Expedition 2006 - South Africa and Lake Malawi

JBL Expedition 2006 - South Africa and Lake Malawi

Cape of Good Hope

Expedition 2006 - Cape of Good Hope

The team did not want to miss the opportunity of observing the fauna in the area of the Cape of Good Hope at the southernmost tip of Africa, where the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean meet. Just half an hour’s boat trip north of the Cape the team loaded the boat with all the testing equipment and the complete diving equipment. The first task was to examine the South African kelp. This algae is one of the biggest in the world. A related species in cold water off the Californian coast can grow up to 30 m long, at a rate of up to 1.5m per day!!

The strong currents in the Cape region lead to a somewhat shorter form with even stronger “roots” anchoring to the ground. The water temperature here was 11° C, permitting dives of only 40 minutes. A colony of sea lions was resting on a large rock not far from the shore. The snorkellers in the team had problems swimming against the strong currents around the rock. The divers only found calmer waters at a depth of 8 m. As soon as the sea lions discovered the divers and snorkellers they approached them full of curiosity, swimming playfully around them. They often floated upside down in the water for several seconds, with their mouths wide open, exposing their strong teeth. It is not clear whether this was a threatening gesture. Whatever the case, you should not wave your hands around in front of their jaws. They might bite! The divers were amazed at the sight when they reached the floor: the colonies of invertebrates on the rocks were breathtaking!

The sea urchins, anemones, sea cucumbers and sea lilies covered every centimeter! The wealth of plankton is so immense that it is not the amount of nutrition available, but the restricted settlement area which is the limiting factor.

After a break, the team went on to the Cape of Good Hope. A resting right whale was spotted on the way to the Cape. So a few team members jumped into the water and snorkeled over to the 15 m long marine mammal. From its eye movements, it was obvious that the whale was very aware of the snorkellers. When one of the snorkellers touched his tail fluke, however, the giant stirred. The meter-long, broad tail fluke stepped on the gas and produced hefty turbulence for the snorkellers, just like a washing machine!