Author: Rianti Bieler, Photo provided by: Colin Piper
Colin Piper is one of URG NSW's earliest members. He and I share a passion for history so every now and then he would send me precious stuff about the club from waaaay back in the days when cuddling a shark (above water!) is an acceptable practice. Kids, don't do this at home.. or anywhere for that matter!
Here's a news article from 1957 that he sent me a few days ago. There are a few words I couldn't decipher from the newspaper clipping so use your imagination to fill in the blank!
The Sunday Telegraph
26 May 1957
A 4-ft shark and two fiddler rays are tethered this morning in Clovelly Bay developing an appetite.
They will be guests of honour at an annual lunch later today - 100% underwater. Thirty skindivers of Sydney's Underwater Research Group will attend the dinner on the floor of Clovelly Bay.
With a stone on their laps to anchor their (??), they will eat a pre-cooked three-course meal on an anchored table.
The meal will be (??), steak, fruit and ice-cream.
PRACTISING FOR WEEKS
All guests at the lunch except for the Port Jackson shark and the two fiddler rays, will wear (monolungs??). For weeks members of the research group have been practicing eating under water. The group's publicity officer, Dave Landon said that night: "After a lot of practice we've learned the knack. Obviously you can't open your mouth under water because you would drown"
"So you remove your (?) mouthpiece, force the food between (?) lips, give a couple of quick (?) swallow and replace the mouthpiece. It takes a long time to eat a meal but you don't get indigestion."
During the underwater meal the skindivers will release the shark and the fiddler rays to mingle with the guests.
The shark and rays will be fed tasty morsels.
A shark-hunting expedition by group members in Sydney Harbour yesterday caught the shark and the rays off (??) Point, Middle Harbor.
CAUGHT BY HAND
They caught the creatures with their hands and take them to (?). Taronga Park Zoo provided tanks and a truck to get the creatures to Clovelly alive.
Two women members of the group, Eileen Brown and Sue Campbell then donned diving suit and tethered the shark and rays to rocks on the bottom of Clovelly Bay.
"We won't feed our three guests before our lunch to give them a good appetite," Dave Landon said.
PICTURE: SKINDIVER Sue Campbell with a 4-ft Port Jackson shark, one of the 'guests of honor' for today's underwater lunch in Clovelly.
Bill Heffernan, took the Cinesound footage of the Underwater lunch below.
Bill's son Kerry wrote the following:
"My Dad covered the underwater Dinner for Cinesound I remember we all got to go to the pictures when it was shown at The Entrance I remember my dad telling me that after the Dinner he had one of the men have a smoke which came out great the smoke was simple milk that he had put into his mouth."
Kerry gave the footage to a lady, who in turned sent it to us. This is her email:
As Bill Heffernan took the footage and it is over 50 years old there are no copywright implications.
After Bill Heffernan's death his son Kerry donated all Bill's movie film to the Sound and Film Archives along with his cameras and underwater housings and also his breathing equipment. Kerry has been very disappointed with his dealings with them as they undertook to digitize the footage and supply Kerry with a copy. This has not happened.
I met Kerry after this and we have become good friends. Kerry has given me copies of his dad's photographs, equipment catalogues and several spearguns plus other bits and pieces and regrets giving the other equipment to the Sound and Film archives. As far as I know Bill used 16mm film, but I'll find out from Kerry when next speaking to him.
We are very grateful to Bill, Kerry, Mel and Colin for providing us with the newspaper article and the film footage. What a treasure!