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AfricanDiver Apr/May 2009 Issue 4

Sharks save humans Christopher Bartlett

An attitude to altitude Diving at altitude

Sodwana Bay, what a lot its got South Africa

Senegal: diving and it’s fisheries AfricanDiver.com 1 Moving Sushi

Deep diving in Dahab Freediving

Mantas of the Maldives Rowan Duvel Apr/May 09


Editorial

by Cormac McCreesh

On Saturday 28 March, between the hours of 20h30 and 21h30, I sat in an apartment overlooking the city of Durban. We were 5 people, sitting talking and watching. Our only illumination was candlelight and the very bright lights of Durban.

Contents Page 3 African news

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Page 6 Marking time underwater with the Magnificent Mantas of the Maldives by Rowan Duvel

Page 11 Sharks save Humans by Christopher Bartlett So what, you may ask? Well the point is this was during Earth Hour - a time when the WWF targeted 1 billion people to switch off their lights in a vote against global warming. Disappointingly Durban didn’t participate, at least not obviously so. Other cities did, and you can find out more by visiting: http://www.earthhour.org/home/

Page 14 Deep diving in Dahab Freediving

You may wonder why I am making such a fuss about this in a diving magazine, but I have good cause and reason. You see, if we can’t be bothered to switch our lights out for one hour, once a year, then what hope do we have of ever preserving our oceans and the planet we live in?

Page 18 Sodwana Bay, what a lot its got!

Conservation is a cornerstone of this magazine and each issue we unearth (if you’ll pardon the pun) more and more bad news about the disregard and disrespect we all have for our little planet and its oceans. In this, our fourth issue of African Diver, we learn more about the alarming over-fishing of sharks from Christopher Bartlett and we hear of the distressingly poor state of Senegal’s fisheries from the Moving Sushi expedition.

Page 26 Senegal: diving and it’s fisheries

However, its not all doom and gloom and we have a fantastic contribution by Morten Villadsen on free diving the Blue Hole in Dahab. Rowan Duvel shares his experiences of free diving with Mantas in the Maldives and our own Paul Hunter shares his enthusiasm for diving Sodwana Bay. DAN rounds off this issue with some advice on altitude diving, an often over-looked aspect of diving.

Page 30 An attitude about altitude

So, returning to my disappointment and concern mentioned in the beginning of this editorial, I wonder just how much longer we all have to enjoy the delights and wonders of our underwater world. Time seems to be running out. Enjoy the magazine and may your bubbles always be free. Cormac and Paul

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by Morten Villadsen

by Paul Hunter

by Moving Sushi

by DAN

Page 36 Photographic tip Simon Brown

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Apr/May 09


African News

DIVE SOUTH AFRICA: A NEW UNDERWATER BOOK

That said, this is not a history book. Co-author John Visser did much of the ground work and brought the work thoroughly up to date, having covered scores of locations along the length of the South African coast, from the Mocambique Border to Saldanha Bay. Apart from wrecks, there are several other notable firsts. Dive South Africa contains the biggest chapter ever published on many of the underwater attractions in and around Durban (Chapter 18). Similarly, Port Elizabeth gets a good showing with 20 pages devoted to what it has to offer the diver. He has a section devoted to whale sharks, which, he tells us, were found as far south as Table Bay in the early 1800s (Chapter 13).

Dive South Africa is Al Venter’s most comprehensive dive book to date, his eighth on the subject since Underwater Africa was first published in Cape Town by the British publishing house Purnells 40 years ago. Into his seventies, it will be followed by others, including a book he is currently working on titled Diving With Sharks, as well as a rewrite of his original Underwater Mauritius. His latest book (un)covers a lot of water. Apart from half-a-dozen chapters on sharks, he deals with some of South Africa’s notable ‘wreck hunters’, individuals like Peter Sachs who discovered the wreck of the Dutch East Indiaman Bennebroek north of East London as well as Cape Town’s Charlie Shapiro, who found the last resting place in False Bay of the British East Indiaman the Colebrooke. Other wrecks that deserve chapters of their own are the Shaw Saville liner Maori, which sank with terrible loss of life when it went onto the rocks at Karbonkelberg, near Hout Bay during a winter gale. There is a chapter on a World War 2 ammunition ship City of Hankow that sank at Danger Point north of Saldanha while attempting to elude a U-Boat. The most interesting is arguably the recovery of several tons of silver from another East Indiaman the Bredenhof which Gavin Clackworthy and his team discovered in international waters off Mocambique. All that bullion was eventually auctioned by Christies in Amsterdam. The chapter reads like an adventure story (Chapter 11).

Among the most interesting sections are two Appendixes, where Venter traces the reason why there are so many shipwrecks in South Africa (2,000 and counting). The first is headed ‘The Companies that Headed for the East, Their Ships and the Men that Manned Them’. This chapter provides an intriguing insight to how some of the early mariners did their thing, from Batholomeu Diaz through the full gambit of Dutch and British seafarers who followed. These were the men who cast aside fear and superstition that they would ‘fall off the edge of the world’ and went on to discover the sea route to India. Venter has drawn on documents in the Portuguese, British and Dutch Maritime Archives. The second Appendix is taken from the log of one of the officers who was onboard the British ship Colebrooke when it hit a blinder in False Bay. Unintentionally, the diarist provides us with a captivating insight to life at the Tavern of the Seas two and a half centuries ago. Dive South Africa, by Al J. Venter with John H. Visser: Published by Ashanti Publishing, Cape Town, 2008; 560 pages, 35 chapters plus two historical appendices, 130 photos, 14 maps. RRP R285 (Inc VAT)

Venter enjoys his diving and it shows. He takes the reader on numerous underwater trips of discovery, and draws on more than 40 years experience. AfricanDiver.com 3

Apr/May 09


African News African Diver Blog We recently activated the African Diver blog and have been publishing blogs on a regular basis. Contributors from all-over Africa have supported us and the response from regular readers has been terrific. The most popular entry, by far, has been the item posted by Mike Olendo of the WWF Kiunga in Northern Kenya. His report was of a dugong caught in a gillnet, and subsequently released. While the news of the release is fantastic, especially because the caught dugong was a baby, the conservation implications were equally fantastic. In Mike’s words: the last time a dugong was sighted in Lamu archipelago was in 2003

Whale shark expedition - Kenya and it was already dead. The exciting part is that the fisherman in whose gillnet the baby dugong was caught said that the mother was in the vicinity. This indicates that there is a breeding dugong population north of Kiunga Marine National Reserve presenting an opportunity, as well as a challenge, to the conservation of these rare sea cows. It is interesting to note that although there have been anecdotal sightings of dugongs along the coast, especially in the Shimoni and Kisite areas at the southern coast of Kenya, dugong foraging grounds have not been exactly identified.

Expedition 2009 got off to a flying start with 2 whale sharks sighted and one tagged on day 1. After that however the level of whale sharks sighted dropped rather dramatically with only 8 sightings and 3 taggings during the 3 week expedition period. We had full boats everyday allowing us to conduct the longest and most cohesive aerial survey of the Diani Beach area. We had no less than 4 different film crews including ones from Germany and from Australia. The media interest was huge with reporters from Reuters, Associated Press, KTN, The Standard Group and Africa Journal.

This brings to the fore the need to develop a conservation strategy for this esoteric sea mammal using the wealth of indigenous knowledge that could disappear forever if not integrated into mainstream policy and research. The population needs to be verified, a code of conduct for identified dugong foraging sites set up and then regular monitoring and research to glean more information and knowledge about these mammals at this part of the world�.

One of the best things to come out of the expedition has been the significant interest in the dreaded nets donated to a group of local fishermen by US Aid. The EAWST has been trying to get these nets banned here as they have been in the USA for over 2 years now. Diving The Crab reported over 70 dead turtles caught in these nets during 2008 alone. We all remember the 2 humpback whales caught in these same nets late in 2008 one of which was thankfully released by Diving The Crab. These events resulted in mega media interest and US Aid is now being forced to acknowledge the enormous damage these nets have caused. We continue to hope that they will support the alternative fishing programmes that the fishermen are keen to try. We are getting responses from all over the world from organisations and businesses who are interested in helping us with these alternative programmes as a result of the negative publicity these nets have caused. This is something we have been

For more on this and other interesting items, visit our blog on http://www. africandiver.com/blog

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trying to achieve for many years and we are so encouraged by the outpouring of support. Watch this space regarding the nets! The 3 sharks tagged have all been adopted - the first 2 have been adopted by Philippa Gibbon. She has named the first shark Bumble. The 3rd one is called Eagle Eye adopted by the London Vision Eye Clinic. Thank you to our kind sponsors who will receive regular updates on their shark’s movements. We are working on getting whale sharks legal protection in Kenyan waters. We would be the first country in East Africa to do this. We have strengthened our working relationship with the Kenya Wildlife Service and with the Wildlife Conservation Society and Dr Rachel Graham the scientist in charge of the research and tagging. We wish to thank our main sponsors Southern Cross Scuba, Diani Fishing Club, Pinewood Village, Leisure Lodge, Southern Cross Safaris, Aqualand Watersports Centre and Camp Kenya. Our fantastic pilots Alexis Peltier, Rob Dodson and Peter Zanetti. And most of all thank you to each and every expedition member who contributed to the running costs of the expedition. We could not have done it without you!

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African News DIVE MEDICAL SERVICES CLOSURE Andy and Gill Berry of Diving Medical Services (DMS) closed their private emergency clinic at Sodwana Bay recently. Ever since the days of Medical Rescue International and DivEvac, there has been an association between DAN and DMS: The clinic sported DAN insignia and in many people’s minds DMS was believed to be a DAN facility; it never was. Diving Medical Services (DMS) closed its clinic at Sodwana Bay in January 2009 for personal and financial reasons. DMS was an independent, privately owned, Emergency Medical Service provider. In support of its service to DAN members, DAN provided significant financial sponsorship over the past 11 years. In addition to this sponsorship, DAN also paid for actual services DMS provided to DAN members. DAN remains ready and able to assist and evacuate injured divers from Sodwana Bay and elsewhere – as always, 24-7. However, there is no longer an on-site assessment and emergency management facility at Sodwana Bay. The closest medical facilities are: 1. Mseleni Hospital (26km) 2. Richards Bay Hospital via Hluhluwe (209 km)or 3. Pongola Private Hospital – (190 km) Upon receiving notice of closure from DMS in November 2008, DAN participated actively in searching for doctors, nurses or paramedics who would consider taking over management of the facility or purchasing it from DMS. No such party was found and the clinic was closed in January 2009. We continue to support any efforts at reopening a facility at Sodwana – just as we would consider doing at any popular and remote dive resort. In fact, DAN-SA has been instrumental in the establishment of a recompression facility and diving medical assessment clinic in Zanzibar recently, but the intent is always that the facilities must become financially and operationally independent.

The effect of the closure of the facility is likely to include the following: 1. We anticipate a greater number of calls asking DAN to help injured divers at Sodwana who previously were seen and managed by DMS. Our response is to train key personnel at the various diving operations to assist us in appropriate assessment of diving-related injuries to determine when evacuation may be required. The closest hospital to Sodwana is Mseleni Hospital and, on occasion, we have sent divers there – especially local divers and dive operator staff. However, this is not the preferred option. We prefer injured persons to go / be taken to Richards Bay or Pongola Private Hospitals. 2. We are likely to have more ambulance and aeromedical evacuations from Sodwana now than in the past due to the absence of an on-site assessment and triage facility. The absence of an emergency response vehicle at Sodwana means that ambulances will have to be dispatched from Richards Bay and the return journey is approximately 5 hours. This may favor the use of aeromedical evacuations in daylight hours if we are alerted in time to respond. Zumed was able to assist us in the past, but usually made use of Andy as paramedical escort. We would now need ALS teams dispatched with the flight crew. We are liaising with Richards Bay Hospital / Ambulance Service in advance to assure their facilities and availability. If anyone has ideas or suggestions on how DAN could address the situation in a better way, please feel free to discuss this with us. We do anticipate that some divers, and even some DAN members, may believe or hear that the closure of DMS was DAN’s responsibility or our fault. This is clearly untrue and we would appreciate your help in setting the record straight. Frans Cronje, MBChB(Pret), MSc President DAN Southern Africa

It is inappropriate and unfair to our greater Southern African DAN membership base to carry the full financial burden of any single facility within our vast region.

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Apr/May 09


Marking time underwater with the Magnificent Mantas of the Maldives by Rowan Duvel

Rowan Duvel is an old friend of African Diver; well an old friend of the editors of African Diver. Rowan is a civil engineer by profession, specialising in water and sanitation resources. He is a keen underwater photographer and scuba diver by choice, and a long-time organiser of the annual Sodwana Shootout. His work has taken him to interesting places, world-over, and none other than the Maldives. In 2005, he was appointed by the South African Water Sector as coordinator of a project to assist the Maldives Water and Sanitation sector in redeveloping and rebuilding in the aftermath of the largest recorded tsunami in modern times. Technicalities of the job aside, it was an opportunity for Rowan to experience island life and dive to his heart’s content, in between working that is. We persuaded Rowan to write a few articles on his experiences during his year in the Maldives and this is the first. It’s about free-diving with mantas, a highlight of any diver’s experiences. AfricanDiver.com 6

The Honeymoon suite at Meeru Island Resort

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Today I free dived with the mantas. The visibility was 25 m and the current was pumping. Descending through the water my vision was filled with the sight of the deep black colour of the manta ray’s back, the outlines of its wings flashing white whenever it moved. I felt that tremendous surge of exhilaration and joy of life that comes from sharing a moment with a wild creature in its environment. My joy was heightened by the fact that for once I was doing it without the use of technology. It was just me and the manta, no scuba gear, no vehicles, no additional assistance. I was meeting with the manta in its own environment on its terms and it filled me with awe. I had boarded the Diverland boat from Equator Village in Gan, which took us northwards to Bushy Island in the Addu Atoll where the scuba divers kitted up and made giant strides into the crystal clear water. I put on my fins, mask and snorkel and followed. We were about 100 metres from the corner of the channel where the current was negligible. The reef was about 10 metres below the surface and sloped down, very gently, to 25m. Although the sky was grey and overcast, there was no mistaking the vibrant colours and life of the reef. This was like the Maldives of old, prior to the coral bleaching in 1998. Every inch of the reef was covered in living coral. There were huge plate corals, staghorn corals and a whole section that looked like Uniform Reef at Sodwana Bay. There were lots of tiny reef fish, interspersed with large parrot fish and blue-finned jacks swimming lazily through the azure water. I did a couple of warm up dives down to 15 m where the scuba divers were moving about (in an ungainly fashion) , I was amazed at how sluggish they seemed and how swiftly I moved through them, before returning to the surface.

Manta Ray with a scar from a fishing line

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Above left to right: Hobby fishermen on the breakwater in front of jetty no 8 in Malé, A view of a mosque at night in Malé, cityscape of Malé

Apr/May 09


The scuba divers drifted slowly along towards the corner of the reef getting deeper as the reef dropped away, until they were at the edge of my visibility. I was now taking longer between dives, breathing deeply to re-oxygenate my muscles and limbs. A group of scuba divers stopped moving and held onto the reef facing the channel. I dived down to investigate and levelled out at 16 metres looking into the deep indigo waters of the channel to catch a glimpse of what they had seen, but could see nothing but blue water. Eventually my lungs signalled the need for air and I abandoned my search, for what I presumed were sharks or mantas, and began my ascent to the world above. Breathing deeply I noticed that I was not getting near my previous limits for breath-holding, only managing to stay submerged for about a minute. It took a while to understand the reason - the current was getting stronger and stronger. Even fining hard, I was being swept further over the reef towards the inside of the atoll. The extra work was burning up more oxygen than normal.

The traditional fishing boats of the Maldives called Dhonis, incorporating wide, shallow bottoms, are used for all purposes from taxis to dive boats.

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I used the interval to re-oxygenate and was nearly ready when below me I saw a three metre manta hovering effortlessly in the current. I took two deep breaths and dived, fining hard to get closer to this magnificent creature. I reached the bottom at 10 m and found a handhold. The force of the current just above the sea bed was incredibly strong as the sea forced its way through the narrow channel into the atoll’s lagoon. It felt like I was being dragged underwater behind a speed boat.

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I wondered how long I could hold my breath in these conditions. All the while, just in front of me the manta seemed to hover motionless, unaffected by the current and oblivious to the forces pulling at me. Looking ahead I saw a second manta ray about 20 m away also hanging calmly in the current. Holding on, being buffeted by the water and hearing the current roaring past my ears, I drank in the scene in front of me trying to imprint the image on my brain. All too soon, I felt the familiar craving for oxygen building up in my lungs. I released my grip and in seconds, swept away by the current, I lost sight of the manta even before my head broke the surface.

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Vague thoughts of doing a repeat dive to the same spot were now firmly banished as the current pulled me along at a good few knots. Watching the sea bed below me I tried to swim sideways out of the current without any success. I wondered how far I would be swept into the lagoon before I could make headway against the current. After a minute or two I could no longer see the bottom having been swept out into the deeper waters of the lagoon and past my comfort zone. Time for radical action! I reached down, took off one of my Cressi Gara metre-long fins and started waving it above my head to call the dhoni. At this point I was about half a kilometre from the dhoni, but the lookout man saw me in

and in a very short time, I was climbing up the ladder and onto the solid surface of the dhoni which turned around and slowly made its way through the channel to its vantage point at the corner. “Drop me again?” I asked the captain. “No, looking for other divers!” he grunted. I looked at my watch and realised that it had been nearly 45 minutes since the dive had started and that the scuba divers would be surfacing shortly. Most of them surfaced in the same area that I had been picked up in, with the exception of Axel, the owner of Diverland, who surfaced in a 30 metre eddy just inside the stream of the current.

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I realised with his years of experience, he knew how the currents ran through the channel and used that knowledge to keep from being swept into the lagoon. The captain wasted no further time, pointed the dhoni to the Equator village on the opposite side of the atoll and started for home. During the trip back, Axel told me that this channel was one place where mantas could be seen all year round when the tide was pushing into the atoll lagoon. He also said that the corals on that side of the atoll were the best remaining corals in the Maldives. As we got off the boat I reflected that I now knew the definition of mixed emotions. I was absolutely blown away at having free dived with mantas and seriously pissed off that I only did it once. As the Governor of California says, “I’ll be back”.

An aerial view of Malé, capital of the Maldives

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Dhonis lined up at jetty no 10 in Malé in the early morning. The crews sleep on the dhonis and carry out their morning ablutions off the back of their boats

Apr/May 09


Sharks save Humans by Christopher Bartlett images by Paul Hunter

The planet’s oldest creatures are under global threat, yet could be the key to our survival. Deforestation, excessive combustion of fossil fuels, CFCs, pollution, and CO2 emissions have all been linked to climate change and the end of life as we know it. Whilst institutions spend millions on researching carbon footprints, and the public donate millions to offset theirs on land-based projects such as planting more trees or improving developing nations’ energy efficiency, virtually nothing is being spent on preserving the balance in the main carbon dioxide-consuming, oxygenproducing interface that covers 7/10th of the planet; the oceans. In fact, billions of dollars are spent every year destroying this precious, lifesource giving eco-system. Eh? What? How? you say, and what’s this got to do with man-eating marine predators? Absolutely everything.

are kept in check by the predators above them in the food web, which is made up of the many species of shark that maintain the fine marine equilibrium that is a source of food, which controls the climate, and that ultimately gives us the great majority the air At least 70% of Earth’s surface is not earth at all; that we breathe. it is seawater. In this seawater there is a tiny lifeform called phytoplankton. This microscopic Sharks contribute to eliminating diseased organism uses carbon dioxide and releases and genetically defective marine life and oxygen through photosynthesis just like the help to stabilize fish populations, and trees that we want to save, except that it does it although we do not know enough about on a much greater scale. It is also at the bottom marine ecology to understand the exact of the food chain in our oceans, being the impact of this incredible onslaught on staple of certain fish and mollusc species. These sharks, there will be serious consequences species, and all the other species in the ocean, in the underwater environment. AfricanDiver.com 11

As a small but real example, removing sharks has increased octopus populations resulting in greater predation on lobsters and the collapse of the Tasman spiny lobster fishery. Yet these sharks are being actively hunted and an estimated 100 million are killed every year. In some species only an estimated 10% of their population remain, but for how long? Schools of hundreds of magnificent (and harmless) Basking sharks used to be seen off Britain’s coasts; today any sighting is a rare find.

Until the early 80’s main threats to sharks, who have been in the ocean for 400 million years (some 150 million years before the first life-forms crawled out of the sea and became dinosaurs), had been the odd shark hunter, some recreational fishing, and as by-product of commercial fisheries. (Remember cheap “Rock” or “Flake” in the fish and chip shop – well it was a more marketable name for shark). Then the popularity of the Oriental shark fin soup rocketed through a combination of the political rehabilitation of the once elitist practice and rapid expansion of middle classes due to economic growth in the Far East. Apr/May 09


As a status symbol, the so-called “food of the emperors”, it is the dish to be seen eating in a restaurant and offering to guests at a corporate dinner or wedding banquet, and is at the heart of a hugely lucrative multi-billion dollar business. In fact only drug trafficking beats shark-fin dealing for profitability, and often involves Far Eastern mafia overlords. The result was a massive upswing in the international fin trade, prompting fishermen worldwide to target sharks for their fins and to remove the fins from sharks caught as bycatch in other fisheries. Fin traders have systematically spread the word that fins are valuable to fishermen the world over, often providing equipment and monetary advances in order to secure fins, building secret drying and storage facilities near marine reserves, and bribing and coercing officials to look the other way. Fin-related murders have been documented in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, and given the margins involved, it’s hardly surprising. One of many dealers on one of the 6,000 inhabited islands of Indonesia can supply more than 500 kilos per month. A wholesaler close to the top of the food chain selling to a restaurant charges in excess of $600 US per kilo, whereas a lowly Third-world fisherman might get $2. The end-consumer gets to pay upwards of $90 a bowl. And for what? Well, basically, chicken or pork broth. The fin actually adds no flavour at all and is just a texturing agent. Other popular and equally pointless shark products that drive demand in the Far East are a myriad of pills, creams, and treatments made from shark cartilage based on the belief that sharks are strong and resilient and by ingesting or absorbing its structure (sharks have no bones) the consumer will develop these characteristics. There is no scientific proof supporting these claims and sharks also suffer from cancer and other diseases too. Given that larger sharks are also suffering from high concentrations heavy metals such as mercury, these products are actually harmful. Independent surveys have revealed higher than safe level of mercury in shark fins including specimens with up to 42 times the recommended maximum content, and in the summer of 2008 a Chinese lady who claimed to eat sharkfin soup at least once a week died from mercury poisoning. Little is known about the numbers and movements of some species, of which there are more than 450 known species, in fact a new species of Hammerhead was discovered in the Atlantic in 2006, the same year the Epaulette or “walking” shark was first scientifically recorded in Papua New Guinea. What is known for a fact is that they have relatively few young and only reach sexual maturity at a relatively late age, sometimes as late as 25, meaning that they are slow to reproduce and some species are believed to be on the point of extinction.

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Great! you may shout. Good riddance to the despicable man-eating beasts, you may chuckle. One less to bite my flabby arse when I go swimming, you may rejoice (momentarily forgetting your newly acquired oxygen-production-and-marine-ecosystem-regulation-malarkey wisdom). Unfortunately, you have spent all these years anxiously looking towards the horizon and not daring to swim out too far from the other holidaymakers for no rational reason whatsoever. Unless believing a Hollywood film script is a rational reason. On average five people die in shark attacks each year and only one death was recorded for 2007. Ostriches account for 100 humans annually and in one year crocodiles chomp an estimated 500 humans, more than sharks do in a century, yet these reptiles are protected in many countries. Nearly all shark attacks are a case of mistaken identity or self-defence. We are not part of any shark’s diet, and shark bites rarely remove flesh from victims. In fact the majority of people bitten survive; there are around 60 bite victims each year. So even if you were to be accidentally bitten by a shark, you would have a greater than 80% chance of survival. The unlucky victims die from blood loss from a large wound or severed artery. And they can consider themselves very unlucky; the chances of being killed by a coconut are fifty times greater, and there is more likelihood of dying from a lightning strike, which claims 1000 lives per year worldwide. In fact, there is a far greater probability of dying from eating Apr/May 09


seafood than from becoming it, from driving home from the restaurant (1.2 million road accident deaths per annum) and given that eight million people of starvation annually, there is an even greater chance of dying from not eating at all. To put fins in soup bowls and medicine cabinets, man will go to great lengths. Longlining is the preferred method of capture, with lines up to 100 kilometres long carrying 16,000 hooks just below the surface. That’s long enough to go from the boat to outer space. The hooks are baited with fish meat and sometimes-illegal dolphin. Fishermen claim that they are fishing for pelagic fish, such as tuna, barracuda, and dorado, but one long line recovered by marine biologist and documentary maker Rob Stewart that had hooked 160 sharks, only revealed five sailfish, four dorado, and a solitary tuna. Turtles, dolphins, and seabirds are also drawn to the lethal bait. Once caught, the shark’s fins are hacked off and the live shark is thrown overboard, there is little market for the rest of its meat and its carcass would take up valuable storage space best kept for more fins or tuna. Bleeding, wounded, and with no means of propulsion or direction, the shark sinks to the depths of the ocean and dies a slow death. But as its fins feed a multi-billion dollar black market industry with Chinese and Taiwanese mafia governance, legislators in developing nations prefer the short-term benefits of some fresh greenbacks to the sustainability of the marine environment and potentially life as we know it. And it is not just impoverished fishermen in banana republics that are cashing in. Although finning is technically illegal in Europe, Spain, France, and the UK are among the world’s leading suppliers of shark fins. The EU provides up to one-third of the Asian market’s supplies as finning is in fact legalised. EU legislation states that fins must make up an arbitrary 5% of their total shark catch. Fins can be removed onboard for storage or packaging, and scientific calculations show that fins make up only two percent of total shark bodyweight (the percentage used in the US), thus leaving room for almost two out of every three sharks finned to be thrown back (alive up to 88% of the time). The ruling is also difficult to enforce as fins and carcass do not have to be landed in the same port. There was even a proposal approved by the European Union fisheries committee in 2006 to increase this figure to 6.5%, unsurprisingly written by an MEP from Spain, the country responsible for providing nearly one-third of the Hong Kong fin market’s intake. According to Customs statistics from Hong Kong, China, and Singapore, between 1997 and 2002 Spain exported an annual average of one million kilograms of shark fins to these three countries.

with food and ultimately the air that we all breathe. Are the ancient sharks, which have existed since there were only two lifeless landmasses, which have survived through five major extinctions that wiped most life from the planet, going to be pushed over the edge and into the dark oblivion forever? We, as a species and if we care about the future of the planet, cannot let this happen. In the hour you spent reading your e-mails today, more than 11000 sharks were killed. What can you do? Lobby for an end to shark finning. Stop eating fish caught by longliners, the main technique for catching sharks. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that 40,000 sea turtles are killed annually in the global longline fisheries which also kills hundreds of thousands of seabirds. In Europe that means tuna. Look at the websites of the following organisations that are trying to help – they need members and money: www.sharklife.co.za www.wildaid.org www.mcsuk.org (marine conservation society) www.sharktrust.org www.seashepherd.org

If this wholesale slaughter continues unabated, we will succeed in all but wiping out the oldest creatures on the planet, the guardians of the seas that provide much of the planet AfricanDiver.com 13

Apr/May 09


Deep Diving in Dahab by Morten Villadsen Competition freediver and spearfisher from Denmark Active AIDA Freedive Instructor, Spearfishing Instructor On a clear day in October, we were three freedivers sharing a buoy and a line, in the Blue Hole, Dahab, warming up for an attempt to break our personal bests. My warm-up dives were going just fine. I pulled myself down along the line to a depth of 20 metres and waited for the contractions to come. Closing my eyes, I relaxed, just hanging on the line. A minute went by without contractions. This was going to be a good day. When I opened my eyes, I saw a green turtle swimming silently along the reef wall. As I slowly pulled myself up the line, the turtle took a closer look at the rope under me and as I ascended it came to the rope, just under my fins to check out what was happening. For the last ten meters to the surface I didn’t have to pull the rope at all. My buoyancy was positive and I drifted effortlessly to the surface taking a few recovery breaths before I shared my underwater turtle rendezvous with the other freedivers. This was indeed a good day. Dahab, Sinai, Egypt Dahab is a small town situated on the southeast coast of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. And is formerly an old Bedouin settlement that, in spite of constant development, has maintained its old atmosphere and identity. It is located approximately 80 kilometres northeast of Sharm el-Sheikh and is still considered one of the Sinai’s most treasured diving destinations. The Sinai Peninsula belongs to Arabic Egypt, but the native culture is not Egyptian. It is Bedouin. Sharm El –Sheik is the most well-known and popular diving site in Sinai. It draws hordes of tourists, that fill up the many hotels lying along a coastline fringed with beautiful reefs populated by snorklers and Scuba divers. Sharm El-Sheik is a tourist magnet, built for tourists (scuba divers and sunbathers that is) with all the pros and cons that come with such places. Camels and goats walk the streets and the local children play volleyball on the beach. 10 to 15 years ago the hippies of Dahab (the only tourists at that time) got company from a new kind of tourists - freedivers. AfricanDiver.com 14

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The Blue Hole and Dahab – A Mecca for freedivers A short drive out of town is the “Blue Hole”. The Blue Hole is the greatest single reason why Dahab has become the European/African capital of freediving. Where else is it possible to wade into the sea, swim 100 metres out, tie your buoy to a rock and drop your line to 90 metres? The close proximity to Europe, cheap flights from the east and the establishment of several freediving schools have created a freediving milieu that freedivers quickly immerse in, once based in Dahab. Even though the wind and waves of the Red Sea can be rough, the Blue Hole is sheltered by reef and all you feel is a weak surface current, if any disturbance at all. The visibility is always in excess of 15 metres and on shore, you will find toilets, change rooms and a selection of café-like restaurants serving hot lemon, Bedouin tea and a decent meal after a good day of freediving. Training conditions in Dahab are near perfect. But this dive spot is by no means a secret. Several competitions are held in the Blue Hole annually and freedivers from all over the world come to train. We freedivers meet early in the morning and head for the Blue Hole to dive until lunchtime. After diving, a big lunch compensates for the lack AfricanDiver.com 15

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of breakfast and in the evening we meet up again in the restaurants along the bay. The conversation is always about the experiences of the day, new personal bests or what could be corrected for the next try at a target depth. And as always when divers meet, stories are told and new friends from all over the world are made. Scuba divers also flock to the Blue Hole – easily outnumbering the freedivers. Most scuba divers view free divers as another “tourist attraction” and often “interview” us in the restaurants: “man, I saw you hanging on 42m without tanks. How did you do that?” Stories are exchanged, pros and cons about diving with scuba are discussed and strangers are suddenly no longer strangers. After all, we all love the sea. Stuck at 45m I went to Dahab to take some courses at the freediving school. My main training was on equalisation using a technique called “mouthfill”. The idea being to move air from your lungs to your mouth cavity and then equalise using this air. The technique requires some training and experience and many attempts to perfect the timing of the AfricanDiver.com 16

mouthfill. On my “days off ” from the course, I practised deep dives with my newfound friends from the course. For a few days, my ears (or my mouthfill equalisation) had me stuck at a depth of 45m. At this depth, most freedivers reach their “failure depth” where normal equalization will not work anymore. The ambient pressure is too great and the lung volume too small. Mouthfill is needed – and my technique was just not good enough. Aborting a dive because of poor equalisation technique is the most frustrating thing in whole world. But even though it is frustrating, it is very important to respect that limit. Otherwise, you might end up doing your last dive for a period! Ear barotrauma is an injury you do not want to have, especially as a freediver. So here I was diving, trying to sort this equalisation out. Four-five times in a row, I dived to a target depth of +50m, but every time I had to abort at 45m. Arrr…. When I finally succeeded in passing my “failure depth” and mastered the mouthfill technique, I went straight to the bottom weight at the end of the rope. Nearly 52m. And when I opened my eyes to grab the rope and turn,

I saw a sight that nearly made me forget to ascend again. Surrounded by the grey walls of old corals, I saw an enormous big blue opening almost inviting me to swim through it: The Arch! I hesitated for a second. It was almost sad to leave this view and start the ascent again. But leave I did. First, some strong kicks to gain meters then I slowed down and put my hands above my head and hoped I would soon see my safety diver. When he met me at 25m my legs were burning from lactic acid (due to bad monofin technique) but he encouraged me with a clenched fist to keep on kicking. The last meters to the surface were easy as always, but I had big problems doing my recovery breathing properly because of the big smile all over my face. I had achieved a personal best – but more importantly: I had seen the Arch! The Arch This is probably the most astonishing natural underwater structure in Egypt and an absolutely thrilling dive, Few divers ever venture deep enough to actually see it – but everyone diving in Dahab has heard about it. The Arch is Apr/May 09


The Bells – a good place to start The Bells is situated very close to the Blue Hole and is a miniature arch (compared to its grand neighbour). The Bells is a canyon-like structure that descends to a 3-4 metre long swim-through at a depth of 26 metres. The dive site is small and well visited by scuba divers and freediver alike. At this depth, a group of large tuna can usually Among freedivers, a popular pastime is to see be found. Normally they stay in the tunnel, but how many times the swim through can be done when scuba divers visit the tunnel, the tuna move on one breath. Two is good, three is really good. to circling inside the hole. And many freedivers have had wonderful experiences in the abyss, The Canyon – for the advanced freediver hanging on their line being circled by these The Canyon is a popular spot for scuba divers. fantastic agile game fish. No dive centre in Sinai However, because scuba bubbles damage the offers a swim through “The Arch”. In fact, many structure, diving at some sections of the Canyon scuba divers have died trying - the numerous is discouraged. The Canyon resembles a long tombstones on land underline the dangers of tube. The opening in the ceiling is so narrow deep diving without proper experience and that you can only squeeze yourself in and out in equipment. certain places. The Canyon begins with a narrow tunnel at 18 metres and opens a bit up at 26 Freediving “The Arch” metres. Further down, only a few places exist Italian David Carrera was the first freediver to by which to exit again. The last opening is at 52 swim through the Arch using fins for propulsion. metres and I doubt that any freedivers have gone Only a few other freedivers have swum through that far. The most popular part of the Canyon it since – and most of them used extra weight is the section from 18m-30 metres where it is for propulsion on the decent (variable weight). possible to see big groupers and lionfish under Natalia Molchanova and Lotta Ericcson are the ceiling. the only women who have “done” the Arch. William Winram and William Trubridge are, so far, the only two who have swum through the Arch without fins! An amazing achievement! William Winram was the first to do it on June 1st 2007 – and a full six weeks later on July 16th Article cover image by Annelie Pompe. Other images by 2007 William Trubridge did it only wearing his Morten Villadsen. Speedo… a 15-20 metre wide by 40-50 metre tall opening, shaped like a giant open doorway. To see through the Arch a diver must dive to at least 50 metres. The door-shaped opening connects the Blue Hole with the surrounding Red Sea via a 30 metre long tunnel.

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Sodwana Bay, what a lot its got! by Paul Hunter

The summer of 2001 was my first dive trip to Sodwana bay. For my first dive, we launched just after 7am and already the African sun was high in the sky. Our dive boat skipped over the calm ocean en route to our dive location - a reef called 7-Mile.  After a 30-minute boat ride the skipper brought the boat to a stop and immediately organised chaos broke out as everybody grabbed for fins and masks.  One by one, the skipper helped everyone kit-up before maneuvering the boat to the exact location above the reef using landmarks.  At first I was not convinced that anybody could locate a reef using landmarks and triangulation but to this day I have never been dropped incorrectly.  The skipper then counted down 3-2-1 and we all rolled backwards off the boat in unison.  We were greeted by a kaleidoscope of colour and large schools of goatfish and blue banded snapper which hung in mid-water above the reef.     AfricanDiver.com 18

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There were so many fish I felt like I was in an aquarium. From that initial moment I knew Sodwana was a special place and have never since been disappointed.  That dive went on to be one of those spectacular dives with large moray eels, turtle, nudibranches and much more.   To this day, 7-Mile reef is still one of my favorites with its many swim-throughs, over-hangs and it’s spectacular mushroom rock. Over the past 6 years I have spent diving holidays in Indonesia (Bali, Wakatobi, Bunaken, Lembeh), the Red Sea (North and South) and Malaysia (Sipadan), and after every trip I realise how much Sodwana and South AfricanDiver.com 19

African diving have to offer. I believe diversity is the word I’m looking for.  Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy diving internationally and will continue to as long as it offers something different. However, for me, international destinations seem to be lacking something. I call it the “wild factor” which I believe diving in South Africa offers. On any given dive in Sodwana you have a good chance of seeing manta, turtles, whale shark, numerous other shark species and dolphin plus an abundance of macro subjects. And that’s just underwater. The entire bay is surrounded by a massive sand dune covered in a dense coastal forest.

I believe diving in Sodwana can compare with any top dive destination in the world due to its variety of coral reefs, phenomenal sea life and all year-round good visibility. The reefs of Sodwana are regarded as the southern most coral reefs in the world and the only tropical dive site in South Africa. Divers are exposed to more than 1200 species of fish on the many reefs. The point I’m trying to make is reinforced every year at the Sodwana Shootout. Each year, while viewing the images of all the contestants I’m blown away at what is available right here on my doorstep. I ask myself the same question every year: “why do I do international trips when I have all this diversity right here in the country I live in”. Apr/May 09


Sodwana Bay or, “little one on its own” in Zulu, lies in the heart of Maputaland. It is also situated within the Greater St Lucia Wetland park, South Africa’s first World Heritage Site. Both Maputoland and the St Lucia Marine Reserve are linked to form a continuous protected area stretching 150 kilometres on land and 3 nautical miles out to sea. Sodwana is easily accessible by a 4 hour dive from Durban and 7 hours from Johannesburg. Conditions are generally good throughout the year with the best diving from April to September. Visibility can be up to 30 metres on a good day and the average is around 14 metres. The weather is typically subtropical with water temperature above 20°C reaching as high as 29°C in summer. All the dive sites of Sodwana Bay are named according to the distance from the launch site. The majority of the dive sites are shallow, with an average of around 18 metres. There are however several deeper sites available for those qualified.

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My favorite Sodwana dive spots • 9 Mile Reef is the furthest from the beach and takes about 40 minutes, depending on the conditions. The great thing about this trip is that there is a good chance of seeing and possibly swimming with dolphin and whale shark, and in season humpback and southern right whales. The dive site comprises some small walls, caves, overhangs and pinnacles. This reef is best known for the “Green Tree”; a coral tree that stands tall, surrounded by goldies and other fish. The maximum depth is 22 meters on the sand and average depth about 18 meters. Due to its distance from the launch site, the reef is not dived often so is in pristine AfricanDiver.com 21

condition. The marine life is diverse and includes most of the tropical fauna typical of the region as well as big schools of passing game fish. • 7 Mile Reef, just 25 minutes from the beach is, to me, the most scenic reef in Sodwana. The maximum depth is 24 metres and the average around 18 metres. This reef is in immaculate condition and has just about every type of reef fish imaginable living on it. There are large schools of snapper and goatfish that hang in midwater. The reef is well known for the amphitheater and mushroom rock. Also have a look out for turtles, rays, kingfish and much, much more. This is definitely not a dive spot to be missed. • About 20 minutes from the launch site lies 5 Mile

reef. This reef is well known for ‘pothole’ which is an amazing spot for macro photography opportunities and it never disappoints. 5 Mile is a flattish reef with spectacular plate and stag horn corals. Just inshore from 5 Mile at a depth of about 20 metres is Ribbon reef. This a also a great reef for macro and is named after the ribbon eels that live there. • 2 Mile Reef is only about 5 minutes by boat from the beach. It is a very large reef with numerous places to dive. The reef ’s depth ranges from 8 metres to 18 metres with an average of 12 metres. Some of the spots you can dive are: Chain, Pinnacles, Caves and overhangs, Coral gardens, Four buoy and my favorite, Antons. This reef has many gullies, ledges, pinnacles Apr/May 09


and outcrops. I have seen everything from turtles, schooling jacks, reef shark and many more. The thing I like about 2 Mile is the diversity of the coral and fish life. • Quarter Mile Reef is basically just behind the breakers and about 12 metres deep. In the summer months this reef is home to ragged tooth sharks that come here to gestate. This dive can only be done when the AfricanDiver.com 22

conditions are right. So if the conditions and season are right I would highly recommend it. • Two other reefs that I have to mention are Stringer and Bikini as they are both awesome dives. Stringer lies between Quarter and 2 Mile reef. It consists of 2 reefs - small Stringer and big Stringer. Small Stringer is a round piece of coral which attracts a lot of juvenile fish. Big Stringer is more of an elongated reef. It is normally

dived on the shore side and when conditions are calm. Bikini runs parallel to 2 Mile and is mainly flat . My favorite location on this reef is The Ledge, which is a fair-sized cleaning station. The macro photography opportunities here are world-class. It’s a deep dive and therefore more suited to an advanced diver.

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It is not only diving that makes Sodwana an exquisite destination. There is also snorkeling, bird watching, hiking, turtle viewing and much more. With its scenic beauty and close proximity to some world-renowned game reserves, Sodwana Bay is the perfect destination for divers who would like to experience the wilder side of life. Sodwana is more than just diving, it can be an adventure. A must do is turtle viewing at Sodwana Bay. Five species of turtle regularly visit Sodwana. Two of which, the Loggerhead and Leatherback, visit every year during the summer months (November to March) at night to lay their eggs. To experience these creatures coming ashore to nest is an incredible sight. Even more incredible is when you get to experience the hatchlings struggling to survive the fury of predators. Maputoland boasts the longest running protected program for turtles in the world. Night turtle tours are provided during December and January. Departure times vary with the tide. Muzi Pans Just a short 35 minute drive from Sodwana is Muzi Pans which is an little oasis away from the crowds and easily accessible via a tar road. The pans are situated on the Mkhuze river floodplain between Mkhuze Game Reserve and Lake St Lucia. The pan is home to Nile crocodile, hippos and an abundance of bird species. On a good day up to 100 different species can be seen here. The area does have Zululand Birding Route trained local bird guides who can assist you with birding in the area and a guided canoe trip can also be taken on the pan with trained canoe guides. It is well worth the effort to visit Muzi Pans. Lake Sibaya – Mabibi Another great location to visit is Lake Sibaya, with its 100 kilometres of untouched shoreline. It is South Africa’s largest freshwater lake measuring 70 square kilometres. The lake lies within the Isimangaliso Wetland Park and is now a World Heritage Site. It provides a habitat for birds, mammals and marine life. This lake has the second largest population of hippos and crocodile in KwaZulu-Natal and is also an important habitat for many bird species. In dry spells, Lake Sibaya is the only source of water AfricanDiver.com 23

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for birds and mammals in the area. The entire wetland also supports many of the rural people who in many cases are totally dependant on the water resources. If you are into bird watching then Lake Sibaya is the place for you with 279 species recorded at the lake alone. This wetland is very important for breeding, roosting and feeding. Some of the species you can expect to see are red and white breasted cormorants; pied, giant and malachite kingfishers; fish eagles and a variety of herons, darters and egrets. Waders include white-fronted sand plover, black-winged stilt, avocent, greenshank and spoonbills. Also recorded at the lake are the much sought-after pel’s fishing owl, pygmy goose, palmnut vulture, flamingo, woodward’s batis and rufousbellied heron. Game viewing or safaris for our international readers Another reason I have always thought Sodwana to be an international destination is that it offers visitors the chance to do some world class diving and then also experience some of our country’s best game parks. Just think, you can dive in the morning and in the afternoon be on a game drive viewing the Big 5. It does not get better than that. There are numerous game parks close to Sodwana. Here are some of the better-known ones: • Hluhluwe Game Reserve is one of the oldest reserves in Africa . It is also well known for its role in rhino conservation. The park stretches over 96 000 hectares and is home to the Big Five and many more animals, such as wild dog, giraffe, cheetah and nyala. The northern section of the park is known for the diverse range of both animal and bird life. Guided walks are also available and best to do early morning or late afternoon. Numerous types of accommodation are available. • Thanda Game Reserve is a private reserve and lodge that offers ultimate luxury and world-class service. They offer 9 luxurious villas in the main lodge and 4 large luxurious tents in the tented camp. Thanda also offers the Big Five and much more. The game restoration project has been successfully launched and the reserve is witnessing its 4th breeding season since the land was purchased in 2002. • Phinda Private Game Reserve is located in the lush Maputaland region in northern KwaZulu-Natal. Phinda comprises of 23 000 hectares (57 000 acres) of prime conservation land. They offer an abundance of wildlife including Africa’s Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, black and white rhino, buffalo) and over 380 bird species. Guests can look forward to exciting game-drives in open 4x4 safari vehicles led by experienced rangers and Zulu trackers Phinda has seven safari lodges which all offer sophistication and style in the African bush.

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This year sees the 10th anniversary of the annual Sodwana Shootout underwater photography competition. The competition has grown in popularity over the years and more so with the advent of digital photography. This year’s event promises to be as popular and competitive as previous years and underwater photographers from all over South Africa are preparing and practicing. The organizers and sponsors are working hard at making this year’s shootout memorable, enjoyable and relevant. We published a short history of the Sodwana Shootout in issue 1 of African Diver and that article can be found here http://www.africandiver.com/feature.html African Diver will be covering the shootout but we thought that it would be worthwhile publishing a few of the winning images from previous Sodwana Shootout’s to whet your appetites and inspire your shooting. Enjoy the images. If you’re looking for further information on the shootout, visit www.shootout.co.za or www.gups.co.za

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Economically, the Senegalese people have few options other than fishing. When trying to understand the scope of artisanal fishing in Senegal, it was clear that the word ‘artisanal’ is not applicable. Industrial fishing with limited technology would be more apt. According to a spokesperson from WWF, there are approximately 30,000 pirogues fishing in Senegalese waters. This was an interesting value as local fishers in the villages estimate 2 million pirogues and various governmental agencies assume 60,000. The fact of the matter is that nobody knows just how many vessels are fishing. Local fishermen fish with an assortment of gear ranging from seine nets to surface and bottom gill nets to long lines and dynamite.

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Senegal: diving and its fisheries

A

fter some interesting diving on the abandoned oil rigs in Benin, the Marine Resource Expedition headed towards Dakar, Senegal; our next dedicated filming destination. The long dusty road led the expedition through Togo, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Mali, before entering Senegal. We decided against driving the coastal route due to the coup in Guinea. It was a good decision, in hindsight, as not long after the coup the president of Guinea Bissau was shot, and the borders were closed for a number of days. We arrived in Senegal on the 9th of February looking worse for ware; even worse than us was the large swell and dirty water which halted any diving attempts. The swell and bad visibility lasted for about 10 days before things started looking up. In the meantime, Linda and I interviewed key members in Senegal’s marine resource conservation efforts to understand history of Senegal’s fisheries.

with Moving Sushi

Text and Images by Mike Markovina and Linda Schonknecht

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Dynamite fishing is illegal but continues regularly, causing widespread destruction. Spear fishing has become an income for many youths without jobs. On any given day hundreds of spear fishermen swim from the shore on body boards. Armed with sacks (for sea urchins and oysters) and spear guns (for shooting anything that moves) they comb the inshore reefs and sell their catch consisting mostly of small groupers, octopus, and puffer fish on the local markets. This fishery is totally unregulated and inshore reefs are taking a sure beating. Linda and I attended a workshop for training of local fishery observers in Senegal, which made the question on managing marine resources in Senegal clear to me. We listened to a fisheries presentation, conducted by the ministry of fisheries, which was shocking to say the least. More disturbing, however, was the data. The presentation used data collected from 2005. We discovered that the government has not even processed the data from 2006, yet alone 2008. Furthermore, when questioned about the accuracy of the data, and understanding that the values were not representative, the presenter said quite plainly, “the data is wrong, but we must just accept it”. Something, I find hard to do. Hitting the water We were invited by a local NGO, Oceanium, on a dive to recover ghost gear on a wreck. Ghost gear, or nets which have been lost by fishermen on reefs or wrecks, continue fishing indiscriminately after they have been lost. Each net may only capture and kill a few fish, but consider the impact of 1000’s of estimated kilometers of monofilament gear lost in Senegal’s waters. The wreck we to dived lay in 30 meters of water just a few kilometers north of Dakar’s industrial harbour. The vessel is relatively old and has been resting on the sandy bottom for about 40 years. This dive was of particular interest to me because, after 40 years, it would be interesting to observe the biology that has inhabited the wreck and what state it was in. The sea temperature had dropped drastically on the day of the dive and was about 13 degrees. So it was into the dry-suit for me, while Linda and Miso put on their 5mm wetsuits. As expected, there was neither briefing nor checking for dive cards prior to the dive. And then we were off, armed with knives and 25L plastic jerry cans for lift bags (aptly named ‘parachutes’) and no clue to the layout of the vessel and just how much monofilament was dangling dangerously amongst the wreck. The descent put everything into perspective; gone were the days of clean warm water and back were the days of green pea soup, suspended particle, dark, cold and eerie conditions. Descending down the anchor rope into the black abyss was fun, but my mind

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was constantly on where the nets may be, and how we were even going to see them. On reaching the wreck we found our eyes slowly adapted to the nearly non-existent light. Our first goal was to swim the wreck to understand its layout and then to film and help in the removal of the ghost gear. The wreck is broken up and strewn with mono and multifilament nets. Fish were dangling lifelessly from the nets, testament to just how damaging they are when not retrieved. Conditions were challenging to say the least, but soon we were already in decompression time, which meant we had to head for the light. We managed to remove about 60 meters of monofilament gear, which is less than a drop in the ocean to what needs to be done, but at least it is a start. Examining the footage after the dive did reveal something interesting: there were no fish, and little or no coral growth on the wreck. According to Mr. Ali, president of Oceanium, during August, when the water is warmer fish are plentiful. However, the wrecks are targeted relentlessly by fishermen and so, the reality is that there is very little fish life. This attitude towards Senegal’s marine resources is scary, and I wondered if this was just an isolated case, as the wreck is in protected waters and access for fishermen is simple. We needed to look at some reefs and possibly another wreck in different locations to gauge the state of Senegal’s marine resources.

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Our next six dives were scattered on deep and shallow reefs in and around Dakar. Our first deep reef dive was in crystal clear water and the temperature had somewhat improved, to around 16 degrees. Descending into the crystal blue was fantastic and we did not miss the green gloom one bit. Intermittent boulders on a sandy floor characterized the reef. Plastic packets hooked on broken sea fans waved effortlessly in the current, and the biggest fish I saw was no larger than the palm of my hand. There were hardly any fish on the reef: the odd puffer fish would swim past nervously and a lone ray would dart away as soon as approached. For me, the most startling and obvious observation on the dive was the amount of rubbish: particularly plastic bags floating scattered in mid-water and amongst the reef. Slightly depressed by what I had seen so far, I was assured that fish life on the ‘wild side’ was infinitely more abundant and so that was where we headed next. The boat ride was relatively short, but my kidneys spent more time in my throat than where they were supposed to be. The large windswept swell lifting on the reef tossed us around, and it was good to finally descend. With high expectations of abundant fish I descended to the reef at 25 meters. Within 2 minutes I was on my own, as the dive group bolted off unannounced. Linda was not on the dive as she had caught my bad luck and had come down with malaria. Having just recovered I felt her pain, especially seeing that I was diving on a potentially exciting reef. On my own I found, not unexpectedly, a 100-meter plus

Lighthouse in Dakar

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Left: Pile of dead wasted fish with old discarded monofilament net on top Right: Fish market with local fisher in the background Bottom left: Fish carrier taking the prize catch of sardines from the boat

monofilament gillnet on the reef. It had been deployed that morning as there were little to no fish inside it. In fact, there were little to no fish on the reef at all. A shoal of damselfish clouded over at one stage, but nothing bigger. The reefs had a sterile barren feeling; a feeling of neglect by fishermen all wanting to cash in on the resource as quickly as possible. Senegalese fishermen fish with no regard to the law, simply because there is little to no policing of the law. This is similar to the problem in South Africa, and every other African country we have visited thus far. The dilemma we face is that it is too easy to be negative about the lack of management and care of marine resources and the impact of conservation initiatives, and we have to really dig deep to find something positive. However, it is not all doom and gloom in Senegal. In three months, the Oceanium NGO has planted over 6 million mangrove trees in an attempt to restore natural mangroves in southern Senegal. The government has not recognized the European Union fisheries agreements, and the WWF is working in local fishing villages on a fisheries co-management project. Fishery observers are receiving better training. Furthermore, there is an initiative to link all the West African governments to share a joint management plan for pelagic fish species such as sardines and mackerel. However, what Senegal’s conservation success boils down to is political will, or the lack thereof. AfricanDiver.com 29

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An Attitude About Altitude

Unlike many of our contributors, Paul and I live in Johannesburg and not at sea level. So when we are not “sea-diving” and rather diving “inland”, in order to satisfy our need to be underwater, we always have to take altitude into account when planning our dives. Realising that many divers live and dive “inland”, or at altitude, we contacted DAN-SA for some guidance. We thought that the information, in the form of three articles, from DAN-SA was good that we decided to publish all three. The first is a general article and well worth reading to gain an understanding. The second is a case study and the third an interesting set of questions. Enjoy the read, it’s well worth reminding yourself of the fundamentals of altitude diving.

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DAN discusses the considerations and cautions of diving at altitude by Dan Orr When I was teaching an instructor training course at Wright State University a few years ago, the part of the course arrived when the candidates were given topics for their final formal lecture. The topics were all related to recreational diving. The day of the formal presentations arrived, and one memorable candidate (we’ll call him “J.C.”) handed the evaluation panel the topic slip he had been given the previous week. The topic, typed in bold letters, stated: “ALTITUDE DIVING.” We recorded J.C.’s topic on our evaluation sheets and awaited his presentation. He approached the podium, organized his papers and visual aids and proceeded to give the best lecture any of us had ever heard on ATTITUDE DIVING. As J.C. enthusiastically launched into his presentation, the evaluators exchanged puzzled glances but otherwise thoroughly enjoyed the exceptional presentation. Only during the question-and-answer period did it come up that the topic was actually ALTITUDE rather than ATTITUDE. J.C.’s response: He thought it must have been a misprint since there wasn’t much information available on diving at altitude. Taking a cue from J.C., it’s fair to state that diving at altitude may very well be one of those areas in recreational diving that isn’t frequently addressed. Why? Presumably because many divers assume that diving takes place at sea level. This assumption could not be further from the AfricanDiver.com 31

truth. Tens of thousands of divers thoroughly enjoy the thousands of lakes, rivers, quarries - not to forget the Great Lakes. But I’m not going to address (nor debate) the differences between diving in fresh water versus salt water: Lets take for granted that there are buoyancy, visibility, and temperature differences between the two diving environments. Regardless, they can be equally as enjoying and exciting. It’s diving at altitude we want to discuss. By definition, altitude diving would be anything above sea level. From a practical standpoint, it generally applies to any altitude above 1,000 feet / 300 meters. Since diving at this or greater altitudes involves returning to the surface at less than one atmosphere, some consideration must be made in order that the dives are made safely. The many facts we have been taught about diving at one atmosphere must be modified at altitude. Decompression theory and the use of equipment (dive tables, dive computers, depth gauges and exposure suits) are the primary concerns that must be considered. Physiological Considerations The main physiological consideration for diving at altitude is the decrease in atmospheric pressure and the resulting changes in the body’s ability to absorb nitrogen. From the standpoint of decompression theory, ambient pressure determines the relative ability of our bodies to absorb and release nitrogen. When diving at altitude with a reduced atmospheric pressure, the ambient pressure at depth will be different from the same depth in the ocean. Adjustments, therefore, must be Apr/May 09


made to reduce the risk of decompression illness. As a result, bottom time must be decreased. In order to properly calculate no-decompression limits at altitude, divers must use high-altitude dive tables to obtain their theoretical depth. Along with adjustments to dive tables, divers at altitude must reduce their ascent rate: because of the decreased pressure at altitude, an ascent rate of 30 feet per minute is recommended. In addition, the depths of safety stops must be modified. (Note: safety stops are always recommended on all dives regardless of depth or bottom time or altitude). It is also important to note the arrival at altitude before the dive. Each of us reacts differently to the physiological adjustments the human body undergoes as the body acclimates to decreased atmospheric pressure. Some of these effects include headache, nausea and mild disorientation. Also, when arriving at altitude, the body has excess nitrogen compared to the nitrogen in the ambient air. This is similar to having already made a dive. In other words, if the diver has not equilibrated to the ambient gases, the first dive must be considered a repetitive dive. Some consideration must also be made for post-dive activities. Because a decrease in atmospheric pressure and the fact that less oxygen is available from the atmosphere at altitude, routine tasks could easily cause a diver to become short of breath. The best AfricanDiver.com 32

advice is to take it easy before and after the dive. Equipment Considerations Depth gauges - Depth gauges will give false readings at altitude unless they are equipped with altitude adjustments. Bourbon tube, diaphragm and electronic depth gauges all display a depth shallower than the actual water depth unless they are equipped with an altitude compensating feature. Since these gauges are designed to read ‘zero’ feet at 14.7 psi, it may actually take several feet of depth to reach zero. Capillary depth gauges, on the other hand, read deeper than the actual depth. These gauges are designed to measure pressure / volume relationship of a bubble of air (in this case thinner air than at sea level) within the calibrated capillary tube. Exposure suits - When a diver is wearing a wetsuit, the reduced atmospheric pressure at altitude may cause the trapped gas within the neoprene to expand, creating more positive buoyancy than at sea level. This means the diver may require more weight. A pre-dive buoyancy check is always a good idea. Dive computers - Remember, a dive computer is a tool and, like any other piece of diving equipment, it has design limitations. While many dive computers automatically compensate for changes in altitude, divers must remember that once turned on, the computer assumes that their Apr/May 09


body is equilibrated with the ambient pressure. If not, the information the computer is giving would be incorrect. Read the instruction manual. Diving at altitude can be just as much fun as a dive anywhere else in the diving world as long as the right attitude and the appropriate altitude adjustments are considered.

theoretical depth of 130 feet / 40 meters). • Move slowly and deliberately before and after an altitude dive in order to prevent hypoxia (lack of oxygen due to shortness of breath). • Follow normal safety procedures at altitude. • Know when to say when.

REFERENCES Graver, Dennis. Diving A to Z. 1976. When J.C. summed up his talk on ATTITUDE diving, Rossier, Robert. Altitude Diving. Dive Training, August he gave us a few words of wisdom that apply to all diving 1995. pgs. 38-44. situations. “The better your attitude, the higher your Schwankert, Steven. Going Up To Get Down. Discover altitude.” he said. Diving Magazine, February 1996. pg. 25-27. Safe diving is as much attitude as it is activity. With the Smith, C.L. Altitude Procedures for the Ocean Diver. appropriate attitude (and adjustments), you can make safe NAUI 1976. dives regardless of the altitude. Thanks, J.C., for those pearls Taylor, Gary. Physiological Considerations for Diving at of wisdom. Altitude. Immersed, Spring 1997. pgs. 43-45. ALTITUDE SAFETY TIPS Taylor, Gary. Diving at Altitude. Immersed, Summer 1997. • Acclimate to altitude before making your first dive. If pgs. 54-55. you do not appropriately acclimate, you must consider Taylor, Larry “Harris.” Altitude Arithmetic. Sources, Sept./ the first dive a repetitive dive. Oct. 1994. pgs. 42-44. • Use tables designed for use at altitude to determine Wienke, B.R. High Altitude Diving. theoretical depth. NAUI 1991. • When doing altitude calculations, round all altitudes up and depths down. Exceeding the Limits • Reduce maximum ascent rates to 30 feet per minute. by Daniel A. Nord • Make a safety stop at the appropriate theoretical depth for three to five minutes at the end of each dive. For one diver, a delay to treatment and pushing the limits • Wait at least 12 hours before ascending to a higher for altitude diving add up to a permanent delay in his altitude (driving, hiking or flying) after a dive. diving • Do not dive above 10,000 feet / 3,048 meters without additional training. The Diver: He is a 21-year-old recreational diver with a • Check buoyancy for changes due to both fresh water lifetime history of approximately 30 dives within the last and altitude (e.g., wetsuit buoyancy problems). two years. He considers himself a healthy young adult and • The maximum depth for a dive at altitude is a has a “clean slate” in his medical history. His last dive ended AfricanDiver.com 33

about two hours before he called DAN’s 24-Hour Diving Emergency Hotline. The Incident: Earlier that day, the diver had completed a series of two recreational air dives. He was diving in a freshwater lake at an elevation of 1,120 feet / 342 meters above sea level, not far from his home. Water temperatures were chilly - around 50 degrees F / 10 degrees C. He made his first dive to a depth of 113 feet / 35 meters; total bottom time was 15 minutes. His dive, however, was complicated at depth by symptoms of dizziness, confusion and difficulty breathing. Sensing the possible effects of nitrogen narcosis, he signaled to his buddy that he was aborting the dive and began his ascent. At 87 feet / 26.5 meters, he noted that his symptoms had improved. After a surface interval of two hours and 11 minutes, he made a second dive to a depth of 30 feet / 9 meters for a total bottom time of 30 minutes. He exited the water at approximately 3 p.m. local time. Both dives included a safety stop at 15 feet / 5 meters for roughly three to four minutes. Besides the fact that the dives had been conducted in 50-degree water, there were no other complicating factors. The Complications: After his first dive, the man felt a numbness and tingling (known as paresthesia) throughout the thumb and index fingers of both hands when he was removing his wetsuit and gloves. Despite his underwater episode of dizziness, confusion and difficulty breathing on his dive, he attributed these symptoms of paresthesia to the effects of swimming in cold water. He noted that his symptoms became less intense during his second dive, but returned shortly after he surfaced. The symptoms persisted and remained unchanged until his drive home, when he noted that the paresthesias were Apr/May 09


spreading to include the middle fingers of both hands. After this, he noted no additional symptoms. Changes in elevation during his ride home were no greater than 100 to 200 feet (30 to 40 meters) in either direction. When he arrived home, he contacted DAN’s Diving Emergency Hotline. After a review of his diving and personal medical history, DAN referred him immediately to his local emergency room for a full neurological evaluation. DAN’s on-call medic contacted the nearest hyperbaric facility, 293 miles away, and provided the attending hyperbaric physician with the diver’s history. The hyperbaric physician provided support and consultation to the local evaluating physician in the treatment of the diver. When he arrived at the local hospital for a neurological examination, the diver had a unilateral (one-sided) facial droop. The attending physician placed him on 100 percent oxygen. Within 15 to 20 minutes of breathing oxygen, the diver showed a noticeable improvement. Despite this improvement, the local attending physician decided to monitor the diver for approximately four hours. After this time, the hospital discontinued the treatment with oxygen and discharged the diver, with instructions to alert his attending physician if he experienced any return of symptoms. The diver was somewhat fatigued, he noted, when he went home. By mid-morning on the following day, the diver felt numbness and tingling throughout the first three fingers of both hands. He returned to his local emergency department for further evaluation. After a consult with the hyperbaric physician, a family member arranged ground transport to the hyperbaric facility. This transport involved crossing two mountain passes with peak elevations of 4,400 feet / 1,342 meters and 4,265 feet / 1,300 meters. While en route, the diver’s symptoms worsened at peak elevations. AfricanDiver.com 34

He arrived at the hyperbaric center with recurring symptoms of left facial droop in addition to left facial sensory deficits (lack of sensation).

second dive, is not always demonstrative of decompression sickness since other mitigating factors are possible, but it should heighten the suspicion for possible DCS.

While these late symptoms can suggest a viral disease or a pressure-related phenomenon to the seventh cranial nerve, they could not be ruled out as a complication of decompression sickness because of the delayed onset in the presence of his paresthesias. The Treatment: At the hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) treatment facility, now 42 hours after his symptom onset, the diver was evaluated and treated with HBO. The recompression therapy was a U.S. Navy Treatment Table 6, which lasts nearly five hours. By the end of his initial treatment, the diver experienced a 70 percent relief of all his symptoms. After an evaluation the next day he received a second five-hour HBO treatment and had complete relief of all symptoms.

Despite the complications and delays to treatment, this case is remarkable for the diver’s excellent response to hyperbaric oxygen therapy after his first diving injury. Full recoveries are widely reported throughout DAN’s statistics, lending support to the recommendation to persist in moving injured divers toward hyperbaric oxygen, despite long delays.

The Diagnosis: The diver had experienced decompression sickness type II, or DCS-II. A favorable response to breathing oxygen under pressure is compelling evidence for the diagnosis of DCS. The Discussion: There are several elements in this case that could have resulted in long-term symptoms. The first two are that the diver continued his diving with possible symptoms of DCS; and his referral for hyperbaric treatment was delayed 42 hours. Nearly 17 percent of all divers with decompression illness accounted for in DAN’s 1997 injury statistics reported having experienced symptoms prior to their last dive (for more information, see DAN’s 1999 “Report on Decompression Illness and Diving Fatalities: Based on 1997 Data.”) Symptoms should be investigated fully as soon as they occur. Recognizing an improvement of the original symptoms at depth, as reported here during the Apr/May 09


Although the dives were not conducted at a significant altitude (1,120 feet / 341 meters), the failure to apply altitude corrections pushed him into obligated decompression according to the Cross correction guidelines developed for diving at altitudes greater than 1,000 feet above sea level. Standard decompression tables were designed and calculated on the assumption that the divers using them were beginning and ending their dives within an ambient pressure of 1 atmosphere absolute (ATA), or sea level.

This recommendation, however, may not be suitable for the diver with residual neurological damage. Unfortunately, there is no clear evidence for a precise recommendation. The best advice to the recreational diver with neurological symptoms following decompression is to stop diving. Further neurological injury could place this diver at significant risk for major residual neurologic injuries.

Interestingly, the U.S. Navy Standard Decompression Tables are recognized and accepted for dive planning at elevations within 2,300 feet / 701 meters above sea level. The application of some altitude correction model would have added a more conservative time restriction for these somewhat aggressive dives. Even though research teams have conducted decompression dives at altitude with no reported cases of decompression sickness, it is generally accepted that divers should avoid dives at altitude with obligated decompression. Bent Again: Despite his excellent response to hyperbaric therapy, this diver’s story does not end with an uncomplicated resumption of diving. He returned to openwater diving 10 months later and experienced another episode of neurological decompression sickness. Unfortunately, treatment has failed to fully resolve his symptoms after this second incident of DCS. What is clear is that when treating decompression sickness its outcome can retain a certain unpredictability. Decisions on the appropriate course of action by treating personnel are sometimes clouded by issues such as lack of training, lack of diving knowledge and/or diving medicine, transient resolution of symptoms, logistic obstacles to definitive treatment and financial restraints. Nevertheless, it is generally recognized that delays to HBO can jeopardize a complete recovery, although many divers with long delays have recovered fully. Advising the diver who has been treated for decompression sickness on the suitability of continuing to dive is a difficult task. Generally speaking, for the diver who experiences DCS with mild, less intense symptoms that were swiftly and effectively treated with no residual tissue damage, there are usually no major problems in resuming diving.

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One Shot – The First Frame There are countless images of clownfish in existence, and I would wager that the little stripy fish is the most-photographed underwater subject on the planet. They tolerate the close attention of the camera, seem oblivious to divers and have a fanatical devotion to their host, never straying far. The “ahhh” factor just oozes from their little fins and thanks to Disney the Nemo tag is indelibly etched into the minds of the under-5s, reinforcing the cute appeal. It’s for these very reasons many camera-wielding divers have spent time in their company, and explains why I maintained a strict policy of never photographing Clownfish. Why bother taking a picture that everyone else has taken a million times before? I just didn’t understand why anyone would devote an entire dive to take pictures of this fish. So why is this One Shot a full-on portrait of the very subject I would cross the reef to avoid? To hone my photographic skills I took a week out from photojournalism and went to the Red Sea with the esteemed tutor Martin Edge and devoted two dives to Anemone City and their resident clownfish. Unlike many reefs named for their dive guide-imagined subjects (how many times have you seen a shark at a dive site called “shark reef ”?) Anemone City really does have lots of…….anemones and thousands of resident clownfish. The little fish were everywhere and I must confess I thought they were both photogenic and rather cute, so I settled down on a patch of sand and watched a clownfish go about its daily business keeping the host clean, flitting in and out of the tentacles. I lifted the camera, framed and tracked the fish as best I could before finally pressing the shutter. The image you see is the first frame. I spent another 55 minutes with the same anemone and fish shooting another 80 or so pictures, some of which worked but most didn’t, but the very first image remained not only the best composition and in focus. Compared to the 79 others, the very first is the favourite. So I don’t need to photograph another clownfish again…..or do I? Can I improve the image? There is always room for improvement and there is always another way to capture a subject. One photographic technique I practiced on the clownfish didn’t quite work, but showed potential so I won’t pass up the chance to spend time with Nemo again. Like most images this one is more “unfinished business”. This image is available as a 16” x 20” print. For more information please click here or visit Simon Brown’s website by clicking here.

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Apr/May 09

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AfricanDiver Issue 4  

Senegal, the Maldives, Dahab and Sodwana Bay; all parts of Africa and its surrounding islands that feature in this issue of African Diver. T...

AfricanDiver Issue 4  

Senegal, the Maldives, Dahab and Sodwana Bay; all parts of Africa and its surrounding islands that feature in this issue of African Diver. T...

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