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Bulletin March 2022

Presidents Slate

By Duncan Heuer

Hi all,

Welcome new members. This time we have Reka, Jayanta and James. Looking forward to seeing you on the boat and at the socials.

Feb was packed with activity. Thanks to John Turnbull for organising a successful RSL trip to Jarvis Bay and the RLS'ers who contributed. I've been told that the visibility and water temp were as good as it gets. Check out John's full report further down in the bulletin.

Thank you too for those who contributed to the Clifton Gardens beach clean up. They pulled up enough fishing line to create a pulley system to link LGA's should we have another lockdown! Deb's summary for the event is also included in the bulletin.

Also a massive shout out to Pablo for the immense effort that went into organising the Clean Up Australia event that was due to be held this Sunday. There is a ton of work and negotiation that goes on behind the scenes to pull off these opportunities for the club. Unfortunately the weather wasn't on our side so it has been postponed. It is worth highlighting to members the importance of events like these as they build our profile in the community and this makes it easier to receive grants to keep the club running as well as doing good for the oceans. We encourage as many members as possible to support these when they happen.

Myself and Charlie joined Reka, Vishal, Atul, Josh B and Jens on a great dive at Kurnell and the "Henry's Neck" AKA Pablo's Red Indian Fish Point. We saw a number of sea dragons, a blue-lined octopus and a pigmy pipehorse. True story: Charlie spend 15 mins photographing a dead piece of algae in the shape of a pigmy pipehorse before someone actually found a real one!

Pics by Charlie Elliott

February sadly was also the month a life was lost tragically in Sydney's first fatal shark attack in almost 60 years. Simon Nellist was a dive instructor, shark advocate and he was ocean swimming at the time of the incident. News of this rocked all ocean community groups and our thoughts go out to his family and friends. An interesting sign of the times was how this was reported in the media. While there was some sentiment about retribution and culling, the mainstream news outlets reporting tended to highlight the importance of sharks in the ecosystem, the ineffectiveness of the shark nets and the need to think more rationally about the inherent risks of going the ocean. I was monitoring the spearfishing forums to see how this played out and I was surprised to see the majority of members quickly shutdown calls for culls, additional drum lines and more shark nets. The Times They Are a-Changin.

In other news our social / general meetings kick off again at the Oaks Hotel in Neutral Bay. The next event is Tuesday 15 March from 6pm. Hope to see as many of you there as possible. We got email from an associate member who has some dive equipment to sell/giveaway for a steal, so he is bringing a list along to see if anyone needs some bits and bobs.

On the 9th April we are going to run a photography dive. All levels of experience welcome and non-photographers are welcome to join out of interest. We also have a few spare cameras, housings, video lights and strobes kicking about for those that haven't yet decided between a mortgage or a photography hobby, so having a camera is not a prerequisite.

The practicalities of running a workshop on the boat will be a bit tricky, so our thinking is to run this as a shore dive and ask that those who attend make a donation to URG. However, if shore diving is not your thing but you are interested, still register and select "boat dive" as your preference. Depending on numbers and interest we could accomodate both. Register your interest here:

Agenda (if its a shore dive):

  • 1hr pre-dive session to talk through techniques

  • Dive 1

  • Lunch and looking at results on a laptop / editing tips

  • Dive 2 to put some ideas into practice while they are fresh in your mind

Agenda (if its a boat dive):

  • 1hr zoom session to talk through techniques

  • Dive 1 + Dive 2

  • 1-2hr editing session via zoom post dive

As always, I'll end off a plea to help us keep the boat in the water and the club afloat. As I'm writing this we do not have a full dive calendar for March and April, so please if you are a convenor and you can spare a weekend see if you can run a trip. And for all members please check out the dive calendar and get wet.

Happy diving

Duncan Heuer

Underwater Clean Up - Clifton Gardens

By: Deb Dickson-Smith

URG's participated in a beach and underwater cleanup at Clifton Gardens

Challenging weather conditions at times for the Friends of Chowder Bay underwater and beach cleanup at Clifton Gardens in early Feb, but overall a job well done by divers and topside crew.

URG volunteers Jens, Josh and Deb helped with logistics and the underwater cleanup along with a dozen more local divers, and retrieved an estimated 3KM of fishing line, 32 lures, 30 chemical light sticks, 90 sinkers. On the beach and underwater, 280 cigarette butts, over 100 plastic disposable picnic items including 62 confection sticks, 44 cutlery items and 14 straws. Over 400 plastic fragments, 270 plastic film remnants (lots of bait bags) and a lot of building/construction plastic waste - 46 items including tile separators and drill plugs.

The debris data was recorded and uploaded to Tangaroa Blue's Australian Marine Debris Database.

The event was supported by Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Thailand High Consul, who volunteered for the topside clean-up and provided lunch, and Lord Howe Island Brewing Co. who donated beer and G&Ts as a thank you gift for volunteers.

Jervis Bay February 2022

By John Turnbull

Eastern blue devil fish - John Turnbull

I stood looking at what had previously been our regular boat ramp in previous years. This year, it was all construction barriers, diggers and mud. Murray’s boat ramp was clearly out, and the weather forecast was swinging from south to north over the next four days with 20 kn winds and 2 m swell… should we have cancelled? But it was to be our biggest JB trip yet, with 2 boats, 11 RLSers and 2 trainees, so in for a penny…


Brian, our unflappable boat driver from SCUDA assured us we could get some good dives in, but the locals weren’t so sure. So it was with some trepidation that we made plans for the first day on the water. Brian would launch from Woollamia in the west of the bay and pick us up from the beach at Bristol Point, and we would drive over and attempt the sites on the inside of Bowen Island. We would meet Bruce in his boat, which would also launch from Woollamia and be filled with an enthusiastic group of locals who had just been certified in Sydney.

Everything looked fine at Woollamia!

We discussed sites whilst the two boats drew alongside at Bowen, geared up and hit the water. What a shock! It had been 14 degrees in the water in Sydney the week before, and what did we have in JB? 23 degrees and 15 m viz! We laughed through our regs in relief and no measure of wonder at how fantastic the conditions were. Of course on the surface, Brian and Bruce were getting blown like windsocks, but we were cosy below.

Waiting for pick up at Bristol:

This was to set the tone for the next four days. By taking great care in site selection each day, based on the forecast and the knowledge of locals, we managed to get both boats lined up for sites first on the east of the bay, then the south, then north. Day 4 was the icing on the cake - my favourites sites inside Point Perpendicular in the north east. Steep, sometimes vertical walls, overhangs and 20 m viz made these some of the best dives I’ve ever had in JB.

Surveys at Bowen:

Sue and Josh on transect

A great thrill on the trip was seeing the other RLSers, some of whom were on their first RLS trip despite having dived these waters for several years, climbing up the boat ladder each time filled with excitement at the species they had seen and recorded. An RLS dive really does take a “regular” dive site to a new level. By forcing yourself to focus on every species you can find in just 50 m of transect, you often see much more, and the richness of experience is raised by being able to put a name to nearly everything. Then there’s that one shell, or fish that swims through transect, that you haven’t seen before and can’t ID. Back home that night, getting the ID books and web pages out to figure out what you saw, you can re-live the dive.

Naomi watching Bruce launch “the big boat” (yep, the one on the left!)

We ended up surveying 15 sites, completing 48 surveys and certifying two new RLSers in the process – Bruce and Nyrie, congratulations! Huge thanks to the RLSers from Sydney – Kris, Lou, Martin and Josh B; the local RLS team comprising Sue, Nathan, Naomi, Reilly, Lachie and Sabrina; and Maddie who flew down from up north. Special thanks to Josh B for organising much of the logistics, our boat drivers Brian and Bruce (of course Bruce drove the boat and got certified!), boat sitters and tank fillers Sue and the crew from Dive Jervis Bay.

New RLSer Nyrie searching the transect:

So, what did we find? We recorded 205 species in total; 121 fish species on method 1, 77 invertebrate species and 28 cryptic fish species on method 2.

Most abundant species:

Fish: Eastern hulafish (5837; on average 121 per transect) closely followed by mado (5196)

Invertebrates: Long spined urchins (8008; on average 167 per transect)

Cryptic fish: Black-tip bullseye (373)

Most common species:*

Fish: Mado (98%), silver sweep (90%)and red morwong (85%)

Invertebrates: Tent shells (91%), long spine urchins (84%) and slate pencil urchins (51%)

Cryptic fish: Half banded sea perch (51%) and black-tip bullseyes (38%)

* based on % of transects on which they appear

First sightings for RLS in JB:

Spangled emperor Lethrinus nebulosus spotted by Reilly

Black banded sea urchin Echinothrix calamaris spotted by Naomi

Blue trevally Carangoides ferdau spotted by John

The shell Fractolatirus normalis (we think!) spotted by Naomi

Favourite pics:

One of two blue devils on day 4:

Lots of colourful sea fans and soft corals at The Docks:

King wrasse poked around us on several dives:

Tassel snout flathead doing its best to not get recorded!

King wrasse - John Turnbull

URG Dives the Adelaide

Ex HMAS Adelaide Double Dive

Three URG members dived with Dive Spear & Sport on the 11th February for a doubled dive on the Ex HMAS Adelaide at Avoca. Janet Kathy and I chose the pick up from Terrigal Haven and the high tide meant their boat could pick us up straight off the ramp. We were joined by their dive master Matt with his buddy and another solo certified diver complete with pony bottles. Our skipper for the day was Byron who is an ex URG committee member and dive officer.

The three of us buddied up and went on our own little self guided adventure tour of the wreck avoiding the inside bottom decks which would have exceeded our maximum operating depth. We were all on Nitrox 32 which helped with the bottom times. I have always had the opinion that they put this wreck to deep.

The wreck has growth now established with pink and purple jewel anemones and cauliflower soft coral predominating. The water was warm and very blue. Fish life consisted mostly of schooling kingfish which continually circled the wreck and hunted through the upper superstructure. The usual reef fish and leatherjackets were also present. A highlight indicating water temperature and quality was a large bat fish that kept us company on the extended safety stops.

Thanks to DS&S, (0299993903), for taking us to this wreck.


Taken from Spearfishing News December 1953

“A step very much in the right direction was the recent formation by the committee of The Underwater Research Group. Its activities will include safety research, correctly conducted tests of the penetrative power of various spearguns, underwater photographs, specimen collection, breathing gear etc. Among URG’s Members are such names as Lawson, Wells, Barton and the convenor is none other than Mr Godfrey Leonard Gapp (Alias Goff).”

Editors Plea

If you don't want to keep reading old dive reports please send me a recent dive report. Any Group or club members dive will do and it doesn't need to be long winded. I know we are diving so let us record some for posterity sake.

Recent Events

The continuation of Covid19 into 2022 has impacted our diving but members are still managing to get wet and the boat has gone out when allowed with the easing of lockdowns and restrictions. Well done to the members who have been keeping up the diving. A special mention to Joshua Batchelor and Pablo for arranging the recent repair work on the boat motor and also to Kuong Doan and Stephen Conwell for towing the boat to and from the mechanic. A massive task using their own vehicles now that URG has no tow vehicle.

Upcoming Events

Boat dives have resumed post COVID19 lockdowns and the URG cat is heading out most weekends from the St George Motor Boat Club Marina in San Souci. Check and Facebook for dates and 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 trip to recent Forster was washed out due to heavy rain pollution and seas so we are rescheduling for 28 and 2 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 fir 3, 4 & 5th June. Keep a lookout for more information in following months.

Duncan Heuer, grey nurse shark, Broughton Island, Nelson Bay, underwater, photography, aussie bubbles

North Rock - Broughton Island


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