70 years of helping people to care for our ocean

Throwback Thursday Stories "Chronicles of the Oricle"

As we continue SAAMBR’s 70th Anniversary celebrations, we will be featuring a new Throwback Thursday series, comprising articles from our old newsletter, The Oricle. The Oricle was a quarterly newsletter produced by ORI to share our marine research with our strategic partners, interested individuals and members.

In the words of Rudy van der Elst, the previous Director of ORI – “In the early 1990s, the SAAMBR Council approved the appointment of a specialist fund-raising firm.  It became evident that in order to raise funds we would need to raise our public profile. A team of communication and editorial consultants were allocated to focus on raising our brand awareness and for a whole year they worked with us. Accordingly, we set up a membership drive whereby various levels of membership (like Friends of ORI) each had defined benefits that included behind the scenes tours, a day with a top marine scientist, publications, free access to Sea World and specialist lectures. And so, it was that The Oricle had been born and stayed alive for a further decade. Although we printed a modest number of copies, we were sure to have them placed on strategic desks in the region. And it is possible that ORI’s programmes in the West Indian Ocean region may in part have been enhanced by The Oricle!”

The Oricle was clearly ahead of its time – science communication before the term was even coined! It has been a wonderful trip down memory lane. We hope you enjoy the Chronicles of The Oricle series. If you remember The Oricle, please share your memories with us!

By: Natasha Rambaran and Ann Kunz

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The Oricle_1 ORI Research Institute SAAMBR
Bassas da India ORI SAAMBR
The second instalment in the series is a wonderful snapshot of ORI’s long-standing scientific collaboration in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO). Previous Director of ORI, Rudy van der Elst, was part of the scientific team that made the expedition to Madagascar and the uninhabited isle of Bassas da India – what an adventure! Click on the image for more info!
Have you ever wondered how to tell the age of a fish? Well, the third instalment in our Chronicles of The Oricle series answers that question. Former ORI scientist, Dr Anesh Govender, conducted research on this topic and successfully aged a range of species. In addition to other techniques, the otolith technique is still used today to determine the age of a fish! Click on the image for more info!
Chronicles of The Oricle - St Lucia Fish in Great Demand ORI SAAMBR
Almost 30 years ago, The Oricle featured the headline “St Lucia Fish in Great Demand!” Even then, there was growing concern about the sustainability of the system. For a glimpse back in time at Lake St Lucia, please read the extract from the fourth instalment of the Chronicles of The Oricle series by clicking on the image.
Chronicles of The Oricle 5 ORI SAAMBR
Does anyone remember the oil tanker, Katina P, which sank off the coast of Mozambique in April 1992, spilling 16,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil? Following this environmental disaster, ORI scientists found a way of using ghost crabs’ vulnerability to oil contamination as a means of monitoring oil pollution on our beaches. The results of this study are detailed in the fifth instalment of the Chronicles of The Oricle. Click on the image above.
Since inception (in 1951) ORI has conducted scientific research on sharks. This week’s Chronicles of The Oricle instalment from June 1993, features the initiatives by ORI and other research groups to focus on great white shark conservation. As apex predators, sharks play a critical role in marine ecosystems.
Since inception (in 1951) ORI has conducted scientific research on sharks. This week’s Chronicles of The Oricle instalment from June 1993, features the initiatives by ORI and other research groups to focus on great white shark conservation. As apex predators, sharks play a critical role in marine ecosystems.
The seine net fishing industry in Durban has a long history dating back to the 1850s! As indicated by the Chronicles of The Oricle instalment from October 1993, the seine-netters and SAAMBR also have a long history. This relationship continues today, as our Curatorial Team try to attend seine-netting activities, in the hope of collecting valuable specimens for display in the aquarium.
The seine net fishing industry in Durban has a long history dating back to the 1850s! As indicated by the Chronicles of The Oricle instalment from October 1993, the seine-netters and SAAMBR also have a long history. This relationship continues today, as our Curatorial Team try to attend seine-netting activities, in the hope of collecting valuable specimens for display in the aquarium.
How much memory do you have on your computer? Or your phone? In the eighth instalment of the Chronicles of The Oricle from January 1994, we profiled an article on the retirement of our HP 9825 computer which had 64 KB of memory and a single line display! To give you some perspective, a single megabyte (MB) is the equivalent of 1024 KB! It is pretty mind-blowing to wrap your head around that minuscule amount. This computer was used to manage all the data from the ORI Tag Project, ongoing since 1984.
In the ninth instalment of the Chronicles of the Oricle (May 1994) we published an article which posed the question, Are our linefish stocks being correctly managed? It is now 27years later and ORI has continued to provide objective science to guide the wise and sustainable management of linefish species caught along the South African coast. This is one of the longest running research programmes at ORI and stretches back to the early 1960s when work was first started on investigating the biology of the seventy-four Polysteganus undulosus.
In the tenth instalment of the Chronicles of the Oricle (August 1994) we published an article on a research cruise undertaken in Mozambique. Data and information collected on the survey by the RV Algoa along the whole coast of Mozambique were archived, and are now maintained by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE). Several new species of marine fishes were described from samples collected, and the data are still being used, together with other survey data, in research projects in Mozambique, and for initiatives in the wider Western Indian Ocean region.
In the eleventh instalment of the Chronicles of the Oricle (December 1994) we published an article on research being undertaken by Sean Fennessy on four species of rockcod. The ORI rockcod research showed that catface rockcod are better able to handle fishing pressure as they are able change sex at a smaller size compared to yellowbelly rockcod. And yellowbellies are much slower-growing than catface rockcod. Also, almost all the yellowbellies examined were female, so fishing has removed most of the males - which means there is a shortage of males of this species, which has probably resulted in reduced reproductive success. Martine Protected Areas and reduced fishing pressure are the best hope for this species to recover.
In the twelfth instalment of the Chronicles of the Oricle (April 1995) we published an article on research being undertaken on the east coast spiny rock lobster (also known as crayfish) resource along the KZN coast. Who remembers going diving for crayfish?
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