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December 2023 Bulletin

Underwater Research Group of New South Wales

Presidents Slate

What year for the club it has been! With a conflicted heart I reflect. It has had both lows and highs. We've welcome recipcal dive clubs members who have been active in helping us keep the boat in the water. We added new convenors into the mix for the first time in years. But also sadly said goodbye to one of the clubs most fervent supporters and contributors. Stephen Conwell made a profoundly postive impact on our club, much of it was under the radar due to his humble nature. We wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for his committment and hard work. We are forever in his debt and may our memory of him remain strong.

It is hard to follow on from that..

Our general meeting this month will be a Christmas dinner instead, but please note the venue change. We have a large table booked on the terrace at the Commodore Hotel in North Sydney. Meals and drinks ordered separately from the bar. Join us from 6 pm, whether you're a member, considering joining, or just curious about our club, we extend a warm welcome to all.

Address: 206 Blues Point Road McMahons Point, NSW 2060

This was mentioned at the AGM, but for those that missed it, and to give it an official start date, from January 2024 membership fees increase from $90 to $100, and the suggested fuel/maintenance contribution for boat dives are going from $45 to $50 per dive.

We are scrapping the 3 month trial membership and making changes to the prorata membership arrangement. New member sign ups between July and Dec will be a flat $150, which includes their first day on the boat. This will reduce to $100 for sign ups from Jan to the end of the membership year in June.

The reasons for the suggested increase is the rising costs of fuel. The reasons for changes to new membership arrangements it to make it simple and get the new members out on the boat as soon as possible. Whether it is $150, or $100 for those signing up late in the membership year, its still way more affordable than a single day out with a commercial operator.

Lastly, we are hoping to engage club members in boat maintenance tasks moving forward into the new year through working bee days. We also want to propose that in undiveable conditions such as large swell, divers signed up for that day could be asked by Convenors to come to the boat to assist with a couple of the tasks. Not in driving rain of course! Feedback on the idea is welcome.

More info on dates of Working Bees will be forthcoming in the New Year. 

Male seahorse about to give birth at Camp Cove on a night dive.

I missed the birthing because Reka flooded her drysuit and lost her fins so we had to abort the dive*

*not true :p

Looking forward to some down time and diving over the xmas period. Also hoping to see you all at the Christmas Party on Tuesday.


Duncan Heuer


Diving (as life) is a tetris

by Reka Spallino My mom is still around, therefore I have to and want to “tetris” [= connect events and people in a way that all fit as smoothly as it is possible] time with her and time into my beloved ocean.

So when on a Tuesday I find time for myself for a Sunday and I see that there is the last spot on the boat, I happily sign myself on that day! This is the first Sunday’s dive for the Sea Slug Census. I know I have a GoPro and the macro footage is not the best, but I decide to go. On the boat is captain Josh and divers = Jens (sorry for missing you in the picture), Hatty, John S., Karolyn, Seb and myself

1st dive

Between The Steps and the Monument

ITW = 09:28 am 15.7m 56 min 17-18C viz=2m

Way stronger current than expected, viz was pretty bad and water very milky

But the goal was to search for nudies and I did see 16+ 😍, 1 seadragon [almost missed because focused on nudies 🤣], 1 cuttlefish and 1 moray eel 🥳

Image by Michael Abbott from archive.

2nd dive

Henry's Head

ITW = 11:34pm 16.9m 62 min 18-19C viz=1.5m

My GoPro doesn't capture macros so when Karolyn proposes for me to use her back up camera [Olympus TG4], I say very happily YES 🤩

A bit calmer, viz even worse, but playing with the camera was so much fun 😍 I started diving with a camera when I already had 300+ dives, my first was a no-pro (a like GoPro style camera of a different unknown brand), then I got the GoPro 10 and now I am thinking of buying a compact camera that balances my GoPro for macro shots. And non-divers say “you have all the equipment, diving must be so cheap now for you”. I answer “yes” but deep inside I know that “there is always a new piece of equipment I need and want”. Also in diving, I need and want to “tetris” my needs, between what I have and what I desperately know will make me even happier in my beloved ocean.

Fins Wanted

by Reka Spallino

The 7th of November 2023, I go for pe-work dive at Clifton Gardens 🌊❤️ The net, the pier, Atlantis and 1 seahorse hotel 🌊🐎

ITW=6:43am 11m 60min 19°C viz=2.5m Highlights = huge decorator crab, a couple of nudies exiting, a crab at Atlantis, a crab at the statue and a seahorse at the only seahorse hotel I checked out 😀 Very nice dive, viz way better than expected 🤩

Very relaxing and zen dive, after being dry since the previous Wednesday night. Maybe too zen of a dive.. Once I arrive home, I wash all my gear and put it drying in the usual spots. The day is pretty warm so around 6pm I think I can pack everything back into the car to be ready for the next dive in the week. When I begin to pack I can’t find my beloved new orange Apeks RK3 fins. I go to the first balcony, I go to the second balcony, I look around the flat. It is a flat not a villa after-all. I can’t find them. And this is the moment when I have a flashback, I clearly remember that actually I haven’t washed them after the dive. I must have forgotten them in the car, maybe in the back seats. I take the rest of the gear and go to the car. I open the trunk and the orange fins are not there, I open the back door and the orange fins are not in the back seats, I even check the front seats and the orange fins are nowhere. I am pretty sad, so I decide to drive off to Clifton Gardens. Maybe I have left them next to my car and they are still there? Driving I have my music on but my brain keeps on rethinking the morning: me gearing up, me entering the water, me diving, me exiting the water, me getting undressed, me packing the car and me driving away. Another horrible flashback comes. After the dive I put the orange fins on top of the car thinking for sure I will not forget them there. But clearly I have forgotten them there. As a confirmation, at Clifton Gardens the orange fins are nowhere to be seen. Funny story in the early 2000, when I was studying at university in Florence Italy, a similar thing happened already. After passing a very hard exam (civil law), I was so happy I had forgotten a book on top of my mom’s car and drove off home not noticing it. I must have driven super slowly because by the time I reached home, the book was still there, with the first pages gone but still there. So dear friends, this is for you to remember, check all your gear before leaving the dive site. No matter how excited you are, how zen or maybe even horrible the dive was, don’t do as I did!

And if you happen to see between Clifton Gardens and Bondi Road a pair or even a single Apeks RK3 orange medium size, lying lonely and sad on the side of the road, please collect them, they could be mine.

A different type of diving

By Reka Spallino

When I moved to Sydney, at the end of 2019 I came across the non-profit The Scuba Gym.

I wanted to volunteer my time with them as I love to SCUBA dive & I love to help and feel useful.

But shortly after finding them, the pandemic and lock downs hit, I lost my job, we couldn't travel etc.

When in April 2023 I heard they were coming to the aquarium in Sydney (where I work casually), I offered to work on that day and so I was able to meet the founder, Lyndi. On the 13th of November 2023 I volunteered with them in Woy Woy NSW. This organisation helps special needs people (adults and kids) to better themselves, to rehab, to recover with physical therapy and also cognitive therapy all with activities underwater, SCUBA diving. On that Monday, they had 3 young clients:

  • one autistic woman, called the “mermaid” as she loves so much being underwater and is very confident

  • one woman with cerebral palsy, who also is a Dual Paralympian & Para Matilda team member

  • one autistic man, who loves to focus underwater

The scuba therapy was physical exercises and also “focusing” exercises all underwater while breathing from a SCUBA tank.

Lyndi explained a lot of things about their work.

For autistic people, the repetition of focusing exercises is the key to success and to change mental behaviour that might make their life harder to themselves and to the people around them.

For physical disabilities, such as trouble with movement and coordination, smaller parts of the body (arm, leg, feet) due to cerebral palsy, the key is to do some exercises that on land with normal gravity would be impossible to be performed. Underwater muscles are used and straightened differently.

For both, different areas of the brain are used and concentration is increased.

I helped out on the surface and underwater. I also tried some of the exercises too and they are not as easy as they seem

It was such a rewarding day for me, all the 3 clients were very happy underwater and afterwards.

If you are interested in the The Scuba Gym, click here =>

If you are interested in donating to them a few $$$, they have a donation campaign opened until the middle of January 2024, click here =>

History Articles from the early 90s - SUN SHINES IN JERVIS BAY!

By Sue Murray-Jones

The "headline" is justified. The last couple of times I've dived JB I've been flooded out of the camping ground. This weekend was different and rare. Despite. a howling wind storm in Wollongong on Friday night, Saturday was warm with a moderate westerly to flatten the surf, while conditions on Sunday were as near to perfect as anyone could wish - above water, anyway. Pity about the visibility.

The second dive on Saturday was on the east side of Bowen Island. (Yes, Virginia, there is a seaward side and it's not always too rough to get around there.) The water was surprisingly, and unseasonably, cold at 16°C, with huge patches of cloudy plankton, like thick peas soup. There are all sorts of ledges and drop-offs, though we missed the big wall we were looking for. A typical JB dive, lots of bryozoans, sponges, ascidians, etc. jumbled around on the bottom, although very few fish were around.

Image by Michael Abbott from archive.

Sunday saw an amazing piece of organisation by our intrepid convener, Judy Hawkes. Sick of whingers complaining about which dive they were on, she'd managed to arrange for all divers to be on the first dive! She roped in long term URG member, Bob May, to take the excess on his big


The URG boat zoomed off into the perfect morning, ending up about 500 m further north than Drum

Drum and Drumsticks. We saw the mixture as before, as well as a few wobbegongs, some flamboyant coils of nudibranch eggs and a solitary pipe fish, which was hanging around the anchor chain when we went down and waited for us on the mermaid line till we surfaced. There were more fish, warmer water (by at least 3°) and much better visibility.

The other divers on Bob's boat, who didn't get further than the Bowen Island "Nursery" due to engine trouble, reported that the cold water and plankton soup were still hanging around the island.

One quick criticism of some members' diving habits - anchor chains are for anchoring! Not for dragging yourself down into the depths! Use it as a guide if you need to, but not as a hauling line. You don't want to pull it out - do you?

The weekend, efficiently and cheerfully convened by Judy, was very relaxing and good fun. Saturday night saw us out in force to dine at the Husky pub, even if the last boatload of divers got to eat late after what must have been almost a night dive at Point Perpendicular.

Image by Michael Abbott from archive.

Thanks, Judy Hawkes, from all of us. Putting up at the very quiet Leisure Haven Caravan Park were myself and Judy, as well as Alec and Shelagh Coleman, Peter and Laura Taylor, Jane Graham, Robin Appleby, Rhondda Williams, Cuong Doan, John Anderson and Linda Sengstock, Bob May and Les Lovasz.


by Michael Abbott

What has a head like a horse a tail and body like a monster and a pouch like a kangaroo? It is a sea horse. I had seen many dried seahorses made into earrings or broaches and used to decorate jewellery boxes, etc. but had never encountered a live specimen. This was until a dive at Little Manly on 7th Feb, this year, it was my second dive of the day after a URG trip to "The Ladder".

Camouflaged amongst the weeds attached to the bottom rung of the iron bars that form the pool were the most intriguing little fish. These tiny creatures, 6-14 cm long do not have scales like other fish but have an additional external skeleton made of bony plates connected by rings. The long thin tail is used similar to a monkey to hang onto a branch of seaweed as the seahorse sways back and forth with the surging current. Like most fish, seahorses swim with movement of their fins but they have no tail fin so use the dorsal fin located in the centre of the back for forward propulsion. I noticed that seahorses mostly swim in an upright position and seem to glide through the water with great grace but for the blur of rapid motion from the fins.

Note Image by Michael Abbott from archives of photos.

The eyes of this animal are very interesting, as a large male was swimming away from me I noticed that one eye was watching backwards at me and the other was looking forwards in the direction he was swimming. How did I know it was a male you ask? Well, it was obviously very pregnant and I was later to learn that the male seahorse carries the eggs in a pouch and this is where the fertilisation takes place. The male then takes on the role of single parent (talk about women's lib) and after approx. 45 days gives birth to up to 200 tiny replicas of their parents.

I spent most of the dive just watching these animals and was truly delighted by their presence. On a dive in Jervis Bay with the URG I was later to discover a pipefish which is the closest relative to the sea horse but that is a different tail.

Ed (Debbie Conwell). For all you seahorse lovers, Camp Cove is an absolute haven for lots and lots of seahorses. You will find them if you dive at the north end of the beach hanging on the seagrasses just off the beach. If you look really closely at the scattered shells on the seabed you will also find Pipefish.

Artwork from Bulletins in the 90s by Robin Appleby

Recent Events and News

Dive Log

This free read is highly recommended. Dive Log Australasia. please share with your diving friends.

Sydney Sea Slug Census - 10 to 19th Nov

Upcoming Events

URG Xmas Dinner

This general meeting will be a Christmas dinner - we have a large table booked on the terrace, meals and drinks ordered separately from the bar. A great opportunity to chat diving and have a few fesdtive drinks together.

Location: Commodore Hotel

206 Blues Point Road McMahons Point, NSW 2060

Join us from 6 pm, whether you're a member, considering joining, or just curious about our club, we extend a warm welcome to all.

Group Meetings at The Oaks

Our next general meeting in the Licensees Flat (upstairs) at the Oaks Hotel in Neutral Bay will be in 2024. Dates TBC.

Boat Dives

Boat dives are organised most weekends from the St George Motor Boat Club Marina in San Souci. Check 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 Josh, Jens or Pablo

Boat handling lessons.

Pablo or any another committee member are willing to run more lessons in boating skills covering everything from docking to to knots. Contact via email or Facebook if interested.

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 acknowledgment 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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