1. The Club: Underwater Research Group of NSW

1.1.1 Introduction

The URG is a non-commercial SCUBA Diving Club comprising people from all walks of life who share an interest in and a commitment to the underwater world. Its aim is to further all aspects of underwater exploration, research, safety, photography and sport. Our members are interested in a large range of underwater activities, including marine biology, exploration of wrecks, underwater photography and underwater conservation, but we all share one thing in common – a desire to get wet and have fun under the ocean.

1.2 Benefits of Membership

The benefits to members of the URG Dive club are many and varied, but most revolve around diving and divers, with the boat going out regularly to sites club members want to dive. Mid-week dives can also be organised by club members.

We are based in Sydney and have our own towing vehicle and 5.9 m dive boat. In addition to regular Sydney diving, we organise trips away, up and down the coast.

The dive sites we visit vary, covering a wide range of underwater habitats, providing our members with an assortment of marine-scapes and life to observe and appreciate.

We have regular club meetings and throughout the year organise guest speakers to talk to members. Meetings with guest speakers are held at the Australian Museum (William Street, Sydney).

We can supply dive buddies of all ages, and cater to all levels of experience You must be a member to be able to dive from the boat.

1.3 Our history

The Underwater Research Group started as early as 1953. It really got moving in 1958 and was incorporated in 1959.

Over the years the URG has had many illustrious members. Neville Coleman, the writer and photographer of Australian marine life was a very active member in the early days and contributed a regular “Conchological Corner” for our monthly magazine.

Steve Parish, the well-known wildlife photographer was also a member as were Dr. Carl Edmonds, the renowned Underwater Medical Practitioner, and Les Graham of Terrigal Diving School who taught many members to dive.

One less familiar name is Walt Deas, who, in those early days, was winning international photo competitions, and who now makes films with David Attenborough and the ABC and BBC.

Historically, the club divers did a lot of research, with some of the projects including:

  • Diving on the peak off Maroubra
  • Surveying Shiprock at Lilli Pilli with divers in the water around the clock for 10 hours monitoring temperature and soft corals
  • Tagging and transplanting abalone
  • Fixing a transmitter to a Port Jackson shark – it travelled 50 yards in a week!
  • Prospecting for gold in mountain streams on SCUBA
  • Surveys of reef area surrounding Bare Island
  • Surveys of Fish Rock in preparation for Marine Reserve submission

Recent research includes:

  • Grey Nurse Shark Research
  • Balmoral Net Marine Growth Monitoring
  • Coast Care Biodiversity study of Port Hacking
  • North Harbour Aquatic Reserve (NHAR) – Biodiversity & Caulerpa Study
  • Debris Surveys
  • Crayweed Regeneration Project
  • South West Arm Archaeological Survey

You do not need to be a scientist to be a member of the club. Members are welcome to participate in the research dives if they would like to or members are welcome to dive just for pure enjoyment.

1.4 Research Objectives

Although the club is no longer involved with assisting the Australian Museum and some of the Universities in Sydney with research, we still have an interest in this area and are pursuing a range of research opportunities.

1.5 Environmental and Conservation Objectives

As an environmentally aware group, the URG seeks to promote conservation through submissions to appropriate Government Organisations, regarding environmental issues, support for marine conservation issues and by promoting environmentally responsible diving practices amongst divers.

We currently participate in Clean-up Australia Day each March and have recently completed marine debris survey dives. Details on the marine debris survey dives can be found here: http://uvnsw.net.au/sites/default/files/Marine%20Debris%20Protocol_0.pdf

Historically we have worked with The Australian Marine Conservation Society, Sydney Aquatic Cleaners Klub (SACK) and NSW Waterways Authority, to clean up a number of Sydney Harbour beaches. In 1997, we road-tested the Protected Species Survey for The NSW Department of Fisheries, which involved a trek up the north coast.

1.6 Club Meetings

The Club holds its general meetings on the third Wednesday of the month. Throughout the year the club arranges guest speakers to give a presentation to the members. When we have guest speakers the meetings are held at the Australian Museum on William Street in the city. Guest speakers are selected according to their relevance to the diving, social and conservation issues relevant to the club.

Past speakers have included Clarrie Lawler, (founding member and past president), Neville Coleman, Shark Researchers, Police Divers, Technical Divers, as well as current members displaying photographic skills after URG trips away.

The Annual General Meeting, in September each year and is held at the Australian Museum.

1.8 The Boat

The Club boat is a Star 5.9 metre single hull, aluminium vessel, capable of carrying eight divers and a non -diving skipper.

  • It is powered by a Yamaha 175 hp outboard motor.
  • The boat carries a mermaid line, cross-over line, bars and a line for safety stops, and a hooker style decompression setup for safety on deep and wreck dives.
  • The towing vehicle is a Ford Fairmont

We carry on board the following safety equipment:

  • First aid kit – large yellow tub
  • Oxygen bottle – located inside forward cabin door to left. Black painted cylinder with white top.
  • DAN Oxygen Provider equipment – Orange container in yellow First Aid tub.
  • Flares – inside water tight ‘plastic barrel’ with black screw lid. There are two types: hand held red flares and hand held smoke flares.
  • V-sheet – inside water tight ‘plastic barrel’ with black screw lid.
  • Fire extinguisher – this is kept in the cabin for storage and is put in the holder under the steering wheel.
  • Radio – Channel 16 is used for distress or emergencies. Once contact is made you will be asked to change the channel for further communications.
  • Life jackets – inside the forward door hanging in netting on both left and right.
  • EPIRB – Mounted on near the steering wheel.

1.9 Booking Dives

Members can book onto a dive by contacting the convenor for that dive, as listed in the dive schedule. The schedule is on the URG website and current schedules are included in the monthly bulletin. If there is no convenor listed, then contact either the Dive Co-ordinator, who is responsible for the dive schedule, or the Club President.

1.10 Social Events

As well as regular Sydney dives scheduled, there are a number of different social activities held through the year. These include:

  • Dinners and Family picnic days which often includes a shore dive
  • Trips away, within NSW and also overseas.

The social events are published in the bulletin, and are also in the dive schedule.

1.11 The URG Web Page

The Club has its own web site www.urgdiveclub.org.au. The site contains information about the club, contacts for committee members, dive schedule, photos taken by club members and the current and past bulletins.

1.12 Popular Diving sites

The URG has a number of sites that its members visit regularly, as well as others that we dive if conditions are right.

  • The Colours - This is a site consisting of a multitude of sponges growing on a reef that comes up from 30 metres in a series of steps to 20 metres. There are usually lots of fish here, including Bleeker’s Blue Devil Fish and weedy sea dragons. Nudibranchs and sea-stars are common.
  • North Head – Old Man’s Hat – Many people only dive this site when there is no other safe to dive. This gives other divers that it is a site of last resort. This is not true. It is an excellent dive site but usually when the seas are good, people want to dive sites that are only accessible in good conditions. North Head contains the remains of many wrecks, and almost every dive here can be a wreck dive if you keep your eyes open for remains such as the old admiralty anchors that wait to be found. Weedy sea dragons, octopus, cuttle fish, sea stars, wobbegongs, rock cale, morwong, groper, old wives, bullseyes, various nudibranchs, sea spiders and cowries are some of the creatures that wait to be seen on a dive here.
  • Beccy’s Boulders – As the name suggests there are lots of large rocks at this site. Where we dive the bottom forms a gully that drops from about 5 metres to 30 metres. Lots of fish, sponges, sea tulips, nudibranchs and other marine life.
  • Barron’s Hut Cave – This site, off Royal National Park in Sydney’s south, is at the edge of a flat reef. The reef drops from 18 metres down to 28 metres and is slightly undercut. At the base of the undercut, there is a cave. You swim into the cave for four metres then up a crevice that takes you back to the top of the reef Nudibranchs, Bleeker’s Blue Devil Fish, weedy sea dragons, red morwong, rock cale, blue groper, sea whips, and octopus are common marine animals seen here.
  • Dee Why Wide – This a site composed of lots of large to very large boulders on a rock bottom. The boulders form some swim throughs and provide nooks and crannies for fish and other sea life. There is a reasonable amount of growth on the deeper rocks, including sponges, sea tulips and other sessile. Lots of fish are usually present, including the occasional wobbegong.

1.13 Items For Publication

Articles for publication in the eBulletin (dive reports, conservation issues, etc) should be sent to the Editor before the end of the month. Our Editor can utilise e-mail attachments in most major word-processing formats.

1.14 eBulletins

URG sends a monthly electronic Bulletin via email to members. A collection of old Bulletins can be found on the Bulletins Archive on URG website.

2. Official Positions in the Club

2.1 The Committee

The Committee consists of members who are elected at the Annual General Meeting of The Underwater Research Group of NSW, in September each year. The current list of persons holding these offices are listed on the website and in the Bulletin, along with contact details.

2.1.1 President

The role of the President of URG is :

  • To act as Chairperson at Committee, Special and Annual General Meetings.
  • To see to it that proceedings are carried out in a proper manner.
  • To ensure correct functioning of any sub-committee appointed.
  • To ensure the successful functioning of the URG pursuant of its objectives.
  • To maintain continuity and when necessary to improve the URG policies and procedures.

2.1.2 Vice President

The role of the vice president is to:

  • To act as Chairperson in the absence of the President.
  • To assist the President on the procedural functions.

2.1.3 Treasurer

The role of the treasure is:

  • To handle and record all financial transactions.
  • To present the financial report at each Committee Meeting.
  • To advise the Committee on all financial matters.
  • To present a balance sheet at the Annual General Meeting.

2.1.4 Secretary

The role of the secretary is:

  • To handle and record all financial transactions.
  • To present the financial report at each Committee Meeting.
  • To advise the Committee on all financial matters.
  • To present a balance sheet at the Annual General Meeting.

2.1.5 Committee members

Committee members assist with the decision making and running of the club. Committee members attempt to liaise as much as possible with the wider membership of the club, to communicate the club’s direction and plans. Many of the committee members fulfil roles as officers of the club, as described in the next section.

2.1.6 Officers of the Club

Officers of the Club are often, but not necessarily Committee Members. All members are encouraged to apply for positions in any area that interests them or for which they have expertise. The positions are:

Dive Officer

  • Schedule Sydney dives and trips away.
  • Distribute dive schedule to members via website, email and bulletin.

Equipment Officer

  • Maintain URG assets including the boat, car, trailer, safety equipment.
  • Maintain a list of items for repair and/or action to present to the Committee.
  • Organise working bees.

Membership Officer

  • Handle queries from interested persons via URG email or telephone.
  • Maintain a listing of current and past members.
  • Liaise with the Treasurer to ensure membership fees are received.
  • Ensure new members receive a welcome package, are acknowledged in the Bulletin and that they receive URG communications.

History Officer

  • Research and record history of the URG from inception to date.
  • Provide history reports for publication in the URG Bulletin and website.

Research Officer

  • Investigate and organise research projects.
  • Liaise with the Committee and members on projects.
  • Provide reports for publication in the URG bulletin and website.

Safety Officer

  • Ensure the URG operates under relevant safety guidelines including the URG Health and Safety Framework Policy.
  • Organise safety training for members.
  • Provide reports and updates for publication in the URG bulletin and website.

Merchandise Officer

  • Maintain URG merchandise for sale.
  • Investigate new items for sale.
  • Liaise with Treasurer on sales.

Website Administrator

  • Maintain the URG Website

Guest Speaker Officer

  • Arrange special guest speakers for Special and Annual General Meetings.
  • Prepare a short biosketch of the speaker for publication in the URG Bulletin prior to presentation.
  • Confirm equipment needed by the speaker and liaise with the Secretary.
  • To be responsible for a ‘thank you’ letter to the guest speaker.

3. Diving off the boat

On arrival at the boat ramp:

  • Meet at least half an hour prior to the allocated dive time on the schedule.
  • Read and sign off on diver statement for day of diving.
  • Set up 1 tank with gear and put on the boat. Hand 2nd tank (if doing 2 dives) and all other gear required (fins, mask, snorkel, weight belt etc), and other personal items onto the boat.
  • Kit up in your wetsuit booties etc (this will depend on how far the dive site is away). This is entirely up to you when you kit up into wetsuit.
  • Boat will be launched and then you get on from jetty and head out to dive site.

Entering and exiting the water:

There are 3 ways to enter the water from the boat.

  1. Backward roll off port of starboard sides.
  2. Step off from back platform where ladders are: This requires that you kit up then step over the back of the boat onto the platform, put fins on and then do a giant stride.
  3. Put tank, with attached INFLATED BCD into the water. Secure to a gear line that is attached to the boat gunnel. Enter the water via the back platform with all other gear on. Put tank on your back in the water.

Reverse the procedure on exit. Always inflate BCD on the surface when it is attached to the gear line. Pull tank back onto the boat before leaving the dive site.