Tag Archives: Antarctic

Chef Jenny Morris launches Yumcious Café in Durbanville! Exciting Tourism news from James Vos, Shadow Minister of Tourism!

Yesterday I attended the launch of Yumcious Café in the DeVille Centre in Durbanville, the second restaurant of Chef Jenny Morris, her first one being the very successful Yumcious Café in the Cape Quarter.  Continue reading →

‘Hayden Quinn: South Africa’ episode 5: Whale of a time in Hermanus and Stanford, no mention of its wine stars!

Hayden Quinn Hermanus old harbourHayden Quinn: South Africa’ focused on the Overberg last night, visiting Hermanus and Stanford, as well as Elgin, but this was not mentioned, being described as being just outside Hermanus!  It was a whale of an episode highlighting the Southern Right whale visitors, the sustainable apple and pear farming in Elgin, and Marianna’s sustainable restaurant in Stanford.  No mention was made however of Hermanus’ produce nor its world-renowned wines in the Hemel en Aarde Valley!

Hayden raved about the Southern Right whales, which visit  Hermanus’ Walker Bay from July, he said incorrectly (they arrive from the Antarctic from May onwards) until early December.  On the Facebook page of ‘Hayden Quinn: South Africa it is incorrectly claimed that Hermanus is the ‘Whale Watching Capital of the World‘, copywriting nonsense.  Hermanus is however known as the offering the best land-based whale watching in the world, which is something different, and Hayden did say words to this effect in the episode!

To add some real adventure to his visit to Hermanus, Forest Adventures’ Clinton Lerm (infamous for wanting to change the name of the village to ‘Lermanus when his family tried to take over the tourism management of the town, to their own Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 7/8 December

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*  Thirteen venues linked to the late Nelson Mandela  in Johannesburg and Pretoria are paying homage to the great leader.  They include his house in Alexandra; his house in Soweto; Nelson Mandela Bridge; the Nelson Mandela statue in Nelson Mandela Square; the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory; Liliesleaf Farm; Constitution Hill; the Apartheid Museum; Freedom Park in Pretoria; the Union Buildings; the Workers’ Museum; the Palace of Justice in Church Square, and Chancellor House.

*   The Sydney Morning Herald lists 20 reasons to visit Cape Town today, clearly out of date as it recommends seeing whales from land (they have left for the Antarctic already), and there is no reference to Nelson Mandela’s passing!  It oddly refers to the longest wine route in the world between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth (the latter city is not associated with wines), and referring to indigenous fynbos as ‘native flowers’ is a ‘lost in translation’ reference!   It does highlight Clifton and Camps Bay as top beaches. The writer received information from SA Tourism, which makes the incorrect information unforgivable.

*   In the twenty years since the late Mr Mandela’s release and subsequent Presidency of the country tourist arrivals grew by 10 million!

*   Announced prior to the passing of Madiba, SAA and SA Tourism shared plans to tie in with the release of the movie ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom‘ in the United Kingdom, to promote our country as a tourism destination.

*   An American publication recommends three South African wines out of Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 20 November

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   Prince Harry arrived in Cape Town yesterday, on his way to the Antarctic, where he will accompany the British team in the Walk with the Wounded charity trek, on a 200 mile trek over 18 days, competing against Australian, Canadian and American teams.  Poor weather has delayed Prince Harry’s flight to the Antarctic.

*  Free wifi is now available at the Sea Point Pavilion, a service offered by the City of Cape Town as part of Cape Town’s status as World Design Capital 2014.

*   The Naspers building is more than 50 years old, and once was Africa’s tallest building.  One of the Cape Town World Design Capital 2014 projects is a competition to redesign the building, with a prize tag of R200000, as well as the implementation of the transformation, with a R15 million budget. (received via WDC Cape Town newsletter from the Cape Town Design NPC)

*   Catharina’s lunch guests will be entertained by band Blacksmith on Sunday 24 November. (received via media release from Communication Services Africa)

*   Nose blog carries a controversial blogpost about an article written by James Conaway, which is extremely critical of Wine Spectator‘s Robert Parker’s 100 point wine evaluation scale, which he describes as a  ‘dying’ system.  The retirement of Parker, announced last year, has opened for a host of wine judges to evaluate wines, including Joe Roberts (1 Wine Dude), Jancis Robinson, Stephen Tanzer,  and Eric Asimov of the New York Times.  Conaway is quoted Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 29 October

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*  Cape Town has been named third best city in the world by Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2014 Top Cities listing. It was beaten by Paris and Trinidad, but was ranked ahead of Riga (capital of Latvia), Zurich, Shanghai, Vancouver, Chicago, Adelaide, and Auckland.  Top 10 countries in the world are Brazil, Antarctic (unusual to call this a country!), Scotland (is it not part of the UK?), Sweden, Malawi, Mexico, Seychelles, Belgium, Macedonia, and Malaysia.  The rationale for Cape Town’s ranking was: ‘Expect sculpture-lined green spaces, sustainable projects that are more than just a pretty face, and further regeneration of former industrial districts.  2014 marks the twentieth anniversary of South African democracy – honour it by exploring the city’s history,’ encourages the travel guide.

Cape Town was crowned with first place in the category Top 10 Cities in Africa and the Middle East and ranked eleventh in the Top 25 Cities in the World by Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards.  The city as also rated tops as Africa’s Leading Destination and also as Africa’s Leading Meetings and Conference Destination by World Travel Awards. (received via e-mail from Rabbit in a Hat Communications)

*   Renowned Chef Raymond Blanc is redesigning the winter Continue reading →

Blue whale research uses sounds to track them in the Antarctic!

An Australian Blue Whale Project has used acoustic technology to track the rare Blue whales in the Antarctic’s Southern Ocean, identifying their location based on the noises the whales made, reported The Times.

The Blue whale is the largest whale species, making it the largest mammal in the world, yet is rarely seen in the Antarctic Ocean.  The Australian research team located the Blue Whales from their unusual noises, enabling the researchers to locate the Blue whales.  Once located, two of the Blue whales were satellite tagged and 23 biopsy samples were taken, to track the Blue whales’ feeding habits in summer, and to study how they forage, a process that took seven weeks.

The Blue whale can grow up to 30 meters and can weigh 180 tons.  Its tongue is heavier than an elephant, and its heart is as big as a small car.  The noises made by the Blue whale were heard hundreds of kilometers away!  More than 600 hours of Blue whale songs were recorded and more than 26000 calls were recorded and analysed for the project.

The Blue Whale Project is proving that whales do not have to be killed to conduct scientific research, unlike the Japanese, who claim to slaughter whales in the interest of scientific research!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Man-eating Orca whales one of many dangers Antarctic expeditions faced to get to South Pole!

I attended a talk by Story Teller Rob Caskie about Ernest Shackleton and the trials and tribulations of his expeditions to attempt to reach the South Pole first, a dream he never managed to achieve, yet he was probably one of the most highly respected explorers of the Antarctic.  The talk was held at the One& Only Cape Town, one of four over two days, and I was invited by the hotel to attend.  Orca whales were just one of many challenges Shackleton’s expedition faced on its journey in the Antarctic.

Caskie is a raconteur of note, speaks loudly, and I could not help but think of Ray McCauley, who looks similar to Caskie.  Caskie also has an almost ‘evangelical’ energy and passion in sharing his information, and holds a stick when he talks, which he uses to illustrate practical details such as the gradient of a mountain, etc.  I asked him about writing a book about his talk, and he almost seemed surprised about the suggestion, having thought about it too but worried that he may not be as good a writer as he is a speaker. Caskie speaks fast, and his information pours out, making it hard to keep up and make notes, especially if one does not know the subject matter.

Broadly speaking, Shackleton’s expedition was the first to get close to the South Pole, but on 9 January 1909 it had to turn around, 97 km from the South Pole, as the food supply was running low, and it would not have made the return journey. His expedition was beaten by those of Roald Amundsen, reaching the South Pole on 14 December 1911, and by that of Robert Scott, on 17 January 1912.  Of the three explorers, Shackleton was the most amazing leader, always putting his own needs and comfort second to those of his team, and in his book ‘South’ he wrote: ‘Leadership has many penalties, and one of them is loneliness’!  They beat the odds in staying alive, in contracting dysentery from contaminated meat, in handling a threatened mutiny, being stuck for 18 months on the ice in the Weddel Sea, losing their ship the ‘Endurance’, which was crushed by the pack ice, camping on ice, living off their animals, having to bear the smell of the penguin guano on Elephant Island, surviving for four months on kelp and seaweed on Elephant Island, overcoming inhospitable glaciers and cliffs to get from the south side to the whaling station on the north side of South Georgia Island, having frostbitten toes amputated, all of which Caskie calls the ‘biggest survival story in modern day history’. Shackleton died of a heart attack on another journey down to the Antarctic.  When asked what should happen to his body, his wife said: “Antarctica always was his mistress – bury him there”.

Caskie does talks about Antarctica, a region he visited for the first time last December, locally and in the UK, as well as about the Anglo-Zulu war history, and guides tours around Rorke’s Drift.  He told me that he is not an extreme sports man, but he has parachuted a number of times, and has solo motorcycled through Africa.  For his talk Caskie wore his trademark outfit – a  branded shirt and shorts, the same outfit which he wore at the Antarctica, at -10°C!  He described how the killer whales would jump out of the water, to snap up a seal, a horse, or even men, according to Shackleton’s book.  We talked about whaling at the table, and he said it was a shame that there was so much whaling at the time, the whale bones being clear to see in the clear ocean.

After the talk we were invited to the Buffet at Reuben’s, which was overseen by their chef Jerome Norton, who was a member of the SA Culinary Team which participated in the Olympics in Germany last month, a feast of salads, roast sirloin and pork belly, lamb curry, chicken, kingklip, and a dessert selection.  I enjoyed chatting to Caskie’s partner Karen over dinner, who has been in the hospitality industry, having met Caskie at Rorke’s Drift.

Rob Caskie Cell 082 4000 470  www.robcaskie.com

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @Whale Cottage

Cape Town to lead world on Climate Change, with new Polaris Observatory

When Prince Albert II and Princess Charlène of Monaco visited Cape Town after the COP17 World Climate Change Conference in Durban last month, the reason for their visit was not widely reported.  Now it has been reported by the Weekend Argus that they were in the city to announce the establishment of the Polaris Climate Change Observatory in the V&A Waterfront, with Prince Albert its Patron, and that Cape Town had won the preferred host choice for this prestigious and vitally important observatory, an important tourism plus for the city.

Conceptualised by the International Polar Foundation, the Polaris Climate Change Observatory is the first of its kind in the world, and is scheduled to open in 2014.  The Observatory will be a showcase of the key drivers of climate change, and alternative energy uses for the future.  The International Polar Foundation receives funds from the Prince Albert II Foundation, which the Prince established five years ago to focus on the sustainable development and protection of the environment, especially in the polar regions. The Prince has visited both the South and North Poles.  The Polaris Climate Change Observatory will educate and inform visitors about the climate change research being conducted in the Antarctic.  Further sponsors are UNESCO, World Climate Change Programme, World Meteorological Organization, and the International Council for Science.

The Polaris Climate Change Observatory is to be located on the Collier Jetty in the commercial harbour, which was built more than 110 years ago as a coal and grain trading store, and the building has achieved heritage status.   The new Observatory building will be designed to become a ‘visual landmark‘ for Cape Town, which will have excellent views over the Waterfront towards Table Mountain and the city centre, said V&A Waterfront CEO David Green, the new building ‘layering history, industry, commerce and tourism‘.  He added that the project will enhance the commercial fishing and harbour facilities, rather than being a threat to them.  The building has been designed by local GAPP Architects in conjunction with German concept design bureau Atelier Brückner. Tying in with the polar theme, the building design will resemble that of  a ‘giant tabular iceberg, surrounded by water on all sides and depicting a melting ice block as a result of climate change’.  The iceberg, the planet and the ice-core are three symbolic symbols which will be represented.

Space will be developed to allow students to participate in the Class Zero Emission educational programme, and allows for interactive performances, film festivals, conferences, exhibitions, and functions. Climate change is the most complex challenge facing the 21st century, says the Polaris Observatory document.  The main objectives of the Observatory are as follows:

“A showcase of the science unwrapping climate complexities

— A place where innovations towards a low-carbon economy can be explored

— A venue for bringing together policy-makers, civil society and industry

— A centre for the promotion of scientific education as a tool for progress”

The Polaris Climate Change Observatory will become an exciting new world class design, educational and tourism addition to the Cape Town asset portfolio, to open in the year in which Cape Town is the World Design Capital 2014.

Polaris Climate Change Observatoryhttp://www.polarfoundation.org

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

Movie Review: ‘The Cove’ is a whale of an Oscar movie

Whales and dolphins are an emotive topic, and Oscar-winning Best Documentary “The Cove” pulls out all the stops in appealing to the hearts of viewers of its documentary about the dolphin capture and slaughter in Taija in Japan.

The story starts with Ric O’Barry, who was an actor in the ‘Flipper’ TV series many years ago.   When the beloved dolphin ‘star’ of the series dies in his arms, in a suicide he says, he saw the light, and realised that it is cruel to keep dolphins in captivity.  Dolphins are particularly sound-sensitive, and any noise in a captive environment will make dolphins kill themselves.   Since he became aware of this, O’Barry became a dolphin activist, and was arrested on many occasions, being caught whilst releasing dolphins kept in captivity.  

When he heard about the bottle-nose dolphins that are cornered into a cove in Taiji by means of a banging sound from fishing boats, and then captured for resale to dolphinariums and aquariums around the world, at an income of $ 150 000 each, or killed for the sale of their meat, he decides that he must get involved, despite the danger this entails.   He connects with the Ocean Preservation Society, which takes on his cause, and he and its leader Louie Psihoyos, a previous National Geographic photographer who becomes the executive director of the movie, assemble a team of dedicated activists that believe in protecting dolphins.  Jointly the team installs underwater cameras and sound equipment in the cove, as well as on the hillside overlooking it, in a dangeous operation, so that the torrid actions of the Japanese fishermen can be documented for the world to see.  The red sea water after each killing is enough to get every cinema-goer involved.

Two further themes run through the movie.  Firstly, much footage comes from the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) 2006 meeting in St Kitts, which reflects the Japanese registering new members they pay to vote in favour of their whaling activities.  Many of them are islands in the Bahamas.   In the Commission meeting many of these are filmed sleeping during the proceedings, and not knowing which whale types pass by their countries!   It shows the IWC to be an ineffective organisation, which does not concern itself with the preservation of dolphins and porpoises, even though they are defined as whale species.  It also documents the abuse of the Japanese in being allowed whaling for “scientific research” purposes.   This is what the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is fighting in the Antarctic, south of Australia, actively attacking Japanese whaling boats in this whale sanctuary, to prevent them from killing whales.  The Society’s founder and leader Captain Paul Watson is as determined to stop the slaughter of whales as is Ric O’Barry in stopping the slaughter of dolphins.

Secondly, the documentary presents information that the 23 000 dolphins that are killed in Japan annually are sold as whale meat, unbeknown to the Japanese population, that would not touch dolphin meat as food.   Despite this, a school feeding programme had intended to serve dolphin meat to children at Japanese schools, until the results of the research initiated by the Ocean Preservation Society proved that dolphin meat contains poisonous levels of mercury.  The dolphin meat school feeding programme was stopped as a result.

Each of the activists that participated in the dangerous mission, and the documentary producers and cameramen deserve an Oscar for their brave actions, which could have led to their arrest.  O’Barry, the initiator of the dolphin rescue action, has expressed his regret for ever making dolphin petting and dolphin training popular via the “Flipper” TV series.

Actress and singer Hayden Panettiere and her boxing champion boyfriend Vladimir Klitschko recently visited Taiji, Osaka and Tokyo to focus attention on her ‘Save the Whales Again!’ campaign, on the strength of the outrage that ‘The Cove’ has created, and to encourage the fishermen of Taiji to make their money from other means.

Recently producer Louie Psihoyos took on a sushi restaurant, called Hump, in Santa Monica, and exposed that it serves whale meat.  It has since closed its doors.

The documentary encourages viewers to take part in the campaign to save dolphins.  Its website www.takepart.com invites viewers to write to their leaders and to spread the word about what the Japanese are doing in Taiji; to learn more about the effect on dolphins of being kept in captivity; to calculate one’s own mercury exposure; to assist ‘Save Japan Dolphins’; and to send donations to the filmmakers.   More information about the movie can be read at www.thecovemovie.com.

POSTSCRIPT 23/10: Earlier this week Cape Town dolphin-lovers showed their support to the dolphins of Japan and of the International Save Japan’s Dolphins Day, by hanging three blood-covered dolphin replicas from the unfinished highway in the Cape Town city centre.  We are grateful to the photographer Jordi Matas for the use of the photograph (www.portfolio.jordimatas.net).

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com

SA penguins feel climate change

The penguin population on Marion Island, a South African island in the Antarctic, is declining fast, reports the Sunday Times.   A similar trend has been picked up on Gough Island, a British-owned island on which South Africa has a research station.   The Rockhopper and Gentoo penguin species have declined the most.    

Rising temperatures of the water in the Antarctic has led to decreases in squid and krill, which are important food sources for penguins.   The average temperature of Marion Island has increased from 5,3 C sixty years ago to 6,8 C currently, while the average rainfall has dropped from 2 800 mm to 1 900 mm per annum.

The South African government is investing in climate change research and has signed a deal to replace the S A Agulhas, the ship used to travel to the Antarctic, due to its age, at the cost of R 1,3 billion.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com