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March 2024 Bulletin

Underwater Research Group of New South Wales


Presidents Slate


Hi all,


Hope you've all been well. I've been travelling (too much) recently for work and fun, so unfortunately not been able to take out the boat or do much diving, or publish the bulletin on time. There has however been a lot of activity and some up and coming events to participate in.


We have a call out for volunteers for a citizen science project between now and the 10th April. Gary Hamer has a research project to collect data on growth rate of turban snails. The idea is to dive Kurnell and Little Bay looking for tagged snails. For more information please contact Jens or email the URG account. More info can be found on Gary's blog.


This weekend (23 Saturday - 24 Sunday) it the Ocean Lovers Festival at Bondi Pavillion in Sydney, where one of our URG members (Sarah) will be sharing information about one of our partner research projects. We will have a stand for you all to learn more about the important shark research we support (Spot a Shark) accompanied with a panel talk too with Valerie Taylor (https://events.humanitix.com/saving-the-grey-nurse-shark).


We are also on the look out for a convenor to take the boat to Magic Point on Saturday to contribute to the Grey Nurse Shark Census. Any available skippers?


Myself and Charlie are doing the South Bondi site and we are happy for people to join us. Just to set expectations, it is a site that is rarely safe to attempt on scuba so we will be free-diving it. Sharks are usually found at an overhang at 10m or in the gullies a little further out around 13-16m. Give us a shout if you're keen to join.



In addition, as part of the Ocean Lover's Festival, the lovely Reka from URG would love you to join her to support the beach clean. Reka is meeting at the Shuk by the Beach, Bondi Beach at 9am to do the clean up between 9.30-11.30am. If you would like to meet Reka and join in with the beach clean, and join Reka and Sarah at the panel talks from 2.15 please contact us at 0456953225.


We hope to see you there!


And for members who could not be at the Oaks last week, you missed a wonderful talk from Harry Rosenthal about the citizen science work you can participate in with iNaturalist. Watch the website where soon we will provide a summary of the talk for those who missed it.


A gentle reminder too for any who would like to support the next Sausage Sizzle fundraising event at Bunnings Chatswood on 14th April, please put your name down here in one of the available slots. We would really appreciate the support.


Thanks to Michael Abbott for putting together a great read.

Cheers,



DIVE REPORTS


Valentines Day Dive

By Michael Abbott. Photographs by Janet Abbott


Some might say not romantic but we did meet on the URG dive boat. Also due to my health issues we had not dived in a while and needed to get in a practice before an upcoming trip OS. As such I planned a shore dive at our new local dive site being Fly Point which is 75 minutes from home.


I checked the gear the day before and Janet's first stage had an issue. The guys as Lets Go Adventures in Nelson Bay sorted it and we were at the site an hour or so before the tide. Lucky, as parking was limited and is now metered. After setting up the gear with no issues we waited until 20 minutes before the neap high and entered the clear looking bay. Swimming past a lot of snorkelers and through a school of whitebait (possible Hardy Heads) I was so happy to be back in the water.




Shock, the reported 22 degree water temperature showed 18 on my computer but the viz was a good 8 to 10 metres. We headed down the slope to 9 metres and found a gentle incoming tide to slowly drift us into the bay. Fish life was even more prolific than I remembered and it was starting as a very comfortable dive.


Various nudibranchs immediately started to be seen and Janet found a Ballina Shell.









Among the fish spotted were large schools of mado, sweep, Silver biddy, Luderick and striped trumpeter. There were also smaller schools of bream, tahwine, red morwong and big snapper. There were lots of individual Red scorpion cod, Leather jackets, blue stripe goat fish and magpie morwong.


Other favourites spotted included Maori Wrasse, Maori Cod, Octopus, Cuttlefish, a spotted boxfish, Gunther's butterflyfish, hawkfish, flathead and whiting.





After 35 minutes I checked my buddy again and she was shaking like a leaf in a storm and turning blue. We both had a huge amount of air left but I chivalrously headed up the bank to 5 metres and let the tide assist in pushing us back as we swam to the exit point and did a safety stop at the same time. Stopping only for a dwarf ornate wobbegong and a few more nudibranchs we exited at 44 minutes for a maximum depth of 12.9 metres. 





Easy, peasy  diving pleasley.


My Philippines 2023/2024

by Reka Spallino


It is the 21st of December 2023, I am at Sydney (Kingsford Smith) International Airport Terminal 1.

I am flying with a group of friends, SCUBA friends to the Philippines to Cebu via Manila.

I can’t properly remember how I met them but I am part of this pretty cool group of diving friends on Facebook called Scubaholics Social Club (I will refer to them later on, as the gang).They are about my age, +/- a decade, they all love diving and they all live in Sydney, +/- few who are “peripheral”, Terrigal or even Melbourne.

We met at the airport.I arrived earlier to apply for my first tax refund scheme with my new underwater camera (OM TG7) and surprisingly I was able to get 120$ back.

We pop on the plane and after 8.5h we arrive in Manila. We wait a bit more than 3h and fly further, 90min and we land in Cebu City on Cebu Island.


Quoting wikipedia, Cebu Island is the 126th largest island in the world, is long and narrow, stretching 196 kilometres from north to south and 32 kilometres (across at its widest point).


The booked hotel in Cebu City is pretty posh, not my style at all but I have to be completely honest, I didn’t organise anything on this trip.I was asked in June 2023 if I would like to join and the package that was already prepared for us.I didn’t have to think about it too much.SCUBA diving? In the Philippines? With new friends? Over Christmas and New Years? YES! YES YES! YES!


We stay 2 nights in Cebu to relax and get used to the timezone.We eat lechon (a whole pig roasted on a spit over an open fire), I drink a lot of fruit smoothies, we visit the old time, I have a massage.It is the 23rd of December 2023 and we take 2 vans, we split the group and we head north to Maya. After a 4 hour journey we arrive and there we take the typical Filipino boat (bangka) and we continue to Malapascua.Again quoting Wikipedia, Malapascua has been popular as a dive destination since the early 1990s and it is 2.5 by 1 kilometre.The bangka takes us directly to the diving resort that is directly on the beach.We register ourselves, we are introduced to the dive masters (Vince and Elgin), who will take care of us for the entire stay, and we have lunch.


After lunch with my roomie we walk around the island. It is really small and very different from Sydney or any city in the “west”. We manage to go all the way north to the look up and come back before it gets dark. They say Malapascua and the Philippines are safe but it is always better to head home before dusk.The specialty of this dive resort is that they organise every day a super early double boat dive to see the thresher sharks. The briefing is at 4:45am and the boat leaves at 5:00am.Next to this daily adventure, they have spread out during the day 3-4 other single dives to different diving spots and they also organise day trips to further locations.My friends have thought about it all and they nicely booked us in for a bit of everything.Yes, I am a spoiled SCUBA diver!It is the 24th of December 2023 and Dive Day 1 is here.Double boat dive in Kumud shoal ~ Thresher sharks dives.

Single afternoon dive in Giliano and single late afternoon in Lapus Lapus.It is the 25th of December 2023, Christmas and Dive Day 2 is here.







We do a day trip to Gato Island, diving the Tunnel and the Wall.After the day trip we have dinner at the resort with a Scubaholics Social Club organised Secret Santa, a dancing chair game and a lot of fun.I must admit, I am not a big fan of Christmas but this 2023 was one of the best in my life. SCUBA diving and being with friends made the difference!!!It is the 26th of December 2023 and Dive Day 3 is here.Double boat dive in Kumud shoal ~ Thresher sharks dives.


Single afternoon dive in Lapus II and single late afternoon dive in Deep slope.On the last dive I have problems in equalising, my left ear is in huge pain. That’s not a good sign for anyone, especially a SCUBA diver on a SCUBA diving trip.I manage to descend and dive but my planned night dive is out of discussion and I cancel it.I blame the aircon for my ear issues.In Europe in the ‘90 and early 2000 we never had it anywhere. And the few times I have encountered it, it has always made me sick. Really sick. Ear infection, sinus infection, runny nose.I discuss with my roomie and she is super kind in agreeing to turn it off, using the fan.I am also sure for the next destination I need my aircon-less room, otherwise this SCUBA dive trip will turn into a land ear-sick experience.


I stay 2 days dry, I take some special tablets that the Hungarian Orsi dive master recommends to me, I participate in a boat trip while still staying completely dry, I do yoga on the beach, I walk around the island, I have massages, I buy souvenirs for my family in Sydney, I eat at the local market with and without the gang.


It is the 29th of December 2023 and Dive Day 4 for me is here.

Morning single dive in Bogton Bato, late morning single dive at Secret Wall, afternoon dive in Deep Slop and late Afternoon Dive in the House reef to see the Mandarin fish mating.I am fully recovered and very happy about that!It is the 30th of December 2023 and the journey back is upon us.We take the bangka back from the resort to the north of Cebu Island.Once we arrive there, there are 2 vans waiting for us.It seems that we are supposed to go all in one van with aircon while all our luggages are in the second van without aircon.Oh my goodness, 4 hours of aircon after having just recovered from my ear-infection? I will die!I kindly ask multiple times if I can get on the non-aircon van and talk about my ear-infection. It seems pretty impossible as they don’t have the papers to transport civilians on that.But my ear is more important than any papers needed on Cebu Island.At the end, I win and with the driver I go in the aircon-less van.


The driver looks very worried but lets me sit next to him.


The gang seems very worried too. We agree to keep in touch via our Facebook chat.I am very happy, no aircon, my ears are safe and I am honestly not worried at all. The vans were hired online, it is not like a taxi in Medellin, Colombia (that I have taken to go to the hospital when living there.. But that’s another story).


5 minutes into the drive, the driver tells me if they stop us at the police checks, I should tell them I am a friend of the ownerAfter 2 minutes, I ask, “OK, what is the owner’s name?” And save it for records. I also ask what all these police checks on the island are. He says, people tend to bring guns over the Christmas break to celebrate but that causes accidents. So the police checks during this period. During the drive the driver is very chatty, he talks about the wife and the kids, he asks if I have kids and a husband.And I say that my partner is in the other van.Truth to be told there are 3 men in the other van and all are with their partners.But I prefer a white lie to admitting I am a single female on a Filippino van with a male driver.A couple of hours into the drive, the man turns to the left in a pretty suspicious way.The drive from the north to the south is straight on one main road.At this moment some doubts start to arise.. Maybe Cebu Island isn’t that safe after all.My brain starts spinning, all the worst-case scenarios start to pop into my mind and I force myself into thinking about a safe way out when..I notice a scooter on the side of the road, with a woman next to it.The driver apologises, he has to stop to meet his wife, who has cooked him lunch, as after delivering us to the airport, he has to drive the entire way back for other clients.The driver stops, rolls down the window and the woman gives him a plastic bag with some white rice and cooked chicken.That’s one of the most romantic gestures I have ever seen!Will we in the western culture drive to deliver a homemade cooked meal to our partners?Or will we assume she/he can buy themselves something somewhere?I have never cooked a homemade meal and delivered it to my partner.I feel safe again on Cebu Island, in the van and with the male driver.With a toilet stop and after 4 hours of driving, we are left at Mactan Cebu International Airport Terminal 1.We drop our luggages in storage and we go for a massage.I haven’t booked anything but when there I am able to have the usual 60 minutes Thai massage.I tried to have a Filipino massage but it seems not-existing. They have the Thai, the Swedish, the Chinese etc.Well, I guess also in Sydney we don’t have the Australian massage.After the massage we go back to Mactan Cebu International Airport Terminal 1, we collect our luggages and with a one hour flight we land in Dumaguete - Sibulan Airport.From the airport we are again collected by 2 vans and we drive to the hotel.Here we have chartered a full boat for the gang.We can dive locally for the muck dives or we can go for a day trip to Apo Island to enjoy wide angle dives.





Again, my friends have thought about it all and they nicely booked us in for a bit of everything.It is the 31st of December 2023 and the boat takes us locally.We dive in San Miguel, Talisay and El Dorado ~ Artificial ReefIn the evening we go to a local vegetarian restaurant and we have a delicious celebrative meal.There is no way we are going to stay awake until midnight because the day after we are having the usual dive day..So we decide to celebrate Australian [Sydney and Melbourne time (as a couple in the group is from Melbourne)] time. After dinner we head to a park next door, where 2 guys are singing karaoke. Few minutes before 9pm local time (midnight home) we ask if they can do the countdown. They happily agree and in between their karaoke and their countdown, that is how we enter into our 2024!Of course by the time the countdown finishes, a lot of local people come to watch the weird foreigners who are dancing in the middle of the park celebrating the new year at 9pm.We might have ended up on their local YouTube! The days are divided between local dives and Apo Island dives.The 1st and 7th of January 2024 we do a day trip to Apo Island.The 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th of January 2024 we stay locally and do muck dives. We also do 2 night dives.On the 6th of January 2024 I celebrate my 700th dive.Funnily enough on the same dive a guy from the gang was celebrating his 200th, so we had an amazing time underwater together and his wife took very good pictures of the both of us.Yes, celebrating is always better with friends!It is the 8th of January 2024 and the holiday with the Scubaholics Social Club is over.With a flight from Dumaguete - Sibulan Airport to Manila - Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 and from Manila - Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 to Sydney (Kingsford Smith) International Airport Terminal 1, we all arrive home and begin 2024 full of energy and with lots of great SCUBA diving (and not only) memories.Side note: on Dumaguete on day 2 I split from my roomie. I went into a room that usually the hotel is not even renting out. The room was big and well furnished, the bathroom was very small, I could almost shower while sitting on the toilet. But it became my castle. I never turned the aircon on and my ears and sinuses were safe the entire trip! Yes, I shall remember for future trips! And if I don’t, please remind me, my friends!




History Article - 1990s


PRESIDENT'S REPORT 

There is no doubt that our last guest speaker, Des Beechy is very knowledgeable about molluscs and in particular those of NSW. The limit in the available knowledge usually stops at about the water line. So any members interested in molluscs out there can contribute to the body of knowledge by noting the distribution seen on dives of a few species Des will nominate. Let me know if you are interested

All my fears about Lake Jindabyne were proved false. The water was no  colder than Sydney and what a pleasure to boat out on calm waters, no bouncing about. Fresh water, no itchy salt drying on you and the dive gear after the dive, a great experience. To be expected, the scenic highlights don't compare with a coral reef (i.e. the biodiversity is a little low). Overall a great weekend with a very social BBQ dinner, nobody could complain that it wasn't different

By the time you get this, Easter will be over and at this stage it looks like being a good weekend and the large  turnout for Batemans Bay will have been satisfied with the diving which has been described to me as "God's country"

Next meeting we have Bill Fulton from ORRCA (the people who do a lot for whales) and the drawing of the Anglefish Bag raffle

So good luck and see you there

Enjoy the diving, Peter Taylor 


EXPLORATORY DIVING 

There has been keen interest shown in the idea of doing exploratory diving, following last months article in the bulletin. We have also been able to get good topographical maps of the underwater areas off Sydney, with contours at 2 m intervals. We should be able to identify quite a number of interesting looking locations from these maps

As a result of this we are now scheduling some exploratory dives see the dive schedule at the end of the bulletin for dates. We should be able to do some diving to virgin territory - come and dive where no man or woman has dived before. It could be exciting


DEEP DIVING 

A number of deep dives have been run over the past few weeks, thanks to the keenness of John Anderson. Because of the success of these we have now scheduled deep/wreck dives for some Saturdays (see dive schedule at the back of the bulletin)

So far we have dived the Coolooi, the Dee Why ferry and the Megol. Visibility has been so good that the Dee Why and Megol have been dived together. They have each been visible from the other. If the last four weeks are an indication of the winter diving to come, we are in for great conditions, a welcome change from the not too good conditions we have had this summer

John is developing a reputation for locating wrecks. On the dive I did on the Coolooli with him, we turned on the sounder and decided it was not functioning, as it showed only 37 m when it should have been 50. It was working, he had placed us directly over the wreck first go. We dropped the anchor straight down the middle

So come on all you deep divers, conditions at the moment are as good as I have seen in Sydney


NIGHT DIVING 

John Da Rocha has offered to run night dives for those who are interested. Two have been run on Tuesday nights so far. The response has not been what you could call enthusiastic

Perhaps there are people who would like to night dive but would prefer another night other than a Tuesday. John is flexible, to a certain degree, as to when he will run the dives. If you would like to night dive, ring Ian Knapp on 887 6329 (day) or 871 2857 (evenings) and let him know which nights would suit you

Now we have navigation lights on the boat, we could run boat night dives if there is sufficient interest. Once again, let Ian Knapp know if you would like to do this









Recent Events and News and Upcoming Events


Dive Log

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


Volvo Ocean Lovers Festival - 20th - 23rd March

This is a series of events and talks at Bondi Beach which may be of interest to our members - our very own Sarah Han-De-Beaux will be speaking about saving the Grey Nurse Shark at 2.45 pm on the Saturday on a panel with Valerie Taylor, more info here https://www.oceanloversfestival.com/


Group Meetings at The Oaks - 9 April

Our next social for April will be at the regular spot in the Licensees Flat (upstairs) at the Oaks Hotel in Neutral Bay. Watch your inbox for details and who the next speaker and topic will be on.

 

Bunnings Sausage Sizzle - 14th April

We will be running a Sausage Sizzle at the Chatswood Bunnings to help raise funds for our mooring fees. Please sign up here, if you can spare an hour or two it will be a great help to the club!


Boat Dives

Boat dives are organised most weekends from the St George Motor Boat Club Marina in San Souci. Check https://www.urgdiveclub.org.au/dive-calendar 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 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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