March has been one of our quietest months post lockdown due to the extreme rainfall and shocking water clarity. That said, there is a ton of activity planned for the next three months so dust off your regs and lets get this club going again! More on that further on.
Big thank you to John Swift for making sure that the calendar is chocker-blocked with dives until June! Another shout out to Marcus Bender who is pairing with John to make sure that now that the boat is going out, its full. So expect him to come knocking! RLS also kicks off in April and there are a number of other things to get involved with with beach cleans, boat training and a photography workshop.
Myself and Charlie hadn't dived in four weeks and we were sick of dunking our heads in bathtub just to stay wet, so hopped in the car and travelled to an unlikely part of Australia when avoiding bad weather is the goal. But more on than story in the article Charlie contributed below. See if you can guess from the image below that I took on Monday morning!
Before I sign off we have an important update to announce. Given the shifts in the world of finance the committee took the decision to be a leader in the digital currency age, so from the 1st of April we are only accepting Bitcoin for payment when booking on dives. We realise this change might present a learning curve for some members so we've included an FAQ article in the bulletin to help people set up their crypto accounts.
We have a bit of a shuffle in committee roles to announce. Josh Moloney has passed on the research officer batten to Jens Sommer-Knudsen. Josh, like his predecessor John Turnbull are continuing to lead the charge in our reef life survey efforts. Looking forward to seeing what Jens has in mind for us.
Here is a quick update from Josh Moloney:
"Kris O’Keeffe, John Turnbull and myself represented URG while on a two week RLS trip to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Lord Howe Island. Just the right conditions allowed us to get to the famous Balls Pyramid to the south in the second week of the trip to survey 2 sites there! RLS teams haven’t been able to get out there the last two trips so we were thrilled to be so fortunate!"
Maybe when the rain stops and the visibility improves we can redo the sea horse count from May 2002 and publish a 20 year update? If this grabs you, let us know!
See below an article from Colin.
"hippocampus whitei" - Janet Abbott
Balmoral Dive: Sea-Horse count
By Colin J. Piper (10/04/2002)
A perfect Autumn morning greeted us as we embarked on what has been probably, the most accurate sea-horse count yet done on the Balmoral pool net …(certainly by me at least). It is just over a year since I did my first serious count…April 6th 2001…when I counted 39 on the outside of the net, damaged as it had been by the March storms last year.
Tina Brain and I did the count from inside, making the sea-horses much easier to see, especially where the stinger net and the shark net overlap.. Between the beach on the northern side and the wharf/swimming platform area there were 5. In the area of the wharf/platform, there were 14. From there to the corresponding swimming platform on the southern side, there were 9 (none on the URG tagged site, though there was one nearby…a large one at that). Finally, between the southern swim platform and the beach, there were 9. In all … 37. Taking the same area counted as April 2001, there were 34. That count did not include the whole boatshed area.
There is no doubt in my mind that the sea horses prefer the 'sides' of the pool as opposed to the curved eastern border which is more exposed to the weather and possibly rougher water in big blows. The shelter offered by the boatshed and the wharf on the sides obviously appeals to the little critters.
Last year, I did not do another proper count till August 17th. I intend repeating the exercise between now and August, hopefully by then, numbers will have increased.
Perhaps we need to add another URG tagged site nearer to the wharf? Certainly, for a serious count, inside the net is the only way to go at the moment.
Dive Story: Flinders Pier Dive
by Charlie Elliott
Like all our fellow divers, and the URG club finances, we have been struggling with the flood water in Sydney. We hadn't been diving for over a month! Just under 1000 km away however the conditions are looking much better, Duncan and I took a 10 hour drive to the Mornington Peninsula and started our week jumping back in the water after far too long and enjoying a new (to us) dive site, Flinders Pier.
We were treated to an amazing sunrise over the water as we geared up and hopped in just before high tide. There were some swimmers in the water but no other divers as we set off. The water was a little milky but a beautiful blue, which after the brown of Sydney was a welcome relief.
We were on the hunt for weedy seadragons and we struck lucky about half way along the pier! There was a Weedy in a sandy area beneath the pier, we soon realised how lucky this was as the Amphibious seagrass beds meadows that they live amongst in this area are far easier for them to vanish into than the kelp in Sydney. You'd catch a glimpse of their silhouette but before you reach them they would sink out of sight and be completely hidden in the grass.
It's an easy dive (our max depth was 4.8 m!) on high tide as there is a platform half way along the pier which allows you to walk straight off into the water and swim back onto it at the end of the dive to exit. The conditions we had were calm and relaxing and I'd highly recommend trying this site if you are in the area.
History Article - Equality for Women
In June 1955 the female URG members were allowed to join the URG meetings. Incomprehensible by today's standards, but a progressive move for the times. In the 1950's women were not allowed into the public bar of a pub!
Women representing in 1953.
The recent 500 year flood events have impacted our diving with flood waters, debris and sewerage entering our waterways and making its way to our harbours and oceans. Hopefully the viz will improve and pollution levels degrease soon.
The RLS members are still managing to get wet on the annual pilgrimage to do Reef Life Surveys at Lord Howe Island. Reports are that they had good viz and favourable sea conditions. Well done to the members who participated and I am sure we will hear more about it from John Turnbull next month.
The monthly meeting at the Oakes Hotel in March 2022 was well attended and we meet in one of the function rooms upstairs. Members started arriving from 6pm to mingle, grab some beers and food before the formalities started around 7pm (which lasts about an hour). Followed by more beer and chatter. Amongst other items on the agenda, we had an exciting presentation by Jens and demonstration of his underwater drone / ROV. Amazing to think of the capabilities of this little ROV to sample the ocean down to 100 meters.
Clean up Australia
Pablo and Kathy Giles are organising a clean up at Parsley Bay which was postponed on 6th March. We are finalising new dates, so keep an eye out on your emails and/or on Facebook.
John Swift has done a stellar job of making sure the boat is running every weekend for the next three months. I think the calendar is the most jammed I've ever seen. MASSIVE thank you John.
The URG cat is heading out most weekends from the St George Motor Boat Club Marina in San Souci. Check https://www.urgdiveclub.org.au/dive-calendar and Facebook for dates and make sure to reach out to the conveners to book onto dives.
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.
Our president and secretary, Duncan and Charlie, are running an underwater photography workshop for members on the 9th April at Clifton Gardens. Email correspondence has already been sent, so check your inbox for details or sign up via this google forms link. Any camera is welcome but I suspect the 1954 model below has been retired.
URG Trips 2022
Our trip to recent Forster was washed out due to heavy rain pollution and seas so we are rescheduling for 28 and 29 May. Look out for event on Facebook or call Michael 0407 250 566 for information.
Weekend away to Port Stephens doing Fly point or Pipe Saturday and dive to Broughton Island Sunday is being considered for the 3, 4 & 5th June. Keep a lookout for more information in following months.