What a strange year for URG and personally for me as president of the club. Despite our inability to have regular club dives or even drive more than 5km from home there has been enough activity to call out a few special people.
First off a big thank you to the out-going committee. A big call out to John V and John T who have stepped down. It feels like the end of an era seeing the two of them pass on the batten to fresh faces.
John V has been a stellar safety officer and a big thanks to his patience and kindness running our safety days for the convenors. Thanks to him our safety equipment has been well maintained and our first response capability has ensured that we are in the best hands in case of an emergency on the boat.
John T has had a number of committee roles over the years including research officer and club president. John your contribution has been immense and URG has featured as a leading citizen science group in both the media and academic circles. A deep thanks to your commitment and energy in making URG a truly special club.
We also welcome the new committee and we have a few new energised individuals who have volunteered to keep the flame burning. A big welcome to David Leha and Jens Sommer-Knudsen and I look forward to working with you both. Denise, Charlie, Pablo, Josh M, Josh B and myself will stay on for another year and hopefully we can generate an increase in activity post-lockdown.
A big call out too to Pablo and Josh B for all the work on the boat, and Josh for also making sure that Janet sleeps easy in his role as Treasurer. Pablo and Greer have also been active in arranging beach cleans and getting URG a prime position on the return-and-earn list at depots accepting recycled bottles. This represents an additional revenue stream for the club so we ask that you look after the planet and help the club by recycling your waste responsibly.
Josh M has been running the dive calendar and making sure that convenors are available as often as possible. A big thanks for those efforts. He'll be returning in the new year in a different role as research officer and we look forward to seeing how you drive things in this regard.
Lastly thanks for the work Denise and Charlie have put in as VP and secretary. These are the two roles that are the most demanding and certainly make my life a lot easier. Thanks Denise for all the guidance and Charlie for making sure that all the correspondence is captured and emails are followed up.
Oh wait, there is more ... Rianti, thank you for your work behind the scenes with the website and taking care of membership and mailing lists. Much appreciated.
And last-lastly Michael and Janet, the stalwarts of URG who remain active as history officers and unofficial but very effective cat-herders. Without you guys I don't know where we'd be.
The club was hit financially during the lockdown, but we are still in the green ... ish. That said activity is our life blood so highly encourage as many of you as possible to dust off your wetsuits and book on the boat. As always we are looking for more conveners, so if anyone wants to learn how to drive the boat, this is your chance.
Huge thanks to all members. I know I've missed calling out some of the work that has gone on in various capacities. Looking forward to a new year of diving and banter. Have a wicked festive season and see you all soon.
Some highlights from the boat over the last year
Ewens Ponds February 2002 (20 years ago)
By John Swift
This series of three freshwater ponds fed by an underground spring system, is crystal clear and is about as easy as diving gets. The short flat walk from the car park leads to a wooden platform with a ladder and you are in freshwater that has been slowly filtered through limestone and if you are lucky enough to be the first in the water, as I was, the vis is forever. After looking around each pond the gentle current carries you through the one metre channel to the next pond, on the far side of the third pond is the exit ladder and a slightly longer flat walk back to the car park, what could be easier and remember its fresh water so you only have to dry your gear, you have already washed it during the dive. One down side is the temp., at a steady 12 to 14 °C all year, a drysuit is recommended.
Only a couple of kms from Port MacDonnell, Ewens Ponds is the only part of the Mount Gambier limestone freshwater system that can be dived without a CDAA qualification, with a max depth of only 10 metres, it is worth doing. I was there on a cloudy day and was lucky enough to see a number of South East Freshwater Crayfish (Euastacus bispinosa) out feeding, with one catching a small fish and disappearing under a ledge to consume dinner. A large number of small ocean bream live in the last and largest pond, they are sixteen kms from the sea and living quite happily in freshwater. I also saw a couple of the endangered Ewen pygmy perch (Nannoperca variegata), so all in all I think the dive is worth doing. It can be done as a snorkel but you will most likely miss quite a bit of the water life this way, no permit is required to dive or snorkel Ewens Ponds.
Reflections on the Undersea Explorer Trip - December 2001
By Grahame Burns (Dec.)
Anemone Porcelain Crab (Neopetrolisthes maculatus) at Steve's Bommie by Erik Schlogl
Eight seater light aircraft, flight to Lockhart River dodging mountains of cumulous. Calm seas Lockhart to Raine Island. Hundreds of turtles on the surface - hardly any at depth.
No currents, restricted vis throughout trip. Few pelagic so communal concentration on macro stuff. David and Robert videoing (successfully) everything in sight. David being banged on the head by large ferocious turtle. Robert filming flat worms at night; Eric's 80 minute night dives - why did you come back Eric? Eric looking dissatisfied - because I ran out of air!
Michael motionless, just above everyone else observing all, noting everything. Michael and Eric making great lists (after checking fish books) of everything they saw.
Tony attending to the great videographers Robert and David, pointing out choice subjects. Great night footage of a wobbie catching a careless damsel fish,. Also, fellow passenger English John getting rare footage of foreplay between 2 large Queensland groupers. Occasional zooming in of silver tips and grey whalers, lots of WTRS; dolphins playing in the bow waves and then just hanging around when the boat stopped; a glassy morning sea and a big pod of pilot whales; Tawny sharks asleep under ledges, big clouds of juveniles around the bommies and clouds of fry filling every available nook and cranny. Grahame jumping in without weight belt, David jumping in without tank and reg, Robert jumping in without weight belt, but with camera -discovery!! Camera = weight belt! At least on the way down.
At night camera lights attract myriads of small shrimp and jelly fish, long green thread like worms and other creatures. The reef is vibrant with macro life. The on-boat staff are helpful and caring - Cass the cook overfeeds us. Scotty the marine biologist giving talks on fish, sharks and corals. John the skipper, captures a juvenile bat fish (2cm) which in the water imitates a flat worm (poisonous to fish). Bubble shrimp, porcelain crabs, 4-5 inch long morays, big yellow spotted cod and potato cod, enough nudibranchs to even satiate Eric. Tony attacking bewildered fish and divers with his zylume engorged GWS. Grahame finds a brass inner porthole ring from a clipper ship, (circa late 1800s), plus other brass gears etc.
Mostly drift dives, Michael shepherds photographer Eric; only one rough night, the Rhodda Reef run to Cod hole. Otherwise moonlight nights, warm, summer breezes. No whale sharks again! Big anticipation - coral spawn forecast Tuesday 4th between 7 - 8 pm. Everyone night dives - no spawning!! Wednesday, last day; penultimate dive on St Crispin's reef (where the Lonigans were lost) long drift dive, minimum current, quiet sea, wall and reef reflect sun, beautiful hard coral, few fish, except on top; then long dally to snorkel on southern St Crispin's. Last dive on an excellent, little dived, unnamed bommie - now known as URG Bombie (an article coming on this one).
Steaming back to PD, sunny, gentle breeze slight, slight seas. Four strange things on the surface ahead. As we got closer and stopped they slowly sank into the depths like space ships disappearing into the distance, but in reality, 4 rays each about 1 - 1.3 metres across. Question! What were they doing grouped on the surface? Strange and exotic matings rites perhaps? I guess we'll never know.
5pm arrive back in PD. Next day Qantas flight 569 back to reality.
Pacific Trumpetfish (Aulostomus chinensis) at Southern Small Detached Reef by Erik Schogl
LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF URG NSW
Thanks for keeping me on the recipients list, I need to be reminded a bit these days.
It's great to see the way the Group's activities have matured over the years. Some recent articles prompted me to sit down and pen this.
1st – Montague Island which we dived in 1975. The sharks and seals may well have been the same, but how many generations later I wonder. The seals always put on a show, the photography much better than my puny efforts with the Niconos.
2nd – Michael Abbott at Ningaloo. I had my last scuba dive at Exmouth in 1996 with Dive Ningaloo, also then “Very professional, safety conscious and friendly staff”. An area worthy of any bucket list.
3rd- Michael's comment re attaining a GPS in 1994 reminds me of running raffles for 18 months to buy a Depth Sounder, a pen and ink on chart thing. Can't remember the date.
I was fortunate to join the Group in an era when some of the founders were still around.
Col Trounce was my instructor, the retail shops were just appearing and were very quick to refuse our URG Certificates, so we mostly went to Les and Fran at Terrigal to do a refresher and get a FAUI Card, which some of the PADI shops also did not want to recognise. We thought FAUI was superior to PADI by the way. All this eventually sorted itself out.
There was an awkward time when the industry was in cahoots with MSB bureaucrats to regiment the sport by introducing licensing ($ of course) and regulations requiring certified dive masters on every dive boat, certified by ?. At the time, one of our members who was actively involved in the push back, and who conducted private dive trips from Little Manly was intercepted and interrogated by MSB virtually every time he set forth.
Our entertainment at club meetings included 8mm films borrowed from the film library in Canberra. The Bulletin was a newsletter typed up and produced on a Fordigraph machine.
URG was a big part of my life – mixed with a lot of lovely people.
Keep up the good work.
Clifton Gardens on Saturday 4th of December for a Xmas dive and to attend the clubs Annual General Meeting (AGM) an opportunity to hear what the club has been up to lately as well as catch up and reconnect with each other since the easing of restrictions and getting back to some normality .
Thanks to Josh M for the Barbeque and the Raffle. AGM at 11am so those diving needed to arrive a couple of hours prior to that!