Tag Archives: New Zealand

Marine life and fish species at Goat Island Bay

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replenishing our oceans with techNOLOGY

FLIPPING through a National Geographic magazine the other day, I came across some statistical information regarding our depleting ocean populations. They were quite depressing to say the least. There are literally entire sections of the ocean that have been fished dry and several more marine species have recently been added to the “protected” or “endangered species” lists.

(image: zazzle.com)It’s a no-brainer that we need to conserve marine ecosystems which have sustained and fed us for so long. It needs to firmly sink into human consciousness that we, in fact, live on a blue planet. The oceans have much to teach us too. I recall an episode of The Blue Planet where divers dove the deepest they had ever gone — further than the sun’s rays could reach — and discovered underwater volcanic activity that had spawned a vibrant coral reef simply teaming with life. Until this discovery, it was believed that all energy for life was derived from the sun.

The oceans are also a force to be reckoned with and demand our respect. With all the floods and tsunamis of late, the oceans could spell the end of life as well as be the source if it. There is growing incentive to be able to accurately predict natural disasters before they happen. Considering that the majority­ of the world’s population lives on or near the coastline, studying the ocean floors should be of utmost priority­.

Natural disasters aside, there are also the lives of marine species to consider. A unique aspect of the human species is that we are the first creatures on the planet that have developed an awareness of our impact on the Earth. If this doesn’t dictate some sort of responsibility on our part, then I’m afraid to say that we may not have much of an exciting future to look forward to.


Goat Island Bay dive (images: goatislanddive.co.nz)On the northern island of New Zealand live a dedicated team of scientists and researchers who are taking the oceanic crisis to heart. Around 30 years ago, the area known as Goat Island Bay was a wet desert — decimated by overfishing. Since the establishment of the Goat Island Marine Reserve, the area has been transformed into a rich ecological paradise­ that is alive with possibility.

While divers from around the world flock to visit such rich waters, scientists are able to observe and study marine life in their natural environment. Marine life is left in peace to survive and multiply­ in harmony with people, while scientists are left free to investigate the health of the ecosystem. They now also provide a field-base for Masters students at Auckland University.

Of the many discoveries made to date is the unexpected taming of certain fish species in their protected natural environment due to increased interaction with people and bans on fishing. Snapper fish have been documented to occasionally swim alongside bathers, seeing them as neither food nor foe. Not only have several fish species become tamer, but many are also growing to record sizes, with Snapper fish growing up to a full metre.

Researchers have also discovered methods of naturally attracting marine species to the area and ensuring greater survivability during spawning season. Divers have found that several marine species can orientate to sound and are using beacons that emit natural reef sounds to direct larval fish and crustaceans to newly protected areas.

Goat Island Bay is a living example to the world. It demonstrates that we have what it takes to replenish our life-giving oceans and live in harmony with nature. We have the technology to fix the damage we have caused and can even improve habitats such as coral reefs, which, in turn, will attract even more life. Let’s respect our blue planet and remember that if it weren’t for fish we wouldn’t even be around.

Make way for Shweebways

SHWEEBS: personal pedal-powered pods

TRAFFIC jams. Being stuck in traffic has got to be in the top five on the list of peoples’ most hated things in the world – right after Bob Mugabe, taxes, Telkom and getting toffee stuck on the roof of your mouth.

I have seen murder develop in the eyes of the calmest looking drivers when caught between throngs of cars. It’s hard not to get slightly ticked off and lose it – suddenly finding yourself bashing your way through the metallic queue, foot flat on the pedal, with a criminal reputation mounting up, and laughing hysterically.

No. We need to restrain ourselves from doing that. I find that the best self-therapy is to turn up the air-con (or heater), wind up the windows thus blocking out the sounds of hooting and swearing, and listen to Bob Marley.

The Shweeb monorail system consists of two 200 metre long overhead rail circuits that vary in height between two and four meters above the ground. Under the tracks hang high performance pedal powered vehicles. Between one and five vehicles can be loaded onto each track enabling teams to race each other or race against the clock.

The Shweeb monorail system consists of two 200 metre long overhead rail circuits that vary in height between two and four meters above the ground. Under the tracks hang high performance pedal powered vehicles. Between one and five vehicles can be loaded onto each track enabling teams to race each other or race against the clock.

However, our traffic nightmares may soon come to an end thanks to an invention known as the Shweeb. And this is not just some fancy new swearword, but the world’s first human-powered monorail.

“Shweeb” means “to float” in German, and is a self-enclosed, pedal-powered pod which is already in use at an amusement park in New Zealand. The team of designers who developed the Shweeb not only see the pod as a vehicle of amusement, but as an environmentally-friendly replacement for personal motor vehicles in traffic congested cities.

The idea was conceived by designer Geoffrey Barnett while on holiday in Tokyo – one of the world’s most heavily conjested cities. Barnett implemented the idea in his adventure park – Agroventures – in New Zealand, which is partially a proof-of-concept for an ingenious, high efficiency, no emission urban transport system.

How it works
The Shweeb uses a monorail system to guide users along a pre-determined path, with each pod being powered by the rider. According to the official Shweeb website, to travel in a Shweeb takes only half the energy required to ride a regular bicycle, and only 1/3 the energy of a mountain bike to pedal (since it is enclosed and there isn’t the rolling resistance of the tyres to compensate for). For even greater efficiency, Shweebs can be linked together for less air resistance and more pedal power.

The pods are far more aerodynamically efficient than a bicycle too. Most riders see speeds of around 45 km/h, but on a longer circuit with a much longer straight, the Shweeb can reach up to 70 km/h.

Shweeb insideSuch speeds are rather impressive when considering that the average speed of a car in London these days is a mere 13km/h (due to traffic). This is the same speed that cars could reach 100 years ago – before the demonic birth of rush-hour.

What’s more, when taking tight corners the pods can swing out as much as 60 degrees; but unlike a bike or motorcycle, there is no danger of losing traction and crashing.

Barnett has spent six years developing how to efficiently transfer pedal power to drive wheels enclosed within a monorail track while allowing the vehicle to swing freely underneath. The hard wheels on the steel rail mean that there is very little rolling resistance, and riders have shown that you do not have to be an Olympic athlete to power the pedals.

The future
Shweeb futureBarnett foresees the future use of his high efficiency, no emission urban transport system: “Here’s how it works. You get up in the morning; descend to the second level of your apartment building where there’s a Shweeb port and empty Shweebs waiting for you. You cruise over the top of the traffic jams. You don’t pay parking. You’ve produced no pollution. You arrive at work fit, healthy and ready to go!” says Barnett.

An exciting aspect of the Shweeb is how it could address problems of health and fitness relating to lack of exercise in certain nations. Of course you will always get lazy Shweebers who don’t pedal, hold up the traffic and simply get taken for a ride; but any ticked off, speeding Shweebers won’t be able to knock others off the rails.

“Shock absorbers between the vehicles ensure that vehicles come together smoothly. When a fit rider comes up behind a slower rider, the impact is cushioned and they act as a single unit. The rider at the rear is sitting in the slipstream of the leading rider and is able to put all their power into pushing the lead vehicle,” says Barnett.

So it appears that road rage would no longer be an issue in a Shweeb world. In fact, two Shweebs acting together will always travel faster than either rider separately. Even if the lead rider were to stop pedaling, the energy required to maintain a vehicle’s momentum on a flat track is minimal.

Make way for Shweebways
The logistics of getting Shweeb systems up and running in countries around the world is not as difficult as one might think. “The urban Shweebrail network is inexpensive, has a tiny footprint, and each Shweebway requires only a square meter of airspace,” says Barnett. “It’s safe, silent and sustainable.”

Not only are Shweebways inexpensive to build, but the pods come cheap too. In fact, you would never even need to buy one. “You don’t own the Shweeb,” says Barnett, “you use it like a shopping cart. Empty vehicles are restocked to wherever they are needed.”

Imagine it now: climbing into a slick Shweeb after a day’s work, laying back and sailing above congested traffic during rush hour, getting a daily workout with gentle pedaling, enjoying a great view of the city, all while listening to Bob Marley… Sign me up!