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Febuary 2023 Bulletin

Underwater Research Group of New South Wales

Presidents Slate

Hi all,

With most having returned from annual leave and xmas holidays, Feb is the month our general meetings start up again at The Oaks Hotel. We have speakers lined up for both Feb and March meetings so see details below in the upcoming events section. If you are new to the club, these meetings are social in nature and require nothing more than turning up on the right day. They are great opportunities to meet other members of the club when they are looking their best and don't have snot hanging off their chin.

Myself and Charlie went away to the North Solitary Islands and enjoyed some spectacular diving. Instead of writing a blog post about it, I thought I'd share a brief summary of it here in the slate.

The Solitary Islands is a 75km long Marine Park with no fishing zones, except when no-one is watching. It is known for having both the greatest concentration of anemone fish in the world and the least concentration of Vodafone coverage in Australia. It is a melting pot of temperate and tropical fish species. On any given dive you will see most of Sydney's usual suspects hanging out with their warmer water cousins. On this trip we encountered dozens of leopard sharks along with eagle rays, turtles, a giant QLD grouper, and many of the 550 species of fish and 90 hard corals.

Leopard shark - Anemone Bay - North Solitary Islands

In other news, the Ocean Lovers Festival is happening in Bondi in from 15-19 March. More details will follow in the next bulletin. That said we have also been offered early access to tickets to the Inaugural Ocean Plastic Action Forum which is part of this event. Tickets are $165 and include:

Forum Panels, talks and showcases from 9.30am to 3.00pm. Morning tea with registration and exhibition. Special lunch from FLAVE chef Scott Findlay offering a flavour punched, plant based sustainable meal. Scott's credentials include private chef for Sir Paul McCartney, Beyonce and Elton John. Forum networking drinks at the Pavilion Bar and Beachfront Balcony.

If want to find out what Elton John likes for lunch, jump on that fast!

The URG boat is going out most weekends this month, and at the time of writing, the 18th and 25th of Feb still has plenty of availability.

That is all the news I have. Looking forward to seeing as many as possible at the next general meeting. In the meantime enjoy the articles below.


Duncan Heuer

Diving Botany Bay on the Group Boat

By Kathy Giles

Wow, some of us sent off 2022 and started 2023 off with a cracker of a dive.

Janet, Michael, Marcus and I enjoyed Minmi Trench and Henry Head. Special thanks and gratitude to our illustrious skipper Joshua B, who provided brilliant weather and dive conditions, not to mention lots of lollies and goodies. Thank you Joshua.

We enjoyed the full length of Minmi Trench under the expert navigation of Michael. From the deepest point to the shallows. We had the privilege of seeing the illusive eastern blue devil.

Eastern blue devil fish (look hard)

Michael and I put our dive rescue skills to the test when upon photographing a juvenile port Jackson. I noticed he was caught on a ledge with hook and line in his mouth. Michael rolled him so I could

remove the hook and line. There were two hooks, but we managed to release him. A high five to the


Of course, no dive is complete without our beautiful weedy sea dragons.

Thanks to Kathy for getting both sides and sending to Kris O'Keefe for the weedy ID project.

Scottish Prince Wreck Dive - a different dive in QLD

By Reka Spallino

After Christmas my partner and I flew to Surfers Paradise for a little "holiday".

"Little holiday" because despite being nine days, I was actually working on the non-public holiday and non-weekend days.

Even though Surfers Paradise is traditional a surf destination, we found a way to turn it into a dive trip. My partner is OWD with Nitrox so options were limited. That said we able to book a wreck dive at 10m for the 2nd of January.

On the 1st of January the dive shop calls to inform me, they had reschedule the dive to Tuesday. I was working Tuesday and because most of my team was still on holiday, there was no way get some leave approved. I inform them we were good to go for Thursday 5 Jan and so I booked the day off.

On Thursday we reach the dive shop at 11:00 to do the paperwork and pick up some rental gear. A little after midday we were on the boat, along with a captain, an instructor and three local divers. They had their own gear and were the only one with full-heel fins, confirming my theory of the non-rented equipment. So a newly certified OW, my partner and I head out into the blue to check out the Scottish Prince Wreck.

When I ask about the visibility, it turns out that the previous day they did a discover scuba dive in the lagoon, so the captain and instructor said "pretty bad, hopefully where we are going will be good".

Well that was wishful thinking, and not what transpired. 0.5-1m and surgey, but least it was a nice warm 24°C. We end up spending 60 minutes at 11m and had a lot of fun. We didn't see much of the wreck but we did see some wobbegongs, a pufferfish and a southern eagle ray!

The first time the ray was described apparently it was in 1881. It was called Myliobatis australis. The genus name, Myliobatis, is derived from the Greek 'mylo' = mill and 'batis' = ray.

It is widespread not only in Queensland but also in Southern Australia, Western Australia, Norfolk Island and in New Zealand. Inhabits tidal flats in estuaries and harbours, shallow seagrass embayments, rocky reefs, and sand flats, at depths mostly above 50 m.

The joys of a red filter on land!

History Article January 2003

Fishes …

By Debbie Conwell

Do you have favourite fish? I do. I used to love moorish idols – they are so distinctive and unusual. But they are also fairly common … well, some places … I think I enjoy obscure. And we have some great fishes here in Sydney.

Last month, Robert Dennett and Allan Saben got some great shots of a velvet fish. That is so cool because not many people have even seen a velvet fish. Then, of course, there are our lovely red indian fish. In October, a few of us were fortunate enough to see an angel shark swimming around at the Gap. And I know we’ve seen lots, but really, weedy sea dragons are just unreal. Well, I won’t labour the point.

Anyway, one fish I love to see is a wirrah. They aren’t uncommon but they are fairly shy ie. they are usually under ledges and hard to see, but they are an absolutely ace colour. Their best feature is their fins. They are wide and large and the eastern wirrah’s fins are the most unreal purple blue around the edges. The yellow-banded wirrah is less common and gorgeous, also shy so it’s very cool to catch sight of one. But this is still not my point.

Bearing in mind that the wirrah’s fins are quite distinctive, I’ve twice now seen another member of the family – an orange-lined wirrah. Sea-Fishes of Southern Australia says “Known only from two specimens collected at Sydney and Seal Rocks. Apparently inhabits deep offshore reefs. Best separated from other wirrahs by the brownish orange lines on the sides, which may break up to spots with age. NSW only. Max. length: 31cm.” That is a great thing about diving here – there are always new things to discover, things you may not have seen before.

I saw one at Shiprock and thought I was very fortunate. But a couple of weeks ago, diving in the harbour on the Centurion because it was too rough outside, I saw a second one. It was pretty lucky I think because, according to the sounder, the wreck site was surrounded by a huge cloud of fishes but the vis was pretty crook so we couldn’t see all the fish around us. But, hanging around on the bottom with some cardinals was one fish that caught my eye … the unusual, generous fins – another orange-lined wirrah!

Keep diving, keep looking, keep learning.

Launching the club boat with "Ambivalence" at Tunks Park. Most likely in 90s.

Recent Events

Group Members have been diving and some lucky ones visited the North Solitary Islands. Stay tuned for updates from recent dives via Bulletin, Facebook or at a meeting soon.

Upcoming Events - Group Meetings at The Oaks

URG general meetings and socials are held at The Oaks Hotel in Neutral Bay. We are usually in the The Licensee Flat, which is a large room upstairs. If you get lost, ask the bar staff. Here are the dates for the following few months.

  • 14th Feb

  • 14th March

  • 11th April

  • 9th May

For those that are new, most people start showing up after work, around 5:30 - 6pm and mingle over beers and a pub grub. Formalities such as club business or guest speakers usually start at 7pm.

February Meeting

The speaker is Jessica (Jess) Nguyen, a PhD student from UNSW, who will be giving a talk on the Sydney Harbour Posidonia pilot project, which is the seagrass meadow restoring project. Here is a link to the Posidonia project:

March Meeting

The speaker is Dr Joseph Di Battista, a NSW senior research scientist and curator in the Ichthyology section at the Australian Museum. Bio below:

The purpose of our Blue World ( and Australian Museum ( sponsored project is to increase biological records at Parsley Bay and Camp Cove in southern Sydney Harbour ( Despite ongoing initiatives to bring biodiversity back to the Harbour via novel habitat restoration works (e.g., Living Seawalls, Operation Posidonia), baseline information on what lives where is lacking, particularly from the south. We intend to meet this need for baseline biodiversity data by establishing a high-quality data set of common, rare, and/or threatened marine species and their associated habitat via underwater citizen science observations. Your snorkel or SCUBA observations of all plants and animals will be used to ground truth and complement monthly environmental DNA (eDNA) surveys at each of the sites with our research partner Dr Shaun Wilkinson in New Zealand, founder of Wilderlab ( and the deployment of seahorse hotels with Dr David Harasti (NSW DPI), respectively.

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 (

Note that we have a running contest that included small prizes like gift vouchers from local dive providers (Sydney Dive Charters, Dive Centre Bondi, PRO DIVE ALexandria), restaurants (Clove Lane, Randwick), and the Australian Museum gift shop awarded to top contributors at each of the sites based on new plant and animal photos, photos of the month, or archival photos that you may have sitting on your laptop from years gone by. The contest finishes April 15, 2023, but we may extend it by a month or two to allow for increased participation

given some of the washed-out weekends we have had in Sydney Harbour thus far! Also please do keep an eye out for organised Bioblitz events at Parsley Bay in Vaucluse later in the summer.

Upcoming Events - Boat dives

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.

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.

Upcoming Events - 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.

Editors Note

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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