Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sardine Run, Aliwal Shoal June 23rd 2007

The first dive was at the Inside Edge at North East Pinnacles. Most of the dive was at a depth between 17 and 23 meters. We saw lots of different fish, a Potato or Brindle Bass among others. The visibility was rather bad though – about 10 meters I believe. You could see all the particles in the water like a thick porridge. I remember two years ago it was also like this… I guess maybe it’s the plankton. Nothing to do about that… after all this is what attracts the Sardines and the rest of the food chain with it to the area. Coming up I was damn cold also, the coldest they had experienced the whole year… so we decided on a shallower and warmer second dive.

One of the divers… an earlier instructor from the area tells me that the Sardine Run is in fact the biggest migration of living creatures on earth. Forget about the migration in Masai Mara and the Serengeti - this is far bigger and better!! This part of the year, the currents pushes a thick porridge of plankton up the east coast… and an impressively huge part of the oceanic fauna follows. From the smallest little organisms, to the filter feeders like the Whale Shark and Manta Rays they come in hordes. The Sardines are maybe the most numerous… or at least the most visible, and thus given it the name; “Sardine Run”. Some times the shoal of Sardines can stretch for a couple of kilometers and form a cloud that moves up the coast. All the sardines come from wherever they’ve been for the rest of the year… then they meet and join forces around the Cape amazingly at the same time, and move up along the coast.

The Sardines are either stupid or stressed by all the predators that want to dig in from the pack… coz some times the shoal comes all the way up on the beach so that people can scoop up buckets of sardines. Unlike dolphins, I don’t think they’ve done much research on the Sardine’s intelligence. The predators like the dolphins and certain sharks that chase them are considered pretty smart hunters so I’ll give the Sardines the benefit of the doubt, that they are just cornered. It’s like a game of chess. The dolphins are just thinking a couple of more moves ahead of the sardines, and get their share. The whole Sardine Run is suicidal in other words from a Sardines perspective, as the predators can have their way every single year! The SA fishermen also scoop up an estimated 700tons before the shoal disintegrates. If I was a Sardine, and a smart one, I would stay away from this event!

Going for my second dive I don’t care so much about the Sardines really. It’s the bigger stuff like the sharks and the big filter feeders (Whale Sharks and Manta Rays) that I’m hoping to see. Two years ago just after the Sardine Run I saw huge numbers of Manta Rays looping in the water just below the surface. They feed like this in plankton rich waters I’ve heard. It was a big thrill to look straight into that wide open mouth… so this is what I’m hoping for, and Whale Shark… and I Tiger Shark would be cool. I know I’m demanding much here now… but you can always hope right?!

Besides, I’m reading that book my wife got the other day; “The Secret”, about the law of attraction. It is still fresh in my mind how I, based on some basic principles on mind power, managed some self healing in the last minute before my X-Ray (http://stensbys.blogspot.com/2007/06/x-ray-at-sunninghill-hospital.html). This is bordering to spirituality and nothing a Stensby should believe in… but it saved my ass, right… or my lungs I mean! The Americans and the Russians spent millions of dollars and rubles on research on telepathy and mind power stuff during the cold war. Telepathic test missiles and propaganda flew straight over my head, as Norway is in the line of fire, so I should know what I’m talking about. So maybe I should give this mind power stuff a try?

One of my fellow divers got two holes in his suit… on his bum, so I don’t ask. However, it comes up in conversation that it happened the day before. Maybe he tested the law of attraction… As he was on his way out of the water and into the rubber duck, he is hanging there with his bum up in the air. It’s not one of your proudest moments, but inevitable when you want to climb back into the boat. Just as he is hanging there in his vulnerable position, a fish leaps out of the water and bites his bum. It is hanging there persistently for a few seconds before he can manage to give the fish a good hiding! The fish, a “Garfish”, must have been really pissed at him. After a story like that, you must wonder whether the law of attraction really works no matter how practical minded you are. So, I quickly shortlist the stuff that I want to see the most on my next dive! Whale Shark, Manta Ray, Tiger Shark. That’s my ultimate 3 that I feel I can hope for. They will really make my day! Like those Hindu guys when they are humming that “Om” sound, I am repeating those 3 over and over in my mind. Whale Shark, Manta Ray, Tiger Shark. Whilst the others are busy talking, I am meditating and busy attracting those 3 species. It’s like chumming the water with wishful thinking. I feel stupid now, but still want to give it a try! I only hope that they can keep up with the rubber duck with its double set of 85horsepower engines?!

First thing, we drop off an Italian couple to join another group of divers. They are doing a shark dive! Sharks are everywhere… like you can’t fit more sharks into the water. They are Blacktip Reef sharks… a very streamlined and beautiful shark. I’ve dived with them myself in Thailand and thoroughly enjoyed it! Suddenly I can see a much bigger shape coming past the boat… it’s a 3,5meter long Tiger Shark. I am very excited now and want to jump in… but sober up when I hear the cost of diving with a so-called shark expert! At least I’ve seen it from the boat, so I feel that I can tick it off my list already, but still two to go!

We are doing the Raggie Caves now. Throughout the whole dive I am very excited, because there are reefs, rocks and caves and swim troughs everywhere. It’s a real treasure hunt, where you find surprises behind every corner. Lots of different fish, moray eels peeping out of their holes, stingrays and skates relaxing on the sandy bottom or in small holes in the coral reef, and giant turtles and raggies hiding in caves… You just go on and on, and the visibility is so much better this time as well, so you want the dive to last forever. According to my dive computer most of the dive is done between 10 and 17 meters… so it’s a long dive. Plan your dive, and dive your plan I’ve heard… My plan is to stay down for as long as possible and suck out every last bit of air… and find that Manta Ray and Whale Shark. Then I see a large shape in front of me flapping slowly. It’s a huge Manta Ray. It makes a U-turn just in front of us and disappears again. It is so majestic though, and a kick to watch if only for a few seconds. After 68 minutes I’m the only diver left hanging around at 5 meters depth, so I give in as well. Two out of three gives some credibility to the Law of Attraction… but not properly convinced yet!

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