URG turns 60 years old this July 2016 and the club celebrated on 22 May at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science in Mosman. A few of our previous and current members could not come and sent their apologies.
My first connection with the Underwater research Group in Sydney began for me while in diver training with the Royal Australian Navy at Rushcutters Bay in 1965, some 51 years ago. I didn’t know it at the time but it was through this single connection that my life would change forever.
As a young twenty one year old I had battled with depression and anxiety due mainly to the overwhelming sense that I lacked true life purpose – being trained to blow up enemy ships in the dead of night was not exactly a life fulfilling pastime, especially with the pointless Vietnam war raging – and so my life was soon to be visited with choices, challenges and remarkable changes way beyond imagination at the time.
At that point my photography skills were limited to blurry black and white images taken on the very first Nikonos camera, Nikonos 1 purchased in Hong Kong during my Navy travels. In those early years, the Underwater Research Group, under the guidance of Clarrie Lawler, had already established purposeful ties with the marine scientists at the Australian Museum, none of which as I recall were actually divers. The late Walter Deas and Neville Coleman – both renown for their contributions to our marine science knowledge, especially through their pioneering underwater photography – were both URG Club members and I was quickly taken under their wing and encouraged to advance my photography skills. It was on a URG dive at Ship Rock Botany Bay that I took my first in-focus coloured photos underwater and the creative camaraderie of the group pushed me ahead and very soon my images were gaining attention.
The URG Bulletin was my first publishing outlet with a series of fish profiles, profiles that lead on to me writing my first book. The first book then led to a 40 year publishing career with in excess of 2,500 publications, many marine educational and many with images taken during that very early period.
John Paxton, Curator of marine fishes, Elizabeth Pope and Isobel Bennet the ‘the invertebrate queens’ as we called them – all employees of the Australian Museum – along with many members of the Underwater Research Group all encouraged me to stay the course with my photography and writing.
Now 71 years old, after a life time of publishing – blending science with emotion through imaging and personal stories – I can look back and appreciate that it was the collective encouragement that enabled me to develop a purposeful reason for being, a gift like no other one can ever hope for. I don’t know much these days about the inner workings of the URG however I can say with full conviction it was this small group that without doubt pioneered the birth of the public interpretation of marine science in Australia. Looking at the website today I am thrilled that this group continues with its important work.
And so, for me for sure, there is reason to celebrate the sixty year mark and no doubt you are today.
Bless you all and I hope to meet with you soon for perhaps an evening of memories and stories.
Ex URG president
Congratulations and Happy 60th Birthday to the Underwater Research Group of NSW. It seems like only yesterday, not 1961, that I joined the URG. Since then it has played a major part of my life. Not just the thrill of diving but the many friends I have made through the club. In fact on thought, just about ALL my friends are connected someway with diving.
It is also very satisfying to have been with the URG and seen it grow and helped it and make contact with various bodies such as Universities both here and overseas, government bodies and other marine study organisations.
Proud that past members such as Walt Deas, Neville Coleman, Steve Parish have all been part of the growth of the URG. Now there are new names to carry on our URG banner. I wish them well and know they too will be proud to have been part of the group.
What memories I have of those past 40 odd years, a lifetime really. So, take the URG along into the future and keep our past record alive.
URG History Officer
60 years is quite a milestone for a dive club like ours and personally, the URG has been a part of my life since 1966, when Clarrie Lawler taught me to dive as an 18 years old. Roll on the next 60 years I say, and again, I do wish I could be there to have a dive and celebrate with you all.
Editor’s Note: URG History Officer, Colin Piper, wrote an article titled “URG – The Early Years”. Download February 2010 to read it.