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June 2024 Bulletin

Underwater Research Group of New South Wales

Presidents Slate

WE HAVE A REPLACEMENT ENGINE! We now just have the task of mounting it and we will let you know when we are back in action. Big thanks to Josh for finding a good deal, doing the due diligence and driving to Forster to collect it.

Also a huge thanks to a few members who pooled together to loan the club $5000 to cover the bill.

This cost has coincided with our annual mooring costs which are due in July. So anything you can spare to keep NSW's longest running citizen science dive club going are welcome.

We would really appreciate donations to help clear the debt, but if your time is your contribution, please help us raise funds at the next Bunnings sausage sizzle on Sunday 7 July in Chatswood - Google sheet.

If you would like to make a donation please do so by sending via EFT to:

Account name: The Underwater Research Group of NSW Inc.

BSB no: 032-006

Account no: 920656

Calling out to members who might be able to offer us some space in their yard to help us fix the boat. We need a large undercover flat area for approximately 7 days so that we can lift the old engine off the boat, and lift the new engine in place. If you have a gantry hoist (3m height) or a fork lift, or have a ute with a HIAB you will be our friends forever.

This is probably a good time to talk about the need for more convenors. Convenors, for new members, are those who organise and skipper the boat. The club covers the costs of boat ownership by using it regularly and getting folk out on the water.

You don't need any technical skills, nor know how to take an engine apart to drive a boat. For years I held back because I was worried about how I'd handle a situation like an engine not starting. I don't know the difference between two-stroke and four-stroke and I'm not sure which end of a screw driver to hold. I've also have no sense of direction and I was worried about finding dive sites or my way back to the mooring.

Firstly, you're always a phone call away from a free service - NSW Marine Rescue. Secondly, you are also likely to have someone on the boat that is very accomplished like Denise, Kathy, Janet, John Swift, Eric, Pablo, Jens or Michael. Thirdly, we have GPS dive site location configured into the GPS thingy. Fourthly, we created a check list app for convenors, so you won't forget any of the steps from setting up the boat to docking and securing the vessel.

Bottom line is anyone can do it and we offer free training. One of the best perks of URG membership that you can be a trained up to skipper a boat in a few months. All you need to do to get started is to spend a Saturday getting your recreational boat license. It is cheap, fast and easy.

You can do it! Make skippering a dive boat your next bucket list item. Bragging rights for life!

David Booth gave a fantastic talk at our last general meeting. The call out for those that weren't there was that we're on the look out for a champion / coordinator for the sea dragon research they are doing. Don't know what that means? Think Sarah Han De Beaux and the work she is doing coordinating the grey nurse shark citizen science initiative.

As the driver of this, you'd be someone who takes the lead organising sea dragon dives, getting members of URG (and the public) to submit images and generally being a good all-round hustler when it comes to this species. Please reach out if you think this is something you want to get involved with.

Looking forward to getting back out on the water and diving with you all this winter.


Duncan Heuer


URG - Spot a Shark

By Reka Spallino

It is the second Tuesday of the month, the 9th of April 2024, and what do I do? I go to the URG monthly meeting. Same location = OAKS Neutral BaySame time = from 6pm onwards. Today I don’t forget and Sarah is talking about Spot a Shark! I have the same routine. As soon as I arrive I order my chicken salad and a can of Bridge Road Brewers: Free Time. My salad is ready very rapidly so, after grabbing it from downstairs, I go and eat it on a normal table. Afterwards I go and sit in what I called in a previous article  “Reka’s chair” and watch the show!

Sarah is so passionate about the topic and her positive and cheerful energy inundates the room. She admits she could talk about the topic for hours and hours and I am pretty sure, she could do that for even days, without the need of a slice of bread or a drop of water. But she professionally follows the schedule and allows us to ask tons of questions after the hourly presentation. Spot a Shark focuses on monitoring the populations of grey nurse sharks (Carcharius taurus). Personally, I love sharks and as blue is my favourite colour and eight is my favourite number, grey nurse sharks are my favourite sharks.

Did you know that sharks are born with pigmentation spots on their body that don’t change over time? The spots don’t increase in numbers nor reduce in numbers. The spots don’t move. They might fade but with a good camera, you can still see them on the shark’s skin. As humans’ fingerprints, they are unique to each shark. Spot a Shark uses these pigmentation spots as a non-invasive photo identification of sharks. How exactly? Pictures are uploaded on the webpage and a computerised pigmentation spot matching technology matches them to what is already in the system. This is used to determine site fidelity, migration patterns, and whether the population is stable, declining or increasing.

As an example, from Sarah’s presentation, Donald is possibly the oldest shark on records in the system, he may be 30 years old. He was spotted in July 2007 (already as an adult shark) and confirmed alive and happily swimming in June 2023. Thanks to Spot a Shark we can also track the adventurous life of Nelly around the east coast of Australia, from South Solitary Island to Montague Island in Narooma. And did I already say that the best part of it all  is that this tracking and monitoring is non-invasive??? No animal is pierced, no animal is captured and then released. For a change, we enter their territory, take pictures, report based on the pictures and we don’t disrupt their habitat or them.

Respectful, useful and very interesting!

Solomon Islands Trip (part 1)

By Michael Abbott

Eupi is in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands between Honiara and Munda/Gizo. The club had organised a trip to Palau around the same time but we had been there and were worried about the currents which can be massive and can be down currents. A safer bet was a trip back to the Solomon Islands. It was our fourth trip there but we had not done Eupi.

We were fortunate that a chance catchup with Greg Conwell an ex URG Treasurer, informed us that he and Debbie, an ex URG Editor who now live in sunny Qld, were going to Eupi. As such we invited Hatty along to make a little group of 5. 

Eupi is a second flight after the Brisbane to Honiara to Sege then a banana boat of 40 odd minutes to the Island. We were met at the Eupi Island Resort jetty by Jason and were very surprised to learn that we were the only guests for the next two weeks. Wow, our own private resort.

We had a complimentary drink in the bar while the staff unloaded our bags and delivered them to our beachfront bungalows. Yes we had our  own private little beaches which were swept by the staff each day. Jason introduced some staff and gave us the rundown on the workings of the resort. We had plenty of time for a swim, try on the stand up paddle boards or kayaks in the Lagoon before dinner.

Our bungalow was new and of a western standard with 24 hour power, a kitchenette, walk in robe, large shower and ceiling fans. All a rarity in the Solomons. No hot water though. When it is constantly 30 degrees sunny or raining you soon get used to and appreciate a cool shower.

If the 29 degree water , the amount of fish and the baby black tip reef sharks and a crocodile fish in the Lagoon right at the front of our units were any indication, then the diving was going to be spectacular.

We sorted dive gear and the staff moved them to the dive shop where we each had a hanging and storage station in a locked shed for the rest of our stay. Diving would start the next day and a typical day involved; breakfast, 9.00 a.m. dive, lunch on our balconies, snorkel, paddle board or sleep, 2.00 p.m dive, snorkel , paddle board or sleep pre dinner drink, 3 course dinner , sleep and repeat.

We were joined at Dinner by Jason for the first few nights then his parents Jill and Grant for the rest of our stay. We enjoyed lots of stories and news of the goings on in the Solomons. Also in the bar/restaurant area there was wifi so we could catch up with family etc back in Australia.

The island is a tropical paradise heavily vegetated with sand paths between the areas. Wild life encountered included lots of crabs, butterflies, birds, monitor lizards and a small snake. 

History Photos

Photos provided by the late Colin Crouch. Ex-URG President and for those that dive ship rock you will see his name on a plaque on the big bommie.

Dive Sites

Dobroyd Head

By Michael Abbott


Dive site located on the western side of the entrance to Sydney Harbour. After rounding Grotto Point from Middle Harbour turn left avoiding the Bommie. The site is between the north point of Crater Cove (after the squatter’s huts) called Dobroyd Head and the further north point that leads around the corner to Reef Beach. Anywhere along this rocky shore is good.


Best done in a westerly wind on high or rising tide.

Site is almost behind and to the right of the Dobroyd Bommie. The Bommie breaks in a swell. Also anchor point is very close to rocky shore and as is flat rock and vertical drops it can be difficult to get a bite. Also watch the wind shifts as you may be anchored very close to rocks. 


The western shore drops suddenly to 5 meters then forms a small plateau. That 5-meter contour then drops to 9 meters in a vertical (S-N) wall complete with over hangs and caves.  A wider plateau at 9-10 meters is flat rock with some kelp and sponges. Then there is another South to North vertical wall between 9 and 14 meters that runs a long way.

Sea life

Areas of Rock algae and kelp. Many sponges and small encrusting type corals, Sea Tulips and ascidians. All the usual wrasse including groper. Areas of few fish then spots with large schools of trevally, sweep, mado, hula, long fin pike, sawtail surgeons, one spot chromis and yellowtail scad. Octopus and cuttlefish. Weedy sea dragons on sand line at 14 meters.

Michael Abbott 2016

Recent Events and News and Upcoming Events

The Bunnings Chatswood Sausage Sizzle April 2024

By Reka Spallino

It is Sunday the 14th of April 2024 and what do I do? I go and participate in one of the most Australian things ever (after a vegemite contest, I believe): a sausage sizzle at Bunnings. It is the first time I volunteer in one and honestly, it was a lot of fun. Coming from Europe it has its unique “Ozzie flavour”.

If there is any non-Australian reading this article, here is a brief explanation. Bunnings is the Australian version of OBI or Bauhaus and gives non-profits the chance to sell sausages on a weekend day from 7:30am to 4pm with or without bread and with or without onions and soft drinks.

The price is set by Bunnings itself and 100% of the funds raised goes to the non-profit. We cooked chicken and beef sausages and vegetarian. We offered white, wholemeal and gluten free bread, BBQ, tomato sauce and mustard. We sold SOLO, lemon Schweppes, coke, diet coke and water. We had an early morning crew, a later crew and a closure crew, with some people overlapping and some even covering the whole day.

The true heroes! Team:

Leanne, David, Marcus, Charlie, Libby, Seb, Joan, Vishal, Victoria, Reka, Sarah and Claire.

I was there from 11:40 am until closure and did I already say, it was a lot of fun?

Next Bunnings Fundraiser - 7 July

Our next slot is booked on Sunday 7 July at Chatswood Bunnings. As we are a few thousand dollars in arrears after securing the new motor, events like these are important to keep the club going and boat trips as cheap as possible. Please see the link below to sign up to help. More the merrier for a good day and much needed funds for the club. Don't worry if you have not done one before it is an easy day and plenty of us have done many.  Google sheet.

Next General Meeting - Tuesday 9th July

We had a fantastic turn out at the general meeting in June. I've not seen the room that full in a while. This time we heard from Giglia Beretta and David Booth from UTS, enlightening us on Weedy Seadragons and their new research program in Sydney.

As always, the gathering kicks off at 6 pm at the Licensees Flat (upstairs) of The Oaks Hotel, Neutral Bay, with the main event starting at 7 pm. If it’s your first time, the welcoming bar staff will direct you to our meet-up.

Clean Up Dive - Balmoral - 29 June

Save the Date for Our Clean-Up Dive on 29th June.

Details are on the way, so stay tuned!

Project Restore - SIMS

Project Restore, led by the Sydney Institute of Marine Science is a significant multi-habitat restoration project taking place right here in Sydney Harbour! Read more about the project here:

The team are interested in the social and economic benefits which may come from this restoration project. To understand this they are surveying locals, visitors and businesses about their experience of using and visiting locations around Sydney Harbour. The locations listed in the survey are specific to our Project Restore restoration sites. 

We know Sydney Harbour is an incredibly diverse playground - whether you’re swimming, kayaking, boating, commuting or diving, tell us about your experience! 

Please help by filling in the survey and share how you enjoy and interact with the harbour!

Dive Log and Oz Diver

These are free to read and available online. Please share with your diving friends.

Boat Dives

The Boat will soon be back in action. Watch your emails, the Facebook group page for details.

Captain and club treasurer Josh Batchelor (when both motors were running)

Boat handling lessons.

[On pause for now, but still get in touch if interested]

If Duncan can do it, anyone can!

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 acknowledgement 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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