The spring 2016 Southern Star Party Night Sky Caravan Farm: 26 to 30 October 2016.

The spring Southern Star Party at Night Sky Caravan Farm (you can visit their Facebook Page here) was a success despite the fact that the weather did not really play along. All in all, 60 people registered, but due to unforeseen circumstances there were cancellations and the final total was 55.

Since the previous SSP in February we have had enough to keep us busy. We were involved in or presented the following events between the previous SSP and this one.

  • An outreach event at the Kogelberg Farm Hostel for Elkanah House Private School.
  • A Deep Sky event at Leeuwenboschfontein where we had Klaas and Wilma van Ditzhuyzen from the Netherlands as guests.
  • The Museum Night at the Iziko Museum in the Company Gardens.
  • The Friends of the Helderberg Nature Reserve in the Helderberg Nature Reserve.
  • The Eco Rangers in the Helderberg Nature Reserve.
  • The Old Age Home in Porterville.
  • A public event at the Golf course in Porterville.
  • Four talks at the Durbanville Public Library.
  • Five public events at the Pierhead in the V&A Waterfront.
  • Eight days for National Science Week at the Iziko Museum in the Company Gardens.
  • An outreach event at the !Khwa ttu San Cultural and Educational Centre.
  • An outreach event at Labiance Primary School.
TOP: Loading done – the Vito from the back. MIDDLE: Loading done – the Vito from the side. BOTTOM: Loading done – the trailer.
TOP: Loading done – the Vito from the back. MIDDLE: Loading done – the Vito from the side. BOTTOM: Loading done – the trailer.

On Monday the 24th of October shortly after 07:00 Lynnette, Snorre and I left Brackenfell. This time we did not have to work right through the night to finish everything as I had the able assistance of my son, John-Henry. It was not only his physical assistance that made a difference, but his far better eye for what fits in where was a great help. We started unloading as soon as we arrived and during the course of Monday afternoon Tersius and his crew from Bonnievale Verhurings (go here to see more about their activities) arrived to put up the tent.

Alan and Rose Cassells arrived on Tuesday and immediately started setting up their camp site. On Wednesday Eddy Nijeboer arrived with Auke hard on his heels and Barry and Miemie Dumas not far behind him.

TOP: Sunset from the “Post Office” at the turn-off from the R317 looking toward Mcgregor. Lynnette and I had such poor mobile reception at Night Sky that we had to drive from the camp to this spot to receive mail and make calls. BOTTOM: Sunset from the camp looking toward Swellendam. The darker blue layer on the horizon is the Earth’s shadow and the pale pink layer above it, known as the Girdle of Venus, is caused by scattering of sunlight by the upper layers of the atmosphere.
TOP: Sunset from the “Post Office” at the turn-off from the R317 looking toward Mcgregor. Lynnette and I had such poor mobile reception at Night Sky that we had to drive from the camp to this spot to receive mail and make calls. BOTTOM: Sunset from the camp looking toward Swellendam. The darker blue layer on the horizon is the Earth’s shadow and the pale pink layer above it, known as the Girdle of Venus, is caused by scattering of sunlight by the upper layers of the atmosphere.

This time round the mobile reception was worse than it had ever been at Night Sky and Lynnette and I had no signal whatsoever. This meant that we had to drive back to the R317, where we had a good signal, to receive and read mail. Everyone seemed to have the same problem to a greater or lesser degree except Rose and Alan.

During the course of Wednesday Pamela Cooper, Marius Reitz, John Richards, Wendy Vermeulen, Louis Fourie, Pierre de Villiers, Bennie Kotze and Peter Harvey arrived. By then Night Sky was starting to look populated and discussions were taking place all over the place as people wandered around renewing old acquaintances and making new friends.

TOP & SECOND FROM THE TOP: Two views of the front (reception) portion of the tent. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM & BOTTOM: Two views of the back part of the tent where the talks took place.
TOP & SECOND FROM THE TOP: Two views of the front (reception) portion of the tent. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM & BOTTOM: Two views of the back part of the tent where the talks took place.
TOP: StarPeople’s two merit awards from the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa (ASSA). One was for our general outreach efforts and the other was specifically for organizing and presenting the Southern Star Party twice a year since 2011. BOTTOM: Two posters advertising the Sky Guide. This is an ASSA publication printed and distributed by Struik and is a must have for all amateur astronomers and interested members of the public.
TOP: StarPeople’s two merit awards from the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa (ASSA). One was for our general outreach efforts and the other was specifically for organizing and presenting the Southern Star Party twice a year since 2011. BOTTOM: Two posters advertising the Sky Guide. This is an ASSA publication printed and distributed by Struik and is a must have for all amateur astronomers and interested members of the public.

On Friday everyone else pitched. Just before the SSP our speaker from Bangalore in India, Amar Sharma had let us know that he was not going to make it due to visa problems. These problems revolved around the slap-dash attitude of the South African diplomatic staff in Mumbai. Amar runs an astronomy tourism operation in Bangalore, (see here). Our other disappointment was that a second speaker, Dr. Wanda Diaz Merced the blind astrophysicist from Puerto Rico, had fallen ill and was hospitalized just a day or two prior to the SSP. We had especially brought along our material used in astronomy outreach for the visually impaired, so that Wanda could demonstrate it. We settled for an exhibition of this material in the tent and it drew quite a lot of attention.

TOP: Chris (back to the camera) Marius (in blue) and Louis sorting out telescope matters. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Auke and Leslie plotting something. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: The Beginners Area with Paul, Alan and Rose in the very distant background BOTTOM: Auke’s ConEx (Constellation Exploration) Area with the “You are here” banner on the right.
TOP: Chris (back to the camera) Marius (in blue) and Louis sorting out telescope matters. SECOND FROM THE TOP: Auke and Leslie plotting something. SECOND FROM THE BOTTOM: The Beginners Area with Paul, Alan and Rose in the very distant background BOTTOM: Auke’s ConEx (Constellation Exploration) Area with the “You are here” banner on the right.
TOP: From the left, Louis, Marius, Chris and Deon finding out where they are. BOTTOM: Barry, hidden behind Alan and Rose relaxing on Sunday evening as the sun sets.
TOP: From the left, Louis, Marius, Chris and Deon finding out where they are. BOTTOM: Barry, hidden behind Alan and Rose relaxing on Sunday evening as the sun sets.

The weather on Friday evening cancelled any possible viewing efforts. Barry Dumas kindly presented a very complete and quite technical talk on optical equipment and what to do and not to do when cleaning it. His talk gave lots of information on the construction of various eyepieces and how special protective materials were applied to both protect and also to improve their optical functionality. After the talk we dispersed and in general spent the rest of the evening watching the clouds and socializing.

TOP: Harpactira species (Baboon Spider). BOTTOM: Closer view of the spider’s eyes. The downward curved chelisera, typical of four lunged spiders, are clearly visible.
TOP: Harpactira species (Baboon Spider). BOTTOM: Closer view of the spider’s eyes. The downward curved chelisera, typical of four lunged spiders, are clearly visible.

Chris Forder was kind enough to lend a hand with some of the younger aspirant astronomer’s telescopes during the course of the weekend. The youthful telescope owners and their parents were all left much the wiser after Chris had finished his explanation.

TOP: Paul’s pickup and our banner at the entrance to Night Sky. The banner has seen better days and is becoming a bit tattered. It has seen many outreach events and 12 Southern Star Parties so i suppose it ought to look a bit battle scarred by now. BOTTOM: Auke in a pensive mood.
TOP: Paul’s pickup and our banner at the entrance to Night Sky. The banner has seen better days and is becoming a bit tattered. It has seen many outreach events and 12 Southern Star Parties so i suppose it ought to look a bit battle scarred by now. BOTTOM: Auke in a pensive mood.

On Saturday morning I kicked off with the beginners. I handed out all the required paperwork and printed information and talked them through the basics of using star charts. After the beginners, we started the main program and kicked off with Prof. Herman Steyn’s talk on satellites and his work with the University of Stellenbosch’s satellite research section. He was intimately involved with the Rosetta mission and shared many of his experiences with us.

TOP LEFT: Alan and Rose at breakfast. TOP MIDDLE: Kiona looking very laid back. TOP RIGHT: John taking it very, very easy. MIDDLE: The general braai area on Saturday at lunch time. BOTTOM LEFT: Wonder what Lynne is concentrating on? BOTTOM MIDDLE: Martin, all set up to clean some unsuspecting volunteer’s telescope mirror. BOTTOM RIGHT: This is one man’s breakfast – no names no pack-drill. Actually there was also a pan of sausage and bacon to go with this lot.
TOP LEFT: Alan and Rose at breakfast. TOP MIDDLE: Kiona looking very laid back. TOP RIGHT: John taking it very, very easy. MIDDLE: The general braai area on Saturday at lunch time. BOTTOM LEFT: Wonder what Lynne is concentrating on? BOTTOM MIDDLE: Martin, all set up to clean some unsuspecting volunteer’s telescope mirror. BOTTOM RIGHT: This is one man’s breakfast – no names no pack-drill. Actually there was also a pan of sausage and bacon to go with this lot.

Pierre de Villiers presented a very interesting coverage of the Solar System Model designed and constructed by the Hermanus Centre. This project aims to increase the astronomy awareness of the general public and serve as a permanent outreach installation. The model now forms part of the well known scenic cliff pathway in Hermanus. After Pierre’s talk we had the usual lunchtime braai. Lynnette organized the braai drums as well as the laying and lighting of the fires with the very able assistance of Marius Reitz and Barry Dumas as well as other able bodied assistants.

After lunch we handed out the prizes for the Lucky Draws. This year, instead of depending on the traditional drawing of numbers out of a hat, we did something different. The first person to register, the first person to pay, the first couple to register and the first family to register all received prizes. Auke also decided it was Evan’s birthday and that he should also receive a prize. The fact that it was his birthday was as much a surprise for Evan as it was for the rest of us.

Then it was Auke’s turn to talk about the Centre for Astronomical Heritage. He was followed by Martin Lyons who presented a talk on how to look after your telescope optics. Martin could quite easily take his presentation on tour. With the appropriate musical background and some fancy dance steps it would be an instant comedy hit. However, please do not let the fact that it was funny detract from the value of its very sound practical advice on how to care for telescope optics. It was interesting to compare the differences in cleaning regimes between Martin and Barry.

TOP LEFT: Herman Steyn, Head of Satellite Research at Stellenbosch University, was our main speaker. TOP MIDDLE: Herman gets his speaker’s gift. TOP RIGHT: Pierre de Villiers the MMWC at the Hermanus Centre and current president of ASSA. MIDDLE: Chris Forder the very worthy winner of this year’s Pub Quiz, wearing his Pub Quiz Floating Rosette, receives his prize from Lynnette. BOTTOM LEFT: Pierre receives his speaker’s gift. BOTTOM MIDDLE: Rose and Alan toasting a very convivial braai. BOTTOM RIGHT: Martin receives his speaker’s prize.
TOP LEFT: Herman Steyn, Head of Satellite Research at Stellenbosch University, was our main speaker. TOP MIDDLE: Herman gets his speaker’s gift. TOP RIGHT: Pierre de Villiers the MMWC at the Hermanus Centre and current president of ASSA. MIDDLE: Chris Forder the very worthy winner of this year’s Pub Quiz, wearing his Pub Quiz Floating Rosette, receives his prize from Lynnette. BOTTOM LEFT: Pierre receives his speaker’s gift. BOTTOM MIDDLE: Rose and Alan toasting a very convivial braai. BOTTOM RIGHT: Martin receives his speaker’s prize.

In Wanda’s absence we watched a recording of her presentation “Listen to the Stars”, recorded at the TEDx Westerford in Cape Town in April 2014. If you go here you can listen to the talk too. If, after you have watched this, you are impressed go here where you can listen to the talk she gave in February 2016.

After Martin’s talk we took the group photo. It is a great pity that not everyone pitched up for the group photograph as one likes to have everyone that attended on the photograph. Thanks to Auke’s efforts we also have a You Tube video of the behind the scenes efforts to get everyone setup for the photo. Go here to view the video.

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FRONT – SEATED: Auke Slotegraaf, Lynne Court, Kiona van der Merwe, Juanita van Rensburg, Chris Vermeulen, Paul Kruger, Edward & Snorre Foster, Lynnette Foster, Rose Cassells, Alan Cassells, Caycee Cupido, Abigail Cupido, Caitlin Cupido. MIDDLE – STANDING: Deon Begeman, Ronelle Begeman, Pierre de Villiers, Bennie Kotze, Lea Labuschagne, Chris Forder, Lena Smith, Miemie Dumas, Johan Brink, Laura Norris, Pamela Cooper, Wendy Vermeulen, Rachel Norton, Peter Norton.  BACK – STANDING: Peter Harvey, Jannie Nijeboer, Eddy Nijeboer, Robert Ketteringham, Ruth Kuys, Arné Esterhuizen, Evan Knox-Davies, Leslie Rose, John Richards, James Smith, Annatjie Kunz, Marius Reitz, Barry Dumas, Corné van Dyk, Louis Fourie, Gavin Cupido, Rogan Roth, Chris de Coning. INSET: Roelof van der Merwe.

ABSENT: André de Villiers, Martin Lyons, Rene Auras, Tyron Auras, Nicholas Kröner, Thomas Kröner, Nellie Brink, Dominique Brink.

The group photo was followed by the infamous Pub Quiz. Lynnette and I divided the attendees into six teams. This is quite a tricky operation. For starters, we know from past experience that separating parents from children or splitting couples are both big no-no’s. Then there is the really difficult task of trying to balance astronomy knowledge in the teams as well. Although the teams might have looked unbalanced numerically they were quite even as far as the knowledge levels were concerned. This is borne out by the fact that the final scores were quite close; team one (16), team two (20), team three (28), team four (22), team five (26) and team six (17). Each team had to choose a leader and Evan, in team two, was by far the most efficient team leader of the evening. After six rounds team three, consisting of Lynne, Juanita, Kiona, James, Lena, Leslie, Martin and Laura, was a clear winner. They had, in fact, maintained their lead since the end of round four.

After the team section we asked each team to nominate one representative to take part in the individual section. A further four rounds of questions followed and then we had a clear and very worthy individual winner in the person of Chris Forder. Congratulations Chris.

Strange how some people, even in a fun exercise like this, cannot resist resorting to looking up answers electronically or in a book. Some even erased answers and corrected them after the correct answer had been given thereby gaining an unfair advantage.

After the Pub Quiz there were still clouds around, but we decided to give it a go and Auke got the Constellation Exploration group (ConEx) together while I set up a telescope for the beginners. As luck would have it, just as we started, the clouds covered Venus, Saturn and eventually Mars too. We managed to discuss a few constellations and some objects of interests, but eventually people drifted off, as the clouds alternately advanced and retreated. For the most tenacious beginners there was eventually a fairly clear view of the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) before we all went to bed.

TOP: This is a 30 second exposure at ISO 400 in the general direction of Robertson/Ashton/Bonnievale with lots of reflected light on the extensive cloud cover. This is something which has increased steadily over the past six years and seems to have accelerated over the last two years. MIDDLE: Taken with the same camera settings, when there was a lot less cloud and the camera pointing slightly more north than in the previous photo. Note here the few clouds present all show the typical white colouring associated with light pollution. BOTTOM: This is a 20 second exposure at ISO 400 taken to the east-southeast. Swellendam to the left and Riviersonderend to the right are both out of the photo. Note the clarity of the Coal Sack and also that the small clouds on the horizon are all black or dark grey, typical of a low light pollution situation.
TOP: This is a 30 second exposure at ISO 400 in the general direction of Robertson/Ashton/Bonnievale with lots of reflected light on the extensive cloud cover. This is something which has increased steadily over the past six years and seems to have accelerated over the last two years. MIDDLE: Taken with the same camera settings, when there was a lot less cloud and the camera pointing slightly more north than in the previous photo. Note here the few clouds present all show the typical white colouring associated with light pollution. BOTTOM: This is a 20 second exposure at ISO 400 taken to the east-southeast. Swellendam to the left and Riviersonderend to the right are both out of the photo. Note the clarity of the Coal Sack and also that the small clouds on the horizon are all black or dark grey, typical of a low light pollution situation.

Nobody had done the observing challenge, so there were no certificates to hand out on Sunday morning. Lynnette and I were up at 08:00 to say goodbye to the early leavers and share a cup of coffee with them. By Sunday evening Lynnette and I, Auke, Barry and Miemie, John, Alan and Rose and Snorre were all that was left of the crowd and, as usual, we had a nice braai before setting op the telescopes to do some observing. Yes, you guessed correctly the weather cleared as soon as the SSP was over! On Monday afternoon, only Lynnette, Snorre, myself, Alan and Rose were left. On Tuesday morning we departed leaving the entire camp to Alan and Rose. Tersius and his team took down the tent on Tuesday afternoon and loaded up the tables and chairs, bringing down the final curtain on the 2016 Spring Southern Star Party.

TOP: Camera set at 30 seconds and ISO 400 with the Carina area and the LMC visible. BOTTOM: Camera set at 15 seconds and ISO 1600. Hercules is in the left part of the photograph and M31 in the bottom centre. Note how light the lower portion of the photograph is over the Robertson/Ashton/Bonnievale area, which was identified as a high light pollution area in previous photographs.
TOP: Camera set at 30 seconds and ISO 400 with the Carina area and the LMC visible. BOTTOM: Camera set at 15 seconds and ISO 1600. Hercules is in the left part of the photograph and M31 in the bottom centre. Note how light the lower portion of the photograph is over the Robertson/Ashton/Bonnievale area, which was identified as a high light pollution area in previous photographs.
TOP LEFT: Light pollution from Robertson. MIDDLE LEFT: Looking in a southerly direction. BOTTOM LEFT: John MIDDLE: The Pleiades, the Hyades and Aldebaran. TOP RIGHT: Johan MIDDLE RIGHT: Martin, BOTTOM RIGHT: Chris Vermeulen.
TOP LEFT: Light pollution from Robertson. MIDDLE LEFT: Looking in a southerly direction. BOTTOM LEFT: John MIDDLE: The Pleiades, the Hyades and Aldebaran. TOP RIGHT: Johan MIDDLE RIGHT: Martin, BOTTOM RIGHT: Chris Vermeulen.
TOP: Back view of the Vito. MIDDLE: Side view of the Vito. BOTTOM: The trailer also loaded to capacity.
TOP: Back view of the Vito. MIDDLE: Side view of the Vito. BOTTOM: The trailer also loaded to capacity.
TOP: Snorre on his leash waiting for us to finish packing. If one lets him go at this stage he goes walkabout, attending to all sorts of urgent things, like birds, lizards, insects and anything that moves in the grass. BOTTOM: That expression clearly indicates that this whole loading exercise is taking far, far too long to his liking.
TOP: Snorre on his leash waiting for us to finish packing. If one lets him go at this stage he goes walkabout, attending to all sorts of urgent things, like birds, lizards, insects and anything that moves in the grass. BOTTOM: That expression clearly indicates that this whole loading exercise is taking far, far too long to his liking.

Page17_Immobile Snorre

Back home Snorre went into the relax-mode, but like in completely out for the count relaxed.
Back home Snorre went into the relax-mode, but like in completely out for the count relaxed.

A special word of thanks to our generous sponsors, because, without their help and support there is no way we could present a Southern Star Party.

Bonnievale Verhurings
ELF Astronomy
Night Sky Caravan Farm
Promotional Printing and Signage
SAASTA
StarPeople
Martin Coetzee
Bennie Kotze
Chris de Coning
Kechil Kirkham

Venomous Bites and Stings Course

Johan Marais from the African Snakebite Institute and Dr Gerbus Muller from the Poison Centre at Tygerberg Hospital presented this course at the Medical School of the University of Stellenbosch.

The programme:

08:30 – 19:00    Registration.
09:00 – 10:30    Identification of important venomous snakes including a live snake                                                 demonstration by Johan Marais.
10:30 – 11:00    Tea and refreshments.
11:00 – 12:30    Management principles and anti-venom by Johan Marais.
12:30 – 13:00    Management of scorpion and spider bites by Dr. Gerbus Muller.

IMAG0299_Venemous_Bites_and_Stings_Course
Johan’s opening slide with his contact information

Dispelling the snake and snake bite myths:
Johan ran us through the dangerous snakes in Southern Africa.  In the process he also dispelled myths and Old Wives’ Tales left right and centre and I list just a few of the casualties here.

IMAG0323_Dr_Gerbus_Muller
Johan dispensing information and dispelling myths

Myth:   The Mole Snake (Pseudaspis cana) is non-venomous, therefore harmless and can be               handled by anyone with impunity.
Fact:    A Mole Snake has numerous short, sharp teeth and, when it bites, it moves its jaws                    back and forth in a sawing action.  The lacerations a large Mole Snake creates will                      require stitching and treatment with antibiotics.

Myth:    The Boomslang (Dispholidus typus) can only bite you on a finger or the edge of your                   hand because it has a small mouth and its fangs are at the back of the mouth.
Fact:     The Boomslang can open its mouth more than 170 degrees, which is quite wide                         enough to bite you anywhere it likes. Its teeth are also not at the back of its mouth but                 somewhere in the middle; roughly under the eye.

Myth:     The Puff adder (Bitis arietans) causes most of the serious bites in Southern Africa.
Fact:     That dubious distinction belongs to the Mozambique Spitting Cobra (Naja                                   mossambica).

IMAG0317_Ouch
Damage resulting from a bit by a Mozambique Spitting Cobra.
This is one of Johan’s slides which I photographed. All rights to the photo reside with Johan and the African Snake Bite Institute

Myth:     You can pick up any snake, as long as you know what you’re doing, by gripping it firmly               just behind the head.
Fact:     The Stiletto Snake (Atractaspis bibroni) can rotate its fangs in any direction and, in so                doing, stab you in a finger, no matter how you hold it.

Myth:     A Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) will chase you to bite you.
Fact:     All snakes become aggressive if cornered or threatened, but no snake in the world                     will chase you.

Myth:     Black Mambas have been known to strike at passing vehicles leaving deep fang                         marks in the metal.
Fact:      A Black Mamba’s fangs are so fragile one can break them with the flick of a finger.

Myth:      An adult Black Mamba can raise more than three-quarters of its body off the ground to                strike.
Fact:      A close examination of the Mamba’s anatomy shows that this feat is anatomically                       impossible for the snake.

Myth:     The Green Mamba (Dendroaspis angusticeps) hangs from tree branches striking at                    passers-by below
Fact:      Absolute rubbish.

Myth:      To keep snakes away from your house or campsite, purchase a can of snake                              repellent or Jay’s Fluid and spray the area.
Fact:      Not a single one of these repellents has been proven to have any deterrent effect on                    snakes.

Myth:      Electrotherapy is an effective treatment for snake bites.
Fact:      These instruments do not have any beneficial or curative effect on any snake bite.

Myth:      Snake stones and traditional herbal concoctions provide protection, not only against                  being bitten but also against the effects of the venom should you get bitten.
Fact:      Neither the stones or the many herbal concoctions have the slightest effect                                    whatsoever.

Important characteristics of snake bites and snake venom
All sorts of other interesting snippets of information about snakes also materialized.  Snakes apparently do not always deliver the same amount of venom when biting.  Many bites are “dry bites” in which no or very little venom is delivered.  Unfortunately one does not know this at the moment of the bite and the only way to be sure, is to wait and see if any symptoms develop. The risk here is obvious, so my advice would be to head for a medical facility and do your wait-and-see-thing on the way there.

The venom from the same species of snake, but from two different geographic locations can have different levels of toxicity.  This seems to be the case with the Cape Cobra (Naja nivea), which appears to be less venomous in the Northern Cape and Southern Namibia than in the Western and Southern Cape.

People also have different levels of allergic reaction to snake venom, which means that the effects of a snake bite can vary considerably from person to person.  Different people also vary in the degree of reaction to the anti-venom’s equine component, which further complicates treatment regimens.  This underlines the necessity for careful, post-bite monitoring by qualified medical personnel.

What to do and not to do when rendering snake bite first aid
Johan stressed that the administration of anti-venom should be left to suitably qualified, medical personnel.  The purpose of first aid was to stabilize the bite victim while getting them to a medical facility where medical personnel could take over. The golden rule when treating a snake bite victim is to always treat the symptoms and not the bite.

What to do.
Do get the victim to a medical facility as fast as possible.
Do keep the victim calm.
Do immobilize the bite area.
Do elevate the bite area to level with, or slightly above the level of the victim’s heart.  Please note that elevate does not mean lifting the bite area as high as possible above the patient’s head.

What to do, but only with discretion.
Only use a bag valve mask if you are properly trained in its use.
Only apply a crepe bandage if you are absolutely certain that the venom does not have any cytotoxic characteristics.

What not to do.
Do not cut or incise the bite.
Do not apply suction.
Do not apply a tourniquet.
Do not apply anything to the bite area or give the bite victim any medication.

IMAG0320_Ouch
The sort of damage that can result from improper & inappropriate use of a tourniquet.
This is one of Johan’s slides which I photographed. All rights to the photo reside with Johan and the African Snake Bite Institute.

The Live Snakes Session!
This gave us all the opportunity to become more closely acquainted with a number of live snakes.  First came a harmless American Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum) and that was followed by a fair sized Mole Snake and a very dark, young Cape Cobra.  Next up was an older and larger Cape Cobra and then, the pièce de résistance, a beautiful Puff adder. Despite Johan’s assurances many of us made sure that we maintained a more than adequate distance, just in case.

IMAG0301_Johan_Marais_American_Milk_Snake
Most people were quite happy and even eager to touch the Milk Snake.
IMAG0302_Johan_Marais_Mole_Snake
Johan and a nice Mole Snake. My mobile phone’s camera was not quite up to freezing the motion of any of the snakes
IMAG0303_Johan_Marais_Dark_Cape_Cobra
Johan and the very dark (almost black) Cape Cobra
IMAG0304_Johan_Marais_Large_Cape_Cobra
This was a large and very healthy Cape Cobra and I, for one, would not like to bump into it unexpectedly out in the veldt
IMAG0306_Johan_Marais__Puffadder
What appears to be an almost too bright colouring in the Puff adder is actually perfect camouflage. When Johan put it on the floor the circle of onlookers widened just ever so slightly
IMAG0309_Johan_Marais__Puffadder
This is how you safely handle a Puff adder. For some spectators the projection screen provided a safe refuge.
IMAG0310_Johan_Marais__Puffadder
The braver spectators soon took the opportunity to touch the Puff adder.

Scorpions and spiders
Although Dr Muller’s time was rather limited, his talk was certainly no less interesting.  He identified Parabuthus granulatus as the most dangerous scorpion in this area and stressed that children were especially vulnerable with mortality rates running close to 20%.  A close second on the venomous list is Parabuthus transvaalicus, but it is only about a third as venomous as P. granulatus.  Both venoms are neurotoxic and the anti-venom, developed from P. transvaalicus, is effective for both bites.

IMAG0325_Dr_Gerbus_Muller
Dr Gerdus Muller and in front of him is an large Erlenmeyer flask with preserved specimens of a large variety of preserved scorpions

Unlike snake venom, no allergic reactions to scorpion venom have been recorded but, in about 20% of the cases, there is an allergic reaction to the anti-venom.  The symptoms of scorpion venom develop very rapidly, often in less than two hours.  Deaths have been recorded within one and a half hours of the victim being stung.

IMAG0327_How_it_Works
This is one of Dr Muller’s very good slides illustrating how various types of neurotoxic venom work. It also explains the symptoms one observes in bite and sting victims.
This is one of Dr Muller’s slides which I photographed. All rights to the photo reside with Dr Muller and the Poison Centre at Tygerberg Hospital.
IMAG0329_Scorpion_Bite_Symptoms
This chart gives a layout of the symptoms to be expected in scorpion sting victims.
This is one of Dr Muller’s slides which I photographed. All rights to the photo reside with Dr Muller and the Poison Centre at Tygerberg Hospital.

As far as spiders are concerned Gerbus reported that the main culprits responsible for envenomation were the Black Widow, (Latrodectus indistinctus) that has a neurotoxic venom and the Sac Spiders (Cheiracanthium sp) and Violin Spiders (Loxosceles sp.).  The latter two have cytotoxic venoms.  An effective anti-venom is available for the Black Widow spider.  The symptoms of bites by these two spiders and in particular the Black Widow, are referred to as Latrodectism. If you are looking for more information on spiders and guidelines on how to identify Norman Larsen answers questions on Iziko Museums of Cape Town’s Biodiversity Explorer page.

IMAG0339_Sac_Spider
Two photographs of a positively identified Sac Spider bite. This particular patient only reported to the Poison Centre four or five days after the bite incident.
This is one of Dr Muller’s slides which I photographed. All rights to the photo reside with Dr Muller and the Poison Centre at Tygerberg Hospital.
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This chart gives a layout of the symptoms to be expected in Latrodectism victims.
This is one of Dr Muller’s slides which I photographed. All rights to the photo reside with Dr Muller and the Poison Centre at Tygerberg Hospital.

Gerbus pointed out and important distinction between the South African Black Widow Spider and the spider with the same name in other parts of the world.  The South African spider does not have a red or orange hourglass mark on the underside of its abdomen, but in the rest of the world it does.  However, the South African Brown Widow Spider (Latrodectus geometricus) does have the orange hourglass marking.  It also has a neurotoxic venom that is only about 25% as toxic as that of the Black Widow.

It is important to remember that spiders do not run around looking for humans to bite.  They only bite when they are threatened, usually by means of applying pressure on them.  As spiders are small and generally secretive, people often apply pressure accidentally and then get bitten.

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Dr Muller’s slide emphasizing the fact that not every necrotic skin lesion was the result of a spider’s bite.
This is one of Dr Muller’s slides which I photographed. All rights to the photo reside with Dr Muller and the Poison Centre at Tygerberg Hospital.

Dr. Muller emphasized that only a small percentage of patients, brought to the Poison Centre at Tygerberg Hospital with lesions, had actually been bitten by a spider.  There were many other possible causes of lesions very similar to those caused by cytoxic spider’s venom.