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January 2024 Bulletin

Underwater Research Group of New South Wales

Presidents Slate

Welcome to 2024.

Big thanks to Pablo, Hatty and Josh who put in time over the holidays to fix up a few things on the boat. I'm aware of the work done on the bimini and the area where the anchor is tied off on the front of the boat. I suspect there are a few other things on their list also that were ticked off.

Another big call out to Sarah Han De Beaux who gave our website a much needed facelift. Check it out if you haven't already noticed the difference.

Our socials start again in Feb. First one for the year being on Tuesday 13th. We have a number of speakers lined up which we are juggling around, so keep an eye on the email comms that will go out closer to the time.

An early heads up that the Ocean Lover's Festival in Bondi is scheduled for 20th-24th March 2024 so keep some time free to enjoy some of the talks, workshops and panel discussions if this type of thing interests you.

There are also a number of different ocean exhibitions currently open at the Australian National Maritime Museum including the Ocean Photographer of the Year.

Wobbegong taking a nap at Two Gullies dive sight with URG

Unfortunately, the dive calendar is looking a bit bare, so a call out to convenors to help us keep the boat and divers in the water. As always, we are looking for more members to take up the reigns in this regard and get trained up to skipper the boat. It is not as daunting as it may first appear and you'll almost always have another convenor on board as a regular diver to help you out.

Looking forward to seeing how 2024 shapes up. We've simplified the membership program and we hope to see more fresh faces enjoying what the club has to offer this year.


Duncan Heuer


Diving Southern Sydney Harbour

By Erik Schlögl

Back in October 2022, Joey Dibattista created a project on iNaturalist, Marine Biodiversity of Southern Sydney Harbour, to “increase biological records at Parsley Bay, Camp Cove, and Shark Beach in southern Sydney Harbour.” This got me interested to have another look at these sites – the first two at least, since Shark Beach is still inaccessible while the new concrete seawall and promenade are under construction. 

I’d dived Camp Cove many times before, but in recent years mainly as a night dive, having had some very average dives during the day there more than twenty years ago. So, when I did a daytime dive there again after many years, I was pleasantly surprised. At Camp Cove there is a shallow reef at about 4 to 6 meters depth running parallel to the beach – this is where most divers spend their time, and this reef does attract quite a diversity of fish species, including tropicals in the summer. There are also some quite good patches of seagrass between the beach and the reef, especially on the northern end. However, the site offers more than that if you explore a bit further. Turning right (north) off the beach and following the rock wall (again, not deep, only some 3 to 5 meters), the mix of fish species is quite different, including some species not often seen in Sydney, like Bengal Sergeant (Abudefduf bengalensis) and Blacklined Glidergoby (Valenciennea helsdingenii). Heading straight out beyond the reef can also yield surprises on the sand – it is here that I saw my first baby Port Jackson Shark (Heterodontus portusjacksoni) in February this year. On the southern side, the terrain at Laings Point is characterised by boulders and coarser, pebbly sand sloping more steeply downward. Here, at a depth between 7 and 8 meters, I found another surprise: Redspotted Shrimpgoby (Amblyeleotris ogasawarensis) – I’ll get back to these guys in a moment. So Camp Cove has a lot to offer on a daytime dive, if you explore and keep your eyes open. 

That said, it’s also a good night dive, and even after having done 27 dives there (18 of those at night), it still manages to serve up something new: On a night dive this September, the area was teeming with Moon-headed Sidegill Slugs (Euselenops luniceps), a species which I had never seen before. I also was shadowed by a Longfin Pike (Dinolestes lewini), which made me a bit suspicious, so I tried not to shine my light on all the Sydney Cardinalfish (Ostorhinchus limenus). And indeed, it was trying to hunt them with the aid of my dive light (it did manage to get one). This is clearly a learned behaviour, which I have previously only seen displayed by some predators on frequently dived tropical sites (for example in far north Queensland). The biggest surprise on that night though was when at one point I looked up straight at a Greynurse Shark (Carcharias taurus)! Didn’t get a picture, unfortunately, as it took off before the camera could focus…

Let me now turn to Parsley Bay, which I’d never dived before March this year, but I have now done 11 dives there (3 of those at night) – perhaps that’s already evidence that it’s a good dive. Well, it’s definitely a “muck dive”: Visibility usually isn’t great, and good buoyancy control and careful fin movements are a must, as the bottom is quite silty. So it’s not everyone’s thing, but it’s worthwhile if you’re into interesting critters. In many ways, it’s similar to Chowder Bay (Clifton Gardens) on the north side of the harbour: It’s best dived at high tide, the wharf provides a good entry and exit point, there’s a net for the swimming enclosure, and also the range of critters on offer is similar, including White's Seahorse (Hippocampus whitei), Little Maori Wrasse (Oxycheilinus bimaculatus), Paradise Threadfin Bream (Pentapodus paradiseus), Dwarf Lionfish (Dendrochirus brachypterus), Eastern Frogfish (Batrachomoeus dubius) and many more – for an overview, see this link on iNaturalist

However, the highlight for me at Parsley Bay have been the gobies, starting with the Orangespotted Glidergoby (Valenciennea puellaris). When I observed it there on April 7, this represented an extension of its known range south by more than 1,000 kilometers – though since then it has also been observed in Jervis Bay. Species are definitely extending their range south as the climate warms. This is where as promised I’m getting back to the shrimpgobies, i.e. fishes of the genus Amblyeleotris. In March, I observed a Thinbar Shrimpgoby (Amblyeleotris stenotaeniata) at Parsley Bay, a new record for Sydney Harbour and well south of its recorded range, which, according to the Australian Faunal Directory, extends south to southern Queensland. In April, I found a Barred Shrimpgoby (Cryptocentrus fasciatus), for which the southern limit to distribution of the species was believed to be One Tree Island, Queensland (23°30'S) until John Sear recorded one at Manly on September 5, 2021. I didn’t see the previously mentioned Redspotted Shrimpgoby (Amblyeleotris ogasawarensis) at Parsley Bay, but my observation at Camp Cove in April this year also extended its known range more than 1,100 kilometres south. In October, though, Parsley Bay yielded another surprise: Broad-banded Shrimpgoby (Amblyeleotris periophthalmus), for which the southern limit to distribution of the species according to the Australian Faunal Directory is also One Tree Island. This prompted me to have another look at Camp Cove, and there in October again there were two Redspotted Shrimpgoby (Amblyeleotris ogasawarensis). 

Aside from the fact that these are substantial range extensions, two things are particularly striking about all this: Firstly, these gobies seem to be around very early in spring (e.g., September and October), so maybe they’re not just seasonal visitors who don’t survive the winter. Secondly, all species of Amblyeleotris which I observed at Parsley Bay actually had alpheid shrimp with them, so if gobies and shrimp are being washed down to Sydney as larvae by the Eastern Australian current, a lot of them must be surviving to be able to link up as adults in Sydney Harbour.

If you you get a chance to dive these sites, keep you’re eyes open for shrimp gobies – and if you’re taking pictures, be it of gobies or any other critters, consider uploading your observations to iNaturalist.

Valenciennea helsdingenii X02_0307 - Blacklined Glidergoby (Valenciennea helsdingenii) at Camp Cove on 29 October 2023

Valenciennea puellaris X01_5442 - Orangespotted Glidergoby (Valenciennea puellaris) at Parsley Bay on 7 April 2023

Amblyeleotris ogasawarensis X01_5797 - Redspotted Shrimpgoby (Amblyeleotris ogasawarensis) at Camp Cove on 8 April 2023

Alpheus randalli X01_5565 - Barred Shrimpgoby (Cryptocentrus fasciatus) with shrimp, possibly Randall's Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus randalli) at Parsley Bay on 7 April 2023

Amblyeleotris diagonalis X01_5382 - Thinbar Shrimpgoby (Amblyeleotris stenotaeniata) at Parsley Bay on 21 March 2023

Euselenops luniceps X01_7541 - Moon-headed Sidegill Slug (Euselenops luniceps) at Camp Cove on a night dive on 17 September 2023

Valenciennea helsdingenii X02_0307 - Blacklined Glidergoby (Valenciennea helsdingenii) at Camp Cove on 29 October 2023


by Kathy Giles

There has been some buzz in the scuba circle about a revolutionary system called Avelo.

I had the opportunity to meet and be trained by the developers on the new system through Abyss on the weekend.

It is a whole new concept of diving. Diving without a BCD (like in the old days 😊), but with a jet pack attached to a back plate. Fundamentally the jet pack is used to reduce buoyancy on descent and through the dive, to keep divers in a “neutral buoyancy” position.

There is a battery and pump.

I did enjoy the freedom of not having to struggle with the “bounce “ from the air bubble created by the BCD.

It is intended for this new system to reduce weight, so I did some calculations and comparisons against my standard scuba.

Avelo 8 ltr Tank – made of carbon with a rubber bladder   12.8 kgs

Tank with Jet pack (battery & pump) set up 18.6kgs

Weights required for me 6lbs 2.72


My Faber steel 10.5 l tank 16kg

Tank & my BCD (Travel lite) 18.2KG

Normal weight belt 12lbs 5.44KG


Net overall reduction of weight for me was 5LBS/ 2.32 KGS.

Having sad that, neutral buoyancy was easier to achieve and maintain while increasing the zone of stable neutral buoyancy.

With more practice and experience, I would hope to lose another 3LBS (from the weight belt – not the waste line 😊)

My Birthday Dive

by Reka Spallino

This year I had multiple birthday celebrations. Starting at the end of November, till the 10th of December. I was born on the 8th of December in Italy, with the time zone in Australia it was already the 9th of December.So since I am downunder, it really doesn’t matter the exact day in which I celebrate.And if I can SCUBA dive, even better. The 8th of December this year was a Friday, so well in advance I decided to take it off from my full time job. As much as I like being a Channel Support/Technical Analyst, I prefer not to do it on my birthday.A month prior to that day I started to call dive centres around NSW to find out that none had enough clients for that Friday. I kept the day off and thought I will do a boat dive in Sydney.Until 2 days prior to that day, I hadn't booked anything yet.

On Wednesday a friend tells me they are going out with their boat (the Filthy Oar) and there are few spots.I see the Universe calling me to that boat dive! So I book myself in.

And when I do that, I see on the list there is the legend Mr. Michael McFadyen! We will all be familiar with his work, the majestic art piece, the bible of the NSW dive sites I [being pretty new to Australian and NSW diving] know him already, I can put my hands on my heart saying that 99.99999% of the people reading this article will know him and his work too.The boat leaves from Yowie bay.We are 6 divers and a captain.

Dive 1

I jump into the water and my dry suit floods, again.Yes, the zip was closed (thinking about  my bestie Duncan).

Now it seems to have 2 little tears between my legs, due to the crotch strap of my wing.My buddy is the best buddy ever and stays on board with me and captain Steve. I am a bit upset but having used the drysuit on Wednesday night and the previous weekend and having had no issues at all, there is no way I could have forecasted the problem and fixed it.

So I stay positive and think that being on the ocean is still better than working from my laptop home.When the 4 divers return to board, I just say joking “does anyone have a spare wetsuit? Any size will do”. During the surface interval, 2 men (Greg and Phil) offer to give me their wetsuits, as they are both not diving on the second round. I am super excited, and grateful.Because of the size of the divers, I decide to take Phil’s 5mm. I have never used my 5mm in Sydney, even in summer I used the 7mm and shark skin and as far as I can remember I was always freezing.But now, on my birthday, on a boat, I have to try it, even if I am told down there it is 16-17C.

So I adventure (from a custom made drysuit to a bigger 5mm wetsuit) into the beloved arms of the ocean. And it was worth it!

Dive 2

My buddy was the legend Mr. Michael McFadyen. He asked and how or why could I have said NO???

Underwater I kept thinking "Woooooow HE is my buddy now, for real..."Cold was cold but still bearable. My trick was to have the armpit closed all the time to avoid the water to move in and out, and just open them up to take a picture or to see where my buddy is.The reef we adventured is a new one, so the name is still uncertain. 

Hungry Maccas / Reka 5mm [still working on getting of course the second one approved] 

ITW = 10:43am 25.9.m 41min 16-17C viz=10m Lots of nudies , a moray eel and tons of school of fish. And The Legend Mr. Michael McFadyen as my buddy!

This is the best way to celebrate my birthday!                   

Minutes Annual General Meeting

by Libby Tondl


DATE:               Saturday 7 October 2023, 13:00

VENUE:            The Diddy, Longueville


APOLOGIES: Jens, Pablo, John T

Minutes prepared by:      Libby Tondl                          

Approve Minutes from 2019 AGM (attached in the appendix) – approved by Hatty Conwell

Presidents report

Ebb & flow around forming a core group of regular divers. 2023: 227 divers, boat out 28 times, 46 unique individual divers.

New convenor – Vishal.

App - Checklist for convenors.

Increase in costs: fuel. July 2024: $100 for membership; $100 for double dive. Emphasis on personal circumstances being taken into account. New members: $150 sign-up fee but includes a boat dive. Aiming to get new members on the boat as quickly as possible. Note: 3 month trial policy needs to be taken into account.

Research Report

Sea Slug Census end of November, Sarah has prepared a flyer for dive shops. Sydney: 10-19 November. Following 2 weeks is Port Stephens.

Grey Nuse Shark census: next census has permit requirements for diving in a National park. So we have joined forces with a Marine Parks Association based out of Port Stephens, they are putting more rigor around the requirements. Further information on logistics to come.

RLS: 43 survey over 21 sites, recorded 148 fish species, 43 vertebrate species. Some further numbers in progress regarding identification of an urchin.

Treasurer’s Report

Available on request

Outgoing/Incoming Committee

Janet Abbott as Returning Officer thanked the outgoing committee and read the nominations (with no contested positions) for the 2023/2024 Committee. 

Nominations accepted were; 

Office Bearers;

Duncan Heuer - President

xxx - Vice President

Sarah Han-de-Beaux - Secretary

Joshua Bachelor – Treasurer

Committee Members (roles will be allocated at 1st committee mtg)

Duncan Heuer

Hatty Conwell

Jens Sommer-Knudsen

Libby Tondl

Sarah Han-de-Beaux 

Charlie Elliott

Pablo Bolomey  

Meeting closed at 13:45

Recent Events and News

Dive Log

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

Upcoming Events

Group Meetings at The Oaks

Our generals meeting in the Licensees Flat (upstairs) at the Oaks Hotel in Neutral Bay will start up again in February, with the first being on 13 Tuesday.

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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