Underwater Research Group of New South Wales
Apologies for the late bulletin. Michael sent it to me to post about 2 weeks ago and I've been having sleepless night even since! My excuse is I've been travelling for overseas for work since late August, spending time in San Fran and Kansas City. Now I've arrived in the Azores for a brief holiday with Charlie, before heading to the European leg of my world tour.
Now for some club news.
It’s another big month for URG with us kicking off several new initiatives which have been in the works for a while.
Our partnership with ReCollect is set to launch in September. ReCollect aims to provide an easy and convenient recycling service for all fundraisers, by strategically placing bins in high traffic locations, collecting them, managing the recycling and donating a share of the revenues to the URG.
Pablo has done an incredible job of not only building the relationship between the URG and ReCollect, but also bringing on board a number of marinas, tour and event venues and private businesses. Within the next month, 8 URG sponsored bins will be delivered across Sydney, including 6 to the St George Motor Club, where the URG boat is moored. So please keep an eye out and recycle your bottles and cans.
The Take 3 for the Sea CEO Cleanup is coming up again on Friday, 9th September. For the second year in a row, the URG will be providing divers to take part in the underwater portion of the clean up and we invite all Divers to join us at Manly that morning. This is another great community event where we can build relationships and our local profile so please contact Pablo or Duncan if you can attend.
After almost a year of planning with local councils, and discussions with our partners, Tangaroa Blue, we will also be launching the Look After Your Tackle project in September. We are currently exploring two dates to launch this program - Saturday, 10th September for Woollahra Council and Sunday, 18th September for Mosman Council (at the Seaside Scavenger Hunt). This has been an epic undertaking, working with local government, partners and community groups to ensure we can launch a thorough program. Initially there will be 12 tangle bins across those two council areas but we have plans to expand the program. We are actively seeking volunteers to help collect, clean and catalogue the contents of the bins. If you are interested in being part of this working group, please contact Pablo or the Club Committee Members for more information.
Our AGM will be held on Saturday 22nd October at Clifton Gardens. We are planning the formalities to start at 11am. As in previous years, for those that want to dive beforehand, we will meet around 8:30/9am in the car park. A BBQ will be provided on the day for lunch. This is where the Committee report on the year past and we elect a new Committee. This year a long-serving member Denise Lawler is stepping down. Denise's commitment to the club has been immense and we are sad to see her leave the committee, but will be eternally grateful for her contributions over the years. If you are interested in joining the committee please nominate here.
Here are some great articles of interest below so keep reading!
Rare Find at Magic Point
By Sarah Han de Beaux
An unusual sighting in Sydney, at Magic Point we saw a massive Queensland Grouper, bigger than some of the smaller Grey Nurse sharks. The water temperature was 16-17 degrees - pretty cold for such a fish!
Diving with the Underwater Research Group of NSW
markmcg commented "Hi @eschlogl and @sarah-sydneydives. I think we can certainly mark this excellent observation as a likely range extension. The Australian Faunal Directory page (link below) on the species records it as far south on the east coast as Woy Woy, although from memory there has been a washup in the Bight as shown on the map on the Australian Faunal Directory page. Either way, I'll add this observation to my list of Project 'findings'. Thank you.
Magic Point Shark Dive August 2022
By Sarah Han de Beaux
Thanks to Michael and crew being John, Eric, Hatty and my buddy Ryan of URG for taking us out on the boat for a double boat dive. Water was chilly, but worth it considering we finally had some visibility and blue water. Incredibly we also saw what appears to be a Queensland Grouper! I took a bunch of photos of the grey nurse sharks using the laser pointers so that I can get some up to date information on the lengths of sharks at the cave to submit to www.SpotAShark.com too. Fantastic day out - thanks team!
North Sulawesi Revisited.
By Janet Abbott
In 2011 seven URG members (plus 3 non diving family members) did 25 dives in Manado and 2 dives in Lembeh. The July 2022 trip was booked in January 2020 just before Covid 19 arrived in Australia. 3 of us were returning along with 5 others. We were very pleased that Thalassa Dive was still operating and they had survived the 2 years with no overseas visitors. The entire staff, in both Manado and Lembeh, were all very friendly and did everything for us, always with smiles.
The Dry season was unusually wet, raining mainly at night. The air temperature was about 30 degrees C. In the water it was 27 to 29 C degrees C (according to my computer).
Wall diving with a slow current. Walls covered in Corals, Ascidians, Gorgonian fans, with an abundance of sea life, too many species to list all here. My favourites were the large numbers of Green Turtles plus Tobies, Butterfly fish, Anemone fish, Porcelain crab, Robust Ghost Pipefish, Pygmy Seahorse.
Well known for its muck diving, Lembeh Strait has an abundance of small, weird but wonderful sea life. There are a lot of sand slopes that for a while seem to feel like a wet desert with no life at all, until the guide finds a tiny creature so well camouflaged that the untrained eye could easily miss.
Again too many species to list all, but my favourites were the Tobies, Banggai cardinalfish (endemic to Lembeh) Ornate Ghost Pipefish (in abundance), Mantis shrimp, Flamboyant cuttlefish, Waspfish, Disco Clam and the Orangutan crab.
Nudibranchs were in both locations. There seemed to be more in Lembeh, or maybe it was just easier for me to spot them with no current.
In Lembeh we did one dive that wasn’t on sand, named ’Angels Window’ where at almost 28m there was a short almost ‘C’ shaped swim through at the base of a wall. The wall was absolutely beautiful, covered in colourful growth, home to so many different nudibranchs. It was hard to leave when our time was up.
Juveniles, also in both locations, as with most kids were adorable, especially the Sweet Lips and Barramundi Cod and Angler fish.
On the last day Michael and I missed the last dive to go on an afternoon road trip around Lembeh Island,with Arjan the manager of Thelassa Dive Resort Lembeh. Arjan was the perfect guide pointing out landmarks and history of the island. We enjoyed seeing the island villages with the locals who always smile and shout out greetings as we passed by. We got to chat with the driver at the coffee stop, who was learning to speak English, but at first he couldn’t understand my accent, but it wasn’t long before he was asking me questions and understanding my answers.
It was sad to leave Simone,Thalassa Dive Resorts owner, and all of the staff who had been so friendly, but hopefully they will be swamped with visitors now international flights are once again landing in North Sulawesi.
Blue Sharks Dive in Wales - UK
By Charlie Elliott
URG Club Secretary, Charlie Elliott, is taking an extended post-covid European summer and took the opportunity to snorkel with blue sharks.
Blue Sharks can be encountered in UK waters June to October and there are various tours in the south west that take you out to swim with these gorgeous creatures. After reading this Guardian article [https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2021/aug/29/wild-swimming-with-seals-puffins-pembrokeshire-wales] I booked on with Celtic Deep [https://www.celticdeep.org/] for a day on the water.
I stayed at nearby Monk Haven Manor [https://monkhaven.co.uk/], which turns out to be where David Attenborough stays when he is filming in the area, and was up bright and early to make the 15-minute drive to Dale, where the boat was leaving from. The water was glossy and calm inside the harbour and we were hopeful for a great day on the water. I was lucky enough to be visiting Pembrokeshire, in the south of Wales, in the middle of a massive heatwave and the 2.5 hour drive out to the “Celtic Deep” is relaxing in our dry clothes. Our destination is an area of the sea between Wales and Ireland where the ocean bed drops to 100m deep, here there are nutrition-filled upwellings which attract a host of creatures to feed, not least the blue sharks we are hoping to encounter.
Blue Sharks can reach up to 4m in length, although most are around 2m, and get their name from their beautiful colouring - when they catch the light right they have a bright blue iridescence on their upper body. They primarily feed on small fish and squid but are also known to scavenge. Our boat chums the water to attract any sharks in the area to come and investigate and we slip into our open cell wetsuits. These suits are delicate but much warmer than the traditional scuba diving wetsuits, something you would normally be grateful for in inclement UK weather.
The engines are off and we drift freely. Our tour guide, Richard, slips into the water to check conditions and we are split into 3 groups who will snorkel in waves to ensure that there are never too many people in the water at one time. There is a rope off the back of the boat to hold on to - the current is gentle but we use the rope to space ourselves out so that we don’t accidentally bunch together and scare the sharks away by appearing too large. We hang vertically in the water and the sharks begin to circle. They are very curious, coming close and even nibbling on some people’s fins. This is my first time seeing blue sharks and I think they are one of the cutest shark species I have seen, with their big eyes, slightly goofy noses and long, elegant bodies.
We all got plenty of time in the water over the 6 hours we drifted out there. In total we covered about 3 nautical miles with the engines off but they can move as much as 6 miles if the currents are stronger. You have no concept of how you are moving as there is no land or ocean bed in view for context. I was spoilt with 20-degree water and still, sunny conditions on the surface, I imagine many trips are much chillier! We saw 9 individual sharks over the duration of the day, and some people were lucky enough to be in the water when a small pod of dolphins swam past - the UK has strict laws about whales and dolphins and you are not allowed to enter the water once they are sighted, but can remain in if you are already there! You never know what else you could encounter out there in the deep and I’d highly recommend the day to any URG members heading to England next year.
Club meetings at the Oaks, Bunnings BBQs and boat dives all well attended. Members who missed out are encouraged to pull their fingers out and book onto an event soon.
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 https://www.urgdiveclub.org.au/dive-calendar and Facebook for dates and conveners to book onto dives.
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.
The Annual General Meeting
Our AGM will be held on Saturday 22nd October at Clifton Gardens. We are planning the formalities to start at 11am. As in previous years, for those that want to dive beforehand, we will meet around 8:30/9am in the car park. A BBQ will be provided on the day for lunch. This is where the Committee report on the year past and we elect a new Committee. This year a long-serving member Denise Lawler is stepping down. Denise's commitment to the club has been immense and we are sad to see her leave the committee, but will be eternally grateful for her contributions over the years. If you are interested in joining the committee please nominate here: https://www.urgdiveclub.org.au/committee-nomination-form