“Will you walk a little faster?” said a whiting to a snail,Alice in Wonderland; Lewis Carroll, 1865
“There’s a porpoise close behind us, and he’s treading on my tail!
See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance:
They are waiting on the shingle—will you come and join the dance?”
In our last blog we focussed on plastic pollution and headlined it with an epigraph from Peter Scott, founder of the World Wildlife Federation. He said: ‘The conservationist’s most important task, if we are to save the earth, is to educate.’ The question – or series of questions – are: how do we educate? Given that the earth is a complex coordinated system of interlocking pieces, where each piece has a direct effect on all the other pieces, and that it is populated by over seven billion people of vastly differing educational levels, needs and backgrounds, there is no simple solution.
At Waterfront Charters we are involved with the ocean. That may seem like a self-evident statement, given that we offer wide-ranging cruises aboard a variety of vessels, but our involvement goes far deeper than just providing happy guests with an exciting experience. Our lives, as company owners, sailors, skippers, crew members and staff, are dedicated not only to making sure that our visitors enjoy every minute of their cruise adventures, but that they learn about the wonders of our oceans – and the immense strain these huge watery tracts are under at present.
One of the more obvious problems is that, in the main, the complexities of the underwater world are hidden from view. ‘What lies beneath’ is a world that defies land based definitions; when we cruise along the Cape coastline the beauty that is seen is all above the waterline; the statuesque mountains, the Atlantic stretching out to a distant horizon, the white beaches, the striking green and blue contrast of vegetation and sky. Occasionally we are given glimpses of the magical aquatic world as a pod of dolphins races past us, or a Southern Right whale breaches or perhaps tail slaps nearby. Sun fish laze majestically like big silver dollars, little penguins turn from land-based clowns into lithe submarines that dart through the water in a froth of bubbles, and seals bask lazily on rocks and jetties. But then, as quickly as they appear, they are gone, leaving everyone hoping for much more.
For those of us who have been visitors to this underwater world, it’s beyond fascinating. The sights, the life, the energy, the sheer magnificence, is overwhelming. But whether you are breathing compressed air through a demand valve or simply holding your breath, you are hyper aware that you are a visitor: this is not your domain. But it hasn’t stopped humans from invading it, pillaging and destroying, harvesting and poisoning. The signs are everywhere. Plastic, glass, tin cans, lost fishing line and snagged nets. Oil on the surface, sludge on the seabed; cigarette butts sinking is a cloud of deadly nicotine, discarded waste of every description. But it doesn’t matter because: humans can no longer see it. Our crews scoop up what they can from the surface, but what has sunk is beyond our control, and the damage being done is irreversible.
There is, of course, a way to see this world. And if it was in our power, we would make it compulsory for every inhabitant to earth to visit an aquarium. Here is the V&A Waterfront we have possibly one of the best aquariums on the planet in the form of the Two Oceans Aquarium, and to quote their own words: To raise awareness of the oceans, the Two Oceans Aquarium is designed to showcase the beauty and diversity of the oceans off southern Africa. Internationally respected for its high standards in animal care, the Two Oceans Aquarium promotes sustainability through environmental education and conservation.
The Two Oceans Aquarium is international recognised for its eco-awareness campaigns and exhibits, and is a certified Diamond Member of the Heritage Environmental Rating Programme. Their Diamond status was awarded in 2017 after they maintained Platinum status, the highest level of achievement in this internationally recognised eco-labelling programme, for five years. The range and beauty the of exhibits within the aquarium are breath-taking, even to mariners and divers long in the tooth: seeing the undersea world on view as it looks in its natural state is awe inspiring. Those with an adventurous mindset can even dive into one of the tanks: beware though – you’ll be hooked for life. But once again, everything on display is always with an eye on educating the public; teaching about the complexities of this underwater planet that is alien to us surface creatures. The kelp forests swaying in the current, the sharks, beautifully menacing, the penguins, turtles – learning that there are over 2 200 species of fish in the waters around our peninsula…
And so much, just so much, more.
We urge you all to take a look at https://www.aquarium.co.za/ and make some time to visit this amazing part of the V&A Waterfront. Combine it with a Waterfront Charters cruise to get a full 360 degree look at our amazing – but threatened – ocean and its occupants. We’d love to have you aboard, telling us about what you have seen and what you would like to see.