Underwater Research Group of New South Wales
Hi all, hope you are having a wonderful long break over the Easter weekend. I'm writing this while looking out the window at an impressive 3m swell rolling in on what was meant to be the day we set aside for a dive. Oh well.
The URG boat is temporarily moored at Balmoral Boatshed while being used for RLS in Sydney Harbour. Great chance to hop on and see some of the northern sites that we don't often get to when the boat is docked at St George Marina.
Congrats to Vishal who I believe is our newest convenor! Convenors play such an important role in keeping the club going, so if anyone else wants to put their hand up to get a set of keys to the boat we'd love to hear from you.
In March URG participated in the first Grey Nurse Shark Harmonised Census in March. The aim of the census was to get as many operators and divers to check out all the known aggregation sites on the day and do a count of the numbers. 21 organisations got involved and in this citizen science initiative from Wolf Rock in QLD to Narooma in NSW. 249 grey nurse sharks were reported on the day. About 40% of the total came from Wolf Rock, while some of the regular NSW hot spots like South West Rocks and Broughton island had very low numbers. Our divers went to Magic Point on the day and counted 9 sharks, while myself and URG secretary Sarah took a group to South Bondi and counted 2 sharks. We were joined by Nick O'Malley, the National Environment and Climate Editor for the Sydney Morning Herald and photographer Edwina Pickles who gave the GNS cause a great write up in the Sunday papers.
Shout out to John Turnbull who shared excellent insights during a panel discussion he was part of at the Ocean Lovers Festival in Bondi. The topic was - The 30 by 30 Target which was hosted by ABC National Radio Presenter Cassie McCullagh. John was joined by Tony Worby from the Minderoo Foundation, retired GBR Captain Gordon Scott and USYD Associate Professor Eleanor Bruce. The audience got to learn how Marine Protected Areas and Sanctuary Zones play a critical role in protecting our marine environment and safeguarding our planet for future generations. I was shocked to discover the findings in the research John has been working on and hope to get him to present these to the club at one of our up and coming general meetings.
Speaking of general meetings, big thanks to Jens for organising an impressive two speakers at the March event. Dr Joseph DiBattista gave a talk on eDNA research in Sydney harbour, and Graham Short spoke about the Syngnathidae family (seahorses, seadragons, pygmy pipehorses, and pipefish). Graham has helped describe a number of new pigmy seahorses around the world, and also a newly named species of pipefish that some of us unwittingly stumbled on during a URG dive at Minmi Trench a few years ago. This species was first observed in 2002 in Jervis Bay, but it took until 2020 for the research to come out confirming it. Check out the article here.
I realise there are a lot of links in this slate... if you follow them all you'll be in an internet rabbit hole for the rest of the weekend! So here is one more to see you off. Mike Scotland's new book Marine Biology In The Wild has been published. It is 102 pages / 299 images that is guaranteed to be of interest to anyone who wants to learn more about marine biology and as well as U/W photographers. Details on how to get a copy are on the back page of the April copy of Divelog.
While writing this, I rang Mike and invited him to join our next general meeting to intro the book. Bring $40 if you'd like to grab a copy.
Diving Magic Point on the Group Boat
By Michael Abbott with photographs by Erik Schlogl
We arrived at 7.30 for an 8 am departure to be met by Jens, Denise, Eric, and Atul. After loading up the first trolley with dive gear I headed down to the wharf. Vishal was on the boat and had it set up ready to go. We were informed that he would be co-convener for the day and take charge as this was his final training day and test for a convener badge. The general consensus was that we should try for Magic Point to count Grey Nurse Sharks for the Bondi Ocean Lovers Festival Shark Count.
The bay was calm with only a slight ripple and the boat skimmed across the surface to the heads. The sea outside was around one meter but in the confused state it gets when a change is evident. Nevertheless we pushed on to Maroubra.
We were first there so anchored away from the cave mouth on the rocky slope between the main and SE caves. Pro Dive arrived slightly latter. With Jens boat sitting the 6 divers excitedly geared up and entered the water. Lucky enough to be first down we enjoyed Viz starting at around 10 meters and it was a pleasant 19 to 20 degrees with a thermocline at around 7 meters. This allowed us to do a quick count getting 7 GNS at the main cave before being joined by other divers.
We then headed over to the SE overhang and encountered 2 more small GNS. So a total of 9 was the consensus. There were also 9 or 10 wobbegong sharks with 3 being banded wobbegongs and 6 spotted wobbegongs and 1 banjo shark.
It can be quite easy to get caught up in the hysteria of sharks but there were also other things to see on the dive. As for tropicals I saw 4 moorish idols , a crested morwong and a moon wrasse and that was without looking for fish.
Temperate fish life was prolific with huge schools of yellowtail covering both sites. Other schooling fishes included ladder fin pomfrets , silver trevally and long fin pike. All the usual southern reef fish were in abundance and Janet found a Clown Toby being cleaned which made her day.
For the second dive Denise and Janet sat out due to the cooler 19 degree water prevailing. We were all in wetsuits. As such I had the honour of diving with my old buddy Eric. With fewer divers in the water we were able to sit quietly to the sides of the main cave and let the sharks come out to see us. The juvenile males as is their custom were particularly bold coming straight at the diver and turning to pass at the last moment. We spent a further 65 minutes with Eric taking photographs of every fish for the iNaturalist website.
I thought my luck had returned when I found an underwater drone hooked up on a piece of benthic growth. In line with the law of the sea I untangled it and was about to claim salvage rights when Jens pulled it back to the boat. All in all 2 very good dives. Thanks to Jens and Vishal for convening and congratulations to our newest convener.
History Article January 2003 - "Seahorses at Balmoral"
By: Colin J Piper
Simon Dakin and I counted sea horses this morning, Dec 18th, at Balmoral. High tide, overcast.
There were in all 107, more than I have ever personally counted…for details of their distribution, please log on the URG web-site. The count was again done from inside the pool.
We noticed again that there is a great congregation in the wharf/swim platform on the Northern side of the pool, and further, we noticed that only very few are in the upper half of the net. We identified several pregnant ones, as well as several obvious pairs. I personally have never seen sea horses in this 'courting' mode before.
The overall condition of the nets, (both the shark net and the stinger net) continue to deteriorate and we need to be aware as to when it might be replaced. Makeshift repairs are in evidence…no big holes were seen today. The stainless steel braces, which were installed with the current net (middle of 2001) have now almost all broken away, and while those that haven't, did make holes in the net from rubbing action…all of these holes (observed in September) are now repaired.\
Some areas of the net on the Eastern side are totally covered with growth, especially near the bottom Generally, the growth is becoming heavier and heavier and as I reported in September, the net must surely be replaced in the next year or so.
That said … the good news is of course that there were more sea horses than I have ever counted. I hope the courting couples get on with it, and the pregnant males give birth soon!
Over coffee (always a MAJOR part of the Balmoral research) Simon came up with an idea to plot the pool with his GPS, produce an A4 template, waterproof it or put on to a piece of underwater slate and in future, identify exactly where the critters reside, without having to generalize with locations such as Eastern side and wharf/pool area.
Watch this space.
Group Members have been diving and the water has remained warm much like the weather. Stay tuned for updates from recent dives via Bulletin, Facebook or at a Meeting soon.
At the March meeting at The Oaks we had 2 guest speakers. Both very interesting. Dr Joseph DiBattista. NSW Senior Research Scientist and Curator in the Ichthyology Section at the Australian Museum :The purpose of our Blue World (http://www.blueworld.net.au/about/) and Australian Museum (https://australian.museum/) sponsored project is to increase biological records at Parsley Bay and Camp Cove in southern Sydney Harbour (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/marine-biodiversity-of-southern-sydney-harbour). Help us balance the books and be our “eyes in the water” by recording the amazing biodiversity that lives alongside us in southern Sydney Harbour and uploading to iNaturalist (https://www.inaturalist.org/home). The second speaker a visiting Fellow with the Museum spoke on Hippocampus.
Group Meetings at The Oaks
URG meetings at the Oaks in Mossman are scheduled for the following dates:
Boat dives continue with the URG cat is heading out most weekends from it's temporary mooring in Balmoral, so a great chance to check out some northern sites. Check https://www.urgdiveclub.org.au/dive-calendar and Facebook for dates and conveners to book onto dives.
No listing . Means there is no convener assigned to this day. However, all members are invited to organise a dive if they wish. You will need a URG Committee approved boat driver as well as a minimum of four (4) divers paying the usual maintenance contribution. Please coordinate the use of the boat with the Dive Officer.
Boat handling lessons. Pablo is willing to run more lessons in boating skills covering everything from docking to to knots. Contact him via facebook if interested.
Published Items. The opinions expressed in the “URG Bulletin” are not necessarily those held by members, or the committee of the URG Dive Club. All material published in the URG Bulletin will remain the property of the original author or artist. Please give acknowledgment when citing articles.