Smartphone Apps for the Ocean and Outdoors
I know the entire premise of getting outdoors and into nature is to turn off. Click silent, power down and stop ourselves, if only briefly, from being constantly connected and logged in. It’s often something that sends some of my friends shooting me narrowed-eyed death glances, because on occasions I am the persona non-gratta who drags her iphone out on top of tear inducing landscapes –to pop it on Flikr.
It’s not that I cannot be disconnected, but more that I have a love of technology and what it is capable of adding into our lives not necessarily that we need to have the latest of it and use it all day and all night. I find it connects us to amazing amounts of information and ideas from millions of people all around the world if we choose so. And make no mistake I really think we can make that as a choice and not a necessity-we are the consumers and people will produce what we want if we ask enough for it. And when it comes to conservation and environmental issues, it is an invaluable tool for mobilization and awareness.
So in that spirit below is a collection of Apps I found online all with exiting outdoor, ocean and environmental education themes, some of which I liked so much now have them on my different tech devices. Take what you like from it. Try it out and tell me what you think, like or don’t like and if it inspires you to find some others I have never heard of please share!
Magic Seaweed: It seems that every time I chat to a surfer about apps this is one of the first ones to cross their minds, my surfing husband swears by it. Rated by many online as being the top surfing reports app it provides long-range surf forecasts for over 2,500 beaches worldwide. With a 3-10 day forecast you can check wind gust speed, atmospheric pressure, wind strength, swell direction and period surf size amongst a whole host of other things. I have it on my phone, and find it very easy to understand and use, even for surfing novices that might not have a clue about atmospheric pressure.
Cachalot: This is one for the armchair scientist or anyone who just wants a little more information on marine life. Duke University has created this rather novel marine science digital textbook for the ipad. Normally designed for students they have now made it free for pretty much anyone to use. It has nice small bites of information on marine megafauna like dolphins and whales. They have species info, extra reading and resources and for some species you even get to look at Nato Geo Critter CAM video shots.
They are still working on other versions.
Rippl: I was just made aware of this app this morning buy a fisheries scientist friend, and I have to say I just downloaded it onto my phone. In a nutshell this app is all about changing your habits to give you a more greener, sustainable and money saving lifestyle. It delivers weekly green tips, each coming with a customizable alerts to help you succeed based on your needs, schedule and habits- like reminding you to bring reusable bags when you leave the house to go shopping. You can also set goals and track your progress to show your impact and then share them with an online community and friends. I’m going to give it a go and see if I can change a few habits.
Unfortunately an android one is not out yet.
Marine Debris Tracker: This app is something that I think could really take off in Africa. Released as a joint effort between NOAA Marine Debris Program and the Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative (SEA-MDI). Like the title of the app says, it allows you to record ocean debris from a list of items that they have on the app. When you record the debris on the beach or in the water the app uses GPS to record the location and from there you can submit it to the Marine Debris Tracker Website for viewing and download later (it requires registration, which you can do from the app). Even though it is mostly tailored for Americans I have been able to get it to work on my iphone and am interested to see if it will translate to any kind of impact as it is run through an American data base. What I like so much about the idea of it is that it allows you to help make a difference by checking in when you find trash on our coastlines and waterways, boosting the role that ordinary people can play in monitoring our environment.
SASSI: Many of us might be, or should be familiar with the work of SASSI who have been working to try and allow consumers to make sustainable seafood choices when they go to restaurants or supermarkets. They are in the process of developing an app, but they do have other tools that you can make use of in the meantime. I find the mobi-site very easy to understand and navigate (allows you to access the SASSI seafood database from any cell phone that has the ability to browse the Internet.) Follow their twitter feed for updates for when the app will be released- @WWF-SASSI, http://www.wwfsassi.mobi/
Another option is the FishSMS service. Ask your waiter or supermarket what the name of the species of fish is, then type the name into a text message and send it to 079 499 8795. You will get an sms back saying where it is ranked on the red, green or yellow list. As I mentioned there is nothing for iphone and android out yet, but Blackberry has an option: http://appworld.blackberry.com/webstore/content/133156/?lang=en
Shark net: This one is for the shark enthusiasts out there. Using signals from autonomous wave glider robots, this app receives an alert every time a tagged shark moves within 300 meters from these robot receivers. You can watch live updates of where the sharks are moving, plus it also comes with a customizable map, 3D models of the different sharks tagged (you can double-tap to see them bite and a history of the sightings linked to the specific shark. Its great if you are interested in great whites, but unfortunately it only covers the Californian coastline. This kind of thing is far overdue in our SA waters. What you can do is follow the OCEARCH Facebook page or via a tracker page on their website, they keep up to date tracks of the sharks they tagged while they were in South Africa. http://sharks-ocearch.verite.com/
Emergency Numbers South Africa: A great app for everyone who has access to a smart phone and needs to get emergency assistance fast. Program in one button to be your emergency go to a preregistered list of your emergency contacts like the police, fire department, doctor or family
Automatic numbers included on the app are for the Police, Fire Department, Ambulance, Doctors and Dentists in the area that you select, plus it also allows you access to over 500 towns and suburbs around South Africa in case of an emergency. The app is pretty easy fro kids to use. I could only find the Android app, but if you need to contact them via email to see if they have other versions available: email@example.com
Bouyweather: Another go to app used by most surfers, fishermen and sailors I know. This is the app that delivers accurate long-range marine forecasts, a real must for anyone that wants pretty accurate marine forecasts, charts wind and weather data as they head out into the ocean.
SAS survival Guide: Now this is the app for all of those out there that love nothing better than to get out into nature, water or land. It takes tips and tricks from former SAS soldier and instructor John Wiseman and gives you basics of survival skills. There’s animal tracks, knots, first aid, a sun compass, different types of plants for food or medicine, and of course which ones are going to send you to meet your maker sooner than you might like and survival in extreme environments. It’s like having Bear Grills in your pocket.
Ocean blue: Did you like the khoi fish app on ipad? I know I did. Well this is a whole lot more fun. It is like a virtual 3D dive with ocean education thrown in. You can customize you ‘dive’ by adding sea creatures (up to a point of course) and then interact with them in a 3D format by tapping, pinching, dragging, tilting, feeding and scattering. I could not find it on android, but it is available for all apple users.
Dive Log: Even though it has a hefty R100 price tag, what it does give you is a digital copy of your entire dive log (gear, time, GPS location etc.) that you can later transfer to your computer. For someone like me who is a bit of a tech nerd this is wonderful as I am forever getting dive logbooks wet, destroyed or lost. You obviously can’t get you divemaster to sign off on the dives (you still need to go old fashioned books for that) Tech divers might not like it, as it does not really have the capability for multiple tank tracking.
For the kids:
Surfcreatures: If I had kids, this would be a must. A lovely illustrated app that shows different sea creatures that live under the surfboard of world champion surfer Shaun Tomson. It has little rhymes and songs that tell you about the different sea creatures, as well as a nifty thing called Storytalk that enables up to four people to record their own voices. Bad if one of the family members is tone deaf, but a whole lot of family interactive fun nonetheless. Unfortunately its not available in android, yet….
iLive Math, Oceans: Voted the best math app in 2010 this is a fun way to get learners up to grade 6 interested in math and the ocean. They have combined over 30 types of sea creatures, educational links, and educational videos with 100k randomly generated math word problem questions teaching addition, subtraction, and fractions.