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June 2022 Bulletin

Underwater Research Group of New South Wales

Presidents Slate

Hi everyone,

Hope you all had a great month of May.

On a personal note, myself and Charlie have both had/have COVID. Charlie got it at the beginning of the month, so I ran away to Hawaii to avoid it, but unfortunately it caught up with me there. Now I’m writing this slate in bed and locked up stairs like Rapunzel with the plague.

Tiger shark - Haleiwa

Massive thanks to Pablo for all his work. we have secure temporary mooring at the Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club so we can bring the boat north more often during the year, all we have to do is to let them know when and how long, He is in process of securing similar arrangement at the Royal Motor Yacht Club of NSW.

Jens is driving an initiative around marine archaeology/exploration - using an underwater drone to explore shipwrecks or other sites of interest in the harbour or at sites that are too deep for recreational diving (the drone can go to 100m and does not have to decompress before coming back to the surface). We have access to a drone, but more about this later,

John Turnbull and Josh Moloney, along with other RLS'ers have been surveying the reefs out of Chowder Bay, so looking forward for an update there soon.

On serious note, and this is important.,,

Despite the efforts above, we are sad to reveal that the club is in a situation where we unfortunately have to question the sustainability of owning a boat. The double whammy of two lockdowns and catastrophic weather systems has meant that activity and engagement is low. Our finances are at the point where we must act now to save the boat. John Swift and Marcus Bender have done a stellar job of making sure that the boat has a convenor booked every weekend on both Saturdays and Sundays, but we’ve had to cancel many trips because we haven’t had the numbers interested in going out, or weather has played a role.

The club has been running since 1956 and is the oldest running dive club in NSW. We have a proud history of discoveries and research contributions. It would be a sad day to see boat diving end thanks to a pandemic and some bad weather. It’s also a good time to remind members that we offer free boat handling training and would welcome anyone interested in learning how to drive a boat to get skilled up. Where else can you effectively own a boat and use it for personal use for $90 a year!?

So we have also come up with some initiatives to re-energise and bring people together. Starting in June:

  1. The weedy sea-dragon research project will pick up again, with monthly boat dives to survey sea dragons, spearheaded by long standing member Kris O’Keeffe (starting this long weekend)

  2. Grey nurse shark surveys in conjunction with the Spot-a-Shark program in South Bondi and Magic Point led by Sarah Han de Beaux and/or myself

  3. Underwater drone exploration run by Jens Sommer-Knudsen

  4. Whale watching dives for northern and southern migration periods

  5. Let’s start back on regular social dinners, BBQ’s etc

We’ll be doing weekly boat dives alternating between fun exploratory dives, and the citizen science projects mentioned above to give both new and old members the opportunity to contribute to local research initiatives, learn more about our ecosystem and have a good time in the water.

In the meantime to keep us afloat, we have three other asks, with no obligations. May we ask that people start to pay their membership fees as soon as possible. We are also seeing if any members are comfortable to pre-pay for a number of dives (@$40 per dive) so we have the confidence that there is sufficient interest in continuing the club. And of course if there are any armchair divers that enjoy seeing what we are up to, we’ll gladly welcome any donations.

Account Name: The Underwater Research Group of NSW Inc

BSB: 032-006

Account: 920656

*please include relevant details as a reference*

If you are renewing please ensure you also complete the renewal membership form on our website

We also have put together a short anonymous survey to gauge interest and see how we can improve things:

Please click the link above and let us know how we can help.

Hopefully we can weather this storm and muster up the energy required to keep this club alive.




Clown Toby

Photograph by Janet Abbott

Aka Janet's Favourite Fish. Canthigaster callisterna'

A member of the puffer fishes family Teteraodontidae. Found on clear coastal to offshore reefs on the NSW coast, often in pairs. Can been seen at times swimming openly over reefs and interacting with divers. At other times they tend to be shy and swim away quickly. Why? Who knows? Males have brighter blue lines on their head. (ref. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia by Rudie H Kuiter)

History Article: What a Beautiful Day (Saturday 21st July 2001)

Janet Hall

Not a cloud in the sky on a gorgeous winters morning, but…. the coast guard advised there was a 3m swell outside The Heads. As we rounded the corner at Grotto Point the waves inside the Harbour were quite lumpy too, 2m and growing.

As the scheduled Dee Why Wide was out of reach, Collin’s Tee Pee was our chosen destination, but…….. the waves were crashing the rocks there. Next stop, Debbie’s choice, was just around the corner of Cannae Point, a lovely spot, out of the swell in almost calm water, looking across to the wharf at The Quarantine station.

Under the water was an absolute delight, 5-8m visibility, not too cold as we didn’t go deeper than 12m. Fish galore, heaps of them, lots of different species, big ones and small ones. To get the full list ask Debbie, she filled 2 sides of her slate.

The most spectacular was a huge lionfish; he had to be at least 40cm long. A single moorish idol, yellow striped leather jackets with orange blobs at the base of their tails, cute little cuttle fish, and what I think was a yellow crimora nudibranch.

John Swift and Allan Saban reported seeing a pineapple fish and a stargazer. These 2 gentlemen bought up another anchor to add to the club’s collection. I should add that this is so new it still has its label in tact. There were so many anchors lying in a very small area that we decided the site could be known as ‘The Anchor Shop’.

We should say thankyou to whoever makes big waves, as conditions meant we saw so much in a spot we may not have gone to otherwise.

On the boat, I looked at my diving gear, but did not find anything wrong. Other divers said “You just ran out of air”. Back at the diving shop, I tested my gear with another tank and realised that there was a five millimetre split in the regulator hose near the first stage.

Thanks Rob for rescuing me efficiently and saving my life.

Thanks Erik for organising the trip.

An Accident Would Never Happen To Me! (July 2001)

Cuong Doan

With confidence in my reliable and regularly serviced Mares diving gear, I thought that any incident or accident would never happen to me. Yet, the Queen’s Birthday week-end away to Nelson Bay put paid to that.

On the first day, second dive in the afternoon, I was diving with Rob Pearce. We dived at the South-East end of Cabbage Tree Island. Visibility was les than 10 metres; therefore, Rob pulled out his safety line and hooked it to the anchor line at the bottom. So off we swam, 100% sure that we could get back to the anchor.

During the dive I often checked the diving time, depth and air pressure. Everything was fine. However, 20 minutes later my pressure gauge showed 100 bars! That was a bit strange for 20 meters deep. I had also consumed more than ½ the amount of air of a full tank. At the same time I heard a very loud noise which sounded like a boat engine running above for several minutes. Later they told me there was a boat cruising across.

At times I could see on the right, just above my shoulder, thousands of tiny bubbles. I thought there might have been an air leak. I checked my gauges again, but nothing seemed dramatically changed. I kept on diving and tried to swim close to Rob in case anything should happen. I checked my depth gauge once more, it showed 20 meters. My air pressure gauge indicated 25 bars in the red zone. I showed that to Rob who gave an OK sign then swam back towards the anchor. Ten seconds later I could not get any air from my regulator. I looked at the air pressure gauge. It read zero. I grabbed Rob, put my hand across my throat, and showed him my gauge. He quickly and calmly removed his octopus, handed it to me, and asked me to hold on to his BC. He then rewound his safety line, and we swam back to the anchor, ascended, then stayed three minutes at 5 meters.

Recent Events

A huge thanks to all the members who helped out on the Mothers Day BBQ at Bunnings. A special mention to Rianti and Josh B. for organisation and procurement and to the long serving efforts of Vishal and Jens. Also thanks to Charlie and Duncan for chopping all the onions (edit: we got them pre-chopped) and Hatti and Swifty for helping out on their shifts.

Looking forward to the Treasurers Report on the outcome.

Reef Life Surveys did finally get underway in Sydney Harbour after the viz and skies finally cleared. Stay tuned for a future report.

Upcoming Events

Boat dives have resumed post COVID19 lockdowns and Harbour RLS. The URG cat is fully scheduled to go out. Now we just need the numbers booking on and taking advantage of this. 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.

Weekend away to Port Stephens doing Fly point on Saturday and dive to Broughton Island Sunday on 4 & 5th June. Look out for event on Facebook or call Michael 0407 250 566 for information.


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