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April / May 2024 Bulletin

Underwater Research Group of New South Wales

Presidents Slate

Hi all, we decided to combine the April/May bulletin as we have some bad news and are still trying to figure a solution out. One of the motors on the club boat has called a time out. Josh is investigating whether it is (economically) salvageable or what other options are available to us. More news on this when we have something concrete. In the meantime, if anyone has skills, opinions or ideas, please reach out to Josh.

While we sort this out, our social committee members (Sarah and Charlie) have been organising a number of activities to keep members engaged while the boat is out of action, and raise funds. Sarah is has been arranging trips to Bushrangers Bay to do shore dives with the grey nurse sharks and helping members capture shots of them to populate the Spot-a-Shark ID program. All are welcome to join, and we have spare cameras to share around.

Here are some May events:

Sunday 5th May [Passed] - Sunday afternoon trip to see the Valerie Taylor and Underwater Photographer of the year exhibitions at the Maritime Museum*, if you missed our first outing then make sure to Join Reka this weekend - register to join here or message Reka to let her know you are coming. The pictures are so stunning and it's amazing to see them full size and lit up, well worth the visit. 

*This is still on and well worth a visit if you haven't had the chance.

Wednesday 8th May - Shark Talk at the Harbord Hotel in Freshwater 7:00 - 8.30 pm, more info here and register here, 10$/person + booking fee 

Weekend of 17th - 19th May - Weekend away in Forster to photograph Grey Nurse Sharks. One double room left! Reach out if you are interested in taking it.

Some pics from the Underwater Photographer of the year exhibitions at the Maritime Museum, including a feature of our very own John Turnbull's work.

Big thanks to all who helped out on the fundraiser day at Bunnings. Any cash injection is welcome at the best of times but never more so than now. We made around $2.3k as a result of our efforts. I believe another one is on the cards in July, which times well for our mooring annual mooring costs.

A reminder that on Tuesday 14th May we have our social general meeting at the Oaks. We've reserved the Licensees Flat (upstairs) at the beautiful Oaks Hotel in Neutral Bay, starting from 6 pm. Join us straight from work for an evening filled with good company, drinks, and food. The formal proceedings will commence at 7 pm. If you're new to our gatherings, the friendly bar staff will be more than happy to guide you to our location. 


Duncan Heuer


Fly Point Take two.

By Michael Abbott

We had to go back to Nelson Bay to pick up the tanks that were in for testing and the Janet’s regulators after service so decided to do Fly Point again. Being mid week and lunchtime we expected it to be quieter but were surprised to have the whole carpark to ourselves. Conditions looked good so we geared up and walked down the ramp to the steps.

The water looked about the same as the last dive two weeks earlier with 8-10 metre vizability. Imagine our delight when we entered the water and found 23 degrees. The plan was the same being to drop down into 3 metres, head down the slope over the kelp and weed to the edge and let the current carry us to the walls. 

There were about the same fish species as last month but less nudibranchs. Maybe we weren't looking hard enough. Fish life did seem more patchy and skitty. There were lots of ladder fin pomfrets and flathead swimming around chasing each other. We also saw a fiddler ray, female eastern smooth boxfish with juvenile and a dusky butterflyfish. Yes and someone's favourite Clown Toby.

At the wall the viz dropped to 5 metres and it seemed the water was stirred up. Snapper and morwong were swimming away erratically and fish seemed even more skitty. Suddenly we found out why. A 2.5 metre juvenile great white zooms past close to us chasing fish. At first glance it was moving so fast that we only caught a view of the dorsal fin back to the tail.

It missed the fish, I think, and did a circle around back into the deeper water. We remained still for a quite a few minutes against the low wall as it lingered as a silhouette on the edge of our view down on the sand line.

We cautiously headed up to 6 metres and continued onto the sand drop off at the end of the reef. Not wishing to drop back down onto sand we went with the flow and wandered back over the green underwater fields to the exit point. Then, almost back to the end it happened.

Two dolphins came cruising right past from behind us swimming side by side, they stopped 5 metres in front of me and did a vertical spin around each other. Like a yin and yang symbol. They then looked at me and maybe upset by all the yelling I was doing trying to get my buddys attention they swam off. 

All this time Janet had found and was enthralled with another Clown Toby and totally missed the dolphins. 

What is that lesson? If you want to see something you haven't seen before, leave the camera at home, Yes. The camera was safely at home ready to be packed for an upcoming holiday.

URG Meeting - Harry Rosenthal

By Reka Spallino (first time contributor to the bulletin!)

It is the second Tuesday of the month, the 12th of March 2024, and what do I do? I go to the URG meeting. Same location, the Oaks Hotel Neutral Bay, same time, from 6pm onwards. I keep forgetting to check who is going to present what, but honestly so far all the meetings have been fun. As soon as I arrive I order my chicken salad (it is the lighter meal they have) and also the only non alcoholic beer they have on the menu, can of Bridge Road Brewers "Free Time."

Since January 2023 I have not been drinking alcohol.It started as a dry January and now I can surely tell, it is a new lifestyle. But this could be another article in the bulletin.

Then with the buzzer in one hand and the glass in the other, I go into the last room.Few familiar faces and I sit in the same chair. Let’s call it “Reka’s chair” from now on, shall we???Jens comes with a man, Libby and Sarah help in connecting a laptop with the monitor hanging in the right top corner.I just watch. I could try to help but 4 hands are enough and anyways, I am too short and too clumsy to be of any use for that height.

The man goes to order his drinks. The presentation is launched on the monitor and I see the name “Harry Rosenthal”.OMG, I know him from the Facebook group VIZ - Sydney Diving Visibility Reports. I never look up profile pictures or profiles from that group.

I always thought with such a family name he could be German, but Jens tells he is American. When he comes back I run to him, give him my hand and happily say “You are Harry Rosenthal from the VIZ” ~ it is more of a statement than a question.. And I add “I am Reka from the VIZ group.” As the VIZ group would be a cult and its members were the “cool kids.” He takes a chair and comes close to me, seated in “Reka’s chair.” More people come and then it is time for the show! The presentation is about his new book “Holy Cow! I am a Citizen Scientist”, LinkedIn, fish pictures, the project on iNaturalist, a bee-project in Australia, etc.

Harry is really a character! I think I never laughed so much at an URG presentation and Sarah did the same. If you haven’t been there, you're missing out! But if you see Harry around, ask him about the bee project, you are guaranteed to have a laugh too. 

History Articles - 2003


By Michael Abbott

While on a dive early February near Cannae Point in the North Harbour Aquatic Reserve I happened upon some small (70mm) black fingers poking out of the sand. At first I thought it might be the feeding tentacles of a subterranean aquatic worm, but they were not catching food and they did not retract when I approached. They had feathery edges and a small black circular proboscis on the end.

Well I decided to dig a hole beside these feelers to see to what they were attached. ZAP. An animal under the sand electrocuted me. Now I have been hit too many times before not to know that it was a numb ray under the sand. I dusted him off and the thick, black cylindrical feathers where sticking up between his eyes.

I surmised that the black objects where gills or fish attractors. But I was very wrong. My buddy found them in a book and they are individual animals known as Branchellion from the family commonly known as leeches. See Graham J Edgar page 157 “Australian Marine Life. Animals of Temperate Waters.”

Numb ray with branchellion

Tassie Diving; Wynyard

By John Swift

My quest for the perfect dive has brought me to Tassie. The water is clear and, believe it or not, warm, my computer read 19°C for all my dives. What a fool I looked in my dry suit while the locals all had wet suits on and said they were hot. I went to Wynyard on the North West of the island and made contact with Jason Griffiths the owner of the Scuba Centre dive shop and also Mark Newman, whom some of you know. Both are locals with a wealth of knowledge and very proficient divers but best of all great blokes. I tell you the diving ability gets better in Australia the further south you go. Enough of that, my first dive in Tassie was a double night dive with Jason off the tip of Rocky Cape, the first to 29m with a strong current, but only near the surface. I saw a huge conga eel a least 1.5m long, but it’s the yellow zoanthids that I find hard to believe, vertical walls of 2 to 3m and yellow from top to bottom. The vis. was 5 to 10m, but it’s hard to tell at night. Most concerning was the green spongy weed that seemed to be growing on lots of the sponges and other life, the locals have not seen it before and feel it maybe connected to the sea temp.

I made contact with Mark Newman who has a nearly new dive boat with twin motors that would put our old URG tub (sorry I love her too) to shame. Margery came out and boat sat - well sort of - and we had two dives at Sisters Islands. Again, walls of yellow zoanthids as well as long nose boar fish and rock lobsters that all stayed on the bottom. The day was sunny and warm and the sea flat, just like I always hope for in Sydney but never get when I am convening. We both had a great day all round.

Today we are heading inland, so I leave the coast and the diving for another time, but not for too long I hope. So until my next dive report from Tassie keep your mask clear and your tanks full.

URG at Murray's ramp Jervis Bay circa 2003

Letter to the Editor ... and passed on to all readers

Dear STARR alumni,

A long overdue hello to everyone on this STARR alumni list. We haven't done a general call for volunteers for STARR since before COVID. The places in 2023 went first priority to the 2020 team that couldn’t go because of Covid, and otherwise filled up by word of mouth.

We have good news that PADI AWARE Foundation has just given us funding for STARR! This will subsidise the costs of bringing our STARR scientists to Les village, Bali, and other costs for setting up the STARR trials. This funding comes in time as our earlier crowdfunding money for past expeditions finished last year. 

In addition, our PADI AWARE grant will support setting up an open access database for volunteers to input data and see a dashboard of data collected from past STARR expeditions. You will help us with this too.

Because PADI AWARE’s news just came last week, this call for volunteers is coming later than usual.


Dates: Thursday 8 - Friday 16 August, 2024. 9 days total, 7 days diving including a fun dive day at USS Liberty, Tulamben. Mostly 3 dives/day.

Indicative costs: SGD 1,480 pp based on 16 signing up, subject to finalisation based on the actual numbers signed up. 

Deadline for sign up: 31 May 2024 or when filled.

Please let me know if you are interested. First come first serve.

STARR-PADI AWARE Scholarships 

With funding support from PADI AWARE, we are giving two STARR-PADI AWARE scholarships:

  • ONE Alumni Scholarship $500 to defray expedition costs: to any STARR alumni of minimum rescue diver certification. This diver will be our 3rd “scientist” helping the scientists plan and set up the trials, and will come up a day earlier with the scientists. Minimum rescue diver; and

  • ONE Young Scientist Scholarship: expedition space free of charge, flights and insurance excluded. Sam Shu Qin will be running the applications for young researchers to have an opportunity to work with communities and share science with communities that need it. Please do not apply to me. Sam will send out a separate blast to the scientific community.

The Alumni Scholarship will be awarded without further application since we already know you. So, no need to specially apply.

Please spread the word! If any of you are part of a dive club, diver forums or chat group, please post the attached PDF flyer and this You Tube clip. The more people we get, the lower the expedition costs per head, so please get all your dive buddies in on this!

Please post only on any social media so that I don’t get spammed.

 Looking forward to getting our crew together!

 Best wishes, Elaine


Recent Events and News and Upcoming Events

Project Restore - SIMS

Project Restore, led by the Sydney Institute of Marine Science is a significant multi-habitat restoration project taking place right here in Sydney Harbour! Read more about the project here:

The team are interested in the social and economic benefits which may come from this restoration project. To understand this they are surveying locals, visitors and businesses about their experience of using and visiting locations around Sydney Harbour. The locations listed in the survey are specific to our Project Restore restoration sites. 

We know Sydney Harbour is an incredibly diverse playground - whether you’re swimming, kayaking, boating, commuting or diving, tell us about your experience! 

Please help by filling in the survey and share how you enjoy and interact with the harbour!

Dive Log and Oz Diver

These are free to read and available online. Please share with your diving friends.

Boat Dives

Note Boat is currently out of action with an engine problem, but a range of shore diving and socials are arranged to keep the club going until the engine is fixed. Watch your emails, the Facebook group page for details.

Captain and club treasurer Josh Batchelor (when both motors were running)

Boat handling lessons.

[On pause for now, but still get in touch if interested]

If Duncan can do it, anyone can!

Editors Note

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 acknowledgement when citing articles.

Please check with the author informing them of your intention to republish their material, prior to publishing your article.


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