Prof Chris Barnard’s Farewell

At the airport yesterday I saw a new book on Professor Chris Barnard. It’s fifty years since the world’s first heart transplant and the famous surgeon and playboy is in the news again.

A while ago I had found Aitch’s 1983 diary and one of her entries in December was ’17h00 Wed 14 Dec Farewell for CNB, Nurses Lounge, Clarendon House’. I knew that CNB meant Christiaan Neethling Barnard as she worked with him at the time and there many prior entries referring to the operations she had done with him as his cardiovascular perfusionist. She would run the heart-lung machine to oxygenate the blood while he and the other surgeons worked on the patient’s heart. (I’ll put example of an op entry here)

I had time before my flight so I  thought I wonder if they have anything about his retirement in the book? and flipped through it.

And there she was on page 217:

Aitch Prof Chris Barnard (2)

So I had to buy it to show the pic to Jess and Tom. Jess said “Cool”; Tom shrugged: “We knew Mom was famous!”

Aitch Prof Chris Barnard (1)

Things To Know

People usually aren’t listening. They are either thinking of what they are going to say next, or something else entirely.

Everyone is insecure about something, it’s not just you.

You are going to die no matter what.

Your kids will experience hardship.

The bigger an organization is, the harder it is to make a change even if the need is obvious to many.

Some people are bad and have bad intentions.

Many people (not all) will steal R100 from you today even if it means missing the opportunity to earn R1000 from you next week.

You will never be 100% sure about all decisions. But always make a decision because it’s better to go back and fix it than to never make it at all.

There is ALWAYS someone who makes more money than you, is more fit, has a better looking spouse, has an easier life, good things happen to them. Usually more than just one.

How you react to an event, problem, emotion, or anything, is more important than the actual event, problem, emotion or whatever. You cannot control your emotions, you cannot control others, all you can control is how you are going to react. Sometimes it’s easy but usually it’s really really hard.


Skyler Irvine on

Tembe Elephant Park

Yes, said TomTom, he’d join us! YAY! So we head back to Tembe Ele Park after nine years.

It rained and the sun shone and we had grey skies and then it rained hard. We ate well, drank a bit, got wet and had a lot of fun.

Tembe Ele Park-002

Tembe Ele Park-001

Tembe Ele Park-003

Tembe Ele Park Feb2018 (250).jpg
There’s a webcam here: See

Tembe Ele Park Map Brochure.jpg





Hey guys, I’m at the shops. Anything you need?

Jess: Buy me a chocolate please.

Tom: Ja! I’ll send you a list.

Tom's Needs

Ignorance is Bliss

snake for nick ID (2)

Found this tiny snake in my pool weir. Immediately set off to find my net – I have a dark little net they often just crawl into for refuge, making catching them easy. I very seldom handle a snake. Besides caution I really don’t want to injure them. Also I suspected this one may have been injured. Dropped into the pool by a kingfisher maybe, I was thinking.

But frustration and disorganisation – I couldn’t find my net or anything else to scoop it up with, and the bowl I wanted to use to take pictures in didn’t fit into the weir. So – convinced it was some kind of worm snake – I reached in and lifted it gently and placed it in the bowl.

Took pics and sent them to Nick Evans, Westville’s herpetologist extraordinaire.Nick_and_Stiletto[1]

Ooh!  Confession time: Actually Nick I did handle it! So then he sent this:

Nick_n_Stiletto_bite[1]Weirdly, I had read up on the stiletto snake this very week and noted that “This snake cannot be held safely and you will, in all likelihood, get bitten if you attempt to hold one.”

But at average length 40cm and the fact that the stiletto “is an irascible snake that bites readily” and my little snake was so docile, I “knew” my snake was harmless!

Lesson learnt!

Stiletto snake Marais

Here can be seen how the stiletto snake can bend its neck and how a tiny side-swipe could allow a fang to prick you. Thanks Johan Marais (see his site).

Stiletto snake Marais_fangs

Floods in KwaZulu Natal 1987

September 1987 floods

Between 28 and 30 September, the central and southern part of Natal were ravaged by floods that were amongst the most devastating to have occurred in South Africa. The destruction of property was catastrophic, nearly 400 people were killed and about 50 000 were left homeless. Damage to agriculture, communications, infrastructure and property amounted to R400 million (report: De Villiers et al, 1994).

The Mgeni and Mvoti rivers had flood duration periods of up to 24 hours and this caused dramatic erosion. In the Mgeni the island near the mouth was totally removed and scour of generally about 2m took place. In the Mvoti the river channel, normally 35m, widened to about 900m and deposited large quantities of sediment over this flood plain. Many bridges were washed away but the destruction of the Mdloti and Tugela river bridges on the N2 highway caused the greatest disruption (report: Badenhorst et al. 1989).

A letter to Aitch from Lyn in Hella Hella:

Flood 1987 Letter (1) crop
Letter to Aitch from Lyn Porter


Flood 1987 Letter crop (2)

Top picture is actually of the Umgeni river. We went to help ferry people across to their homes or back from their homes so they could go to town. Corran Addison in pic. On my one trip I had a person plus a bag of mealie meal.

The Umgeni at Blue Lagoon:

1987_flood_Umgeni mouth_2

How the Venomous, Egg-Laying, Duck-billed Platypus Evolved

This odd Australian mammal looks like a duck wearing a fur coat – many other descriptions could be – and have been – made. People from the northern hemisphere might say a beaver trick-or-treating clumsily disguised as a duck.

Famous also for laying eggs, the playtpus flummoxed clever men back in 1799 when the first dead and preserved one was brought to Europe. They confidently pronounced it a fake, made of several animals sewn together.

Mammal-like reptiles diverged from the lineage they shared with birds and reptiles about 280 million years ago. Around 80 million years later, the monotremes—or egg-laying mammals—split off from the mammalian lineage, says Rebecca Young, a biologist at the University of Texas at Austin. All that remains of that branch of the family tree is the platypus and four species of echidna.

This split happened before the evolution of the placenta, so in that sense they are somewhere between a lizard and a placental mammal retaining some reptilian and mammalian features, according to Young.

Although the platypus lays eggs, unlike a mammal, like a mammal it suckles its young on milk, but the platypus’ milk seeps through pores in its abdomen, not through teats as in all other mammals. Another incredible adaptation is how they forage for food. Platypuses close their eyes, ears, and noses underwater and find prey by sensing electric currents with their duck-like bills. These bottom feeders scoop up insects, larvae, shellfish, and worms in their bill along with bits of gravel and mud. Platypuses do not have teeth, so the bits of gravel help them to “chew” their meal.

They also very unusually for mammals, and more like their reptilian ancestors have venom! And their venom is located in a spur in the males’ heels—a unique method of delivery among venomous creatures. Platypus venom contains genes that resemble the venom genes of other animals, including snakes, starfish, and spiders. It’s real venom, with 83 toxins and is likely an example of convergent evolution, in which unrelated species evolve similar traits.

We will learn more about platypus evolution as times and research goes on. The elements of mutations and adaptations and randomness determines how we acquire things over time, and it is fascinating to try and work out the puzzle, like scientific detectives.



Thanks Liz LangleyNational Geographic – July 30, 2016

Wes Warren of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis led the 2008 study that found that the platypus has a “fascinating combination of reptilian and mammalian characters.”

Related: “Platypus Genome Reveals Secrets of Mammalian Evolution