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March 2023 Bulletin

Underwater Research Group of New South Wales

Presidents Slate

March has arrived and there are a number of exciting initiatives lined up.

The 31st Nelson Bay Sea Slug Census is on the weekend of 11 – 12 March . Photos for the census must be taken within the boundaries of the Port Stephens Great Lakes Marine Park and submitted to

To get in touch with organisers please also reach out to that email address.

The Ocean Lovers festival returns to Bondi on the 18-19 March. Full list of talks, events, stall and workshops listed here.

Amongst the events there, here are two things to call out that we can get involved with:

  1. Take3 is hosting a beach clean and registration starts at 9:30 for those that want to join. Register here if interested.

  2. The Grey Nurse Shark Harmonised Census is also happening on Saturday 18th March around Asutralia. The project's aim is to get all known aggregation sites on Australia’s East Coast gazetted as Marine Protected Areas. Your shark numbers / images and URG will be publicised and displayed on Sunday 19th March in conjunction with a speech by Valerie Taylor. We'll be free-diving off South Bondi headland to see how many we can spot. If anyone wants to join and is comfortable with rock entry/exits and a decent surface swim, feel free to come along. But if you prefer tanks, you're welcome to pick any site to contribute to this. Over the last few months, both Shell Harbour and Magic Point have recorded decent numbers of GNS.

Some sad news to report. On Saturday 18 Feb, a dolphin was caught in the shark nets in Bronte and unfortunately drowned as a result. Unsurprising, as when we checked the DPI data from the last 10 years, not a single dolphin or seal has been released alive from the nets. The distressing footage was captured by Jason Iggleden from DroneSharkApp. This sparked a wave of public support for replacing of the shark nets with more modern and safer alternatives to protecting swimmers. I went down to photograph a protest coordinated by Sea Shepherd and Action of Dolphins on Bondi following the tragic event.

Bondi Salties, a 200+ group of regular ocean swimmers at the iconic beach joined a protest. They also swam out later in the week to the shark nets and used drones and underwater footage to capture their dissatisfaction with the ineffective meshing program that has been in place since 1937. (Video here).

Back to club news, as usual, the boat is going out regularly. If you aren' already aware, notifications go out via email, facebook and our calendar on the website.

Our socials are also in full swing again held on the second Tuesday of the month at the Oaks Hotel in Neutral Bay. This is a great opportunity to meet other members and coordinate dives. The March club meeting (next week) has two speakers lined up. Hope to see as many there as possible.

Hope you enjoy the rest of the bulletin. Michael Abbott has put together a cracker. Thanks to all the contributors. Happy reading.


Duncan Heuer

My first liveaboard is in the Adaman Sea

by Reka Spallino

I started SCUBA diving in June 016 with the Open Water Diver done between the classroom/pool/lakes of the Czech Republic and the ocean of Croatia. Since then I became an Open Water Instructor and now I have almost 600 dives. Still, I was never on a liveaboard. Among the reasons was me remembering being claustrophobic. But this year I decided to give it a go and I booked a short 3 nights / 4 days in Thailand in Similan Island, Richelieu Rock etc.

It was my heaven. I know most of the readers will have done dozens (or more) of liveaboards but do you remember the first one you have done? The first feeling of: I truly just SCUBA dive, eat, relax / sleep and repeat it for XY days? The place I have chosen is one of the top 10 in the world: Richelieu Rock.

There are different stories attached to it, maybe discovered by Jacques Cousteau, maybe discovered by General Richeliu, a Danish commander in the Thai Royal Navy. The truth is that it is an amazing place to dive characterized by purple corals.

The liveaboard itself was run very well. The boat was safe and clean, the tanks were always filled to 230 bar, I got nitrox as I wanted, my group was 2 other instructors and a swiss female dive guide (also instructor) very knowledgeable. I got paired with one of the instructors to sleep in a 4 bedroom just the two of us. The food was delicious and local. The rest of the divers were a great mixture of nationalities, languages, backgrounds and ages.

If you haven't been to this part of the planet, I can just recommend it!

My first whale shark is in Koh Haa

by Reka Spallino

On my solo trip in Thailand I decided to meet up with my mother and her husband in Koh Lanta and of course a bit of SCUBA diving there can't hurt. On the same day of my arrival I go to the SCUBA dive shop and I present myself: Open Water SCUBA Instructor with almost 600 dives. They tell me that the morning after (Saturday) there is another instructor doing fun dives so I should go. I was planning on doing a cooking class with my mom that day but we agreed to postpone it for me to be able to SCUBA dive.

Saturday they pick me up from the airbnb and we meet with the rest of the divers at the dive shop. My group is really just Martin (Instructor from the UK with a Thai wife, who comes very often to this part of the planet) and Riccardo (Instructor with Italian background but left Italy in 1989, now has his own shop in Panama and comes yearly for few months to help out in this part of the planet).

On the boat Martin tells me that last year on his last dive he saw a whale shark in Koh Haa (Lagoon) and today is his last day of diving too and we are heading to Koh Haa too. We both pray to the God of the Ocean but in reality we enter with no expectation whatsoever.

The second dive is in Koh Haa (Lagoon), we jump from the boat, we submerge and after 6m at a depth of 25m I look up in the open water and here it comes: a whale shark. She looks so big and I feel so tiny, the majesty of the creature is in the air oops in the water, she swims slowly just on the top of our heads. It is truly the biggest animal I have ever seen. So calm so peaceful. If heaven exists to me is like the ocean, if God exists to me is like a majestic whale shark who swims slowly and peacefully.

Later I will be told the whale shark wasn't that big, just about 5-6m.

Moral of the story: if you happen to go to Thailand, to stop in Koh Lanta, to SCUBA dive with Martin (an instructor from UK) on his last day of diving and the dive site is Koh Haa (Lagoon) you will see a whale shark!


by Kathy Giles

I have been on a quest to find the outlet valve to the desal plant at Kurnell. Research tells me wildlife around the outlet is extraordinary. Deb & I went on a reccy and found "a big round thing" I have a feeling it is part of the prototype set up before the build of the desal plant. We are very close 😊. Thank you to Josh our skipper extraordinaire. Josh has also experienced many attempts for my quest. Thanks to my dive buddies Deb, Eve & Ryan, Vishal & Atul for your enthusiasm. Watch this space more “reccy” dives to come.


by Kathy Giles

Wow, thanks to John & Denise for delivering a “perfect diving day”. What can I say, mother nature turned it on for 6 URG divers. We got Grey Nurses - I say 20, but my buddies reckon I was narked (let me assure - I wasn't, but you cannot allow the truth to get in the way of a good story 😊) pretty close to 12. We had Wobbies, Port Jacksons, Rays, and of course Bluey. I will let you enjoy the phots.


by Kathy Giles

Unfortunately schedule boat dive not to be. But alas, never let a dive opportunity pass. Vishal & I decided on a dive at Camp Cove. Another beautiful day in paradise.

Early start 7.30 with patience abound for parking spots (thank you parking angels)

In 8.20 out 10.09am. A PB for both of us (111minutes, new quest 2 hours😊)

Ave depth 7.8. viz about 10 mtrs. Ventured out to the middle reef, then west.

Lots of activity & feeding frenzies by fish and rays. Saw Ollie the octopus. She & Vishal enjoyed playtime.

The cove is looking a little worse for wear with plastic – might be time for a club clean-up.

History Article - Presidents Slate from January 2003

The end of 2002 has now arrived and I hope that everyone has a wonderful Christmas and New Year break. The year saw the URG complete the Port Hacking Biodiversity study and the acquisition, thanks to the hard work of Robert Dennett, of a new grant, from Envirofund Australia, to conduct a Biodiversity survey of the North Harbour Aquatic Reserve. The generous donation of time and diver’s maintenance saw the last grant enable us to replace the motor when it became necessary, and with the club members’ continued support the new grant should see us maintain a healthy financial state. This is necessary, as the truck needs to be seriously considered for replacement in the foreseeable future.

While we have been getting much needed rain which may affect the visibility, the warm summer waters are now here, with temperatures of about 20°, so there is every reason for us divers to get into the water.

Don’t forget that as well as the scheduled boat dives, Colin Piper and others regularly collect information on the seahorses at Balmoral Baths. The nets also make a great night dive, especially in the warmer summer months so get into that warm water. If you do dive at Balmoral without Colin, don’t forget to send any counts of seahorses to him.

Keep your eye on the schedule. We have a Maintenance Day coming up on Feb 23rd. We need to maintain the boat to maximise its life and minimise problems, so please come if you can. There is guaranteed to be work for all levels of skill so everyone will be able to lend a hand.

The URG Christmas party was very pleasant, thanks to the organization of Nikki and Janet, and entertainment, organised by Rob Dennett, of some wonderful slides from Alan Saben and some great video, including some on the grey nurse shark (Rob Dennett).

As I write this, Carolyn Davidson is still pregnant, however by the time its read, there should be another potential diver in our midst.

All the best for the New Year and the rest of the holiday season, and hope to see you in the water soon.

Regards, Dennis Hicks

The President

History Article: January 2003 Meeting Reports

JUDY HAWKES reported on seeing baby Port Jackson sharks at Chinaman’s beach while snorkeling.

ROBERT DENNETT reported on diving at Magic point in 2 metre visibility, the grey nurse sharks were difficult to see. Pro dive were there in large numbers.

DEBBIE CONWELL reported on successfully locating The Centurion, which can sometimes be difficult. It was a good dive with plenty to see including three types of wirrah.

JOHN SWIFT reported on the Southern Safari. Many fantastic sites especially The Maze, and the Tugs at Eden. The Jeweled anenomies were not at their best . There were a lot of Port Jackson sharks at Merimbula. The clutch went on the truck, but the boat ran well. John also saw a sea horse on the Valiant at 27m.

COLIN PIPER reported 107 sea horses on the nets at Balmoral

Recent Events and News

February Meeting

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

Dive Log

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

Here is the link

Mike Scotland has published a new Dive book. A group of URG divers did Mikes Marine Biology course a few years ago and it is highly recommended

Marine Biology in the wild

The great age of exploration under the oceans Mike Scotland

Mike Scotland has earned international respect and admiration for his journalistic skills, underwater photography and especially his knowledge of our marine critters. While no single book can ever cover the millions of species found in the underwater world, 'Marine Biology in the Wild' fo cuses on the fascinating invertebrates through the creative use of an easy-to-understand animal classification system.

This approach is wonderfully supported by informative text and 299 beautiful colour plates that pop out of the 100 ex citing pages. The innovative combination results in a pub lication that allows you to identify the invertebrate animal life found underwater. From sponges to sea spiders, they are all presented in this easy-to-read book; 11 illuminating chapters relating to the animal's key features, habitat, general behaviour, feeding, reproduction and the dangerous ones to avoid.

Divers will gain a greater appreciation from their diving

Mike Scotland’s scuba diving school has run a PADI course called Marine Biology for scuba divers for years. This course consists of four days of diving, five two hour lectures, a night dive, a prawn dissection and it concludes with a sea food barbeque.

It begins with lectures on sponges, corals and Comb Jellies. Dives are planned so dive one concentrates on lecture one. Mike uses seven teaching methods to get the concepts across including detailed lecture notes, Powerpoint presentations, slide show, underwater identification slates and my collection of specimens such as Sea shells.

It is an advanced form of the Underwater Naturalist course but in a great deal more depth.

I have studied Marine Biology at University. The content is carefully researched and cross checked.

The book is a colour presentation of the lectures. I do have many positive comments regarding the course that I have been running. Marine Biology in the wild is an improved version of this marine biology course. When they learn more about the lifestyles of marine organ isms and understand why scuba diving is not just about blowing bubbles underwater. Underwater macro photogra phers will be particularly impressed with the colour diversity and range of the colour plates.

Marine naturalists will also find this book an inspiring quick reference text, while non-divers will be amazed at the marine world's massive biodiversity. It may even inspire some to become scuba divers and is an excellent gift for anyone interested in our planet's wildlife.

Marine Biology in the Wild is a celebration of our marine life's treasures - an adventure into another world captured by Mike's photography and text in this brilliant publication. I thoroughly recommend it to all as a must-have trip companion and justifiably deserves a place on any divers library shelf.

Sales Enquiries

Go to download any issue of Dive Log Australasia.

All of my contact details are on the contents page. Facebook DiveLogAus

@scuba_mikes and @divelogaus

Upcoming Events

International Women's Day

SATURDAY, MARCH 11, 2023 AT 8 AM – 3 PM Lets celebrate International Women’s day underwater. John S is our skipper for the day. Jump on board for some fun & adventure. Contact John S or myself (Kathy 0437789038) to book.



Hi dive buddies, unfortunately PNG is not to be this year.Looking for expressions of interest for Christmas & Cocos Island. 7 nights each island.

16 boat dives, accommodation, flights ex Perth. Around AUD$4700. Per person twin share.

Contact Kathy 0437789038

Group Meetings at The Oaks

URG meetings at the Oaks in Mossman are scheduled for the following dates:

  • 14th March

  • 11th April

  • 9th May

March meeting at The Oaks Guest Speaker is Dr Joseph DiBattista is 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.

Boat Dives

Boat dives have resumed post COVID19 lockdowns and 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.

Reef Life Surveys

RLS is underway for 2023. Contact John Turnbull or Kris O'Keefe to help out.


The grey nurse sharks seem to be in abundance this season and there have been numerous other shark sightings in the media. This maybe because of the increase in the use of drones resulting in better coverage and more sightings or it maybe more sharks are around due to warmer waters or some other trigger.

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

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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