Index     1917 TO 1959    1960 TO 1969   1970 TO 1979    1980 TO 1989 A   1990 TO 1999   2000 TO 2009   2010 TO 2019 Part One   2010 TO 2019 Part Two   

1960 to 1969
















During the decade between 1960 and 1969, a noticeable shift took place in the sport of scuba diving. It drew away from the pioneering days and every facet of the sport started to change.

During the second half of the decade scuba diving became so popular that there were more people involved in this section of the sport than spear fishing. Equipment started to improve and became more reliable.

Scuba divers were exploring new areas and many began to take up underwater photography. Some became involved in marine science, and then the great rush was on to collect abalone for the Asian market.

At this stage in the history of scuba diving in Australia, it was considered that the shark was of little trouble to divers. Then all of a sudden for no apparent reason a number of dreadful shark attacks took place over a period of two to three years. Most of these attacks were attributed to the white pointer. Many divers left the sport and the popularity of scuba diving dropped off in all states, but as time passed the attacks were forgotten.                                                                                                                                 

Perhaps the most tragic event of that time in Australia was when the Prime Minister, a patron of skin diving, Mr. Harold Holt, drowned whilst swimming at Cheviot Beach, Portsea, Melbourne.

Dave Burchell a one legged scuba diver from South Australia discovered the Second World War wreck of the Australian battleship HMAS Perth after a frustrating search in the Sunda Strait, West Java.

Cave diving started to gather some followers, just a handful at first. Piccaninnie Ponds at Mt. Gambier was discovered and dived for the first time. New cave diving sites were located it was a special type of diver who participated in this section of the sport. 

The decade saw the beginning of the first scuba instructor organisation in this country, others were to follow in future years. Many deep diving records were attempted, some succeeded where others failed. The popularity of the sport was slowly moving away from spear fishing toward scuba diving as the decade ended.




WESTERN AUSTRALIANS GO WRECK HAPPY: Perth. Spurred on by recent finds, Western Australian scuba divers are going wreck happy in search along the coast for sunken treasure. The coast is known to be rich with bullion carrying wrecks hundreds of years old and the West Australian’s are out to locate sunken galleons not yet definitely pinpointed. The Western Australian coast is so rich with wrecks it is almost as profuse as coral growth of the Great Barrier Reef. Early navigators sailed east from the Cape of Good Hope across the Indian Ocean to the west coast of Australia and then swung north toward Java and Batavia. Treacherous, uncharted reefs wrecked many ships, swirling currents caught them up to littered the Western Australian coast with wrecks. It is impossible to estimate the number of ships wrecked, but the tales of survivors have left stories of some. First known to go down with verified treasure on board was the Batavia wrecked in 1629 near an island in the Abrolhos group, at Geraldton. She went down with a consignment of silver. It's known that three chests were taken ashore, but the rest remains embedded in the wreckage of the ship. Much more is known about De Verguie de Draek the Gilt Dragon, a Dutch ship wrecked during heavy seas on the night of April 28, 1656, on an unknown reef or island off the Western Australian coast.

Early navigators sailed east from the Cape of Good Hope across the Indian Ocean to the west coast of Australia and then swung north toward Java and Batavia.

The exact spot is yet unknown, but from the ship's records, the latitude was 30 degrees 40 minutes, in the vicinity of Lancelin Island. The cargo is described as very rich with eight cash boxes containing guilders to a present day value of 100,000.00 pounds, ($200,000.00). She had an undisclosed number of silver ingots. Searches by two rescue vessels, the Falcon and Good Hope failed to locate the wreck, but a resident of Lancelin Island reported the discovery of traces of a wreck one mile from shore seven or eight years ago. The next recorded wreck was the Zuytdrop in 1712. With a fortune in silver coins, and 300 passengers for the Indies, the Zuytdrop left the Cape of Good Hope and vanished. Its fate and whereabouts remain a mystery after 200 years. In 1927, an overseer of a cattle station north of the Murchison River rode across to the desolate uninhabited coast. He noticed evidence of a shipwreck on a lonely beach amongst piles and heaps of driftwood. Returning to the beach over a period of years, he found 200 pieces of silver, a recognisable oak ship's figurehead, many buttons and pieces of glass and pottery and metal portions of an a ancient cannon. In 1954 a visiting geologist noticed the relics in the overseer's hut and became interested. Experts were consulted. They advised that from the metal composition of the coins and the structure of the figurehead, it was indeed the Zuytdorp which had vanished long ago. An expedition was organised and it was possible to enter the water and explore the reef from the beach and underwater caverns beneath it. More coins were found, bringing the total to 400 in all. The place in question is very inaccessible.

THE DAWSON FLOMATIC REGULATOR: By Clarrie Lawler. Sydney. The year is 1959, TV is black and white, music comes on a vinyl disc, but you won't get any Beatles, Bob Menzies was PM, phones were connected to the wall by a wire, computers were huge and only the Pentagon and Universities had them. The Holden new model, FJ was just due out with a waiting list of about a year and you paid for it in pounds, shillings and pence. The basic wage was about 18 quid ($36) for men but only 12 ($24) for those inferior workers, women. Picture a dive scene with no dive shops, or dive schools, in Australia it was difficult to get even a wet-suit. You could import one from the US or Europe at astronomical cost. BCs- never heard of them. The masks and fins, all imported, mostly from Italy or France were made of hard rubber. Imported regs and tanks cost the earth. They were mostly from America- US Divers - Aqualungs or from England - Siebe-Gorman. The big names in diving were Cousteau and Hans and Lotte Hass in movie documentaries, and Mike Nelson on TV. Their stories usually featured these exotic divers battling hordes of sharks or barracuda or nasty giant clams that held your foot forever! Mike Nelson usually battled baddies, after he had disposed of those dam shark. Australia was well placed to have more sharks per divers then anywhere else in the world. So anyone who went below the surface was surely a sharks dinner. But perversely spearfishermen seemed to survive and were plentiful around the rocks, hauling immense blue gropers on to the shore. As blue groper would be as hard to spear as a Jersey cow, quite a few were slaughtered in those early days. Well in 1959, being a lousy swimmer, I noticed how much easier it seemed to be with a mask to keep the water out of my nose and a snorkel to get air rather than water into my lungs. Plus the added benefit of fins to make up for my puny calf muscles. I became a spearfisherman. My father was appalled! A married man with two kids and I would soon be shark meal, I didn't see any sharks nor did I see many fish. What fish I did see I mostly missed. But it was good clean exercise in a wonderful environment. Then it happened. Snorkelling at Fairlight, near Manly, with a Museum Education Group led by a wonderful curator of things aquatic, Elizabeth Pope, I began to see the non-fishy things in the sea. A whole new world of the strangest creatures I ever imagined. Now the second big thing happened on the same day. A real live SCUBA DIVER  was there with Elizabeth. And he asked me if I would "Like a go?" I was into the gear in a flash and with the sole instruction " Don't hold your breath coming up, just keep breathing naturally all the time", off I went. I was hooked. I guess I was down about 15 minuted to a depth of about 6 metres. It was heaven, I was at the bottom of the sea. With Cousteau and Hans and Lotte, even Mike Nelson. That was it. Now to find out where I could buy the equipment and still have enough money to feed my family. There were no dive shops to sell gear, no real way to find out what was available. One sports store, Mick Simmonds had a little. Very expensive stuff but it was very secondary to golf clubs and tennis rackets. I am not sure now how I gathered information, but somehow I did. Or should I say we did. A small group of guys I worked with at CSR all engineers became interested in the mechanics of diving as well as a general interest in diving. We found that there were "back garage-made" single hose regulators available at a fraction of the cost of the fancy, mostly two-hose imported regs. The other important bit of equipment was the high pressure cylinder used to supply air to the regulator. Most of these too, were imported and again very expensive. There was one Australian manufacturer - Porpoise. They made equipment for the RAN and while it was cheaper than the US and European imports it was not cheap. Their cylinder was smaller than the US one, having a capacity 0f 40 cubic feet of air at 1800psi. (At this stage I apologies for using imperial measures, it is what I grew up with then and am now unfamiliar with the metric equivalents in this field). The US Divers cylinder was bigger, of 72 cu ft capacity at 2250psi. There was a third alternative that a lot of "poor" Aussies used and that was disposal store's ex-Air Force CO2 Cylinders. They were quite small, at 26 cu ft capacity at 1800psi, but sufficient for a 30 minute dive to moderate depths say 10 metres or so, which was about all we were intending to do in those very early days.So my first purchase was a Dawson FLOMATIC single-hose regulator. It was made, so I was told, by a Mr Dawson in a small workshop in his garden on the North Shore. It cost me 8 pounds ($16) nearly half a week's wages. In today's money around $400! I am flabbergasted as I write this knowing that a reg today could cost $1500.The FLOMATIC was a big heavy brass thing, the second stage weighing nearly half a kilo and about 10cm in diameter. What a drag it was on your mouth and teeth. The huge diaphragm was very sensitive to pressure/depth changes and had a tendency to free-flow on ascent. As well, the exhaust valve was of the soft rubber "duckbill" folded on to your chest and suddenly you couldn't exhale. This was almost as bad underwater as not being able to inhale.Another version was made, again in a backyard workshop somewhere in which the second stage was worn high on the chest with two corrugated hoses (as in a two-hose reg or vacuum cleaner) coming up to a mouthpiece. This addressed the problem of the weight hanging off your mouth but the chest was not the optimum area to locate the diaphragm. Head up vertical in the water it was fine but in other attitudes it was a real suck to get air or it was blowing at you in excess. I saw very few of these. The whole devise was so simple that some divers were making their own. In the very early days of the Underwater Research Group of NSW (which I later joined) quite a few members built their own regs.The first stage was a massive thing, machined out of solid brass which in the Dawson FLOMATIC weighed a kilo making the all up weight of this diving regulator one and a half kilos. You saved on lead weight I guess. I often pulled everything to pieces for cleaning and maintenance, which was relatively easy if you had the tools. Everybody had tools in those days, you often had to do the same with your car. Cars, motor mowers, washing machines and scuba regs, all had to be pulled apart sometimes for cleaning, adjusting or fixing. The saying that they don't make them like they used to is very true. Thank god they don't.The local Porpoise and the RAAF CO2 Cylinders had a threaded tap similar to the LPG cylinder used on barbies. The first stage had to be screwed on to this. And because of the high pressures involved and lack of an O-ring seals a hefty shifting spanner was needed to attach the reg without leaks. The standard yoke fitted, used universally nowadays was only available on American and some European cylinders. Getting geared up was just about a mechanic's job. No wonder women were a bit scarce in the dive scene in those early years.After a few dives I decided I wanted a pressure/content gauge that would tell me haw much air I had. I was not comfortable doodling around the seabed not really knowing when the air would run out. I ignored the advice from the then President of the URG that I just forget this. "You can just do an emergency free ascent", he suggested. I was only 31 and didn't feel like dying of an embolism just yet, so I bought a pressure gage from a Ship Chandler-where else? Then came the question, where do I attach it? My CSR engineer friends came to the rescue on this. Incidentally, they had bought pressure/contents gauge also. Into the workshop we went and Harry Tracey, my buddy diver then, made, again from a solid lump of brass a fitting to go on to the cylinder between the cylinder tap and the first stage. Harry put into this a take-off port for the gauge and of course another threaded spigot to which the first stage was screwed. The business end of the cylinder was beginning to look like a brass and chrome Christmas tree. And of course another 250g in weight added not including the hefty gauge itself. To say our first scuba gear was unwieldy was an understatement.I stayed with my Dawson FLOMATIC, eventually going in 1963 to twin Porpoise 40 cu ft cylinders. Oh boy, the weight! Next step was to ditch this set-up before I did myself a mischief and I splashed out 29 pounds ($60) on a US 72 cu ft cylinder with the wonder yoke fitting that you could assemble without a mighty shifting spanner. BUT!That meant back to Harry's workshop to manufacture, from brass again, a yoke conversion of my trusty Dawson FLOMATIC. Soon after this I had a dive with a friend's new US made SCUBAIR reg. AH! So that's what it was like to breath easily underwater. Bye bye FLOMATIC. I splashed another $60 on a SCUBAIR regulator. I still have the FLOMATIC, I don't think it works anymore. A bit like me in a way.

FIRST SKIN DIVING MAGAZINE IN AUSTRALIA: Sydney. Australian Skin diving Magazine has now achieved full national status. With sales in every state of the Commonwealth, as well as overseas. Skin diving Magazine is the first underwater magazine in Australia to divorce itself from a club or association and reach out to underwater men throughout the country.

Early Skindiving Magazine from the 1960s.

In five issues, it has grown to a 40 page national monthly and should stay at way. We say should, because a magazine is only as good as its contributors. In this issue, we have reprinted some material from overseas. We would have preferred an all Australian issue for our first 40 pages, contributions did not appear. Some club notes were late, some did not arrive. We want news, we want stories, and we want pictures. The size of future editions depends entirely on the size of contributions. Therefore, why not write that story, that anecdote, that paragraph now and be paid full magazine rates? Over the past couple of years the magazine has slowly grown from a news sheet to what is today. It has been hard work for its editor Jack Evans and those connected to the magazine.


HISTORY OF SCUBA DIVING MAGAZINE'S IN AUSTRALIA: Melbourne. In February of 1951 the Underwater Spear Fishermen's Association (USFA) produced its first magazine, Spearfishing News. With USFA secretary Jim Ferguson as editor, this publication consisted initially of six typewritten pages. Produced monthly, contained hints on spearfishing and equipment, information on rules, monthly and committee meetings, clubs, trophies and a Man of the Month section. Spearfishing News continued being produced by the committee every month until September of 1952 when it first appeared as a commercial publication of 24 A5 pages. After the first two issues, Jim Ferguson wasn't happy with the new format and reverted to a typewritten publication for the November issue. At the November committee meeting of the USFA Jim Ferguson was requested to outline his plan for the future of the magazine. As the committee wished to continue with a commercially printed publication, Jim Ferguson resigned and a magazine committee consisting of Edward Du Cros (Editor), Keith Vagg (Associate Editor) and Jeff Jackson (Advertising) was elected with the first issue being in December 1952 with a cover price of one shilling. The September 1953 issue saw a name change to the Australian Skin Diving & Spearfishing Digest and in November of 1953, Keith Vagg took the reins as Editor. Producing the magazine was a continuing struggle and in July of 1954 the production and editorial role for the magazine passed to Phil Knightly. In November of 1954 he was replaced with Richard Dreyfus, who worked in the Mirror office. By January of 1955 it was reported that the handling of the magazine was unsatisfactory and the services of Mr. Dreyfus were dispensed with. The Feb-March 1955 issue was produced by Dick Barton as temporary editor until September of 1955 when Ray Cooper became the editor. In August of 1956 John Thompson as the USFA's Business Manager took on the task of producing the magazine until October of 1960 when H.R.Smith & Biro with Bob Smith as editor, produced the magazine for the USF A. This commercial agreement did not work out and in March of 1961 the USFA again resumed control with a new editor and a new name. With Jack Evans as editor and the title Australian Skindive Magazine (ASM), production ran smoothly under his stewardship until he reluctantly relinquished his position as editor, due to overseas commitments. Jack Evans last magazine was the June/July 1969 issue. John Gillie was then appointed editor with the July/ August 1969 edition his first issue. It was another first for the ASM a coloured front cover. However by July of 1970 a financial storm was gathering with the USFA not being in the position of being able to pay the printers for the release of the June/July 1970 issue. When payments were recouped by advertisers, the July issue was belatedly released, this being the final issue of the ASM. During 1968 a new publication became available nationally with the title Diver Magazine. Consisting of 24 pages it was sponsored by Brisbane's Underwater Adventurers Club with the editor being Don Scheikowski. It appears to have been confined to just a single issue. This was followed in October of 1969 by Australian Diver, also with Don Scheikowski as editor. With a cover price of thirty cents and 24 pages of content it lasted for three monthly issues. In the latter half of 1970 the man who was to become the undisputed king of dive publishing in Australia introduced his first publication, Skindiving in Australia. Barry Andrewartha had developed a passion for skindiving after seeing a spearfisher in action while on holidays at Lome in 1954. The following year Barry began to spearfish and joined the Black Rock Underwater Group and two years later the USFA of Victoria, where he held a number of positions. Barry had served an apprenticeship in the printing industry as a compositor, and later formed a friendship with Jack Evans, the editor of ASM, and began assisting with its production, producing half tone printing plates and other items and on the way gaining much invaluable experience. Realising the ASM's demise was inevitable Barry planned to fill the void with Skindiving in Australia. Initially produced as a quarterly magazine it underwent several name changes in its 46 years of uninterrupted production. In October of 1978 Barry Andrewartha first published Dive News, on behalf of the Scuba Divers Federation. With Peter Stone as editor and a cover price of 20 cents this eight-page newspaper ran for three years until it was discontinued due to lack of support. Then in August of 1988, with David King as editor, Barry published the first issue of Dive Log. Initially a 20 page tabloid style newspaper, it was available free of charge each month through Dive Shops. It ran very successfully, but rising costs caused production to be discontinued with Dive Log available Online. Production of a printed issue was recommenced, being available through newsagents and is now a flagship publication incorporating Sport Diving. Then followed Scuba Business a trade journal that ran for four years. Barry introduced another tabloid newspaper during the summer of 1993/94 when Australian Freediving & Spearfishing News became available. In March 1998 with issue number 15 it was renamed International Freediving and Spearfishing News. It is still being produced to this day. In December of 1970 Fathom magazine appeared in newsagent's stands. Produced by Gareth Powell with John Harding as editor and Roy Bisson in charge of design, Fathom set new standards in production and design and continued for 10 issues until early 1973. Another magazine with the title of Australian Diver was produced in September 1976 by J. W. Publications, Springvale Victoria. Like its predecessor it was short lived. Neville Coleman published his first issue of Underwater in mid-1981. Introduced as a quarterly publication it initially consisted of 48 pages with a cover price of $2.50. In 1989 with issue number 25 the name was changed to Underwater Geographic. The magazine had grown to have 96 pages of content and the cover price was now $5.00. Also in 1981 another magazine catering for scuba divers had its beginnings when in December Chronicle Publications, with Anthony Newly as editor introduced The Scuba Diver, a bi-monthly publication of 56 pages with a cover price of $1.95. The l0th Anniversary issue dated Oct/Nov 1991 with Cassie Welsh as editor, and now produced by the Yaffa Publishing Group, was renamed Scuba Diver. In March/ April 1999 it became Australian Scuba Diver with Sue Crowe as editor. The Dec 2001/Jan 2002 issue heralded yet another name change, this being to Australasian Scuba Diver. The magazine now had 104 pages of content and with Michael Aw at the helm the magazine, was now being printed and published in Singapore. Described as 68 pages of spearfishing action, Spearfishing Downunder was introduced as a quarterly publication with Craig Barnett as editor/publisher in 2004. These periodicals and the many publications produced over time by clubs and state/national organisations etc, encapsulate the events of their time and provide a wonderful resource for historians, now and in the future. Every effort should be made for their preservation

BACK FROM A DEEP AQUALUNG DIVE TO 327 FEET: Sydney. An aqualung diver reached an Australian record depth of 327 feet (109 metres) off the Sydney coast on March 12, 1961, whilst testing a new breathing regulator. The dive broke the existing record by 90 feet (27 metres). The diver, Wally Reynolds, 25, is an ex-navy frogman. Reynolds made the dive about 12 miles off Newport, the nearest spot to Broken Bay where depths more than 300 feet (90 metres) are found. Some Sydney skin divers said Reynolds had only a fifty-fifty chance of making the dive alive. The world record depth achieved by an aqualung diver is 400 feet (98 metres) and is jointly held by a Frenchman and an American, both dead. Asked last night whether he intended to claim his dive as an Australian record, Reynolds said: "No. If I do, somebody will try to beat it and he will possibly lose his life. I intended to dive 300 feet (90 metres) and I reached that distance, but later it was found that the marker on the rope was incorrect, and that I had gone down a further 27 feet (9 metres)." "It took me two minutes to dive the distance from the trawler. When I reached a depth of 300 feet (90 metres) I had to sign a card with an underwater pencil to let them know on the trawler that I was OK. Reynolds used a compressed air mixture and apparatus recently invented by T. D. Preece and Co. (Sea-Hornet Diving Equipment). T. D. Preece is one of our leading manufactures of scuba diving and spear fishing equipment in Australia. Ted Preece is a pioneer of the sport dating back to when equipment was unavailable in Australia. This was the catalyst that started Ted on the road to manufacturing underwater breathing equipment and spear guns for the sport.

WRECK OF BATAVIA DISCOVERED ON THE ABROLHOS ISLANDS: Perth. Another month, another wreck discovered. Hard on the heels of the discovery of what may prove to be the remains of the Gilt Dragon, came the news that a party of Geraldton USFA skin divers have discovered wreckage of what appears to be Western Australia's most historic and elusive wreck Batavia. The Batavia went down in 1629 on the Abrolhos Islands, with a cargo of 250,000 guilders and other treasures. Congratulations to Max and Graham Cramer and Greg Allen also to their many co-helpers for the discovery of the Batavia wreck. The Batavia was on her maiden voyage from Amsterdam to the East Indies. She was the flag ship of three vessels that left Holland on October 1628. Among the many trade goods she carried were 12 chests of silver coins worth 250,000 guilders, a quantity of jewellery valued at 58,000 guilders, wrought silver, and many valuable works of art. The voyage across the wide expanse of the Indian Ocean was uneventful until they reached the deserted rocky coast of Western Australia. Unbeknown to most on board a mutinous plot had developed where the supercargo, Jeronimus Cornelisz, the pilot and some officers were to seize the ship, dispose of those who were not in league with them and set sail to engage in piracy and plunder. When the Batavia ran aground, 250 people on board managed to reach the islands and 40 were drowned in the attempt. When captain Ariaen Jacobez left in a small boat with a crew of 46 to reach Batavia for help, he left behind one of the most disastrous events in Dutch maritime history. Over the next few months the conspirators raped and killed 125 people, plundered the wreck and plotted to capture the rescue vessel and take off as pirates leaving the survivors behind to perish. When the rescue ship Sardam returned, the mutineers were rounded up, placed on trial and executed. Two of the conspirators were sentenced to be marooned on mainland Australia and were cast ashore near the Murchison River. The fate of these men was never known. It's interesting to note that many years later when Western Australia was being settled there were reports that some Aboriginals had blue eyes and lighter skins. A fascinating speculation to this story is that the Aboriginals may have been descendants of the two men left behind.

BEN CROPP RECEIVES HONOUR: Brisbane. The 1964 International Underwater Film Festival to be held at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Los Angeles, USA, on February 14-15. A well-known Australian diver will receive top honours. Ben Cropp has announced that he will fly to the USA to be presented with an International Award as 1963 Underwater Photographer of the Year. He will spend extra time on a lecture tour exhibiting his 16 mm film and photos. Ben Cropp will join the magic circle with Cousteau (France) 1957, Boren (USA) 1958, Hans Hass (Germany) 1959, Marden (USA) and Rebikoff (France) 1960, De Sanctis (Italy) 1961, McNeely and Church (USA) 1962. This film festival is an impressive event that attracts over 5,000 people from the diving, motion picture and TV industries.

Ben Cropp's award brings Australia to the forefront in underwater techniques and is one of the greatest honours ever bestowed on an Australian scuba diver.

Ben Cropp's award brings Australia to the forefront in underwater techniques and is one of the greatest honours ever bestowed on an Australian scuba diver. The festival awards are based on the quantity and quality of published photos in overseas and Australian magazines, newspapers and TV news. Ben will take with him two new colour spectacular movies which incorporate the slaughter of 12 grey nurse sharks at Seal Rocks. It stars Van Laman, up and coming Australian Ladies Spear fishing champion. Ben had announced wedding plans with Van Laman for February 8 but has postponed the happy event until his return in May.


WRECK OF THE GUILT DRAGON-REDISCOVERED: Perth. Alan Robinson is convinced the wreck is that of the Gilt Dragon. Alan, along with fellow skin divers John Cowen, Jim Henderson, George Brenzi, Denis Bennett, Maurie Hammond and Hugh Edwards, raised several ivory tusks, stamped coins and pottery from wreck Alan discovered six years ago. If the wreckage is that of the Gilt Dragon, then these divers will have ended a colourful hunt for the contents the ship's bulging holds. The Gilt Dragon or Golden Drake, the actual name is still not clear, sailed from Holland on April 28, 1656 for the East Indies carrying bullion in payment for spices. The ship had fair sailing under its Captain, Peter Albertz, but he did not know he had been carried hundreds of miles off course by a southerly current. The first civilisation knew of the wreck was when, on June 7, 1657 a long boat was sighted entering Batavia Harbour with seven half-starved survivors. They told of how 120 of the 195 crew members perished and that the ship went down with eight chests containing 600 guilders and several silver ingots valued now at 95,000 pounds. Sixty-eight survivors landed on shore but died from exposure and starvation. A rescue fleet was led astray (some say) because the Captain wanted to return when the heat was off to collect the loot for himself. So began the hunt that was to cause heartbreak and despair for many treasure seekers. Most persistent of the would-be wealthy treasure seekers was Alfred Burt. In 1873, he discovered a ring of white stones close to the sea near of Geraldton. After returning to town, he read of treasure being located, 60 miles south of a ring of white stones. Almost 84 years old, he made several unsuccessful attempts to relocate the circle of stones. He even sent a trooper out to search for the sign. It was 1890 before the Gilt Dragon again came into the news. A Mr. J. Regan found a broken mast embedded in rock north of Moore River where giant jagged volcanic steeples of rock guard any treasure found. This was also the case in 1939, when the wreck was thought to be a few fathoms under the sea at either Rottnest Island or Lancelin Island. at the mouth of the Moore River. The Moore River area became the centre of attention in 1937 when the human skeleton of a white man was found there. Half mile away 23 pieces of hard white metal with a stamped inscription and 12 coins dated from 1618 to l645 were found. In 1954, just south of Shark Bay geologist, Phillip Playford. discovered old wreckage on a rocky strip of coast. He was a man who did not give up easily. He, with friends, struggled into crevices with waves washing around their shoulders. They explored subterranean caves and searched fruitlessly for the treasure they thought was there. Another hunter, Mr. Ressing, a Dutchman, announced in 1956 that the rescue captain falsified the log book to hide the location, and that he knew the exact area. He put it at 1 mile north of Cape Leschenault, which is six miles north of the mouth of the Moore River. He said it lay in water shallow enough for surface diving. The following year, Alan Robinson first found the wreck that he hopes contains the elusive wealth. He discovered it while skin diving with Bruce Phillips. Since then, he has searched for six years to relocated it. So ends another phase in the fruitless search for the Gilt Dragon, the Dutch mystery ship.

TENSION OVER TREASURE IN THE WEST: Perth. Although most clubs in Western Australia remain neutral over the controversial claim by divers on the Gilt Dragon wreck, many individual scuba divers are taking sides in the dispute. A bitter flare-up among Western Australian wreck explorers about who discovered the 307 year-old wreck of the Dutch treasure ship the Gilt Dragon caused two rival groups to make independent claims with the Commonwealth Receiver of Wrecks and with the Dutch Government as the wreck lies beyond the territorial limit of three miles. One group comprises journalist Jim Henderson, his sons Graham, and Alan of Mt. Pleasant, Western Australia and John Cowen a publishing representative. On the other salesman, Alan Robinson. Robinson has withdrawn from the original syndicate and is now diving the wreck on his own in competition with the other members of the original group. Robinson claims that it is the same wreck he discovered six years ago. “It is my wreck,” he said recently, “and nobody is going to steal it away from me”. Bruce Phillips, a university student who dived with Alan Robinson over the wreck at Ledge Point near Perth, said, "After what I saw I am convinced it is the same wreck Alan and I saw in July 1957. The first view I had of the wreck in 1957 was one section of it. I saw another section of it yesterday but I am convinced that it is the same wreck". In September of 1957, Alan Robinson made headline news around Australia. He claims that he and student Bruce Phillips had found a wreck 150 feet long with 14 cannons pointing skywards". The hull, he said, still retained its shape but was covered by coral and weed and was inaccessible. De Veiguie De Drake, the Gilt Dragon a Dutch treasure ship, was wrecked during heavy seas on the night of April 28, 1656, on an unknown reef or island off the Western Australian coast The ship's record states that the latitude was 30 degrees 40 minutes, and is believed to have been on Lancelin Island, near Perth. The cargo as described as very rich. As well as eight boxes containing guilders to the present value of 100,000 pounds she also had an undisclosed quantity of silver ingots. The skipper of the fishing boat Marion from which Robinson and Phillips made their find is still fishing in the Moore River, Ledge Point area today. Also accompanying them was another fisherman, Graham Fletcher. After the announcement that the fabulous Gilt Dragon had been found was flashed around the world, the tiny town of Lancelin in Western Australia became packed with news reporters, photographers, and sightseers, all eager to view the centuries old wreck. It was a week later before weather allowed divers to enter the water. Robinson took a team of diving journalists to a spot south of Ledge Point and showed them cylindrical formations on the reef resembling cannons, but they were found to be rock when an attempt was made to saw through them. "I saw no wreck", said diving writer, Jack Sue, "but only three spirals of coral 3 feet (1 metre) high, exactly like natural coral formations I have seen before". Later Robinson said that the position of the wreck was, "lost, because the fisherman on whom I relied to take bearings could not find his way back there". This is the crux of the present argument. Robinson claims that the ancient galleon first sighted by student Graham Henderson (15 years old) on Easter Sunday this year, is his 1957 wreck rediscovered. Jim Henderson, Cowen, Brenzi, and Bennett expressed their disbelief that this was the wreck Robinson found in 1957 and say that this one is on a different reef from the one Robinson pointed out in 1957. Three points are raised by the present syndicate in support of their argument that this wreck could not have been found in 1957. There is no resemblance between Robinson's 1957 description and the 1963 wreck believed to be the Gilt Dragon. None of the cannons on the 1963 wreck point skyward (though one leans against the mouth of an underwater cave). There is no shape of the ship remaining after 334 years. The 1963 discovery was made when a party of underwater fishermen went to the present reef to hunt jewfish on the advice of Ledge Point cray processor, Roy Green who told them that jewies were thick down there. The party consisted of Robinson, Jim Henderson, and his two sons Graham, (15) Allan (19) and John Cowen. In some tumbled rocks, young Graham Henderson found a group of mysterious bricks and something he thought to be the prow of a dinghy. He wrestled it free with the assistance of Cowen and together they swam the object back to the boat where Robinson, who had not entered the water at this stage, was sitting. It proved to be an elephant's tusk and further inspection showed that reef grown mounds were cannons and anchors of an old sailing ship, the long lost Gilt Dragon, they believed. Later Robinson, Henderson, and Cowen agreed to become partners in the wreck. Trouble developed when Robinson later insisted that this was the wreck he had found in 1957, and that the others were trying to take it away from him. Recent charges that pirates were dynamiting the area where the wreck was located were headline news in Western Australia. It has been learnt that certain reef formations were exploded in an attempt to locate part of the treasure. Meanwhile just who is the legal discoverer of the wreck of the Gilt Dragon and what has become of more than 100,000 pounds remains a question.

GILT DRAGON TREASURE MAY BE BURIED IN SAND HILLS: Perth. A Perth syndicate has spent thousands of pounds, (Dollars) in excavating a cavernous pit in a sand-hill searching for eight chests of coins. The chests are believed to have been moved from the ship after it became wrecked on the Western Australia coast on April 28, 1656. This latest development in the search for the fabulous Gilt Dragon treasure was sparked off by a yellowing piece of parchment said to have been drawn by a member of the Gilt Dragon crew, showing the cache of coins at the lonely cray fishing settlement of Green Head, ten miles north of Jurien Bay. The Dutch Royal Archives have confirmed that when it left Holland, the Gilt Dragon was carrying 78,000 guilders. The treasure hunt which strangely resembles the story of Long John Silver and company, began eight weeks ago with a pick and shovel wielded by Frank Moore and his son, Kevin, who are in charge of the excavation. Utmost secrecy has surrounded the excavation, which subsequently resorted to dynamite then a big drag line excavator, brought secretly from Perth. At present the pit is 30 yards (27 metres) in diameter at the top and narrows to a hole 21 feet (7 metres) long and nine feet (3 metres) wide at the bottom. On the northern side of the hole, at a depth of 45 feet (15 metres) just below sea level is a cave. Mr Moore believes that the treasure is buried in the sand near the mouth of the cave. A party put it there, he said, from the Gilt Dragon. In 300 years, the wind and the waves have covered the site with an 80 foot (25 metres) sand hill. In his caravan a few yards from the edge of the pit, Mr Moore told the story of the parchment and the treasure hunt. He said, "Many years ago I had befriended an old Dutchman whom I knew only as Harry. He was grateful for the way we looked after him during an illness. One day he took me aside and said. I have something to show you that no one else has ever seen. He showed me an old piece of parchment and told me it was a map indicating exactly where chests of coins from the Gilt Dragon were buried in a cave on a Western Australian beach. I was sceptical, but he convinced me that he was a direct descendant of one of the men who had sailed on the Gilt Dragon. He said that the map handed down from generation to generation until finally it came into his hands. I examined the map, it was obviously very old, and it seemed genuine. Several years ago, the two of us followed the directions on the map until we came to the sand hill near Dynamite Bay. We decided that this must be the spot. In front of my eyes he burnt the map, saying no one else has ever seen this and no one will. Later he died. I have been back here once or twice but have not been able until now to obtain financial support to tackle the job properly. The job has been more difficult than we expected, that is why we had to bring in the heavy equipment. We are running short of money again, but I am so confident that we will find the treasure that if I had 5,000 pounds (10,000 dollars) to invest in the search now, I would have no hesitation in spending it to look for the treasure. Sand from the prospecting area is spreading toward the township of Green Head and the hole will have to he filled in soon. The Gilt Dragon had 193 crew, but only 75 reached the shore alive. The two rescue ships that sailed from Batavia found no trace of either the Gilt Dragon or the survivors on shore. In 1963, the remains of an old Dutch ship were found further south at Ledge Point. It gave up some of its cargo including coins, bricks, and elephant tusks. It was thought to be the Gilt Dragon but has not yet been positively identified. Skin divers engaged in salvage work on the site of the wreck disagreed on some points and this was reported in a recent newspaper. The present search seems to be yet another chapter in to the already incredible hunt for the treasure trove of the Gilt Dragon, where the treasure is as elusive as its legendary name sake believe in the near future that the mystery will be solved one way or another. Buried treasure has always captured the imagine of men throughout the centuries, with little luck of discovery. I think that the Gilt Dragon is one of those fables where the promise of riches is just a dream, however the real treasure lies in the discovery of what it was like living in the past many centuries ago, the every day existence, the tools used, household utensils, personal belongings and the like, that's the real treasure.

WRECK OF THE BIRCHGROVE PARK: Sydney. After talking about searching for the wreck of the Birchgrove Park for some time along with Ken Bateman and about the use of an echo sounder, I (Wally Gibbins) finally set off to try to locate it. As the weekend weather had been generally unsuitable, we decided to play hooky from work and chose a particularly good day in the middle of the week. We approached the last known position of the Birchgrove Park, then switched on the echo sounder, and began a sweep of the area. After some time, a blip appeared on the graph, and with some backing and circling, we got a firm echo that showed that something was on the sea floor beneath us. We dropped an anchor attached to a buoy over the spot and with the boat drifting nearby, Ken and I donned our diving equipment and leaped into the water. We were both very jubilant at having found a wreck and decided that we would have to attempt to locate either the name or some object to   prove its identity. Ken swam over and identified the funnel markings as being that of the Birchgrove Park whilst I battled to free the anchor. Unfortunately at this point we both started to run out of air and switched on to our reserve air supply. We abandoned the anchor and shot up toward the surface, and after sufficient time had passed hanging on the line to complete our decompression, we boarded our boat and headed for home, leaving the buoy marking the location of the wreck.

Only a few relics were brought to the surface, namely the chronometer housing and compass.

It was Saturday before we could get back again, this time in our small diving boat. Mal Saunders and Ian Frost from South Australia, accompanied us, along with Allan Power with his camera and Pat Burgess a Sun newspaper reporter. Allan Power had the most important job to perform, taking the first underwater pictures of the wreck of the Birchgrove Park. We gave him a very fast and bumpy trip out nursing his precious camera equipment like a bottle of nitro. He threatened to become quite unmanageable when I accidentally knocked the reflector off his flash unit in the scramble to don our gear. I found that he became quite calm when I sat on his head, and after making the necessary repairs on the spot, he beat a hasty retreat into the water and down to the wreck. The ship is practically still intact, with no signs of any damage other than a few bent plates on the stern quarter, probably where she first hit the bottom. It lies on its side, with the mast facing out to sea, toward Sydney. The sandy bottom that surrounds it has a few pieces of wreckage scattered around that have come loose in the years since it sank. With our depth gauges, we registered 150 feet (45 metres) of water at the highest part of the wreck. Allan started taking photographs of us individually and in groups gathered around the propeller blades, under the railings and around the funnel and of other parts of the wreck that could be identified. We found a few wobbies lying in the ventilators and around the wheelhouse. A small grey nurse shark moved out from under the stern and continued to hang around the forward mast. Only a few relics were brought to the surface, namely the chronometer housing and compass. We decided not to take any other parts from the wreck. It was much more interesting to see these things on the sea floor than to have them hanging on the lounge room wall at home. We have been reluctant to pass on the location of this wreck to other divers, as we feel sure some irresponsible people would soon start blowing what remains of the wreck to pieces in an endeavour to line their pockets, thus spoiling what is a unique diving attraction. There is no appreciable amount of metal that can be salvaged on the Birchgrove Park, and the propeller is cast iron. Perhaps it will be left intact when finally the wrecks exact location becomes common knowledge. I suspect that in a short time the Birchgrove Park will become popular with many scuba divers.

DEEP DIVE RECORD 17 YEAR OLD GIRL TO 320 FEET: Sydney. On Sunday, September 6, 1964, a pretty young 17 year-old girl, Kathy Trout. accomplished a very deep dive and created a deep diving record for women in Australia. Kathy had previously done practice dives to depths in excess of 200 feet (60 metres). Clad in a full wet suit and wearing a Healthways cylinder with a Scuba-Air regulators, Kathy followed Wally Reynolds down the shot line. At around the 250 feet (75 metres) mark narcosis hit but she kept going. Kathy stated she could not remember much after that. The shot line finished at 300 feet (90 metres) but she began to pass it. Wally Reynolds grabbed her and started her on the return journey and she accomplished it in a determined way hand over hand up the shot line.

Kathy Trout dived to 90 metres to claim a deep diving record.

From the boat bubbles could be seen boiling on the surface a fair distance astern, and everyone felt rather tense until both heads bobbed into view. Exhausted and trembling after her ordeal, Kathy was helped aboard, she said, at one stage she thought she would never see the surface again, but after a Bex powder and a short rest she was again her usual bright self. This sort of dive is definitely taboo unless properly organised by someone with Wally Reynolds knowledge and experience it would probably prove fatal.


HUMAN REMAINS FOUND ON DUNBAR WRECK: Sydney. Four weeks after recovering the sheet anchor from the wreck of the Dunbar, the same divers were back again to retrieve the only cannon remaining in good condition at the wreck site. No visible outline of the ship exists today other than ballast blocks of all sizes, heaps of rusted chain, iron beams and bars, broken pieces of china, a surprising number of door hinges, nails from the ship's decking and two rather large and rusted bow anchors. All manners of odd things litter the area, making it a real scavenger's paradise. After twenty minutes of fossilising under ledges and in crevices, turning over small parts of the wreck that lay scattered here and there, one of the divers made an amazing discovery among some small rocks. Partly concealed under rock and wreckage, covered in pitch that had leaked from broken casks when the Dunbar hit the rocks was what appeared to be a human bone. Ted McCulla, one of the divers, chipped around the bone with a chisel and hammer, then working it loose with a pinch bar, detached it from the rest of the pitch. We could hardly believe our eyes. This was a human bone.

Denis Robinson and Renee Byron with an arm bone found on the wreck of the Dunbar.

Having a closer look we could see others still embedded in the black tar that had covered them for the last 109 years. There was a great deal of excitement amongst the three of us, Ted McCulla, Denis Robinson and I (Tom Byron). It was an interesting and rare discovery. We had two successes that day. One, the recovery of a deck cannon, the other, finding what we believed were human remains from one of the most disastrous wrecks along the east coast of Australia. Two days later Dr. Wallace C. Brown, BSc. Osteopathic Physician, identified the bone as a human radius bone from the right forearm of a youth aged about 15 to 20 years or of an adult with a short forearm. A shipping historian said, after the discovery, “Two factors make such a finding surprising the breaking up of the ship during the actual sinking and the strong currents around the wreck site, which have even moved big boulders on to the wreckage in rough seas. “One would have thought that any human remains would have been washed away long ago. “It is true, however, that no positive count and identification of the victims bodies were possible at the time of this most tragic wreck”.


Snippets of our History. Sydney. The October 1962 issue of Australian Skindivers Magazine announced the formation of a new dive club, South Pacific Divers Club. On 17 September 1962, Dennis Robinson was elected the first president, Robert Scott Secretary, Allen Moule Treasurer and miss Sylvia Sandier (now Adam) First Aid Officer. Other early members included Tom and Renee Byron, Peter and Joan Harper (Riley), John, Jill and Dave Allen and Bob Smith. (Sylvia, Renee and Joan were known as "The Water Hens"). The report in the magazine went on to describe the club's first dive at Clontarf to find a lung (tank and reg) which had been lost by a member in 96 feet (28 Metres) of water. This was the first of many club activities, both underwater and above. Other activities included cave diving, rapid riding, skydiving, jumping in the Kiama Blow hole, wreck and ice diving. Our founding members pioneered dive sites such as Kiama Blow hole, Friars Cave, Bushrangers Bay, The Peak off Maroubra, Whale Beach Cave and Crocodile Head at Jervis Bay. Individual members also discovered Ship Rock, the Undola wreck and the Annie M. Miller wreck. Away trips included Blue Lakes of Mount Gambier, Piccaninny Ponds, The Shaft and Ewen Ponds. Members met every Friday night to fill tanks and decide where to dive on the weekend. Some of the diving done around this time was at the limits of sport diving. Deep dives to over 200 feet (60 metres) were carried out to investigate the effects of nitrogen narcosis. Ron Taylor recorded these dives for posterity. In September 1963 club members, including Joan Riley, recorded a dive to the depth of 241 feet (74 metres). In March 1970 Dennis Robinson recorded a depth of 340 feet (104 metres) at The Peak off Maroubra, Sydney. The original design of the club's emblem was red and white divers flag with a shark superimposed on it. In 1978, when the decision was made to replace the red/white flag with the current blue/white "Alpha" flag, Gary Graf of the club produced several designs for an emblem. After considering alternate designs of the blue/white flag with a shark or a manta, the club chose the current emblem, which consists of an underwater photographer swimming through the flag. The club's first film night and photographic competition dates back to 1963, ran the very first photographic competition and since then photography has become one of the many interests of the club members. Some early South Pacific members were pioneers in the underwater photography field. The original Australasian South Pacific Divers Underwater Photographic Competition was held in 1971 and conducted by Tom Byron. Medal winners included Valerie Taylor, Steve Parish, Richard Taylor and Glen Millott took out the title and collected the prize money of $70.

SHARK ATTACK AT SOUTH WEST ROCKS: South West Rocks. On December 27, 1966, an early news flash was broadcast through all radio stations in Australia that a shark viciously attacked a young man Robert Lustard of Sydney, while diving with two companions, attractive underwater model Maria Martin, and Shane Samuels. The attack took place at Trial Bay, South West Rocks. On the morning of December 27, at approximately 7.30am Robert, Maria, and I (Shane Samuels) jumped into the calm water on the seaward side of the breakwater that extends out from old Trial Bay Gaol. Visibility was about 30 metres and I was pleased because I had my Nikonos camera with me and anticipated taking some good shots. All three of us were in high spirits because conditions generally were extra good, and we looked forward to a good breakfast of fresh fish later in the morning. We dived continuously for about one and a half hours in 10 to 15 metres of water. Maria and Bob were both scuba diving and I was voted bagman, received their catches of niggers, bream, and groper. Maria was diving about 6 metres from the breakwater and Bob a few yards further out. I was on the seaward side another 20 metres from where Bob was diving and we were in the process of making a slow left turn, to round the point. Below me was a ledge of reef about 15 metres deep, which dropped away to a sandy bottom at 20 metres. While making this gradual turn I spotted a good sized parrot fish between 13 to 18 kg off to my right and just coming onto the reef from the sand below. It was then I noted a dark, shape coming in from the seaward side and immediately I forgot the parrot fish and concentrated on the shape that was beginning to become clear. I held my breath, a shark. It was a big shark. It passed beneath gracefully without any movement of its sleek body. Suddenly with a whip of its tail it shot forward, and accelerated like a rocket. Before I realised what was happening, I heard a terrible scream I could see Bob's eyes bulging through his goggles as he let out terrifying screams and pleas for help.

Attractive underwater model Maria Martin at South West Rocks.

I immediately swam over to Bob and as I looked I could see the jaws of the shark clamped onto Bob's right thigh. I could see also that its teeth were deep into his flesh. I fired my gun into the side of the shark but for fear of hitting my friend, I could not place the spear into its head. I could see that my companion was losing his strength fast. His mouth moved in convulsions with agonising pain and the weight of the shark began pulling him further underwater and possibly drowning him. I could see that Bob did not have the energy to surface. I rammed my empty spear gun into the shark's eyes, and kept ramming and ramming. Then suddenly the shark's jaws opened and I thought it was going to take another bite. Immediately the shark opened its jaws blood began staining the water around us. Our lungs bursting and with heads beginning to spin I surfaced with Bob. Blood was pouring from his wound as we reached the beach and I was thankful the shark did not attack again. Bob was taken to the Kempsey Hospital and his condition reported as satisfactory within a day or so. Though the memory of that terrible incident is still in his mind and he carries marks from razor sharp teeth, Robert Lustard, is still a keen scuba diver.

DISCOVERY OF THE DUTCH SHIPWRECK BATAVIA: Perth. In about the year 1959 a woman historian who grew up in Western Australia, Henrietta Drake Brockman, theorised that the generally believed position of the yet undiscovered Dutch shipwreck Batavia, was in fact wrong. Her simple theory was that the latitude of the ship's ancient log went through the Wallabi Group of islands instead of the southern Pelsaert Islands. Also survivors of the Batavia wreck ate kangaroos or cats, as they called them, and these animals only live in the Wallabi Group. The survivors also discovered water, which is only found on the Wallabi Islands. They could also see the Great Southland (Australia) from the wreck site. From the Pelsart Islands, the Australian mainland cannot be seen, and there is no water or kangaroos on any of the southern island group. She printed these theories in an Australian magazine called "Walkabout" and it was from this magazine that a young diver from Geraldton, Max Cramer gained the idea that she may be right and that he should start to look for the wreck of Batavia on coral reefs around the Wallabi Group. After some forward planning and organising Max along with his brother Graham and another diver Greg Allan set out to find the Batavia. They were dropped off on an island by a carrier boat that does a supply run from Geraldton. Max had spent many week-ends on these islands in past years so it was no real problem to load their equipment onto the boat and off load it again. Four families lived on the island, but it was not the one Henrietta Drake had theorised. She said, that the Batavia was wrecked on Moon Reef. It had to have a beach and reef attached because the log of the Batavia said a minister was made sit on a beach for 14 days without food or water. The beginning of winter had set in and things were reasonably miserable. Max and his small party had to camp under a tarpaulin and they had just enough food for three or four days. Max knew a family living on one of the islands, and started to do some digging in their back yard, to try to locate trinkets or coins from the wreck. He had a fair idea that this was not where the wreck of Batavia took place. Whilst they were digging and sieving coral through a makeshift sieve one of the residents of the island asked Max what they were doing. He said they were looking for the Batavia wreck. The group was not having much success and a friend of Max's suggested that if they wanted to have some action they should go over to the neighbour's clothesline, because when he was digging a hole for the clothes post he disturbed a human skeleton. As 125 people had been murdered, a short time after the Batavia became a wreck they thought it was an ideal opportunity to do something different so they worked their way across to the neighbour's clothes line. The occupier was out fishing and it was an ordinary post stuck in the ground. Digging around the base, within seconds the trio uncovered a human skull. It was in first class condition and they excavated a little deeper in order to see if the skeleton had been laid out as a European burial or was a native buried in a sitting position. Maybe the body was thrown in a grave like someone who had been murdered, someone suggested. Within a few seconds, Max found a piece of the rib cage and attached to one of the ribs was a lead musket ball folded completely around a rib bone proving the man had been shot at close range. They were looking for the remains of survivors who had been murdered 334 years ago and they were certainly on an island where people had been slaughtered. The day progressed with some excitement. They dug up the rest of the skeleton to find it still had a leather purse and in the hip pocket were two copper coins. They were fascinated that the person had been murdered but money had not been taken. The man who owned the clothes line came home and asked what they were doing. Max explained to him that it was possible that this area was Batavia's grave yard. He also mentioned that the next morning they were going to the outer edge of the reef looking for any signs of wreckage. This reef was attached to the island where they camped and was another requirement in finding the Batavia. The ship's log said that the villain Jeronimus Cornelisz fell off the boat and was able to walk ashore, so they needed an area of coral reef that adjoined the island. Another fishermen living nearby, unbeknownst to Max Cramer, had found anchors and bronze cannons in a hole at the back of Morning Reef three years before. This man came to their camp site and asked them what they would do if they discovered the Batavia. Max told him they were looking for it on the reef next morning. The fisherman then knew very well that they would not need a lot of luck to find the wreck. He would then not be in the position to say he had found it first, and would not gain much by saying he knew it was there all the time. They told him they were keen to build a museum in Geraldton because that other expeditions shipped all findings back to Perth and placed them in a warehouse where they were lost to the public.

Artist impression of Batavia sinking off the coast of Geraldton.

The people of Geraldton were fascinated by shipwrecks, and they were not given the opportunity to see any pieces of wreckage that were brought up on expeditions. Geraldton cray fishermen had played a huge part in transporting the museum people out to the island, looking after them, bringing water, food supplies and mail, yet the people of Geraldton were completely ignored. This is something that has stuck in the gullet of Max Cramer for a long time. So with the likely discovery of the Batavia it was important that everything should remain in Geraldton. At that stage the city had no museum but the anticipated discovery of this fantastic treasure trove was almost a legend in the city. It was well known that whoever found the Batavia would probably find the treasure. The cray fisherman came back to their camp site after tea and said, "What would you say if I told you that I have already found the Batavia?" Max Cramer had heard whispers that there was a person on the island who found some cannons which were huge and had handles and were green with bronze erosion. Max, Graham and Greg could hardly believe what they were hearing. The fisherman said the cannons were in a trough or hole outside Morning Reef, and he had found them years ago. After some discussion about the wreck, Max suggested it should remain in Geraldton. The fisherman then said, he would transport them to the site in the morning. The next day they were taken to one of two small coral inlets on the reef. The fisherman told them he was not sure which inlet the wreck was situated in and as the boat swirled around to head off to the second inlet, Max caught a glimpse of a large square block that appeared to be man mad. Slipping on his flippers and mask he slid over the side and there in clear waters right before his very eyes lay the shipwreck of Batavia. Six or more beautiful bronze cannons with ornate handles lay on the side of the reef where they had tumbled off the deck of Batavia as she sank beneath the sea over three hundred years ago. The square stones Maxhad first seen were no ordinary stones, they were the façades of a building being taken to Jakarta for the Dutch East India Company. Ten days after the discovery of Batavia the first cannon was winched out of the water. A knob at the rear of the gun was then detached. A wire was inserted and withdrew some material that looked like powder. Dried in the sun and set alight, it burned with the smell of sulphur after three hundred and thirty forty years to the day.

Max Cramer with an Astrolabe off the wreck of Batavia.

Max Cramer said at the time he was reluctant to tell the story but he spoke to the ABC, and in a short time, it was world headlines. He then wanted to sell his story to the newspapers but the media were not interested. Many people said they had only found a cannon and not the wreck, and they were accused of all sorts of misdeeds. Just before Max and his team discovered the Batavia, the Gilt Dragon and one or two other Dutch wrecks had been discovered and publicised. People were a little tired of reading about Dutch shipwrecks. The newspapers had paid for an expedition to the Zeewijk they had bought the Gilt Dragon story and they did not really want the Batavia article. Later there was a major expedition with some 15 or 20 scuba divers, they were able to pick up four of the brass cannons and also found a large amount of coins and a mariner's Astrolabe, that was later valued at twenty five thousand dollars. Max Cramer said after the wreck had been salvaged that he supplied the Fremantle Museum with more shipwreck items than most people and his name does not appear on any of these items. The museum was told by Parliament to give more credit to the people who found the items and to date they have not done what they were instructed to do. Max also said that on another expedition to the Batavia, the Navy, who supplied a vessel refused to unload the cannons and took them, and the people of Geraldton had not seen the two cannons. There is one in the Fremantle Museum and the Navy took the second one. There was no way Max would have invited the Navy if he knew they were going to help themselves to two bronze cannons worth a million dollars each.


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PRIME MINISTER HAROLD HOLT LOST AT SEA: Canberra. The Prime Minister of Australia and Patron of the Australian Underwater Federation, Mr. Harold Holt was lost at sea on Sunday, December 17, whilst swimming near his favourite location. Senior representatives of the AUF led by the founder of the Skin diving Association in Australia, Mr Dick Charles, assembled in Melbourne on December 22, to pay their respect at the memorial service at St. Pauls Cathedral and to recognise the unselfish patronage that Harold Holt, The Skin diver, gave to the Federation of Australia. The Australian Underwater Federation, on behalf of all the Skin diving Clubs and members, extend their deepest respects to those bereaved by the tragic death of Mr. Harold Holt.

Searching for Prime Minister Harold Holt.

The service was the final act in a week of high drama, which began with Mr. Holt's decision to take an early morning swim in the surf near his holiday home at Portsea, Victoria. He went down to Cheviot Beach with a friend, Mrs. Winton Gillespie, and Alan Stewart, director of the Portsea Quarantine Station. Mr. Holt plunged into the surf. He was a fitness fanatic and a keen spear fisherman and it was typical of him to be undaunted by the boiling surf. The waves became violent and boiled up into a fury. After this, there was no sign of him. Mr Holt was Prime Minister of Australia for just 692 days. His body was not found. Mrs. Gillespie told of his disappearance, "I think he must have got to the stage where he tried to stand up and there was nothing. He seemed to be going out rapidly and yet he was still swimming happily. Suddenly I had the most terrible feeling, and said, Come back, come back". “As we watched the waves became violent and boiled up into a fury. After this, there was not a sign. It was like a leaf being taken out. It was quick and final”. After Mr. Stewart raised the alarm a full-scale search, using helicopters and navy divers was mounted, but was abandoned after three days. Mrs. Holt, a distressed figure, visited the beach and thanked the searchers for their efforts.

DISCOVERY OF AUSTRALIAN CRUISER HMAS PERTH: Adelaide. The Bantenese fishermen never cease to amaze me the way they can drop on to a wreck with visual bearings. Over the years I (Dave Burchell) had enough experience at it to know just how difficult this can be, where the slightest error can mean your ending up hundreds of yards off target, especially when the cross bearings are a mountain or a headland twenty miles away. To these chaps it is a piece of cake, even without a depth sounder. Full of confidence they manoeuvred their dugouts to the spot where they said a large shipwreck was lying on the bottom of the sea. After about half an hour battling with currents, the wreck was hooked with one of my spare weights attached to a thin nylon line and when all was ready I went over the side of the tender, detached from our much larger boat, Aries. The current had increased to an estimated five knots and as hard as I tried, I could not pull down against it. The thin nylon line kept slipping through my hands and finally. I was forced to give up, I could not even get under the surface. Winded, I hung on to the side of the tender and talked the situation over with John my offsider. He suggested we leave it and come back in the morning when the current should be less, but I was all for trying again with a thicker rope. At that moment the weight of the loaded dinghy proved too much for the light line, and with a "twang" it parted. The tender took off heading down Sunda Strait with the Aries, in hot pursuit. By the time we arrived back over the wreck, everyone was sick of the deal. I had to badger the fishermen to try again as I was anxious to identify the wrecked ship which I felt was another freighter so that we could leave it and work more to the west, where I thought the battleships Perth and Houston lay. After some trouble manoeuvring, the fishermen again hooked the wreck, this time using a half-inch diameter rope and a ten-pound shot. The day was very hot, and even under water it wasn't much better. The sea was warm and thick with the porridge like plankton sticking to the rope, making it slippery against my rubber gloves. At about 45 metres, schooling fish started to appear, and I knew I was nearly there.

The HMAS Perth.

The fish, which were grey, with yellow backs and tails were about eighteen inches long and hung in thick clouds. I stopped to check my instruments and make a routine survey. All was well and I start again, cautiously, eyes probing ahead and around for signs of the wreck. For a while there was nothing, then from out of the grey mist a ship started to take shape under me. At first it was just a confused pattern of steel plates and rivets, and I could not form a mental picture of how she was lying. Moving on, I realised the ship was on her port side and that the weight at the end of the line must have caught on something beyond her. The visibility was improving and was now more than twenty feet and I could make out the shape of her propeller with the rope leading straight to it. This was better than I had hoped, once on the propeller it should be easy enough to find hand holds to work back to the hull. The last few feet were like a nightmare. I could not get closer to the propeller no matter how hard I pulled against the current, and was just about worn out by the time I moved in behind the protection of the huge blade. After a while, I stood up on the drive shaft and inspected the propeller. It was larger than the one on the freighter we had found earlier in the morning, with the blades more clover shaped. Taking hold of the edge, I peered out into the current immediately springing back in haste and almost losing my footing. There was a shark pack gilding along in line astern making straight for me. They were heart stoppers and I do not mind admitting that the sight of them chilled me to the marrow. Pressing back against the blade of the propeller, I watched as they circled, counting them. There were six, and each one looked lean and fast and had cold swivelling eyes. I reckoned that I was safe enough where I was, but I could not stay there. The only escape from the sharks seemed to be the rope stretching away into the fog across the hull. It looked open and unprotected, and after first checking my air supply, I looked quickly around for possible alternatives. It was then, almost at the limit of the visibility, that I saw the second propeller. I experienced a chill far more sudden and severe than that brought on by the sight of the sharks. This was no freighter. Twin propellers on the starboard side could mean only one thing. This was a four screwed ship, a warship, and the only warships in the area were the Perth and Houston. For a moment my mind was numbed and, crouching down on the shaft, I stared at the metal without really seeing it, rubbing at it with my hand and blinking in disbelief. It was all too quick to comprehend. I was like a boxer who had mentally conditioned himself for a hard, fifteen round bout, only to find that he had won by a knock out in the first. As my mind cleared, there came a feeling of almost overpowering awe at the knowledge of where I was, together with a strong sensation of trespass that made me doubt my right to be there. But this was a natural reaction, and I knew that if I was going to finish the job this psychological hurdle had to be overcome like any other problem. I looked again at the drive shaft, this time seeing it in detail. Which one was she? The question seemed to leap at me.

The HMAS Perth as she is today at the bottom of Sunda Strait.

Was this the Perth's outer starboard prop I was on, or was it one of the older, but larger Houston's? I had to know the answer. A check of my air supply and instruments show I had another ten minutes. With luck, there was time. My attitude towards the shark pack had now changed. Having found one of the two battleships I was looking for somehow gave me courage. The sharks were the intruders, not I, and by the time I was ready to move, I had worked up hatred against them. To reach the hull I had to cover three metres or so of open water. I waited for a break in their picket line and leapt across. Unfortunately, one of the sharks had got out of sequence in its circling, and as I sprang from behind the protection of the blade, we very nearly collided. My Karate-like yell was a hundred per cent fright, despite my new found courage, but it served its purpose and the shark nearly slipped a disc in its effort to avoid contact. Working slowly up the hull, using anything I could find for hand holds against the current, I noticed the sharks interest was much less aggressive, and by the time I had reached the deck line they had disappeared altogether. Grasping the edge of the deck, I peered through the porridge like sea at the superstructure. It was eerie, ghostlike in its stillness, and difficult to identify. Although realising that because of its size and complexity a quick identification may not be possible, I started to move aft in the hope of finding something specific. Without any real purpose in mind I looked upwards and, for the third time that morning, I froze. Above me, like two dark outstretched arms, were the guns. I knew the Perth's guns were twin fifteen centimetres and that the Houston had triple twenty centimetres. From where I was I could only see two, but there may have been a third beyond my field of visibility. Working farther aft until I considered the angle was right, I pushed off upwards from the deck and, by swimming hard across the current just managed to rugby tackle the starboard barrel as I was swept past. For a moment or two I lay there, catching my breath, then I worked my way along the barrel to the muzzle. The bore was almost choked with coral, and I remember that as I looked inside the barrel a small blue fish popped out. Measuring the bore against the back of my hand confirmed what I think I already knew. It was fifteen centimetres. I had found the HMAS Perth.

DEATH OF TWO SCUBA DIVERS IN MOUNT GAMBIER SINK HOLE: Mount Gambier. The death of two scuba divers who lost their lives while diving in Kilsby's Water Hole at Moorak Mount Gambier on April 6, was due to misadventure caused by their lack of experience and insufficient training, the Coroner Mrs. P. V. Willoughby, J P. said yesterday. The scuba divers who died were Patrick John McEntee, 18, apprentice carpenter of Edward Street, Cumberland Park and Patrick Naisbit, 18, typewriter mechanic of Ailsa Street, Fullarton. The inquest into their deaths was held at Mount Gambier on May 26 and 27. The Coroner found that the cause of death was air embolism. The lack of correct decompression caused both the deceased to suffer fits, during which they removed their face masks and air hoses. Death was caused by the impact of cold water entering their throats. The Coroner said that in the hope of preventing further underwater fatalities of this nature, she would like to add some words of caution for the benefit of members and the potential members of underwater sports. All accidents in water are potentially fatal. It is important to remember that a diver is responsible for his own safety and must be disciplined and trained to recognise and avoid hazards. The best method of achieving this is to become a member of a recognised association to be adequately trained by qualified and experienced instructors. "Divers must be prepared to achieve proficiency and to realise their limitations. Above all they must adhere to the rules and regulations set out for the benefit and safety of all members of clubs whether they are novices or experienced divers", the Coroner said. “I strongly recommend all clubs who participate in any underwater activities at all to review their rules, regulations, training and disciplinary methods to bring them in line with the Australian Underwater Federation which is associated with the World Underwater Federation, which includes most of the countries of the world. "These clubs, I believe, base their constitution on the rules and regulations laid down by their respective navies, who conduct research into all aspects of possible improvements in underwater safety". “It is also desirable that every member of every club keeps an up to date log book with a record of all personal activities and that these log books are examined regularly by an experienced, responsible officer of the club. “I believe there is a log book available to any club which is willing to affiliate with the Australian Underwater Federation. "The purpose of these log books is to keep an accurate record of individual progress regarding training and to keep the standard of proficiency as uniform as possible throughout all clubs”. In a finding that covered nearly six pages of typed foolscap paper, the Coroner made the following comments. "They had entered the water at approximately 12.00 pm, to engage in deep water diving activities wearing diving equipment except divers watches". “It is essential for a diver to wear such a watch as it is the only accurate indication he has of the duration of a dive. This enable him to calculate his bottom time and rate of decompression. “Before entering the water, they had declared their intention of exceeding the 54 meters they had dived on the previous Saturday. “I am satisfied they had insufficient experience to dive beyond 12 to 15 meters. “I am also satisfied that a warning, although not a strong one, was given to them before entering the water. They should have been satisfied with their previous dive of 54 meters. “Their diving equipment appeared fairly new and in good condition although the life jackets they wore were not suitable for deep dives in excess of 42 meters and is not the type divers usually use for deep dives. “Both the deceased also wore very heavy weight belts, which appears to have been a great mistake on their part. Apparently, weight belts should not be used at all when making deep dives as the addition of weights would greatly increase the physical energy required to swim to the surface “I believe the divers were on their way to the surface when they had trouble that led to their deaths at approximately 42 meters. It has been established that they met their deaths 10 to 15 minutes after diving from the surface of the water hole. “From the evidence, I am satisfied there was sufficient air in their cylinders to ascend to the surface”, the Coroner said in her final findings.

END OF AN ERA:  Sydney. Many Australian Skin diving Magazine readers will know that Jack Evans, editor for the past eight years, has reluctantly resigned his position due to overseas commitments. Jack took over and lifted the magazine, known as the “Australian Skin Diving and Spear Fishing Digest” from its low format then to the high standard it has today. He helped in establishing the Australian Spear Fishing Magazine, as the official journal of the Australian Underwater Federation, (AUF). During this time, Jack built quite a reputation as an underwater fisherman, and crowned all by winning a State Title not long ago. On behalf of all divers in Australia, Jack, the USFA of New South Wales and committee wishes you all the best in your travels, and sincere thanks for all the effort you have put into the magazine over the years.

THE CERTIFICATION OF DIVING INSTRUCTORS: Sydney. The Australian Underwater Federation has been concerned for some years with the certification of scuba diving instructors. Since training schemes are run by clubs and private groups, there is a need for an acceptable standard among all diving schools. An examination of existing overseas certification schemes was made by the Federal Scuba Division in 1965. It was decided then that schemes in place are not suitable to meet Australian needs. As a stop-gap measure, the minimum standards for scuba instruction were introduced to give a lead on the Federation's policy on to scuba training of divers. It would now seem an appropriate time for Australia to consider a more comprehensive scheme with dive training in every state. In Britain, the National Underwater Instructors Association (NUIA) has recently become operational in the development of a scheme after examination of other national schemes. It overcame the objectionable feature of most other national associations of diving instructors, where some dive certifications are not recognised by other organisations.

UNDERWATER INSTRUCTORS FORM AUSTRALIAN FEDERATION FAUI:  Melbourne. The number of diving fatalities in Australia has been rising slowly as more people take up the sport. This situation is made worse by the amateur, and at times downright wrong instruction that is available to beginners. It may be cheap to learn from a mate, but in scuba diving it may be fatal. There are also some shoddy instructors operating commercial schools, and these are an embarrassment to the majority of schools run by competent instructors. To try to stamp out the problem that these bad instructors cause, reputable underwater instructors have banded together to form the FEDERATION OF AUSTRALIAN UNDERWATER INSTRUCTORS (FAUI). FAUI has appointed Mr. Peter Cullen, the current Australian Open Scuba Champion, as its first director. Peter, Cullen's extensive experience as a diver and as an administrator made him a logical choice for this position. Until this year, when he resigned, Cullen was the Scuba Chairman of the Australian Underwater Federation, and a member of the CMAS, the World Underwater Federation.

SOUTH PACIFIC DIVERS CLUB INTENDS TO HOLD ANNUAL UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHIC COMPETITION: Sydney. A committee, led by Tom Byron, has been formed to operate a South Pacific Divers Annual Underwater Photographic Competition. The competition will be held once a year and will be open to underwater photographers living in Australia. There will be two classes.

SEAWEED IN DEMAND: Tasmania. Tasmania has been asked if it can supply Japan with 1.000 tonnes of dried, edible seaweed a year. Tasmanian shores contain one of the most sought after varieties of edible seaweed. So far, no accurate assessment has been made of whether sufficient may be found to fulfil the order, as the 1,000 tonnes represents 7,000 tonnes of wet seaweed. The inquiry resulted from discussions held by the 1963 Tasmanian Trade mission when in Japan. If carried out, the order would supply Japan with one quarter of her seaweed requirements per year.

FIRST TV PROGRAM FOR SCUBA DIVERS IN AUSTRALIA: Sydney. For the first time in this country a TV program aimed at scuba divers hosted by a diver, will be telecast at 11.30 am on TCN9, each Saturday morning. The program called "Focus on Skin diving" is the first regular TV series aimed at promoting scuba diving. Wally Reynolds who hosts the program gives up-to-date contest results, with special film and photographs of current activities. Wally also invites a special guest to his show each week. There is also the USFA with Ron Taylor's interesting TV six minutes instructional telecast on ABC 2 on October 30, November 6 and November 13. These two productions will no doubt help the sport gain popularity and give the public a better understanding of scuba diving. It will also enlighten people to the undersea world. More importantly it will be of extreme interest to those already involved in the sport, and inject a much needed boost to an exciting new pastime that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

WHAT A BAD YEAR IN SYDNEY:  Sydney. This year saw the closing down of Barnes Scuba Services in North Sydney, the loss of the British Sub Aqua Club and the Tiki Club. Also there is an almost complete lack of interest in aqualung diving in the Eastern Suburbs. So much so that if the present drift continues the whole of Sydney may soon rely on spare time operators for air supply. Coinciding with the slump in new divers and sales of equipment there has been increased publicity about shark hunting. There is a campaign against surfing by one individual who claims to take scoop pictures of big sharks in amongst surfers. General shark publicity by newspapers and numerous magazines helps nobody but manufacturers of power heads and the egos of a few underwater scuba divers. The time has come to attract newcomers back into the sport and it can be done in a positive way. We must make it more attractive for new scuba divers divers to enter the sport. There must be more club activity weekends away, day outings, attractive club meetings with entertainment and friendship.

RIDE ON A WHALE’S BACK: Montague Island. George Meyer and Ben Cropp were out at Montague Island checking over the shark gutters for grey nurse sharks. They dived into one where they had before found about 15 a few days ago. It was completely empty. Then they headed around to another haunt of the elusive grey nurse shark situated at the southern end of the island. As they sped along the front of Montague Island, George yelled, "Look out, a shark ahead!" They cut the motor quickly and glided right on top of the biggest shark ever seen. The boat missed the great shark by barely a foot as he dived underneath our craft. We felt terribly disappointed as it has been our ambition for many years to meet a big whale shark, and here we had run over one. Luck was with them. The shark surfaced 50 yards (16 metres) away and Ben quickly grabbed his 16 mm movie camera and jumped overboard as George took over the motor. He swam toward the great bulk and the monster turned to face him. His bulbous head measured more than six feet (2 metres). He slowly passed within a few feet of Ben and it seemed to take ages for the camera to pan along the full length of the body. Ben Cropp estimated the length at somewhere between 30 feet (10 metres).

RARE BLACK CORAL FOUND: Whitsunday Islands. A rare black coral tree was found near Dent Island, 86 kilometres from Mackay in North Queensland. Bill Wallace, proprietor of "Coral Art" on Dent Island, found the coral in 28 metres of water some 40 kilometres off the island. It is generally found in 51 metres of water near Hawaii. It was first discovered there in 1958, and is used in making jewellery and rings. Besides this unusual black coral Bill Wallace has found several unclassified varieties in the same area. Thousands of tourists from island resorts and Great Barrier Reef launch cruises visit Dent Island each year. The exquisite coral souvenirs sold at the island are dived for by Mr. Wallace and, after cleaning treatment, are tinted with artists oils by his wife. Besides their local market, the Wallace's have sent coral art orders to many parts of the world, including Moscow, the United States, Iceland, Finland, China, England, Germany, Sudan, France, Estonia, and India.

NEW SEA HORNET ALUMINUM CYLINDER:  Sydney. T. D. Preece Pty Ltd, of Manly Vale announced an all new, Australian Sea Hornet cylinder and aqualung with top efficiency and an accent on safety. Apart from the excellent finish that adds class to the unit and equals any of the high-priced overseas jobs, Sea Hornet claims extra features such as new ease of breathing, long high pressure hose ensuring unencumbered movement, simplicity of design, ease of maintenance, rugged construction, corrosion resistant material and finishes, quick release safety belt and zinc sprayed cylinder. The safety reserve model adds an extra seven minutes breathing at 30 feet, (10 metres) manufacturers claim. They also add that at only 30 lbs weight, a girl can wear it without strain.

SCUBA TANKS NOW FOR HIRE ON HERON ISLAND:  Heron Island. From June scuba diving cylinders will be available for hire at Heron Island, but only to persons conversant with the use of aqualungs. The equipment will comprise standard American 72 cf. cylinders with all fittings except demand valves, which must be provided by the diver. Cylinders are regularly tested as required by law, and compressed breathing air is now available at Heron Island. The island, being a true coral cay, is a resort favoured by skin divers from all over Australia. Its surrounding reefs are veritable wonderlands for those who want a "trout's eye view" of coral and marine life. All scuba divers are now welcome on the island. There is good accommodation, but the water supply is by rain only. Fresh water restrictions apply to all divers. Spear fishing is not allowed on reefs around Heron Island.

CHANNEL 9 PERTH SPEARFISHING AND SCUBA DIVING PROGRAM: Perth. Well-known Perth skin and scuba diver, Jack Sue, has a contract with Channel 9 Television Station at 5 pm, on Friday nights, in Perth for a half-hour show called "Down Under". The show has been going for a month with wonderful success. It looks as if this program with its different dive guests each week really opens up the sport to the public and may encourage young people to participate in scuba diving. With this show and the one in Sydney the sport of scuba diving should take off like a rocket in future. They are both very good programs and have a good following among young as well as older people.

FIRST SKINDIVING CONVENTION AT WHITSUNDAY ISLANDS: Whitsunday Islands. Hayman Island in the Whitsunday Islands will host the very first skin diving convention in that area of the Great Barrier Reef. Mutual Travel Services of Sydney have spared nothing in their endeavours to promote skin diving this year on Hayman Island. Besides all the superb arrangements detailed in their advertisement, Mutual Travel will provide in the all inclusive cost such added entertainment as a Mardi Gras Feast, Oriental Night and barbecue at Bill the Beachcomber's on Bali Hai. Underwater photographers will find clear water and can expect to see coral trout, sweet lip, red throat parrot fish and wrasse. Amongst the hundreds of beautiful and brightly coloured fish and marine creatures that abound on the reefs. Shell collectors may also expect good pickings, and can inspect the personal collections of Bill and Nina Wallace. The Wallaces, who live on Dent Island, are known the world over for their fine collection of seashells. All gear is supplied free of charge for those who wish to try their hand at big game fishing and scuba diving. The price is only 70 pounds ($140) from Sydney, including air fare and two weeks at the Skin diving Convention.

AUSTRALIAN SCUBA STANDARDS NEEDED: Melbourne. The need for a nationwide standard of diving proficiency is obvious to most persons connected with the diving world, whether they are spear fishermen or scuba divers. There are those in every state who set themselves up as diving instructors without any real qualifications. Many of these are proficient divers, but a few are just enthusiastic amateurs who, without any standards to guide them, are a danger to those who learn to dive with them. Every year someone dies using Scuba. Many of these lives are lost because of ignorance of the basic rules of diving, and some by faulty equipment. Most equipment on the Australian market today is of high quality, but some is not so reliable as one would expect. Eventually moves will be made to control the use of scuba. It is important that all states have a high standard of proficiency well ahead of the day that this move is made. Exactly what is a minimum requirement for an initial course is a contentious matter. If all states can get together and work out a minimum standard that is acceptable to all scuba divers, everyone will benefit from this move toward better training. Australia needs a controlling body of instructors similar to those in America and England where all instructors are trained under the one standard. Then each instructor can teach scuba diving without the problem of different methods of teaching. The Australian Underwater Federation must get all interested parties together and work out some sort of instructor level of teaching. It's for the interest of the sport and of Standards for diving is something we all need as soon as possible for the benefit of all divers whether they are spear fishermen or scuba divers.

LEARN SCUBA DIVING FOR 6 POUNDS (12 DOLLARS) A COURSE: Sydney. Greenbury School of Skin and Scuba Diving is one of Sydney's first schools to teach scuba diving, introducing people to the excitement of the wonderful underwater world. Individual attention in a private pool helps to instil confidence in every student. Each course includes instructional colour film screening, lecture notes and hire of scuba equipment. The school is organised by Ron and Gloria Greenbury, based at Beverly Hills in Sydney. They are two very capable people in the diving world. The course runs over a three week period and costs 6 pound ($12). This course is necessary for anyone thinking about scuba diving. It's run by divers for diver. There is not a great deal to learn and almost anyone is capable of picking up the sport and enjoying scuba diving.

BEN CROPP AND RON TAYLOR SCUBA DIVING COURSES: Sydney. Ben Cropp and Ron Taylor have taken over the Skin and Scuba Diving Course formerly run by Del and Dot Cantando, and organised by Mick Simmons Sports Store. The Cantandos have returned to America and now this popular diving course is under the chief instruction of Ben and Ron. Ben holds the Australian Scuba Championships and worked as a full time diving instructor for six months in Spain and the West Indies. Ron holds the Australian Underwater Fishing Championships and is the New South Wales Scuba Champion. The fee for the eight sessions is a very reasonable five pounds ($10) per person. This is cheap insurance and even less than what it would cost to hire an aqualung the same period of time. It's identical with the course run by the Y.M.C.A in the USA and should prove popular with Australians wanting to learn scuba diving.

FIRST BENDS VICTIM IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA: Perth. Early this month a skin diver slept in a steel cylinder at a simulated depth of 80 feet (26 metres) while doctors waited for a nitrogen bubble in his spine to dissolve. The diver, Max Shaw, 26, of Trigg Island was suffering from the "bends" because of a 220 feet (67 metres) dive. He was Perth Hospital's first case of the "bends". Shaw went out on a Sunday morning, with other divers, to take part in a deep about ten miles west of Fremantle. Soon after the dive, he felt ill, and his companions considered taking him back to the mainland for medical attention but he recovered and later went diving again. The next morning when Shaw awakened, he was paralysed from the hips to the feet. A newspaper delivery utility raced 150 miles to Perth Hospital with a chamber. When the unit arrived at the hospital a technician and the man who originally built the machine worked on it to test it under pressure and added a new valve to assure that it was operating safely and efficiently for Max Shaw. Meanwhile Royal Perth doctors were communication with diving doctors in Sydney over the telephone, and diving experts brought brought tables to the hospital. At 8 am Shaw was placed in the steel cylinder. Through a window, about 10 inches across doctors constantly studied the patient. It was established that a nitrogen bubble had developed in his spine. He recovered in hospital before being released and returned home. There is no mention of whether Max Shaw is going to return to the sport of scuba diving. The bends can effect any diver who diver too deep for too long the best advice is stay at a shallow depth. Bends are not new for divers, but in this country so far not many aqualung divers have been afflicted.

ZUYTDORP BULLION WELL GUARDED:  Perth. It seems that the huge rollers which have thundered in from the Indian Ocean to crash over the site of the wrecked Dutch treasure ship Zuytdorp for hundreds of years will continue to guard the remaining relics and treasure for some time yet. A proposal by a Perth group of skin divers headed by Alan Robinson of Dianella to salvage the wreck, with the group to retain 80 per cent of all bullion salvaged and the museum to gain the rest and all relics, has been rejected by the museum. The proposal includes the construction of a groyn around the wreck site. The Lands Department have gazetted a special reserve along a 2 kilometres strip of foreshore fronting the wreck site, extending back 39 metres from the low water mark. No one is allowed to enter the reserve without the permission of the Department. This announcement must have come as bad news to Alan Robinson who was in Geraldon days before, had said: “As far as I am concerned the Dutch treasure ship will be salvaged soon”. At the time, he was on his way to the wreck site to check with surveyors of the site.

TROUBLE BENEATH THE INDIAN OCEAN: Perth. Are fast moving wreck looters stripping century old wrecks off the coast of Western Australia in highly organised and daring raids and disposing of coinage on overseas markets? Yes, say some, and no, say others. Questions asked in the Legislative Council of Justice Minister Griffith gained the attention of many divers. Mr. L G Medcalf, MLC, asked whether Mr. Griffith knew of any cases of plundering. Mr. Griffith replied that at least one section of the Batavia had been stripped to the reef and some of the main timbers had vanished. A chest of bullion containing rix dollars and ducatons mentioned in Pelsart's Journal had recently been removed and many of the iron cannons used as mooring posts for fishing boats in the Abrolhos Islands. Last February, ballast bricks and coins from the wreck of the Gilt Dragon had been offered for sale in the public bar of the Yanchep Inn. Stating that the Government was determined to preserve historical wrecks in the public interest Mr. Griffith added that the acts had been mentioned and several others investigated. The British Shipping Act vested unclaimed wrecks in the Crown, Mr. Medcalf said, and added that in the reign of Queen Victoria the Imperial Parliament had passed legislation to this effect except where the Crown granted rights to another person. This probably still was applicable to wrecks on the Australian Continental Shelf and beyond. Under the Australian Navigation Act, the Commonwealth is entitled to all unclaimed wrecks found in Australia and these include territorial waters. The legislative Council told Mr. Medcalf that the Museum Act vested control of historical Western Australian wrecks in the Western Australian Museum. His suggested solution is for the state to confer with the commonwealth and together to approach the British Government to seek English legislation to specifically give the Western Australian Government power to control its historical wrecks. Meanwhile, he urged the Government to set up a division of marine archaeology to survey and keep watch on the wrecks. Mr. Medcalf mentioned the wreck of the Tryal of the Monte Bello Islands (1622), the Batavia near Beacon Island in the Abrolhos Group (1629), and the Gilt Dragon, south of Lancelin Island (1656). Perth journalist and skin diver, James Henderson, author of "The Curse Of The Gilt Dragon" believes that the present legal confusion aids wreck plunderers. “Legal opinions support the view that the new legislation before the Western Australian Parliament is just as likely to be proved as invalid as the existing Museum Act”, he said. He supports the move by Mr. Medcalf. That at present it is an open slater, a fast boat, a charge of explosive strategically placed, ten minutes work then back to the mainland with the plunder. No need to unload the boat just winch it up onto the boat trailer behind a four-wheel drive vehicle and away. Miles of desolate coastline to work from and the plunderers leave in their wake little trace apart from jagged remains of reef and historical debris. Gelignite has been used to rip open the remains of the Gilt Dragon at Lancelin and thousands of coins have been carted away. Other instances mentioned by divers show that the present legal situation does little to assist genuine divers who sign over wreck finds for posterity. This usually consists of reporting locations to authorities with a $2,000 bounty paid in some cases. The trouble is in policing the location, as invariably the ancient merchantmen are sunken near hundreds of miles of sand dune humped coastline dotted with scrub. Legislation in future may confiscate all artefacts taken.

DEEP OCEAN GARDENS AT 86 METRES BELOW SURFACE: South Australia. Three skin divers in search of oil made a voyage to the bottom of the sea in South Australia's deepest water recently, and found a large beautiful garden. They only had 3 minutes to enjoy the scene as they travelled 55 metres back to the surface. They faced three complications, the bends, air embolism and nitrogen narcosis. One of the divers, Dave Burchell, manager of the Adelaide Skin Diving Centre, said he believed it had been the deepest sea dive made in South Australian waters. With him, using self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, were R.C. Spligg, managing director of Geo-surveys Ltd, and D. von Sanden, operations manager for Geo-surveys. Because they were under contract looking for geological pointers to the presence of oil, the exact location of the dive is a secret. It was 96 kilometres off shore of south east South Australia, on the edge of the Continental shelf and Jeffrey Deep, one of the big deeps of the world. Mr Burchell said the men had made a warm up dive to 67 metres from Geo Surveys Ltd's research vessel Saod on Sunday last. They had gone down to what he believed was a record 85 metres for a 3 minute bounce dive and had surfaced without ill effects. “It was like a beautiful sponge and coral garden. There were schooling small fish on the bottom, rivers of white sand between patches of reefs, huge sea whips and delicate finger sponges”, Mr Burchell said. “I have not seen anything like it before. Deep-sea sponge gardens also exist along the eastern seaboard of Australia”. These are one of the most colourful and delicate gardens beneath the sea. In past years it was reported by aqualung divers that these sea gardens grow in very deep water.

WESTERN AUSTRALIAN WRECK HUNTERS HIT JACKPOT: Perth. Wreck hunting scuba divers along the Western Australian coastline have struck the jackpot with the discovery of the site of the wrecked Dutch treasure ship, Zuytdorp but they may be battling to cash in on their hard won find. The Zuytdorp was wrecked in 1712. This Dutch East Indies merchant ship sank 64 kilometres north of the mouth of the Murchison River. It was carrying a cargo of bullion, rix dollars, ducatons, pieces of eight, schellingen and 250,000 guilder to a total value of about $5 million by today's standard. The fate of any survivors is unknown, but remnants of old water casks have been found inland from the site. It's thought that some may have struggled ashore. There were rumours of blue eyed, fair haired Aboriginals in the area in bygone years and this points to the possibility that some of the crew and passengers may have got ashore. If they did they were dead lucky as this is one of the most dangerous places along the wreck strewn Western Australian coastline. The ship settled on the bottom and so did the treasure. The fate of the Zuytdorp remained unknown for hundreds of years until one day in 1927 when Mr. Tom Pepper, of Tamalia Station, found a ship's figurehead on a beach along with some other relics. In May of this year Perth skin diver Alan Robinson announced that he and a group had raised $10,000 towards an expedition to the site. This was when the fun started as his group was given permission and apparently was led to believe that salvage rights could be in the offering. The Western Australian Museum, which exercises control over all wrecks of major historical importance on behalf of the Crown, gave the permission to go ahead. This news attracted wide attention especially as the group envisaged running a flying fox arrangement from a nearby 61 meter cliff down to a diving platform in the sea.

This drawing shows how the expedition planned to salvage the wreck of Zuytdorp, which lay more than 30 miles north of Kalbarri on the west coast of Western Australia.

They were also going to erect wire mesh around the base of the cliff to enable divers to clamber from the sea in safety. Press artists gave their impressions of this arrangement and all were suitably impressed. Particularly impressed were six Geraldton skin divers, Tom Brady, Max and Graeme Cramer, Neil McLaughlan, Gordon Hancock and Eric Barker. They had searched for the wreck seven years earlier, found it in May 1964, notified the Museum of Wrecks and named Mr. Tom Pepper, of Tamalin Station as joint discoverer. Relics recovered from the wreck by the Geraldton group included three bronze deck canons which are displayed in Geraldton. An article relating to the find was published in the newspaper, The Geraldton Guardian. The site of the wreck lies in almost inaccessible country 241 kilometres north of Geraldton at the base of towering meter breakaway cliffs of jagged limestone. In May this year the Perth groups visited the site and after several members of the expedition were injured, the project was abandoned and all but Alan Robinson returned to Perth. The day after the rest of the expedition had left Robinson, sought the cooperation of a Kalbarri fisherman and had a go at the site from the sea. This attempt proved successful and he was reported to have seen “tons of silver coins” and indeed surfaced with more than 60 silver coins. This announcement touched off scenes reminiscent of early gold rush days in Geraldton as skin divers who had little idea of the terrain headed for the site. Eventually authorities became alarmed by unwitting members of the public rushing off into the wilds. Police were stationed near the never-never country leading to the wreck site to warn of the dangers of heading off without sufficient water, food, equipment and so on. Meanwhile Alan Robinson and his group announced they had plans to build a vast groyne out from the wreck site and that they envisaged blasting the nearby cliff face to obtain boulders of suitable size. They planned to spend $30,000. This was not received favourably in some quarters. The Premier of Western Australia, Mr. David Brand, spoke against this and shortly afterwards the Museum withdrew the permission it issued to the Perth group in May to remove relics during exploratory dives on the wreck. What is left of the treasure after all these years? Some say tons of silver and others just a few hundred weight. Who knows? Only time can tell, or will it? Perhaps the treasure was fated to remain unrecoverable.

ANCIENT WRECK FIND ON ABROLHOS ISLANDS: Perth. The remains of an ancient sailing vessel estimated to be more than 200 years old, has been discovered by skin divers in 3 metres of water off Gum Island in the southern group of the Abrolhos Islands. Divers found ivory elephant tusks, 15 iron canons heavily encrusted with marine growth, a ship's main anchor, part of a rudder fitting, lead, and evidence of pottery, glass, and copper were strewn along the sea-bed. The site of the discovery is about 3 kilometres north west of Gum Island on the main reef. Theories regarding the wreck and its origin vary but it's thought to be one of three vessels either Zeewyck, Aagtekere,or DeFortuyn although indications are that it is not likely to be the Zeewyck, as this ship was not carrying ivory. It was wrecked in 1727 near Gum Island and the crew salvaged most of the cargo and superstructure. The logbook of the Zeewyck mentions an earlier wreck and its remains, and it could well be that this is what the team has found. The Western Australian coastline is certainly proving to he a wreck hunter's paradise.

Contact me at: tombyronpublishers@hotmail.com

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Copyright 2016: Tom Byron. The Chronicle of Scuba Diving in Australia the First 70 Years - 1950 to 2019.