caribbean," the daily cited Hoegh-Guldberg as saying.

Coral bleaching - when the water temperature gets so high that it kills the algae which populate and build the corals - presents the greatest risk to the reef. Repeated or prolonged bleaching kills coral.

Australia's last major coral bleaching episode occurred in 2002 and damaged about 55% of the coral systems in the Great Barrier Reef.

Professor Hoegh-Guldberg, who headed a World Bank-funded study into coral bleaching, told The Age that the reef could be in critical danger in 20 years.

"In 20 years' time, bleaching is highly likely to be annual and that will cause shallow-water corals to be in decline," he said.

Researchers had earlier warned that the higher ocean temperatures caused by global warming could kill off most of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef by 2050.

The World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef stretches for almost 2 000km along most of the coast of Queensland state and is one of Australia's most popular tourist spots.
Read the full article:
Barrier Reef on death row

African science gets windfall

The Academy of Science of South Africa has been chosen to receive funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to reports on the Science and Development Network website.

The science academies of Nigeria and Uganda have also received funding.

"The goal is to enhance life for all Africans by making it possible for Africa's scientific community to more effectively tap its potential, both in meeting national needs and in creating a strong science base for public policy," said Bruce Alberts, president of the USA's National Academy of Sciences.

According to the American academy, the science academies in Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda were chosen as the focal points of the new programme "based on their vitality and potential for success, the willingness of each country's government to draw on scientific expertise in decision-making, and the pool of available scientific talent".

The funding will help boost the academies' ability to provide African governments and the public with advice on science-related issues. The money will come from a $20m grant that was awarded last year to the US National Academies to provide support for building the capacities of Africa academies during the next decade.

In line with the goals of the foundation, set up by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the programme will include specific efforts intended to improve policymaking on issues relating to human health.

Alberts says he is keen for African academies to play the same role in providing science-based advice to top decision-makers as the National Academy of Science does in Washington through the work of the National Research Council and other organisations.

Seven African countries were visited by a small team to assess their ability to absorb extra funding and use it effectively. In addition to the three academies that will received the bulk of the funding, separate strategic planning grants are being awarded to the academies of Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya and Senegal, which had been shortlisted.

The initiative will also support various efforts to promote collaboration and joint learning among sub-Saharan Africa's science academies. This is partly a bid to counter criticism that focusing primarily on three countries runs the risk of doing little for scientists in other African countries.

In addition, Canada's International Development Research Centre has agreed to work with the US organisation to support the initiative, and has promised financial assistance to allow the participation of a fourth initial partner, widely expected to be Senegal. - Science and Development Network
Read the full article:
African science gets windfall

World's wetlands under threat

More than 2 000 species of freshwater fish could face extinction, putting further pressure on the 40% of the world's water birds already in decline because of shrinking wetlands across the globe, environmental experts said on Monday.

Delegates to the third Asian Wetlands Symposium - a three-day conference held in India's eastern city of Bhubaneshwar that will also address the impact of the December 26 tsunami - said growing human populations, increasing industrialisation and weak or non-existent environmental laws have resulted in rapidly declining wetlands.

"The rate of loss of wetlands and wetland species are greater than other habitats such as forests and grasslands," said Max Finlayson, president of the environmental advocacy group Wetlands International.

The delegates said on the first day of the symposium that wetlands protect coasts - providing a buffer against tides and floods - and also support plants and animals essential to human survival. Representatives of all the Asian countries affected by the recent tsunami are taking part in the symposium.

Freshwater fish face extinction
Between 1970 and 2000, freshwater ecosystems declined at a much faster rate than many others, Finlayson said. In addition to the decline of water birds, populations of reptiles that use the freshwater environments have also been damaged.

An estimated 20% of the world's 10 000 known species of freshwater fish also face extinction, he said.

"Similarly, mangroves, coral reefs and sea grass beds are under severe threat as are wetlands, lakes and ponds in many parts of the world, including Asia," Finlayson said.

More than 400 people from 31 countries were attending the symposium, jointly organised by the Ramsar Centre of Japan and the state government of Orissa, of which Bhubaneshwar is the capital. Similar symposiums were previously held in Japan and Malaysia.
Read the full article:
World's wetlands under threat

11 February 2005

Scuba diving: Improve you air consumption

Oxygen Consumption
Breathing gas is consumed to supply oxygen to the body and to remove carbon dioxide. The consumption of oxygen is directly related to the intensity of physical activity. When workload increases, oxygen consumption increases and the ventilation rate (the amount of air moved in and out of the lungs each minute) increases. In diving, oxygen consumption is also increased by shivering, which is the body?s method of generating heat from involuntary muscle activity. Although oxygen constitutes about 21 percent of air, in a single breath on the surface less than a quarter of the oxygen is removed. On the surface, air enters the lungs carrying about 21 percent oxygen, and leaves the lungs carrying about 16 percent oxygen. At depth, because of the increased partial pressure, the same consumption of oxygen will extract a smaller percent from the compressed air, so that the exhaled air will contain more than16 percent oxygen. The missing oxygen is replaced by carbon dioxide.

If the breathing gas contains a higher percentage of oxygen, one might think that the oxygen could be delivered with fewer breaths, ventilation rate could be reduced, and the gas supply would last longer. However, this is not the case because a ventilation rate that prevents accumulation of carbon dioxide in the blood must be maintained.

Carbon Dioxide Production
Body metabolism follows two pathways depending on the availability of oxygen. Tissues and organs require oxygen for steady state performance and function but can withstand periods of inadequate oxygen by changing metabolism. Our metabolic fuels consist of sugar and fat. Fat metabolism is preferred during exercise but requires oxygen. If adequate oxygen is not available, fat is not metabolized, and the tissues are obligated to metabolize sugar. The burning of sugars and fats in the body when oxygen is available (aerobic metabolism) results in production of carbon dioxide. When needed oxygen is not available, tissues revert to metabolism without oxygen (anaerobic metabolism).

Sugar metabolism without oxygen produces lactic acid. As lactic acid builds up in muscles and in the bloodstream, the muscles become more acidic, and muscle performance degrades.

After exercise is finished and oxygen is again available, lactic acid is metabolized to carbon dioxide. Because carbon dioxide is eliminated by respiration, breathing does not return to resting level after exercise until all the lactic acid is metabolized. Oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood and the acidity of the blood all contribute to the control of ventilation.

Respiratory rate underwater therefore depends not only on oxygen need, but also on the need to remove carbon dioxide, and the need to control the acidity of the blood. Oxygen-rich breathing gas offers no advantage in reducing gas consumption because when oxygen is abundant, ventilation rate is controlled by the need to eliminate carbon dioxide and to maintain normal acidity of the blood. Thus a breathing gas mixture rich in oxygen cannot be conserved by reducing the breathing rate. This practice (skip breathing) leads to increased carbon dioxide levels in the blood and carbon dioxide toxicity.

Under any diving condition, gas consumption depends on the intensity of physical activity. Exercise intensity depends on how fast a diver swims, the efficiency of swimming and, in some cases, the need to generate heat to combat hypothermia. A large diver will consume more oxygen and produce more carbon dioxide because of the increased amount of muscle tissue. A small diver has an advantage in gas consumption because of a smaller muscle mass.

Other Factors
A diver with severe heart or lung disease consumes air at a very high rate during even minimal exercise. These individuals are so poorly conditioned that they produce lactic acid at a low level of exercise. If an individual has a low maximum oxygen consumption, anaerobic exercise will begin at a low workload and increased ventilation will be required to balance the acid production in the blood. These individuals should not be diving due to limitations caused by illness.

Another cause of high gas consumption is hyperventilation related to excitement or anxiety. This is a common cause of increased gas consumption in novice divers. When a healthy diver, who is not exercising heavily underwater, uses gas at a rapid rate, the cause is usually anxiety. Often gas consumption improves with experience. A diver who breathes rapidly underwater for no physiological reason requires more training to develop an improved comfort level when diving.

For most divers, a single 80 cubic foot tank compressed to 3,000 PSI with air or nitrox should last 50 to 60 minutes on a typical multilevel dive ranging from 40 to 100 feet. If you are using gas at a faster rate or if you consume your air supply well before other members of your diving group, you should have a health checkup to rule out heart or lung disease. If no health problems are present, seek advice about your diving technique and breathing from a diving instructor. Lowering gas consumption is accomplished by avoiding heavy exercise, avoiding hypothermia, learning to be comfortable underwater and maintaining good health. This will be the case whether you breathe air or oxygen-enriched mixed gas. Finally, be sure air is not leaking from your tank fittings, hoses or regulators.
Read the full article:
Scuba diving: Improve you air consumption

Clever octopus sheds light on arm evolution

The octopus may have flexible arms, but it uses them in the same three-jointed way as vertebrates, a finding that sheds intriguing light on how limbs evolved, a new study says.

An Israeli research team filmed octopuses as they stretched out an arm from a hidey-hole in an aquarium to grab a piece of food with their tentacles and bring it to their mouths.

The octopuses, filmed about a hundred times, used a vertebrate-like strategy to carry out the complex movement.

Even though their arms are supple and rubbery, the creatures stiffened the limbs through muscle control and articulated them in a way eerily like that of animals with rigid skeletons, the scientists found.

To carry out the fetching movement, the octopus flexes its arm to form three "joints," located in similar locations to the shoulder, elbow and wrist in humans.

The middle "joint" divides the octopus' arm into two main segments of equal length, roughly like the upper arm and forearm among humans.

This similarity is not an accident, the scientists report in Thursday's issue of Nature, the weekly British science journal.

Limbed species may be very different in physiology, but they each face the same challenge in locating food, seizing it and bringing it their mouths.

Millions of years of evolutionary pressure has determined that the triple-jointed arm is the simplest and most efficient way of achieving this, the study suggests.

"Fetching seems to be an example of evolutionary selection of solutions that are similar even though they are based on quite different mechanisms," the scientists suggest.
Read the full article:
Clever octopus sheds light on arm evolution

uShaka Marine World wins theme park 'Oscar' for creativity

Durban's showcase, uShaka Marine World, has just won the equivalent of an Oscar in the theme-park industry. And it has put the R737-million venue in the premier league of international attractions.

"There was great excitement just to be nominated for the award. Now, we are really going to be shouting about this," bragged Kagiso Ntanga, the Public Relations manager of the nine-month-old attraction at Durban's waterfront.

The award - for outstanding achievement in creative design and theming - was presented by the Themed Entertainment Association at a glittering event in Disney in Los Angeles, California, at the weekend.

The chief executive of uShaka, Russell Stevens and councillor Nomusa Dube, speaker of the eThekwini Municipality, accepted the award on behalf of the people of Durban. They will arrive back in Durban today with their trophy.

The award-winning designs are: the Phantom Ship; the Village Walk retail area; the Wet 'n Wild water park and Seaworld.
Read the full article:
uShaka Marine World wins theme park 'Oscar' for creativity

10 February 2005

Tips and tricks to remember about scuba dive training

  1. Breathe deep. Your rate of breathing must be slowed down or you will move air without giving your body adequate opportunity to absorb oxygen. Slow, relaxed, deep breaths promote a more complete exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. The greater your depth, the slower and deeper your breathing should be, so you can use as little air as possible.
  2. Keep your hands to yourself. Don't use your hands to swim. Let your arms and hands float loosely at your sides, fold them lightly across your chest, tuck them in your weight belt or beneath your tank on your back.
  3. Stay horizontal. Keep your body parallel, as much as possible, to the direction of movement. Swimming at an angle to the direction of movement is one of the greatest wastes of energy and air by novice divers.
  4. Stay warm. It's a fact: Warm divers use less air. You lose body heat even in the warmest tropical waters, which are considerably below your body's core temperature.
  5. Think small. Use your inflate/deflate valve judiciously, making small adjustments and giving them time to take effect.
  6. Keep your head up. In most open-water situations, try to swim with your head slightly up and your feet slightly down; both you and your equipment work better in this position. You may need to swim head-down, feet-up in some environments where your fins could cause damage or stir up the bottom.
  7. Stay neutral throughout the ascent with buoyancy control.
  8. Ascend slowly, 30 feet per minute or less when in water less than 60 feet, using a dive computer to monitor ascent rate.
  9. Swim at a slow and steady pace. Stops and starts decrease efficiency.
  10. A properly weighted diver with a correctly fitting BC can float easily on the surface. It should not be necessary to inflate the BC fully; in fact, BCs are often less comfortable and may restrict breathing when fully inflated.
Read the full article:
Tips and tricks to remember about scuba dive training

Orcas die trapped in ice

Eleven killer whales were declared dead on Wednesday after being trapped between ice floes and concrete blocks on the northern Japanese coast, but one managed to escape badly wounded back into the ocean.

The 12 giant mammals were found trapped in floating ice off the town of Rausu on the Shiretoko Peninsula, about 1 050km northeast of Tokyo, on Monday.

One female whale, though seriously hurt, broke through the ice on Tuesday and returned to the Pacific as the others grew feeble and lifeless.

"We confirmed 11 are dead today," said Satoshi Mizuguchi, an environmental official in the town.

Television footage showed floating bodies of whales with their fins up and tetrapods smeared with blood next to a wall where a message was etched in the snow, "Whales, hold out."

"We had been trying to rescue the whales but it was difficult because ice was clustering too much and the waters were too shallow to send a rescue ship," Mizuguchi told AFP by telephone.

The 4m-female whale "escaped by herself but she's badly wounded", he said.

"I am a bit worried if she can survive in the ocean."

The town will collect the bodies of the dead whales and hand them over to universities and other institutes for research.

The tragedy was believed to have been caused when low pressure off Shiretoko brought about northern winds which sent the floating ice crashing into the peninsula, trapping the whales.

Killer whales, also called orcas, can live for up to 80 years and grow to nine tons.

They can swim in families at more than 50km/h and are at the top of the ocean food chain, preying on other animals including seals, turtles and even lesser whales and dolphins.

Japan has been at odds with much of the international community over its insistence on hunting whales, whose meat is traditionally eaten here, but the main whales killed are of the smaller Minke variety.
Read the full article:
Orcas die trapped in ice

09 February 2005

Choosing a scuba diving centre? - 10 things you should know

  1. Choose a dive centre that is convenient. You don't want to have to travel miles and miles to dive if you can avoid it.
  2. Check out how long the dive centre has been in existence.
  3. Ask the dive centre for referrals so you can ask other who have been there before you how it was.
  4. Ask who the dive instructor will be and how long he or she has been training
  5. Call the dive instructor and ask him or her questions about your level and expectations
  6. Make sure the dive centre you are considering offers the brand of qualification you will need.
  7. Visit the dive centre if possible, in person, and get a feel for the people there. Diving is after all about people you can trust your life with.
  8. Ask the dive centre about their safety record.
  9. Ask the centre about their cancellation policy and what happens if you get sick or cannot go through with your dives
  10. Make sure the dive centre operates at the times that are convenient to you e.g. night time or weekends etc.
Read the full article:
Choosing a scuba diving centre? - 10 things you should know

Saving South Africa's Floral Heritage

Climate change, sprawl, and alien-species invasion are threatening South Africa's fynbos, the main vegetation type of the smallest, yet richest, of the world's six floral kingdoms.

Now conservationists are using data gathered by hundreds of volunteers in a long-term effort to save the fynbos, which includes South Africa's spectacular flowering proteas.

Proteas are the poster species for fynbos (pronounced fane-boss). They are indigenous evergreen shrubs with large showy flower heads prized by florists and plant collectors all over the world. The king protea is South Africa's national flower (see photograph at lower right).

Saving the fynbos and its proteas also has profound economic implications. South Africa produces half the world's cut-flower proteas, and the industry employs 25,000 people, a significant job pool in a country suffering severe unemployment. The fynbos covers the mountains in and around Cape Town, and its spectacular floral display in different seasons is itself a tourist attraction.

South African protea species are cultivated commercially in Australia, France, Spain, and the United States. But nurseries don't grow the most endangered species, which are not commercially viable. To save these proteas from extinction?and to protect their more famous cut-flower species in the wild?the all fynbos plants must be protected. That's because the endangered and nonendangered fynboss varieties grow in the same areas.

A long-term research initiative using volunteers to collect data on the fynbos's flowering proteas is providing researchers with crucial information that would be hard to find otherwise.

Nearly a thousand volunteers from all walks of life participated in the first phase of the Protea Atlas Project (PAP). Once trained in identification techniques, the volunteers collected information on pollination, growth, flowering patterns, fire survival, the effects of harvesting, and the impact of invasive species.

The project, which began in 1991, is being hailed as a model for scientific data gathering. At the same time it is lauded for promoting community involvement and engendering a conservation ethic.

"Climate-change research requires accurate information on the distribution of species, and the data provided by the Protea Atlas Project was central to our study," said Guy Midgley, head of the Climate Change Research Group for South Africa's National Biodiversity Institute (NBI). "Without it we could not have got anywhere. It is a fabulous model, with enormous potential for scientific research throughout the world."

Findings from the NBI study were used in a 2004 report from Conservation International's Centre for Applied Biodiversity Science. The report suggested that more than a million plant species could become extinct by 2050?including many protea species found only in South Africa.

Flowers of the Fynbos
Botanists divide the continents into six plant kingdoms. The Cape floristic (also known as the Cape floral) kingdom is the smallest but contains the highest known concentration of plant species in the world. Located along the southern tip of Africa, the region's main vegetation type is fynbos, a collection of evergreens, shrubs, and small plants with tough, fine leaves, and reeds.

The Cape floristic region was given international recognition as South Africa's sixth UN World Heritage site in June last year. More than 9,000 plant species make up the region, 6,000 of which are found nowhere else on Earth.

"In a sense, the Cape floristic region has ancient evolutionary roots, with the protea family going back 60 to 70 million years," Midgely said. "However, fynbos as we know it today diversified from about six to eight million years ago. This generally was a cooler period than now, with the result that species like proteas, which evolved under cooler conditions, are being endangered not only by natural warming but also by that being unnaturally added through humankind's doing."

Proteas were chosen as the species to be studied for several reasons, according to Tony Rebelo, a researcher with the NBI who initiated and coordinated the PAP project. The flowers are charismatic and fairly easy to identify. More important, the distribution of protea species is strongly correlated with that of other major plant groups in the region, which makes them good indicators of diversity patterns.

Of the roughly 370 protea species found in South Africa, 350 occur in the Cape floristic kingdom. More than 120 species are currently listed as endangered or threatened by the Red Data Book, an internationally sponsored list of endangered and threatened species.

Fire plays a vital part in the fynbos ecosystem and is essential in the distribution and germination of the plants' seeds. The king protea (Protea cynaroides) releases its seed only when the heat of a fire opens the plant. The seeds fall to the ground and germinate when it rains. The seeds of the pincushion protea (Leucospermum tottum) are buried in the ground by ants, and germinate only when mature plants have been killed by fire.

Spreading the Conservation Ethic
Researchers at NBI, the University of Cape Town, and the University of Connecticut in the U.S. collaborated to use the PAP data to develop a "climate envelope" for each species. They identified necessary factors like soil moisture content and temperature parameters in which each thrives. The data enabled the researchers to project what the impact of a variety of climate-change scenarios might be.

Under the most extreme climate-change scenario, one-third of all fynbos protea species could lose their range completely by the year 2050. Only 5 percent would be likely to retain more than two-thirds of their range. These findings are now being extrapolated to other fynbos species.

The information has also proved helpful in devising conservation strategies. The findings contributed to the Cape Action Plan for the Environment, a systematic conservation plan for the entire Cape floristic region. They are also benefitting efforts to identify and protect species on local mountain ranges as well as remaining fragments of natural vegetation on the Cape Flats, a sprawling, built-up area consisting mainly of low-cost housing.

The PAP data have also proved exceedingly helpful in compiling a new fynbos map. The approximately 250,000 records on about 60,000 localities provided far more detail than has been possible to draw from satellite data, which tends to be distorted by alien vegetation.

The information will also be used to update the World Conservation Union's Red Data List, Rebelo says. The list is called the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plants and animals.

But perhaps the most important impact of the study was the community involvement. A follow-up survey of volunteers shows that the participants, their immediate families, and their friends gained a better understanding of the fynbos and became more aware of the conservation ethic.
Read the full article:
Saving South Africa's Floral Heritage

Worms and crayfish feel no pain - experts

Worms squirming on a fish hook feel no pain - nor do crayfish and crabs cooked in boiling water, a scientific study funded by the Norwegian government has found.

"The common earthworm has a very simple nervous system - it can be cut in two and continue with its business," Professor Wenche Farstad, who chaired the panel that drew up the report, said on Monday.

Norway might have considered banning the use of live worms as fish bait if the study had found they felt pain, but Farstad said: "It seems to be only reflex curling when put on the hook ... They might sense something, but it is not painful and does not compromise their wellbeing."

The government called for the study on pain, discomfort and stress in invertebrates to help in the planned revision of Norway's animal protection law. Invertebrates cover a range of creatures from insects and spiders to molluscs and crustaceans.

Farstad said most invertebrates, including lobsters and crabs boiled alive, do not feel pain because, unlike mammals, they do not have a big brain to read the signals.

Some more advanced kinds of insects, such as honeybees which display social behaviour and a capacity to learn and co-operate, deserve special care, she said.
Read the full article:
Worms and crayfish feel no pain - experts

08 February 2005

About Scuba Diving - 10 things you should know

We believe you should pay note to the following which will ensure a long and happy life filled with scuba diving enjoyment:

  1. Scuba Diving is easy. You will of course need to know how to swim, but you don't have to be a strong swimmer to be a good diver.
  2. Take lessons and get qualified by a certification agency before participating in SCUBA diving.
  3. Get a medical examination from your doctor and take a swim test before learning SCUBA diving.
  4. Never dive by yourself. Find a buddy.
  5. Listen to and follow the rules set forth by the person in charge of the dive.
  6. You can get sunburned doing scuba diving. Protect your skin by wearing a waterproof sunscreen.
  7. Drink plenty of water regularly and often even if you do not feel thirsty. Your body needs water. Know the signs and symptoms of dehydration.
  8. Be Careful - Completely check out the dive site, especially the surf conditions, before making the decision to dive.
  9. Don't touch! It is a golden rule under the water. Look and enjoy, but don't touch coral, fishes etc.
  10. If you are prone to motion sickness it may be an idea to take some sea sickness tablets before leaving for your dive.

Finally - enjoy your diving
Read the full article:
About Scuba Diving - 10 things you should know

07 February 2005

NSRI men rescue stranded yachtsman

The solo yachtsman, who sent a May Day call to the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) early on Sunday, is in a stable condition on a rescue boat having been treated for a dislocated shoulder.

NSRI spokesperson Craig Lambinon said his 12m 10 ton yacht, the Silb, was being towed to the Victoria and Albert Waterfront and was expected to arrive between 11.45am and 12.30pm.

"He must be sent to hospital," said Lambion, adding that it had appeared that the sailor had experienced double trouble in that his inboard motor had also been out of order when he called from near Dassen Island, about 10 nautical miles off Cape Town.

The Silb is registered in Bremen, Germany, and last docked at Salvador in Brazil.

It is believed that the sailor plans to head for New Zealand after South Africa.

Sailor in hospital after ordeal
The solo round-the-world yachtsman rescued near Dassen Island on Sunday was transferred to Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital on arrival at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town.

National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) spokesperson Craig Lambinon said Rudolf Huber, 66, was in a stable condition. He had an injured - and not a dislocated - shoulder.

Paramedics had treated him on board one of the two rescue boats sent out at 07:00.

The sailor made a May Day call 10 nautical miles off Cape Town on Sunday morning. Besides his injury, the inboard motor of his craft was also not working.

Lambinon said the operation started off amid 35-knot south-westerly winds and three metre swells.

"Things got better closer to Cape Town, especially after passing Robben Island," he said.

Huber's vessel, the 12-metre, 10-ton yacht named "Silb" is registered in Bremen, Germany, and last docked at Salvador in Brazil.

Huber apparently heads to New Zealand after South Africa.
Read the full article:
NSRI men rescue stranded yachtsman

South Africa's waves to be used for clean green energy

An overseas company hopes to harness South Africa's wave power and establish three wave energy farms on our coastline.

The South African government has set targets to introduce renewable energy over the next decade, but there are no commercial renewable energy power plants in the country.

The British company, which has established a wave energy farm in Scotland and is setting one up in Portugal, believes South Africa's abundance of wave power can be harnessed to provide clean, green energy.

On Thursday Vincenzo Bellini said that his company had been in discussions with the department of minerals and energy, the central energy fund and the energy research centre at the University of Cape Town.

"We're still at the assessment and viability stage. We're looking at the possibility of setting up three wave energy farms, two off the West Coast and another off the Transkei coast. Green energy is wonderful, but it needs to be economically viable," Bellini said.

He said currently the price of wave energy was around 18 to 20 cents a kilowatt, which was well above the average of 2 cents a kilowatt for coal-powered energy. With development, this cost would be reduced.

The huge costs to human health and to the environment, particularly in the form of greenhouse gas emissions which cause climate change, were not included in the cost of coal-generated power.

With wave energy, there was no cost to health and minimal environmental impact.

"Also, the cost of decommissioning coal or nuclear power plants is not factored into the cost of conventional power generation. The cost of decommissioning nuclear plants is huge," Bellini said.

He is proposing three wave energy farms, with between five and ten semi-submerged structures 150m long and 3m in diameter. They would occupy a sea area of about one kilometre by half a kilometre, and be set up about two kilometres offshore.

The wave energy plant in Scotland generates 750 kilowatts. "The most damaging product on board is a fluid, which, if it escapes, is bio-degradable within five days. The noise pollution is low and there are no gas emissions," Bellini said.

The semi-submerged structures are made up of cylindrical sections linked by hinged joints. Each is held in place by a concrete anchor on the seabed. The mooring system allows it to align itself head-on to the incoming waves.

The waves cause the structure to articulate around the joints. This motion is resisted by hydraulic rams that pump oil through hydraulic motors. The motors drive electrical generators to produce electricity.

The power is fed down a single cable to a junction on the seabed which is linked to the shore.
Read the full article:
South Africa's waves to be used for clean green energy