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November 2023 Bulletin

Underwater Research Group of New South Wales

Presidents Slate

Hi all,

Duncan is overseas at the moment, unfortunately concentrating on his real job, so I'm stepping in for this month. He's gutted to be missing tonight's general meeting with a former URG President turned full time marine scientist, John Turnbull, joining us for what promises to be a really fun evening. I've been watching his Jervis Bay RLS training photos with envy, if this is something that interests you tonight is the night to ask all your questions!

Most importantly for citizen science projects, the Sydney Sea Slug Census is happening now! Register your interest here: and submit your photos from last weekend and this to inaturalist I can already see many of our members on the score board with their observations. I'll be out on the boat this weekend trying to up my numbers! There are two spots left on Saturday if you want to join us - I'm always happy to lend a camera or have someone help my nudi spotting if you don't have your own camera to use on the day.

There is some great diving inspiration in this months bulletin, I only wish I had Reka's dedication to early morning's.

Happy reading,



A brush with underwater photography

by Libby Tondl

It was May of 2022 when I started my UW photography adventure with the Panasonic Lumix LX-10 and a resurrected Nauticam housing. On the recommendation of a talented UW photographer and then buddy, I shot manual mode with ambient light for some months before adding a video light, which made me really work for the photographs especially with those pygmy pipehorses at Kurnell. Added a wide angle lens and a close up lens.

In July 2023 I started shooting with a single Inon Z-330 strobe and was shocked by how easy it was getting light to the sensor! Astonishing. Went on a few adventures with a 3D printed snoot, which worked rather well when ignoring off-centre focus light of the strobe behind a centred snoot. I finished off the kit for the time being by adding the second strobe in October. I am shooting with both strobes on manual power and I’m keen to refine my lighting technique. Needs more time in the water of course.

I’m very lucky to have benefited from advice, feedback, and ideas from brilliant UW photographers, particularly Daniel Sly, Talia Greis (Talia Greis Photography), and Nicolas Remy (founder of The Underwater Club), each very talented and highly accomplished. I often feel like a little duckling paddling about in the sea of kit and ideas and skills among such incredible prowess, but it’s fulfilling to see my work evolve from a hot mess of ignorance, to roughly planned attempts at artistry.

Over August-October I’ve been night-diving Clifton Gardens weekly to catch creature activities, out on the URG boat a bit, and popping in at Kurnell for some brilliant dives. Sydney has such incredible diving that it’s difficult to choose my favourite creature - but right now the mating pajama squid and the blue-lined octopus are tying first place.

Here’s to more growth (and more wide angle opportunities).

The AGM meeting

By Reka Spallino

The AGM meeting was on Saturday 7th of October from 12:30pm. On Friday I went to my sister’s place. We had a cousin visiting from Melbourne for a couple of days and our mom. My sister lives in Austral. I am not sure if Australians know where this place is, either because it is too far west and uninteresting to be known or my (lovely) accent doesn’t let them understand the place. I just know that from there to The Diddy Longueville (where the meeting was) it is 50min and 66.6km (true number!). Of course I am running late and about midday I finally enter the car. The journey is long, I have my google lady (not to get lost) and spotify with some latino music that keeps me company while travelling. The traffic is good, no big dramas, I am almost there when a number that I don’t have saved is calling me. I decide not to answer, if I can’t hear the google lady I can get lost and the URG AGM is more important than any scammer who is calling on a Saturday. I arrive a bit after 1:00pm. The pub is nice, big outdoors and lots of people in the room we reserved: 80% familiar faces and 20% not yet. I greet and hug as many people as possible.

It seems they all have eaten or are finishing eating. Charlie, very friendly as usual, comes to me and tells me that she tried to call me earlier. Oops, she was the scammer.. And my mind goes quickly to my voicemail that says “Hola Hola, I am not available at the moment, please leave a message and I will call you back” (true voicemail message!)

While I stand with some friends and we talk about the last dives on the boat, a man approaches me and asks me if I am Reka. “Yes, I am” and I think “you must be Michael Abbott”. Yes, he is! I am so happy to meet the man who asks for articles on the bulletin, who approves my little pieces and apparently seems to like them. Truth to be told, I tried to google him, I had a look at his facebook but wasn’t successful so until this day, I couldn’t put a face to that name! Ceremonies start within 10 min and I have time to order my caesar salad and my beer. The changes for 2023/2024 are as per below Committee President: Duncan

Vice President: Pablo

Secretary: Libby

Treasurer: Joshua B.

Committee Member: Charlie

Committee Member: Sarah

Committee Member: Jens Afterwards certificates of achievement are presented. - New convenors Duncan and Vishal.

- Sea Legs for our two most dedicated convenors, Joshua Batchelor and Kathy Giles.

- Social Butterfly for most consistent attendance at our general meetings, Vishal.

- President's Sounding Board for all her helpful phones conversations with Duncan, Janet Abbott.

- Editor in Chief, keeping this bulletin going, Michael Abbott. I proudly receive the Chief Correspondent one, given by my new friend Michael Abbott. If you haven’t been there I could tell you differently, but I don’t lie. I got very emotional and used my big dark sunglasses to cover my face. The URG is my first diving family and I am so proud to be part of this group!

Pre-work dives

by Reka Spallino In winter 2022 I got my dry suit, I got my solo certification and I got my pony tank.

This all means, I started my pre-work weekdays dives.

Usually I wake up at 5:20 am, I travel to Camp Cove or Clifton Gardens, around 6:30 am I enter the water, I do a 60 min dive, then travel back home from where I work happily.

I totally understand that it is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Not everyone likes to wake up that early, be constricted to a 60 min dive and do all of that on a weekday.

So when Josh B. volunteered to come on a couple of those, I was very surprised.

20th of September Clifton Gardens ITW=6:51am 8.1m 60 min 17°C viz=0.5-1.5m

The air temperature so early in the morning was already 28°C.

The refreshing water was a relief even with the dry suit (head and hands) after gearing up in such a heat.

We did the net, the pier and the artificial reef.

Highlights: a trio of cuttlefish, a penta group of pipefish, an octo legged starfish, a seahorse swimming in the middle of the ocean going to find protection onto a pier. The artificial reef and the face statue, looked like after an earthquake.

27th of September Clifton's Gardens ITW=6:47m 8.4m 65 min 17-18°C viz=5-8m We did the pier and the seahorses hotels.

The main purpose of the dive was to spot a decorator crab and Josh B. found one at the pier 15 min into the dive but of course the dive continued. The dive was generally so good that the 3rd time I checked my dive computer, it was 57min into the dive and… ooops, someone gotta work!

Highlights of the dive: the decorator crab, a hermit crab and a red bite crab, 2 seahorses, an armina cygnet nudie. Two horrifying land bins at the pier [at the moment I am writing they are still there]. editors note - they have now been removed due to the efforts of the Friends of Chowder Bay group, SIMS assistance and Dive Centre Manly loaning a lift bag

History Articles from 2002

Dive to North Head

by Michael Abbott

On 5 October 2002 we dived at North Head as the wind and sea from the north made the Gap unattainable. I might add that every other boat on the harbour was also at Nth Head. I prefer the south side of the harbour due to my theory of the tide coming in that side and going out on the north side. North Head always seems darker possibly due to higher cliffs and also dirtier and filter feeders are more prolific. My thanks to Debbie and Greg who convened, and to Wayne who drove the boat beautifully. Nice and smooth gets me coming back every time. It was nice to be out on the water with friends. In the water it was dark and green and full of floating algae and salps. Robert’s come-back lines were an essential safety item as you needed to come up the anchor to avoid other boats. In the poor viz, I saw all the usual reef fish, lots of nudibranchs totaling 6 different species, nice lace bryozoans, which I like but I think divers break, as there are not many in well-dived locations. Water 13°C but my buddies always say my gauges read 2 degrees low. We spent 42 minutes under which was plenty for the wet suit divers.

S S President Coolidge 60th Anniversary 1942 – 2002

By John Swift

Is diving the SS President Coolidge a legitimate “marine life - underwater museum dive”, or is it an adrenalin-pumping ego satisfying dive, to huge depths, which would never be allowed in countries with strict diving regulations? Well it can be both, but as with all diving, safety is the responsibility of the individual diver, so it’s up to you. Marine life on the Coolidge is extensive, but I think the window the Coolidge offers to our recent past to be by far the most interesting. It’s been sixty years since that fateful Monday morning at 0930 hours on 26th October 1942, when an explosion rocked the ship and within two hours she was on the bottom with 5440 personnel safely on shore and the loss of only two lives. The amount of equipment 5,000 army troops take to war is staggering and although some salvage has occurred, an enormous amount is still on board and a lot was quite visible during my dives. A dive to the engine room reveals numbers of gauges many able to be quite easily read, frozen in time to the position they were on that morning, I only wish I knew something about steam-electric turbines, as the position of the needles meant nothing to me. It looked to me as if the gauges had hardly been touched in the proceeding sixty years. Why is this so? – the answer is simplicity itself. Allan Power allows nothing to be removed from the wreck. Allan has been conducting diving tours on the Coolidge since shortly after salvage ceased and very little has been removed since. What does that have to say about Australia, where all the wrecks I have dived on have either been very badly looted, or you are not allowed to enter them? From one extreme to the other and neither seems to work. What was my best dive on the Coolidge? The night dive with no torches and seeing seven schools of flashlight fish all at the one time, it was like New Years Eve 20 metres under the surface and on top of the bow I saw a huge basket star, fully extended. (Mentioning that was really just mean, don’t you think? Ed 2002 (Debbie Conwell))

Recent Events and News

Dive Log

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

Seaside Scavenge and Sustainability Fair was held on Saturday 28 October

Balmoral Reserve, The Esplanade - 10.00am - 2.00pm. Thanks to Pablo for representing URG with the stand looking great.

Upcoming Events

Sydney Sea Slug Census - 10 to 19th Nov

Register here and happy slug hunting.

Group Meetings at The Oaks

Our next general meeting in the Licensees Flat (upstairs) at the Oaks Hotel in Neutral Bay is on Tuesday 14 November. We have the room booked from 6pm onwards. Join us after work for some beers, food and chatter before the formalities start at 7pm. If you haven't been to one of our catch ups before, just ask the bar staff for directions on where to find us.

November 14th will see the return of a previous club president, John Turnbull, to tell us about life in marine research and corals in Sydney Harbour.

Members, prospective members and guests are very welcome to join.

We hope to see you there.

Boat Dives

Boat dives are organised 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 Josh, Jens or Pablo

Reef Life Surveys

Sydney RLS is complete for 2023. I am sure John Turnbull would be happy if you where to sign up to help next year? That gives you a year to train up on the procedure and fish ID.

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 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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