For those who have never made the journey to the depths of the ocean, photographs that emerge from this underwater world can be absolutely astounding. The diversity of marine life and the breathtaking beauty of an aquatic ecosystem have captured creatives and academics alike and the vibrant art of underwater photography and fish identification combine these spheres in an incomparable pursuit.
FishWise is a website built to aid and enrich the experiences of those devoted to the photographic exploration of the dynamic environment beneath our oceans and seas. The site is intended to be an interactive, intuitive and user friendly forum for everyone who is interested in fish. The database currently has nearly 97 000 scientific fish name combinations and 32 000 pictures.
The Creation of FishWise
Dennis Polack, the writer and creator of FishWise, holds a strong fascination and love for the sea. He first used a mask and fins (goggles and frog feet in those days) in the sea at the age of 14 and has been diving ever since. Today he is retired but continues to actively engage in his four main interests: scuba diving, underwater photography, fish watching and databases. He is exceedingly fortunate to have a wife, Sally, who passionately shares his interests and dives and takes underwater photographs all over the world with him. After each trip she becomes actively engaged in sorting, identifying and registering pictures into FishWise.
The couple’s interest in fish identification was initially sparked by friend and co-diver, John Dench. Having relied on his extensive knowledge to help them in identifying species for many years, In 1990 John gave them a fish book with pictures and descriptions of about 110 common species for the East coast of South Africa, imploring them to learn the names. Although grateful for the gift, Dennis and Sally maintain that it was an act of desperation on his part to stop them pestering him all the time. None-the-less, on the long drive home from Sodwana to Johannesburg, they began to memorise the names and although Dennis had no idea at the time, this was the beginning of FishWise. When they had learnt the 110 names, Dennis and Sally purchased more books and learnt more names. At about 400 names they could no longer remember the scientific names without a list.
This list was created in dBase 2 and later upgraded to dBase 3. More names were added and when they got to the stage where they knew the names but could not remember what the fish looked like, it became obvious that they needed to link images to the names. To achieve this, Dennis moved on to another programming language called Clipper. Despite initial success with this programme, the 22 seconds needed to display each image was completely unaccectable. Finally when Microsoft Access was released everthing became possible. Pictures could load quickly and a fully relational database could be built. At this point FishWise became a reality.