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May 2023 Bulletin

Underwater Research Group of New South Wales

Presidents Slate

Hey all,

The boat has returned to the regular spot at St George Marina. I haven't yet heard any news on the RSL but hopefully we'll get an update at the upcoming general meeting.

Speaking of the general meeting tomorrow we have two guest speakers! Mike Scotland of Dive Log Australasia is joining us to discuss wrasse and his new book Marine Biology in the Wild. Also presenting to us is researcher Juliette Tariel-Adam who will be talking about tool use in fishes. Bring along $40 in cash if you want to purchase a copy of Mike's book.

Despite the impressive 6m swell to hit the coast today, the weekend forecast is back to sub-1m swell so the boat will be going out. Jens is the skipper on Saturday the 13th and we're hoping to fill the boat. Also, Saturday the 20th and 27th have spots left on the boat. Please pop your names on the google sheet and text the convenor if you are free to dive. Last month we welcomed Vishal as a new convenor, and it looks like Reka is on the same pathway. Her article that follows talks about her experience getting her boat license with tips on how to navigate Service NSW.

It's been the most amazing month of warm water and fantastic visibility. I hope many of you got a chance to enjoy it. While every opportunity to put on a tank was thwarted, myself and Charlie did manage to get a few early morning / pre-work free-dives in. We had staggeringly good conditions in south Bondi, where it felt like we were in the tropics and have witnesses higher numbers of grey nurse shark return for the winter months - up to 6 on one of our swims out to the point.

Thanks again to Michael Abbott for his tireless effort putting the Bulletin together. Hope you enjoy the read!


Duncan Heuer

DIVE REPORT My Recreational Boat License Dream

by Réka Spallino

In 2017 I started thinking how much I would like to be able to drive a boat. That was the time when I did my Dive Master in Isola d’Elba Italy and we were going out on the dinghy twice a day: double boat dive in the morning and single dive with snorkelers in the afternoon. Our Captains were all the local permanent male crew: the owner of the shop and 3 SCUBA dive instructors.

The year after the feeling became stronger when working in Mallorca Spain our Captain was Tati, a very friendly and energetic (2 years younger than me) woman from Cadiz. She was surrounded by mainly male SCUBA divers, and she was the boss on the dinghy!

In 2019 on the same island in a different diving shop the Captain was Alejandro, a man in his sixties coming straight from Alicante, who has worked all over the country and seen a lot in his career.

Pretty much by that time I already knew I was done with Europe and I was planning a big move to the other side of the planet, down under. Therefore I put my licence plans on hold. After moving to Sydney, after two years of pandemic and different lockdowns, 2023 was finally the year to make this dream come true.

On the 25th of March I enrolled in the 1 day course. I studied the PDF and for weeks I repeated the boating knowledge practice quiz.

On the 10th of April Joshua took me for a 2.5 hours practical session in Balmoral. From Balmoral all the way to Spit and back: from 4 knots to 20 knots. The URG boat is fun to drive and Joshua is a great captain and trainer. I love the openness of the experience, the fact that I have more time and space to think compared to driving a car and of course the fact itself that I am on my beloved water.

On the 15th of April I took the exam and passed with a successful 100% on the written exam (50 multiple choice questions divided into 2 parts) and on the practical exam. The most fun part in the practical was the man overboard drill.

The day after I thought about when is the best time to register the passed exams. The RMA has the amazing opening hours of Monday-Friday 9am-5pm and Saturday 8:30am-12:30pm as people who would need their service would all be retired, jobless or willing to take a day off/use their weekend to visit them. I am none of the upper mentioned categories, my working hours are like the RMA and on weekends I am pretty busy. I tried to book an appointment but the next one at lunch time was in a couple of weeks. Can I wait a few weeks? NO!

Therefore, on the 17th of April (glorious Monday) I went to the RMA at 7:40am with the aim of being the first person in line and be able to get to work by 9:00am. My plan worked and I was the first person, hurrah!!! Next door at Centrelink there was an elderly woman waiting in line too. She was way more prepared than myself, she was seated on a little black and white camping chair, next time I will do the same!

At 7:55am customer number two arrived in line. A man who tried to renew his car licence on Saturday arriving at 11:30am and having the office all full and a line of people cueing all around the building. By 8:20 am there were already 20 people after me. At sharp 8:30 am I entered, went to the “Ask Me” section and there I was told that the boat licence is a technical licence and I have to come back after 9:00 am. My heart stopped for a second, all my plans crashed but I quickly said “I have been in line since 7:40 am, I work from 9:00 am, I can’t come back and on your webpage there is nowhere written this information. Please let me go to a desk”. The lady gave me a number but repeated that I might be sent home because it is a technical licence and it is too early.

Number M100 brought me to Desk 6 where Royce didn’t mention at anything about my request being too technical. In 15 minutes, after an eyesight test, a couple of hundred of dollars less in my bank account, and a couple of signatures, I got my NSW Recreational Boat Licence, hurrah! And Royce deserved all the green happy faces on the customer feedback questionnaire.

See you on boat friends!


History Article - Clean Up Day, March 3rd 2002

By Colin J. Piper

Those of you who regularly log on to the URG web site will have noticed recently that the URG has been involved with the widely acclaimed Clean Up Australia Project. For many years we have taken part in this annual event … held on the first Sunday in March. This in itself poses problems for the writer, because it clashes with the Formula One Australian Grand Prix - but that is another story.

This year, due to the possibility of not having the URG boat available - it was meant to be going up north somewhere - we requested, or should I say Dennis Hicks requested, that we be 'given' the Balmoral Pool area to clean up.

A few of us, at my instigation, arrived about 8am. This had 2 major benefits. It made it possible to actually park in the area, and afforded the most pleasant of opportunities to partake of an early breakfast at what used to be called "Sams" … now known as the Balmoral Sand Bar. As an historical aside, Sam used to have the nicest little, family-run café down there, holding a loyal following in spite of some of the very glitzy, expensive but nonetheless excellent opposition. The advent of the GST, saw Sam leave the business, and so we lost one of the best "eggs Benedicts" at Balmoral. THANKS MR HOWARD!

David Oatley, his godson, Hugh, Robert Dennett and some friends of his … whose names I have not recorded plus myself, indulged in excellent coffee, fruit salad and other assorted breakfasty consumables.

Dennis duly arrived, as did Carolyn Davidson and Mark Taylor and so the actual cleaning up commenced. As usual, much plastic was removed and I was surprised at just how much "stuff" the fishermen drop from the wharf! Robert Dennett and his group, plus David and Hugh concentrated on the inside of the pool … and checked our sea-horse tags as well I think.

Dennis discovered a shopping trolley not far off the wharf, which Mark and I raised (see web-site) and eventually, there were quite a pile of clean up bags assembled at the appointed pick-up spot.

It is a terrific annual project, and it was disappointing that there weren't more of us present to both 'show the flag' and take part.

One offshoot of the day was that as we were pushing the shopping trolley along the wharf, a local Alderman … woman actually … made herself known to us. David Oatley exchanged cards with her, after filling her in on the URG project at Balmoral. She was delighted to think that 'outsiders', as opposed to 'Mosmanites' (that's another story as well) were showing such an interest in Balmoral pool.

Thanks to those who came along, especially Dennis, who organised the day. I would like to propose that next year, as well as using the boat at a site in Sydney, we should have a second group attend to Balmoral pool again … this time, with the aforementioned councillor present, which, knowing David Oatley's powers of persuasion, should not be too hard!

There are photos on the web-site … have a look and resolve to be there next year. For your diaries … first Sunday in March: breakfast at 8am, clean up, from 9am.


Grahame Burns (dec.), Nov 2001

After the abortive attempt on the Hero, two years ago, Erik, Janet, Michael & I boarded the Dive Master a converted torpedo boat, budget style, with a number of friendly, enthusiastic and basically inexperienced crew, and 11 other divers, all doing their open water or advanced courses.

We left Townsville Friday night and headed off to Keeper Reef. Our two dives there were unremarkable except for the warm water. We then went to Wheeler Reef. Our first dive there was a beauty. We moored of the reef, swam across the sand to the wall which was a line of low rocky bombies. The visibility was about 20-25m and the first thing we saw was a huge bump headed parrotfish surrounded by barracuda and schools of reef fish and clouds of juveniles (2-5cms). We did the night dive on the same shelf, the highlight being a large shell with full mantle out moving across the sand. Buddy Erik, got great shots, with his trusty ever-present camera.

During the day the sea had been choppy with a 10-15km wind, as 15-20 km is the maximum for the Yongala, thought we may have had to miss it. 3am we steamed to the “Yongala” site and arrived happily in a very slight sea, 5-10 km wind, no current and the sun shining.

The bottom is 27 metres, the top 16 metres, and the boat 100m long. The wreck is covered in an extraordinary mixture of corals, which cover every square inch. Visibility was limited by nebulous clouds of juveniles (barra’s etc) & fry, being slaughtered by schools of small trevally, a large number of giant trevally, maori wrasse, sea snakes, two turtles who were pleased to pose for el Presidente Erik, and small schools of sundry reef fish - perch, fusiliers, bat fish, surgeon fish etc. The next dive was about 50 minutes; the second dive repeated the first in more detail. Erik summed it up succinctly as ever - the “Yongala” is a fifty-dive wreck.

We spent Monday in Townsville mostly at the aquarium, which has a great display of life on the coral reefs. Incidentally on the Friday, we spent the day at the new museum, which features an excellent exhibition on the Pandora and the Bounty mutineers, plus the coral reefs’ early colonial days in North Queensland & penological history of that area. Both sites are well worth a visit.

URG boat in Port Hacking circa 2001

Recent Events and News

April Meeting was Ana Gaisiner talking about her siphonfish research, more info here and on how to get involved here. It was a fantastic talk! If you're not attending the general meetings you're really missing out. The calibre of speakers just keeps getting better and better.

Upcoming Events


Expression of interest open 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 Neutral Bay are scheduled for the second Tuesday of every month, ie:

  • May 9

  • June 13

  • July 9

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.

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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