“A virus is a form of life with very simple requirements.”David Baltimore, Nobel Lecture: (December 12, 1975)
It is most unusual to stare at the Atlantic Ocean and see it almost empty of vessels. For the last 600 years or so, our ocean has hosted vessels ranging from wooden galleons to super-tankers, and everything in between. Cape Town has been called the Tavern of the Seas with just cause; its first job was to provide water and fresh produce for sailors attempting to round Africa and trade in the east; the Gardens behind the city in the 21st century no longer grow vegetables and fruit, but remain as a tourist attraction and pleasant retreat for weary workers. These days the Cape Town harbour is a happy combination of revictualling station for cargo and container vessels, drop-off point for cruise ships, and a fishing factory and recreational base of note. The V&A Waterfront’s history has been written about previously, but in the 150 years or so of its existence it has undergone a complete transformation from a bustling port of tall ships to a bustling port of multiple recreational facilities, one of which we at Waterfront Charters have been proudly offering since the early 1990’s. As South Africa’s number one tourist destination by number of visitors, the V&A is a must-visit attraction for tourists and locals alike. And no visit to the V&A Waterfront is complete without a refreshing Waterfront Charters cruise: with our seven vessels and wide array of cruise choices there is something for everyone, from eco-adventurer to those just wanting to chill aboard a luxury yacht.
Except now, of course, as we all struggle under the grip of various stages of lockdown. It’s a very difficult time for Mother Earth’s human inhabitants, but it’s worthwhile remembering that this is just part of the pattern of life. Viruses have been around since long before humans, and it’s a certainty that they will be around long after we have departed the Universe. As a matter of fact, without viruses it’s probable that humans wouldn’t even exist. They played a vital part in the evolution of all species on the planet: whilst viruses themselves aren’t exactly a life force, they are responsible for carrying genes across species, increasing genetic diversity. Right back at the time of the primordial soup viruses played a central role in early evolution, before the diversification of the last universal common ancestor into bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes. This was still some billions of years before man descended from the tress and started setting fire to things, but to this day viruses are still one of the largest reservoirs of unexplored genetic diversity on Earth. Perhaps this is where the dreaded Covid-19 steps into the picture; the jury is still out as to where it sprang from, but here’s an interesting scientific fact for you ponder over: in January 2018, scientists reported that 800 million viruses, mainly of marine origin, are deposited daily from the Earth’s atmosphere onto every square meter of the planet’s surface, as the result of a global atmospheric stream of viruses, circulating above the weather system. One of those 800 000 000 got out of hand, it appears.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Viruses are used very effectively in many ways by the scientific and medical world, from exploring molecular and cell biology to understanding of the basic mechanisms of molecular genetics, and is showing very promising results in the potential of cancer cures. As a marine company, though, it’s the viruses of the watery environment around us that we find fascinating: they are the most abundant biological entity in the ocean. There are – take a deep breath – about ten million different viruses in a teaspoonful of seawater. Don’t run for the hills: they play an essential part in the regulation of both marine and freshwater ecosystems. They kill bacteria and are one of the most important mechanisms in the recycling of carbon, and they assist in the nutrient cycle that feeds all the living creatures in the oceans.
So don’t let one nasty rebel Corona put you off viruses: humans have been dealt some terrific blows over the centuries – apart from the plagues of the middle ages and the Spanish flu of 1919, who even remembers the flu epidemic of the late 1950’s that killed a million and a half people? But without fail we get up, dust ourselves off and carry on; each time wiser and more capable of handling the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that Hamlet moaned about. At Waterfront Charters we have adopted a pragmatic approach: we will roll with the changes and make sure that our boats are all ready to sail at a moment’s notice.
Our skippers have been given the green light to spend time on their vessels to ensure that everything is shipshape and scrubbed and polished to perfection. If social distancing remains an issue after lockdown lifts we offer special charters on the boat of your choice: select a small group of friends and we’ll treat you to a superb private cruise – all at a very reasonable cost.
We can’t wait to get sailing again, and we look forward to seeing all clients, old and new, aboard in the very near future. Our enthusiasm is viral!