A JOURNEY THROUGH TIME

   

 

 

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


 

IMPORTANT DATES AND EVENTS

1955
During early 1955, tests were carried out on the new Porpoise units made by Ted Eldred and shortly afterwards they were ready for distribution.

In the following year or two there were many regulators made in Australia. One of the first homemade regulators was built by Michel Calluaud and Ted Baker.

J. Brooks of South Australia was the first scuba diving champion in this country. The event was held at Point Hinsdale, Victoria.

Ladies were admitted for the first time to the USFA meetings. Up until then it had been men only.

The Underwater Research Group of Sydney (URG) held its first scuba training school in September. The instructors were Bill Morgan and Dave Rawlings.

The Newcastle Underwater Research Group commenced a log book system for scuba divers. It was the first in Australia.

Ted Louie of Sydney invented Australia’s first multi-pronged spearhead. It was called Ted’s movie mangler. The spearhead became popular, and sold worldwide.

A World War Two Japanese plane which was catapulted from a mother submarine 121, on May 29, 1942 was discovered underwater near Pelican Point at Norah Head, New South Wales.

Denny Wells retired as Vice President of the Underwater Spear fishermen’s Association of New South Wales.

“Mad” Mick Shanghai of the Underwater Explorers Club was the first civilian to assist the New South Wales Police Rescue Squad.

This year saw a name change of the Association to the Underwater Skin divers and Fishermen’s Association of Australia.

1956
The first event of the Alliman Memorial Shield was held in 1956, at Palm Beach, Sydney, and was won by Dave Rowlings. There were 64 entries. It was an all day event in very rough conditions and rain.

1957
First divers to enter the world famous Kiama Blow hole, south of Sydney, were Keith White, Jack Mathisson, and Ron Clissold on Sunday, January 13.

First woman in Australia to free ascent from 75 feet (25 metres) was a Mrs. M. Gallaspie of the URG of New South Wales.

1958
Wreck of the SS Yongala was found in 1958, east of Cape Bowling Green, North Queensland, by divers Don McMillian and Noel Cook. The Yongala was located by the minesweeper HMAS Lachlan in 1947 but not identified as a wreck until 1958.

First course in oxy acetylene and oxy hydrogen cutting and welding underwater for amateur divers was held on May 17, by the URG of New South Wales, under the direction of Howard Couch.

First woman to become the Australian Scuba Champion was Caroline Giles, from Western Australia. She was 19 years of age. She won the championships against all comers.

1959
Harold Roberts won the Beau Beere Award for training the first Western Australian Police Diving Squad.

For the first time in Australia training began under the guidance of ex-RAN frogman Wally Reynolds. The object was to free dive to a depth of 100 feet (30 metres). Reynolds said it had been done before overseas, but not in Australia.

Ben Cropp was the first Australian spear fisherman to complete in the World Spear fishing Championships. They were held in Malta and Ben Cropp placed was 9th over all. He was a one-man team from Australia.

Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef held its first Annual Underwater Convention in November 1959.

The Shaft, a giant sink hole at Mt Gambier was explored by scuba divers for the first time during mid 1959.

Australians made “Porpoise regulators” were sold to an ever increasing number of divers in this country and exported overseas.

The sport of scuba diving and spear fishing are here to stay. Most of the early problems have now been solved.

1960
Edward du Cros wrote the first Australian book about the early history of skin diving in New South Wales.

In the early 1960s hundreds of underwater spear fishermen and scuba divers started to take out fishing licenses to collect abalone and the great rush was on to harvest this tasty shellfish for the overseas market.

1961
The only death so far in Australia from an exploding cylinder was on New Years Eve. Trevor Davies from Newcastle died in the explosion.

Foam rubber suits (neoprene) appeared on the market for the first time.

Retail shops opened in cities and suburbs throughout Australia specialising in spear fishing and scuba diving equipment.

A white pointer shark attacked Brian Rogers, South Australian spear fishing champion. Seized on the leg and hip and shaken with tremendous force, he survived the attack.

Wally Reynolds set a new deep diving record on March 12, he dived to a depth of 327 feet (99 metres) on compressed air.

Greenburg School of Scuba and Skin Diving was one of the first scuba schools in Sydney.

Mick Potter was the first scuba diver to discover the sink hole of Piccaninnie Ponds.

There are now twenty three air filling stations in New South Wales, three in the Northern Territory, one in Tasmania, three in Queensland, three in South Australia and fifteen in Victoria. No record is kept in Western Australia or the Australian Capitol Territory.

1962
On Sunday, December 10, sixteen year old Jeff Corner, South Australia Junior Spear fishing Champion was attacked and killed by a white pointer shark at Caracalinga Heads near Aldinga.

1963                                                Dave Burchell made a scuba dive to 215 feet (65 metres) to create a South Australian deep diving record.

1964
In July Del Fielding became the first woman to dive the deep wreck of the Birchgrove Park off Sydney.

Kathy Trout a 17 year old girl, became the first lady to dive to 303 feet (91 metres) and set a new deep diving record for women.

1965
Ron Taylor is the only one to win the Australian Spear fishing Titles 4 times in a row, 1962, 1963, 1964, and 1965.

Ron Taylor wins the World Spear fishing Championships in Tahiti, and is the first Australian to do so. Others team members were Peter Kemp, Wally Gibbons and George Davies. Overall in the World Championships Australia finished second.

1966
South Australian diver Dave Burchell conceives the idea of locating the HMAS Perth. He eventually dived on the wreck in Sunda Straits.

1967
Champion Underwater Fisherman Bob Bartle was attacked and bitten in half by a huge white pointer shark at Jurian Bay 155 miles north of Perth.

Dave Burchell of South Australia receives the British Empire medal for services to Scuba diving. Burchell discovered and dived upon the wreck of HMAS Perth single handed. In diving circles it is considered one of the most outstanding achievements in the history of the sport of scuba diving.

Valerie Taylor is the only woman so far to win the Ladies Spear fishing Championships three times in a row once in 1965, then again 1966 and 1967.

1968
The longest running dive school in Australia operated by its original, owners is Terrigal Diving School in New South Wales. It is run by Les and Fran Graham who started trading on the October Long Weekend Holiday 1968.

1969
The Scuba Divers Association of Australia was formed in this country because of a ban placed on spear fishing while scuba diving.

1970
The South Pacific Underwater Medical Society was formed in the early 1970s and its prime concern was pursuing the medical aspects of scuba diving.

1971
Project Stickybeak was started this year by Dr Douglas Walker and has continued ever since.

Dr Carl Edmonds was Foundation President of the South Pacific Underwater Medical Society.

Godfrey Bathurst introduced the PADI Instructor Program system into Australia for the first time.

The Federation of Australian Underwater Instructors (FAUI) was formed this year.

The first offshore dive charter services in New South Wales was started by Bill Sylvester of Byron Bay, made daily trips to Julian Rocks.

1972
First dive into Cocklebiddy Cave System took place when Ron Doughton and Dave Warnes led a group of divers to explore the cave.

First diver to die in Piccaninnie Ponds became lost and drowned in January.

In October three divers died in a small cave near Mount Gambier when it silted up, they then became lost.

Dr Carl Edmonds instructed the first Civilian Diving Medical Course in Australia.

1973
On May 28, 1973, Australia’s worst cave diving accident occurred in ”The Shaft”, a sink hole at Mount Gambier when four divers, one a girl, from the South Pacific Divers Club from Sydney, became lost inside the huge underground cave. Their bodies were recovered almost a year later. “The Shaft” was then closed to all divers for some time before it was reopened.

Fathom, a new skin diving magazine lasted only a short time. The magazine produced only ten issues and folded in 1973.

First report from Project Stickbeak was published in 1978 by Dr Walker who was chairman of the Medical Advisory Panel of the Australian Underwater Federation (AUF).

This year saw the first PADI Instructor Training Course held in Australia.

Australia’s first Underwater Symposium and Film Festival was held in Queensland called “Man in the Sea”, it was staged at the University of Queensland.

The Cave Divers Association had its inaugural meeting at Mount Gambier in September 1973. Its first President was Eddie Gertners and Vice President was Alan Day.

1974
Another cave diving accident at Mount Gambier occurred in December of 1974 at Piccaninnie Ponds where a diver drowned. His death made a total of 11 in the Mount Gambier area up until 1974.

The first Underwater Congress and Film Festival was held at Monash University on June 15, 1974. Attendance on that night was 200 divers. Those divers participating in Oceans’s were cinematographer Walt Deas, John Harding and Tom Byron. Still photographers were Steve Parish, John Butler, Igo Oak, Neville Coleman and Reg Lipson was master of ceremonies.

1975
Mike Ball organised the first “Inner Space” Congress and Film Festival in Queensland.

Igo Oak and his wife, from South Australia, were two of a small number of scuba divers, at the time, to survive an encounter with a huge white pointer shark, without being attacked. Igo swam with the shark for more than half an hour, the date April 12, 1975.

1976
The wreck of the Vennachar was discovered in 1976 by three South Australian divers, they were Terry Smith, Doug Seaton, and Brian Marneet. The discovery caused quite a stir in South Australian historical and diving circles.

Ocean Society of Australia first began on November 21, 1976, with an Ocean Film Night at Monash University’s Alexandria Theatre.

1977
First move to protect the grey nurse shark came from Valerie Taylor in a letter to the New South Wales State Fisheries in July 1977.

1978
First log book sold in Australia in large numbers were printed by the Scuba Divers Association.

The month of May saw the first all female dive tour leave Australia for Truk Lagoon. No men were allowed on the tour.

Victorians first charter boat built especially for scuba divers was launched on September 5, its name was Polperro.

A newspaper for divers called “Dive News” was printed this year, it was the first of its kind. Costing 20 cents, it was published by the Scuba Divers Federation of Australia.

A new insurance package was introduced to divers in December 1978. It covered loss of equipment, limbs, life, earnings and personal liability. It was called “Scuba Insurance” by the South British Insurance Company.

First Divers Medical Seminar held in South Australia was at Flinders Medical Centre on July 15. About 259 divers attended.

1979
The Capricornia Section of the Great Barrier Reef was declared a Marine Park on October 21, 1979. The park covers an area of 12,000 square kilometres of the southern part of the reef. It includes the reefs and shoals of the Capricorn and Bunker Group near Gladstone.

Hugh Morrison, Keith Dekker and Simon Jones with the help of six other divers established that Cocklebiddy cave system was the longest in the world. Their maximum distance then was 3 kilometres underwater and set a new world record for cave diving in Australia.

First official meeting of PADI in Australia took place at Bankstown Sports Club in Sydney on Tuesday, April 24

1980
Australian’s Great Barrier Reef was nominated for World Heritage Listing on September 14, 1980. Jointly by Prime Minister Fraser and the Queensland Premier Mr Joe Bjelke Peterson.

1981                                              Nancy Cummins became Australia’s first female Course Director.

1982
Paul Crocombe of Queensland was the second scuba diver to win the Australian Scuba Championships three times but not in a row. Once in 1982 then again in 1991 and 1992.

1983
Sue Docker was lost at sea for 3 days and night whilst competing in the Australian Fishing Championships. She went missing around the Capricorn and Bunker Group of islands off the Queensland coast and was washed ashore on a deserted island, exhausted thirsty and hungry. She wrote “Help” in the sand and was rescued by a helicopter.

Anthony Newly steps down as original editor of “Scuba Diver Magazine” in July 1983, just 18 months after he published his first magazine in December of 1981.

A world record was set in 1983 by Hugh Morrison with a penetration depth of 6249 metres into Cocklebiddy Cave underwater system.

1984                                      Queensland Charter Vessel Association (QCVA) mainly for scuba divers and fishermen commenced in early 1983.

Nancy Cummins became the first woman in Australia to be appointed an Instructor Examiner.

First regulator day trip to the outer barrier reef from Port Douglas for scuba divers and snorkellers started this year by Jim and Jo Wallace. The boat was named MV Quicksilver.

1985
The first Super Diver Award was won by Roy Gillespie of Western Australia.

A new newspaper devoted to scuba diving was released in December 1985, called “In Depth”, it catered only for New South Wales scuba divers.

1986
Peter Davidson in 1986 became NAUI’s first full time employee in Australia and its Chief Executive.

Dermot O’Flaherty of PADI received the first Water Safety Award for his outstanding record of contribution to the field of water safety and water sports.

The Australian Scuba Council was formed at Hobart in February. The participants were Terry Cummins (PADI), Steve Sinclair (FAUI), Phil Feldman (NAUI), Dermot O’Flaherty (PADI), and Hugh Morrison (FAUI).

Arnold Piccoli of Western Australia so far is the only scuba diver to win the Super Divers Award three times. First in 1986 then again in 1987, then next in 1992.

1987
Dermoty O’Flaherty director of PADI dies of cancer on January 29.

Bob Preece, pioneer diver and founder of T D Preece and Company manufacturer’s of scuba diving and spear fishing equipment, dies in January of a heart attack.

1988
First genuine report of a fatal shark attack on a scuba diver in Australia was Terry Gibson of South Australia in September. He was killed by a white pointer shark.

The official winding up of Oceans 87 Dive and Travel Show took place during the month of October. After a decade Oceans was transformed into Diving Industry Travel Association of Australia, (DITAA).

The Diving Industry and Travel Association of Australia (DITAA) was formed in the month of October. Its first board members were Paul Rosman, Barry Andrewartha, Alan Clark, Peter Gubb, Steve Sinclare and Terry Cummins. Among other things related to the industry the association holds the annual Dive and Travel Show.

1989
Scuba Schools International Australia Pty Ltd (SSD) commenced operations in Australia on January 1.

Alan Clarke retires as general manager of Tabata Australia on July 3 after 43 years in the diving and sporting goods industry.

1990
The first woman to win the Super Divers Award was Roseanna Pederson of New South Wales.

1991
The Federation of Australian Underwater Instructors (FAUI) changes its name to National Association of Scuba Diving Schools (NASDA) on July 1.

The first recreational Nitrox Gas facility in Australia was opened in Sydney at Fun Dive Centre, Stanmore, in September.

First Nitrox Gas dive by sport divers in Australia was held during November. The instructor was Rob Cason and students were Vic Newton, Pat Bowring, David Strike, Richard and Tracey Morgan, and Pamela Dilworth.

Perth Diving Academy ran Australia’s first CDAA Penetration Dive Course beneath the Nullarbor Plains this year.

1992                                                Jason McNally of Port Douglas became PADI’s youngest instructor aged 18. He past his Open Water Scuba Instructors OWSI exam on December 15.

Lady Elliot Island held its Scuba Festival in September and plans to continue the festival every year.

The oldest person in Australia to be taught scuba diving was Joel Mace aged 80, he was a former world record holder of the Sydney to Rio yacht race in 1982.

There are three women in Australia who are PADI Course Directors, they are Nancy Cummins, Jane Bowman, and Beverley Fontes.

Just after April 13, police in Victoria raided a number of private residence in Melbourne and confiscated a large amount of shipwreck artefacts plundered from numerous wrecks lying off the coast of Victoria. 

Queensland's first female Course Director was Beverley Fontes.

The first lAND Technical or Advance Nitrox Course in Australia was held in Sydney during the October long weekend.

New South Wales diver George Szutgowski aged 34 set a record for breathing under water without a regulator, straight from a scuba cylinder valve at a depth of 50 metres, on July 14, at Terrigal. George was on the wreck of the Galava when he set the record.

Ron and Val Taylor were awarded the Australian Geographic Adventurer of the Year award.

1993                                                The oldest active dive club in Australia is the Underwater Research Group (URG) of Sydney. It was founded in 1953. It is now 40 years old.

First Nitrox Instructor course in Victoria was held in Melbourne on May 15 and 16. The three instructors were Roy Gosper, Peter Kafrauni and Graham Petrie.

Scuba Schools International (SSI) introduce into Australia a special "Divers Card" for those who have logged 1000 dives, and the real veterans who claim to have logged 5000 dives.

The first fatal Tasmanian white pointer shark attack occurred on June 5, at a seal colony off Barrenjoey 10th Island. The victim was scuba diver Theresa Cartwright, aged 34.

Another fatal white pointer shark attack was at Byron Bay, on June 9, just four days after the Tasmanian attack. The victim this time was John Ford, aged 31. It occurred at Julian Rocks, Byron Bay.

1994                                                First Australian Nitrox Instructors were David Apperley, Phil Cooney, Pamela Dilworth, Mick Lynch and Richard Taylor, the course was held in March, 1994.

Trinderbox Marine Reserve is to be Tasmania's first underwater trail and dive zone.

Pioneer diver and author Edward Du Cros passed away on May 8 this year. Edward was the author of the book, "Skindiving in Australia", published in the early 1960s. He also wrote many articles about underwater fishing and scuba diving in the early days of skin diving in this country.

The Victorian Sub-aqua Group is 40 years old this year. The first meeting was held at the Railway Building in Melbourne in June 1954.

Exmouth District High School in Western Australia is developing a Marine and Dive Studies Unit. The program includes, History of Diving, Maintenance of Equipment, Snorkelling, Aquatic Physics and a number of other subjects involving the sea.

A revolutionary new Australian invention to hit the underwater scene is a computer that allows a diver to access information whilst underwater.

Brisbane Waters Aqualung Club is 35 years old this year. The club was started on April 24, 1959. The first meeting was held at the home of Dick Burford who became its first President.

Victoria's first IANTD FANx Technical Instructor Course was held at Melbourne Diving Services this year.

Dive Australia announced the appointment of its first woman President in its 10 year history. Her name, Christine Deacon, well known in diving circles and co owner of Dive 2000.


 

 

THE BEGINNING OF AMATEUR SPORT SCUBA DIVING IN AUSTRALIA

 

As you read through the pages of this web site you will notice that many names appear in text as writers of numerous articles. I do not claim to be the sole author of the entire site, just part of it. I have lived through the years since sport scuba diving first became official in this country, back in about 1950, and have been fortunate enough to be involved in the business side of the industry for nearly three decades watching it grow from a small number of dedicated divers, who made most of their equipment in backyard workshops, to what it is today, a multi-million dollar industry. The main contributors to this web site are ordinary weekend divers, who over many years since the sport of scuba diving first began, have contributed so much. One way or another we all play our part, a few have had the attention of centre stage for a number of years, whilst others performed a small segment that lasted only a short time. Divers come and go and that's the very thing that makes this sport so interesting from a personal point of view. We meet many people and make a few friends along the way. The pioneers who wrote for the first spear fishing magazine in Australia and for various other publications started to record history. Many of these people are no longer alive, time has taken its toll. However there are a few who can still remember the events of the early 1950, the very early days of scuba diving and these men and women were of great help. From a research writers point of view this site has been a hard slog. It has been both rewarding and frustrating at the same time, particularly in dealing with people. I received many promises, but few kept their word. Others simply did not have the decency to reply to my correspondence which was extremely disappointing. In the collection of material I was confronted with copyright. Most of the chronicle section deals with happenings of past years, originally recorded by others. No author could retain detailed information in his or her memory over so many years or have their own written material about every important event that has taken place in each state of Australia since the sport of scuba diving first began. I needed co-operation in obtaining copyright release, and in most cases I was successful. Some people I could not notify because of change of addresses or they had simply disappeared into the wilderness of humanity that inhabits Australia. I have taken the liberty of recording their writings without permission and for this I apologise, but I had little choice, for I needed to record history and wherever possible I have credited the authors. Those involved in the sport of yesteryears and today people such as Barry Andrewartha of Sport Diving Magazine, George Davies, past secretary of the Australian Underwater Federation, Wally Gibbins, best all round spear fisherman Australia has produced, Ted Baker, pioneer scuba diver from the early 1950s, and pioneer reporter from Western Australia, Harry Smith, Max Cramer, and Ron Taylor world champion spear fisherman, gave their unselfish support. There were also pioneer divers Rod McNeill, the late Don and Lois Linklater from New South Wales and Michel Calluaud, a Frenchman who migrated to Australia just after the Second World War, with plans of the Cousteau-Gagnan aqualung, Ted Thornton and Barry Swales from Melbourne. Jill and Igo Oak from South Australia, Brian Weston secretary of the first Cave Diving Group in Australia during mid to late 1950s. Many others too numerous to mention gave their time freely, just for the cost of a memory. Without their kind support and helpful co-operation, it would have been impossible to complete a project of this magnitude. I would like to thank also Des Williams, Terry Cummins, Stephens K Taylor, Keith Gorden, Garry Spencer, Steve Reynolds, Simon Pridmore, P T Hirschfield, Anne Jeffries, Jamie Illstrom, Kevin Denlay, Ivor Howitt, Des Walter, Samir Alhafith, Mark Spencer, Paul Garske, Neville Coleman, Stephen K Taylor, Christopher Deane, Bert Elswyk, Allan Hamilton, Peter Fields, Mal Brown, Peter Stone, and Dave Bryant. The web site has taken me longer than anticipated. I allowed four years to collect and compile research not already obtained. The trouble was the more I investigated the more the project became sidetracked into other avenues of diving interests. I would then have to decide what information to keep or reject, a difficult choice at times. I would like to thank Mel Brown, Historical Officer of the Australian Underwater Federation (AUF) for his unselfish support in compiling material for this web site. Without his assistance, I am sure THE CHRONICLE OF SCUBA DIVING IN AUSTRALIA would never have been written. Mel Brown gave me all the help that I asked, without a single word of objection. He opened many avenues of investigation I would not have been able to pursue myself, once again thanks Mel for your co-operation and assistance. I hope you enjoy this web site. To some it will be a complete new adventure, and to others it will be a stroll down memory lane.

SPORT SCUBA DIVING

 

Travelling a fascinating journey from the pioneering of scuba diving to recent times, these web pages takes the reader through early days of underwater activities, the advent of the first scuba regulator, adventurous and tragic events, trials and disappointments. Through the progress of technology, one can then formulate a clear view of the foundation of sport scuba diving and how it first began in this country and developed to present times. The web site deals only with the History of Amateur Scuba Diving in Australia. Those who have swum in the ocean year after year and the men and women who have recently begun diving have been touched by something special. I cannot describe what it is, nor do I know. Perhaps it's a sense of adventure, a longing to explore, to go where few have been before, to try and understand natures marine animals, or to venture into a world man may never conquer. Whatever it is, something repeatedly attracts individuals back to the sea. Today there are magazines and newspapers specialising in scuba diving information throughout Australia. We see movies on television and episodes of modern undersea adventures and explorers. We read books about how to dive, where to dive and how to get there. Specialised retail dive stores display new equipment and dive charter boats and their crews escort divers to almost every known reef or shipwreck around the shores of this country. From the time a person walks into a professional dive shop until he or she decides to conclude their interest in the sport, everything, and I mean everything, is done for them. But scuba diving has not always been that way. In the pioneering years from 1950 to mid 1960, the sport was individual and there were many loners. One way or another they all helped to shape the sport of underwater diving. A few guided it through hard times and directed it towards the path where it is heading today. Those people were trailblazers. History cannot be changed, but it can be presented in such a manner that it brings together a sequence of events that finally places the recreational sport of scuba diving in proper perspective. Scuba diving has come a long way since its beginning in 1950. Some great stories and personalities appear in this web site. Collecting materials from 1950 to the present day from newspapers, and scuba magazines and other sources available to me from all over Australia was quite a task. Gathering information was challenging to say the least. Over recent years, we have seen huge strides forward. Most of the dreams of Jules Verne a century or so ago have now become reality. From the Hawaiian sling to pneumatic spear guns, from the woollen jumper to warm neoprene full length wet and dry suits, from old dive tables to computerised decompression meters, content gauges, modern re-breathing units and mixed gases, all represent forward steps in undersea technology. Whether you read these web pages for nostalgia or discovery for reference or enjoyment the incidents that unfold are as true and accurate as I have been able to gather. The events that happened over the years shaped the sport of underwater diving and moulded it into a truly wonderful pastime, a recreation for many an adventure for others, and for a few, a way of life. To all those divers I contacted and promised to give me information about their personal involvement and experience in the sport of scuba diving, AND DID NOT, well you all missed out on becoming part of AUSTRALIAN SCUBA DIVING HISTORY.

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THE YEAR 1993 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the sport of scuba diving. Midway through 1943 a French Naval Officer Jacques Yves Cousteau an Engineer Emile Flanagan tested a device for breathing underwater, they called it the Aqualung. It was the beginning of undersea exploration where the average man or woman could explore beneath the sea.

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UNDERWATER activities in Australia began in 1917, when a young man from the Solomon Islands, at the time living in Sydney, displayed a new sport to those watching from shore. He speared fish in the waters of Sydney Harbour. His name, Alick Wickham, the son of a shipwrecked English sailor and a Solomon Island girl. Alick Wickham was born in 1888, at Roviana Lagoon. Where his father had a plantation. Alick came to Australia to be educated as a nine-year-old lad. In the summer of 1899, he astounded a crowd at Bronte Baths with his remarkable swimming speed and peculiar action. The proprietor and swimming coach, George Farmer, was amazed at the performance and said, "Look at that kid crawling over the water". So was born the sensational swimming style that became known world wide as the "Australian Crawl". Within fifteen years, Alick Wickham had become a colourful personality in Australian swimming. Called the Human Fish because of his underwater feat.

Alick Wickham the first man in Australia to spear fish, the year 1917.

In 1918 Alick attained international fame with a 62.7 metre world record high dive from a cliff-top tower into the Yarra River, 6 metres high than the  roadway of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. He also became the first exponent of spear fishing activities in this country. Every time he entered the water to spear fish, he attracted large crowds to the foreshores of Sydney Harbour to the extent that many times police threatened him with arrest if he continued with his spear fishing activities. There were no regulations by which he could be arrested, so Alick Wickham continued with the sport of spear fishing and free diving. Wickham remained in Sydney until about 1926 when following the death of his father he returned to Roviana Lagoon where he lived until his death in 1967. In his late 70s, he was still performing underwater feats for people visiting the lagoon. Almost fifteen years were to pass after Alick Wickham first started spear fishing, before a small number of men and one woman ventured into the water to spear fish. This time it was pobably the need for food rather than anything else. The great depression had just begun, banks were about to close, there were few jobs available, no social security payments and food was in short supply for most of the working population in Australia.

EARLY DIVERS: Denny Wells, his wife May, Frank Cunliffe, and Jim Linquist were the next to participate in underwater activities. Others started a little later, men such as Bill Heffernan from Forster on the north coast of New South Wales, dentist Rod McNeill two school boys Keith Vagg and Goff Gapp and filmmaker Noel Monkman, originally from New Zealand. Except for the latter, and gradually encouraging others to participate spearing fish for food, these men and a small band of followers fished regularly throughout the depression years until the outbreak of the Second World War. Shortly after the war, in the years of relief and relaxation, there was a great upsurge of interest in water activities particularly spear fishing and the new idea of using a mask and breathing tube projecting above the surface of the water. "It's like being in another world looking down on all that's happening on the bottom of the sea", said those trying it for the first time. During the pioneering days in Australia the now popular scuba diving unit was not available nor had many people.

Denny Wells is considered the Father of Skin Diving in Australia. Wells started spear fishing just before the last great depression in the late 1920s and retired from the sport in 1955.

heard of such a thing, although Frenchman Emile Gagnan had designed a breathing apparatus for underwater use as early as 1943, but this was not the first scuba unit as such. Another Frenchman, Benoist Rouquayril, had in 1866 patented a demand regulator for an open water unit. Fourteen years later in 1880 Englishman Alexander Lambert dived beneath the sea. His unit was an earlier version of the oxygen re-breathers. In 1925 another French Naval Officer named Le Prigur invented or perhaps further developed an open water scuba unit using low pressure compressed air. It is perhaps from this unit that Gagnan improved his now famous aqualung. Back in 1934 two New South Wales schoolboys, Keith Vagg and Godfrey Gapp, made a "diving helmet" from a five-gallon oil drum, a length of garden hose and Mr Gapp's tyre pump. They took their new invention to Bondi Baths for a trial run. Keith had the honour of the first dive, and remained under water in ten feet for ten minutes. He became bored with looking into the murky interior of a windowless helmet clinging to the bottom rung of the rusty iron ladder with one hand to overcome very positive buoyancy and holding the drum over his head with the other. Godfrey, made of sterner stuff than Keith, remained down for 25 minutes until the arrival of an alarmed baths manager, convinced that he had one dead boy at the bottom of his baths, saved Keith from further pumping and brought an indignant Godfrey to the surface. Although this was not scuba diving, as we know it today, it was one of the first amateur attempts in this country to breathe continually underwater. It was not until well after the end of the Second World War that scuba diving in Australia started to gain popularity. I must stress that those who participated in the sport when equipment first became available were generally from the ranks of spear fishing clubs. There were no walk in off-the-street scuba divers as there are today. The men and women who started scuba diving were well versed in either snorkelling or spear fishing and did not fear open ocean waters.

CLOSE CIRCUIT OXYGEN REBREATHERS:  The forerunners to pure air scuba diving units were the closed circuit oxygen breathers consisting of a small cylinder of oxygen which had a short life span in the circles of amateur diving in Australia, and were the first units used in this country. Re-breathers consisted of a small cylinder of oxygen attached to a backpack placed either on the diver's chest or back and a carbon dioxide absorption canister connected to two hoses, a mouthpiece, and mask. In a closed circuit system, re-breathing occurs continuously. There is no loss of gas to the surrounding water unless expansion during rapid ascent creates excess. Wartime frogmen, to prevent detection from the surface, used this type of unit. Re-breathing requires provision for two special needs addition of carbon dioxide. In the early days, there were three systems of re-breather. One was the closed circuit used mainly by armed forces. Then there was the pendulum system used for spear fishing by civilians during the 1940s, mostly in America and France. The third was a semi-closed circuit unit worn by British military divers during the Second World War. This system had all the basic components of a closed circuit oxygen re-circulating unit, but in addition had two special components, a reliable automatic injection system of mix gas and an adjustable exhaust valve for excess breathing. The designer and manufacturer of early re-breathing systems in Australia was Ted Eldred from Melbourne. Eldred also built a device that had an automatic depth warning restriction of oxygen flow to prevent the user from descending beyond a certain depth at which the diver could suffer oxygen poisoning and die. There were many deaths and the units were eventually replaced by self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) enabling the user to swim underwater at a safe depth, without the effects of oxygen poisoning. Whilst increasing his knowledge of re-breathers, Ted Eldred became aware of the Gagnan aqualung, and by 1954-55 had designed a single hose two-stage regulator. Eldred manufactured his new regulator under the trade name of "Porpoise". It was the first single hose regulator in the world.

NEW PORPOISE SCUBA UNIT, AND OTHERS:  During early 1955, tests were carried out on the new Porpoise units and shortly afterwards they were ready for distribution. Unfortunately, the Porpoise design was never patented in Australia, as finances were limited. With the publication of a book titled “The Coast of Coral" featuring a Porpoise scuba outfit, overseas manufacturers copied the design and began selling similar units   worldwide. However Ted Eldred remains the first person to design and manufacture a single hose regulator. By 1947 two pioneer spear fishermen decided that after ten years of spearing fish they would like to stay underwater a little longer than one or two minutes at a time. Always seeking new methods to increase their efficiency, the obvious quest was to be able to breathe underwater.

Ted Eldred, in 1955 released Australian first single hose regulator.

Eventually two brothers heard of an oxygen re-breather that was for sale. They contacted the owner, and he offered a demonstration. This almost proved fatal. They retrieved the unconscious body from 20 feet of water. The trauma of resuscitating the victim and transporting him to hospital eliminated any idea they might have had about re-breathing unit. It was also in 1947 that Australians first learned about the invention of an underwater breathing apparatus made in France. This was the catalyst for the brothers from Newcastle in New South Wales, to design a regulator, not for scuba diving, but for staying down longer than one breath would allow and catching crayfish in shallow underwater caves. The two brothers George and Trevor Davies set about to make a primitive two-stage regulator. Initially they discovered an old "Endurance" type oxygen regulator with a rubber diaphragm that was an ideal reduction valve already made for this purpose. Sections of the regulator were discarded and the tedious job of turning a demand valve from a piece of 5-inch solid brass into a reduction valve began. One of the major problems to overcome was the manufacture of a sensitive rubber diaphragm. Fortunately, they had already made a hydraulic press using the landing gear from a Second World War Wirraway fighter airplane, scavenged from an RAAF target field. A rubber diaphragm for the regulator was subsequently moulded, and after that, George made a steel mould for the mouthpiece. Material used for the mouldings were off-cuts from a tyre re-treading factory. Now they were ready to assemble the new regulator. Unable to find any high-pressure cylinders, they faced another hurdle, eventually overcoming it by using steel tubing, with a 1/4 inch wall thickness, cut to length, with domed ends forged under a blacksmith steam hammer at Cardiff Railway Workshop in Newcastle. Trevor had a brass adapter welded to tubing and valve George had machined, were brazed directly onto both ends of the cylinders. At this time, neither men had considered exceeding 500 lbs per square inch of air pressure in each cylinder. Later when 27cf aviators oxygen breathing tanks became available, the high-pressure problem was solved. Twin corrugated hoses from the regulator to the mouthpiece were from wartime gas masks as was the one-way valve in the mouthpiece. The harness was of brown canvas straps from an army disposal store. Sometime in 1951, their regulator was ready for testing, but another problem arose. Pure compressed air was not available, so they built a compressor. Their first small compressor was capable only of pumping to pressures of around 700 lbs per square inch. It was of little use for scuba diving but served its purpose to crayfish hunting inside shallow underwater caves for which the tanks and regulator were originally design. Their first trip was to Seal Rocks, New South Wales, to test the new regulator for the first time. The two men, although they did not realise it at the time, were to carve a piece of Australian underwater history by being one of the first in this country to build and use, for sport diving, a pure air underwater breathing apparatus. George managed to fill both cylinders and he shudders to think they were fabricated from steel piping with forged ends and a welded first-stage regulator to both cylinders. A small pump with a hand booster was one answer but the manual labour involved far outweighed the joys of diving. Eventually they were able to construct a four-stage water lubricated compressor that operated until Trevor's untimely death from an exploding cylinder on New Year's Eve 1961. Nineteen ninety-seven was the 45th year since these two pioneering brothers first ventured underwater with a homemade breathing device. Along with Michel Calluaud and Ted Baker they were amongst the first in this country to use the units.

ONE OF THE FIRST HOMEMADE SCUBA REGULATORS IN AUSTRALIA

OTHER SCUBA REGULATORS APPEARED ON THE MARKET: In the following years there were many regulators made in Australia. Some were backyard devices whilst others such as the "Porpoise" and "Sea Bee" regulators enjoyed worldwide success. An artificial in "Popular Mechanics" magazine contained information regards a self contained underwater breathing device of such and a scuba unit as we know it today was made in a factory at Day Street, Sydney, the scuba unit was known as Jukebox Lung, but did not work well underwater and was scrapped. Edward (Ted) Baker from Granville, a suburb of Sydney was another early pioneer of scuba diving. He started in 1951 when most underwater equipment was home made, few diving items were available in retail stores in those days.

Ted Baker in conjunction with Frenchman Michel Calluaud made an early twin hose regulator.

Ted's story goes back to the late 1940s when Michel Calluaud, a Frenchman, immigrated to Australia and they worked together for a time. With Michel's considerable command of English and Ted's minuscule French, they got on quite well together. When he saw Ted's mask and spear gun, Michel revealed that in his fertile mind he carried the working principle of a compressed air underwater breathing unit that he had learnt from a man named Cousteau before leaving France. Never having heard of such a thing, Ted was sceptical, but Michel convinced him that he understood what was required and that they each should build a unit. So off they went to a disposal store. ''Yes,” said the man. ''We have plenty of pressure regulators, gauges, controls and fittings, salvaged from war surplus aircraft. There is a stack of aviator's breathing oxygen cylinders down by the back fence. Be careful though, some are still full". Loaded with a selection of these items and a dozen gas masks, for their corrugated flexible hoses, they paid up, and with the aid of a third person, set to work. Three sets of equipment were manufactured at the one time. They did not even have a name and labelled compressed air breathing equipment. Ted's was ready for its first test, still without a webbing harness, in late November 1951. Eager to see if it really worked, Ted filled his bathtub with water and was just able to submerge with the cylinder and regulator tucked under his arm. It worked. In the days before wet suits, Ted wore any old clothing to give protection against cold, and on one particular day had on a ragged old green pullover, with aqualung, lead belt, harness and mask. Lying on the bottom in six feet (2 metres) of water at the Tuggerah Lakes Entrance Channel he could feel the reduction in air flow as the tank approached exhaustion, but he waited a little longer to fully test its effect. Then with little air left, he crawled along the bottom and made his way up the shelving sand toward the beach. With all air gone, and in only two feet of water, he lifted his head and shoulders above the surface. As he did so, a woman gave a terrified scream, grabbed her two children, and ran off along the beach. Thus, the appearance of sport scuba diving in Australia with compressed air began in 1951. These men and others that followed in the next few years possessed the true spirit of underwater pioneers. An interesting aspect of early scuba diving between 1952 and 1953 was that regulators in Sydney and to a lesser extent in other capital cities throughout Australia numbered no more than about a dozen or so, all designed and made infringing the French patent. One of the first known scuba units made in this country was called "Jukebox Lung" it was built in a factory at Day Street in Sydney, there was only one ever made. A few members of the USFA in Sydney, started to make parts from the Cousteau-Gagnan design, the parts were made in John Lawson's jewellery factory at Greenwich, North Sydney. The first underwater tests were held at Clovelly Pool with great success. Another pioneer diver by the name of Jack Hogg also made twelve units in his spare time at the workshop at Eveleigh Railway. In 1953 the first four regulators made by John Lawson went to Wally Gibbons, Don Linklater, Jeff Jackson, and the last went to John Lawson himself. During that time in France the sale of licenses was negotiated by the Cousteau-Gagnan organisation, which then sold the rights to a company named Liquid Air. However, no court action took place in Australia over these "pirate" scuba units. Perhaps the French designers did not know or were not interested in a small number of backyard manufacturers in Australia.

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OVERSEAS REGULATORS: The first overseas aqualung reached this country in the late summer of 1953 when a visiting Frenchman, Emile Landau lent one to members of the USFA of New South Wales. Six months later a Victorian diver obtained a Siebe Gorman aqualung from England. There were still a small number of re-breathers being used in Victoria and New South Wales for sport diving at that time. Re-breathing units by now had been or were being fitted with a safety device as a precaution against oxygen poisoning if a diver descended below 30 feet (10 metres). After the first Porpoise regulators reached the sport diving scene so did one or two other overseas brands. There was certainly no mass movement of people to take up the new sport. Few, if any, were novices. Most if not all, came from the ranks of spear fishing clubs. Pioneer diver Jim Agar from Melbourne manufactured one named "Sea Bee", others were the Barnes Scubamatic, and the Lawson lung. They came out in 1955-56, the latter made in a jewellers factory at Greenwich, Sydney. These regulators were popular and out sold imported units until the early 1960s.

An early Airdive single hose regulator and content stem gauge.

There was also the Dawson lung produced in the mid 1950s by Gordon Dawson, from a backyard workshop at Artarmon, a suburb of Sydney. Gordon was a ship's engineer on the Northern Firth when she ran aground and became a wreck at Brush Island on the south coast of New South Wales, near Ulladulla. He later worked for the Electricity Commission. He did not dive much himself but his son Ian was a keen diver and dived for a while with two times Australian spear fishing champion and charter boat operator from Queensland, Barry May. The diving lung in the early days were not looked upon as potentially dangerous. Users considered they were at no great risk, and didn't need discipline or care whilst underwater. The general public during the 1950s was not interested in scuba diving as such, but showed a tremendous fascination with the few divers who were about at the time, following them from one location to another, asking all sorts of questions concerning life underwater, especially sharks. There was certainly no mass movement of people to take up the new sport. Few, if any, were novices. Most if not all, came from the ranks of spear fishing clubs. Strange as it may seem, in the early days of scuba diving, a small number of participants in Australia were using dry suits. In a time just after the Second World War, there were a limited number of these suits available to divers. Dry suits in those days were either English or Australian ex-navy or Pirelli suits imported from Italy or second hand commercial apparel made from sheet rubber or rubber covered fabric which involved considerable effort in dressing and undressing via an entrance through the neck seal. This problem was solved many years later with the introduction of a waterproof zippier. There was still a matter of squeeze in the thin suits as pressure increased with depth. Installing a small breathing tube at the front left or right hand shoulder overcame the problem to some extent. A diver could then remove the demand valve from his mouth and blow air into the suit, and this had a two-way effect relieving the pressure to some extent and assisting as a buoyancy compensator. However, dry suits were never popular in those days, and many divers still preferred woollen jumpers and overalls. In December of 1951, a spear fisherman by the name of Les Hawley started to manufacture and sell wraparound cold water suits that retailed for one hundred and fifty pounds, ($300.00). He sold them at little profit to members of the Underwater Spearfishermens Association, (USFA). The suits proved very popular particularly during winter months. As time passed materials from overseas became scarce and when prices increased, suits became far too expensive, and demand declined.

WOLLEN JUMPERS AND STREET CLOATHING: The years in between 1950 and 1960 saw most skin divers wearing long sleeve woollen jumpers, overalls, or thick street clothing for warmth and protection. This underwater wear was certainly not flattering by any means, and when a diver emerged from the water he or she looked like a creature from the Black Lagoon. But it was the standard dress for about ten years and did to some extent keep a diver warm for the first couple of minutes underwater. Toward the end of 1953, an early underwater photographer named Jeff Jackson made himself a working C02 inflatable vest. It was not for buoyancy control, but for floating him and valuable photographic equipment in mid-water, and was the first BC of its kind used in Australia. Divers before 1953 did not wear buoyancy vests, except for the Dick Charles safety vest. A small number of overseas vests became available in Australia during the early to mid 1960s. It was not until about 1972 that vests, particularly the French made Fenzy became popular. At the time others were also on retail shelves, namely Typhoon, Nemrod, Sous-Marine and Bouee. They were not compulsory to wear and most scuba divers considered them uncomfortable and unnecessary. As the number of scuba divers slowly increased throughout Australia, six men decided to form the country's first underwater scuba club to cater exclusively for that section of the sport. They were Don Linklater, Wally Gibbons, Dr. Roscoe Fay, Dick Charles, Rod McNeill, and Ron Ware. Named the Underwater Explorers Club, it was a breakaway from the Underwater Spearfishermens Association. Before entry to the club, intending members were required to have a medical examination and a select committee of senior club divers reviewed their underwater experience. Once admitted, instruction followed involving the use of equipment, underwater techniques, and training to qualify students to take part in undersea exercises and teamwork. They could then plan and carry out projects in a mature and carefully controlled manner. Just before the end of 1955, Victorians formed their first scuba club it was also a breakaway group of divers from the Victorian Underwater Spearfishermens Association. At first, there were only a few members but numbers slowly increased later. About mid year of 1959, no more than about a dozen girls participated in the sport of scuba diving Australia wide. Considered a man's pastime, few women became divers. Female sport divers at the time were anything but masculine in appearance, they were mostly underwater models and very good divers. Some came from a background of "The Aqua Show" and were prospective underwater film performers for a forthcoming Australian movie to be shot on the Great Barrier Reef called "Deep Down, Down Under" starring Chips Rafferty. Noel Monkman assisted by Wally Gibbins filmed all underwater footage.

AUSTRALIAN UNDERWATER FEDERATION: In this country at the beginning of 1960, the Australian Underwater Federation (AUF) emerged as a national body at government level, representing the sport of spear fishing and scuba diving. The federation produced a set of scuba diving standards, initially based on the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC), and later modified it to meet the needs of Australian scuba divers. These were the first recorded standards laid down by a diving association in this country, but they were not compulsory. There were few scuba clubs at the time in Australia and most had different sets of rules related to teaching. New participants were taught to dive by older club members. There were few certifications issued at the end of the course since scuba divers of that era dived only with the clubs or people they knew personally, and considered certificates unnecessary.

AN EARLY SCUBA DIVER: My career (Tom Byron) in diving started a little over 6 decades ago, not as a student diver, a snorkeller or spear fisherman, but as a rally car driver in an upside down Holden wrecked in the middle of the night somewhere on an outback dirt road near the town of Oberon. From that moment on I thought that there must be a better way to spend ones pastime. A couple of weeks later after selling my car I was browsing around in an old second hand bookshop when my eyes caught the title of a book called "Skindiving and Exploring Underwater". I had read the first sentence of the preface and I knew I was hooked for life. I shall never forget those words. It read - "Have you ever made a discovery? Have you ever seen anything that no person has seen before? Would you like to be the first person in the world to set eyes upon a huge new canyon, discover a hitherto unknown animal, see a garden more beautiful than anything on earth? Then I urge you dive". That's for me I thought, but hang on, I can't hold my breath for more than ten seconds, and my mum would always say, "what about those sharks, they are all hungry monsters, just waiting to come and get you. "Even with that terrifying thought in my mind I proudly walked out of Mick Simmons City Store in September of 1956 with every piece of scuba equipment they had on display. In 1961 I made my one and only underwater housing for an old Pentagon camera. The first time I took it underwater it flooded. I patched the damn thing up and the second time it worked, but a month later the camera had rusted to such an extent that nothing worked anymore. About this time the first of the Hans Hass films was being shown. He was every divers idol at the time, and he used a Rolliemarine housing and camera, so off I went to a camera store in Sydney and they imported one into the country for me.

Early scuba divers in 1956, Ray Giles left and Tom Byron right.

Throughout these early years of my diving I had been involved in a family business of manufacturing building products, and it was towards the end of 1973 that I decided to diversify some of our company's interest into the sport of scuba diving by opening a new dive shop in the western suburbs, called Aqua Sports Scuba Diving Centre. Then in 1974 we bought out Ted Louis Hydrostatics Testing Station. One year later in 1975 saw the forming of a new importing company, called Watersports Australia Pty Limited, for the purpose of manufacturing wet suits and importing of Sherwood Regulators and Accessories. Four years later, by the end of 1979 I had sold all my business interests except those in the dive shop Aqua Sports. This then enabled me to devote more of my time to the things I wanted to do most of all, writing and photography. I became involved in the production of two 16mm colour films, one about Jervis Bay, the other on shipwrecks, and I have almost completed a book that will be published by the summer of 1982. It will be of interest to all scuba divers as well as spear fishermen. Through the sixties I wrote many articles about life underwater for numerous magazines, then I became interested in underwater photographic competitions held in different countries throughout the world, winning gold medals in England, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. In December of 1968 I made a clean sweep of the B.S.A.C. Open Underwater Photographic Competition held in England by winning the Brighton B.S.A.C. Trophy, a Gold Medal in the Divers Class and also the Amateur Photographic Trophy for the best outright gold medallist. Then in 1969 I joined the Underwater Photographic Society of America and sometime later became a member of the newly formed Scuba Divers Association of Australia to become its Publicity Officer. By the early seventies I was shooting 16mm film for Channel 7 as a stringer with news and short film stories for their half hour Sunday Evening News Magazine. Regressing for a while, a small number of people during the mid to late 1950s taught themselves to dive. I was one, and can vividly remember in about 1956 walking into Mick Simmons Sport Store at the Haymarket in Sydney, and after seeing a display of scuba diving equipment in the shop window, consisting of a rubber hood, a rather small face mask, a 40cf steel cylinder with canvas straps, a twin hose regulator, a weight belt with knife attached, rubber gloves and hood, and small fins. The brand name of the regulator now escapes my memory. I think it may have been an old British "Sealion" and from that moment as I gazed at the equipment something inside me changed forever, and lasted for well over sixty years. After buying the outfit for approximately fifty pounds ($100), two weeks wages, the sales representative said to me.   "Well, son, you have just bought our entire stock of scuba diving equipment. My reply was, "Is there any air in the cylinder?" He said. "I don't   know, try it out in Gordons Bay near Clovelly". I did the next day, Saturday. Within minutes of entering the water, without a wetsuit, in the middle of June, I could not see a thing. The inside of my mask fogged, water was beginning to get up my nose, my ears began to pain, the air tasted bad and was hard to breathe. After about fifteen minutes underwater, breathing became extremely difficult. I started to swim toward the surface as fast as I could and found myself out at sea a long way from land, or so it seemed at the time. The swim back on the surface was difficult, particularly when free styling. Back on the beach with lungs half full of sea water, I pondered whether I had made the right choice in diving gear that cost more than two weeks wages. A week or two later I decided to have another attempt at scuba diving, but there was little air in my cylinder and I knew of no one who could fill it for me.

Tom Byron in later years, 2016.

I thought there were bound to be one or two people in the telephone directory who could fill my cylinder but there was nothing. What a mess, a brand new scuba unit I cannot use, so back I went to Mick Simmons with the cylinder under my arm hoping they could fill it for me, or would know of someone who pumps air into diving tanks. The person behind the counter was most helpful. He said he did not know of anyone in Sydney. “So why in hell did you sell me the unit?” I said, and left the shop. Well, that's it. My career as a deep-sea diver had ended. The following weekend I took my girlfriend Renee, to Clovelly Sea Pool for a days outing, and you guessed it, there, as large as life, was another diver. He had air in his cylinder and I did not. When he came out of the water I said "G'day mate where did you get the air in your cylinder". He told me that at Clovelly was a person who had one of those things that pumps air into diving cylinders. Later he said to me it was in his backyard, and introduced himself as Col Peard. After he finished mucking about underwater in the sea pool, I followed him back to his house and there it was. He charged me two shillings and six pence (26 cents) to fill my tank. I thought it was a bit of a rip-off at the time. That was my first introduction to scuba diving.

FIRST SCUBA TRAINING SCHOOL: The first underwater training school in Australia was Melbourne Diving School. It started business in 1948, three years before the introduction of amateur air breathing equipment into this country. Its involvement in diving was the importation of professional underwater equipment and training commercial divers. Practical lessons were conducted at Melbourne City Baths. In 1955 the school started teaching sport scuba diving to those interested in the new pastime. Bob Wallace-Mitchell of Melbourne, a sporting goods importer and a Victorian pioneer spear fisherman was chosen to distribute "Porpoise" regulators and other products manufactured by Ted Eldred Air Breathing Appliance Co. Bob suggested commencing a training school for divers buying the new equipment. This particular school was established in about 1956 provided teaching and promotion of the new sport. The first all sport scuba diving school in Victoria began on September 16, 1955 and was named Victorian School of Underwater Diving and Swimming. Its first class had 20 students and instruction sessions ran for six weeks. The availability of cylinders in those days was somewhat doubtful, except for World War Two oxygen tanks. A small number were imported into Victoria, and a scheme developed whereby these cylinders were shared with other divers. This type of agreement whilst it helped many was not beneficial to owners. The thought was that many divers might never buy their equipment and use other people's gear for their own pleasure. In Sydney the first commercial scuba training classes started in 1954, known as the Underwater Swimming School of Sydney (USS of S). Founder and proprietor was Edward Du Cros. The school employed two male and two female self taught instructors, using all Porpoise equipment supplied by the Melbourne manufacturer. The school and all its gear was eventually sold to a newly formed club, the Underwater Research Group of Sydney (URG) for use in their scuba diving tuition. This was about the time when Australian divers first saw a safety belt, (early BC unit) manufactured in this country by Dick Charles, founder of the Underwater Spearfishermen’s Association. The vest was capable of supporting a 15 stone individual with 25 lbs of lead around the waist. Inflated orally it also had a C02 inflater and saved as many as 21 1ives.

EARLY SCUBA INSTRUCTORS: Most instructors during the late 1950s and through the 1960s were self taught and labelled themselves as scuba instructors. There were no instruction agencies in this country in those days. They did not begin until about 1970. It was left up to clubs to teach scuba diving. The more experienced members selected to do the teaching, reading straight out of textbooks purchased overseas. During this period, many divers taught themselves to dive. They simply strapped a cylinder to their backs, turned the air on, put the regulator in their mouth, and went scuba diving, it was all very simple. Western Australia was not far behind the eastern states in early diver education. Jack Sue founded the first school in that state in 1955. The Underwater Explorers Club of Western Australia started training their members also in 1955. Equipment was limited and units lent to other people "to have a go" on a roistered weekend system that eventually proved unsuccessful and the situation did improve in later years as more equipment became available. South Australia followed when pioneer diver Dave Burchell first started Adelaide Skin diving Centre. He trained many divers until Paul Lunn purchased the shop. Dave Burchell is one of only two Australian divers to receive the British Empire Medal for services to skin and scuba diving in this country. George Davies from Newcastle in New South Wales was the other. In 1963, Dave installed Australia's first diving tower at his shop. It was 21 feet (7 metres) high and nine feet (3 metres) wide and stood for many years as a landmark for scuba divers.

SCUBA DIVING FIRSTS AND CHANGES: Throughout the 1960s a number of firsts were accomplished by divers in all states of Australia, everything was adventurous, new and exciting. The first recorded deep dive by amateur divers occurred at Western Port Bay in Victoria. The team was Bob Wallace Mitchell and Ted Eldred. On March 20, 1954 they reached a depth of 100 feet (30 metres) using Porpoise regulators. Then four months later in July three Sydney divers Dave Rawlings, Ron Harding and D. Brown dived to a depth of 200 feet (60 metres) breathing compressed air. It was about this time that rivalry between New South Wales, Victorian and Western Australian scuba divers developed. Approximately one year later, midway through 1955, two divers from Western Australia, Gordon Maclean and Graham Anderson established another Australian deep record by descending to a depth of 250 feet (77 metres). The firsts kept coming J. Brooks of South Australia was the first Australian scuba diving champion. The event was held at Port Lonsdale, Victoria. The first divers to enter the world famous Kiama Blow Hole south of Sydney were Keith White, Jack Mathisson and Ron Clissold on January 13, 1957. The first woman in Australia to make a free controlled ascent from 75 feet (26 metres) was M. Gallaspie of the Underwater Explorers Club in September of 1957. During 1958 two divers Don MacMillan and Noel Cook discovered the wreck of SS Yongala off Cape Bowling Green near Townsville in North Queensland. The first woman to become an Australian scuba champion was 19-year-old Caroline Giles in 1958. She won the championship against all participants male and female. Also in 1958 the first course in underwater oxy acetylene cutting and welding for amateur sport divers was held under the direction of Howard Couch a member of the Underwater Research Group of Sydney. Heron Island held its first Annual Underwater Convention in 1959 and has conducted the event ever since. Cave diving started at Jenolan Caves in New South Wales. First into the cave siphon were Keith White, Owen Llewellyn and Russ Kippax followed by Don Linklater, Dave Roots and "Mad" Mick Shanahan. The following day Lois Linklater became the first recorded woman in Australia to dive inside an underground cave. Theo Brown from Western Australia attempted to better the world underwater endurance record. He stayed below for 7 hours and 6 minutes then collapsed from stomach cramps. Midway through 1954 a number of scuba clubs formed in various states of Australia. South Australia's first club began in July 1954 and was named the Underwater Explorers Club, followed by the Northern Territory, calling theirs Arafura Skin Divers. They established their club in September 1954. Also there were the Underwater Explorers Club and Underwater Research Group both from New South Wales along with the Underwater Research Group of Queensland. All these began within one or two years of each another. The USFA of Western Australia commenced as a spear fishing club, and then formed a scuba diving section in late 1953. The Underwater Explorers Club of Western Australia (UEC) was the first all scuba club in that state, commencing in early 1953. Victoria began with the Sub Aqua Group in 1953, and in 1995 celebrated its forty-second birthday. Jim Agar owner of Airdive Equipment Pty Ltd was one of its original members. A change in scuba diving took place during the decade between 1960 and 1970. It came from far-sighted filmmakers realising that perhaps fame would come from making movies about life under the sea, either documentaries or fiction. First, there were the early series of Hans Hass films on television. ABC Channel 2 ran the programs in all states. Cousteau and his team of divers aboard the Calypso followed one or two years later. Their numerous movies were both educational and exciting. About the same time, Ron Taylor began his career as a filmmaker, shooting documentary shark films and so did Ben Cropp. Both were very successful and have entertained TV viewers in Australia and overseas for the past sixty years.

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TV SEA HUNT: The one that had the biggest impact upon the diving community and the public was the long running TV series titled, "Sea Hunt". Mike Nelson (Lloyd Bridges) was its hero. He always got his man, there were no extreme violence, and no one was murdered. Each episode was packed with the thrills and excitement of underwater exploits against giant sea creatures and criminals. It was an exciting and excellent series and did more for the promotion of scuba diving in Australia during the early days than any other single event on television, radio, newspapers or magazines. As these television shows ran through the 1960s people off the street began to learn scuba diving and take up spear fishing as a sport. The demand was there.

Lloyd Bridges as Mike Nelson in the TV series Sea Hunt.

More shops opened, specialising in diving equipment and scuba classes. By the end of the decade instructor organisations had appeared in each state. Clubs became popular among individuals completing scuba diving course, and during that time a number of dive shops formed social groups associated with their particular business. In some circles this was criticised. Today nearly every dive shop has a social club.

ABALONE LICENSES: Through the mid 1960s hundreds of scuba divers obtained fishing licenses to collect abalone, and the great race was on to gather this tasty crustacean for overseas markets. Popular abalone areas were Eden in New South Wales, Mallacoota and Warrnambool in Victoria, Port Lincoln and Streaky Bay in South Australia, the Bass Strait Islands and the West Coast of Western Australia where abalone were located in their thousands. It was a risky but profitable business and many inexperienced divers lost their lives at the end of a hookah hose. Because of the upsurge in popularity of scuba diving, new equipment became readily available over a short time. Designs changed every year or so. As more women entered the sport, underwater wear also changed. For example, instead of basic black wetsuits worn for so long by men, colours appeared and suits were made especially for women.

VERY FEW RESTRICTIONS, AND DIVER TRAINING: Diving hardware also altered to suit both male and female. The trend moved towards dive education, and certification cards became compulsory as each diver graduated from various schools throughout Australia. Scuba schools began to teach advanced diver training, conducting deep and wreck diving courses and cave diving along with an assortment of scuba educational programs right through to instructor level. There were few restrictions placed upon divers by governments or local authorities during the 1960s and 1970s. It was a relaxed and adventurous time, and some divers became more daring in their actions. Deep diving records were being attempted again in nearly every state. Wally Reynolds of Sydney set a new Australian deep diving record on March 12, 1961, he reached a depth of 340 feet (103 metres) Dave Burchell of South Australia followed this in 1962 when he dived to 215 (65 metres) feet off the coast of Cape Woolamai, creating a new state record. A young and beautiful 17-year-old fair-haired girl by the name of Kathy Trout in the early part of 1965, set a deep diving record for women. She reached 303 feet, (91 metres) which was a courageous effort for those times. New dive locations were being discovered. Dive travel had not yet become popular but was not far away. There were no specialised dive charter boats but every scuba diver seemed to have a boat or know someone who did. The sport as a whole enjoyed success. Around this time the fear of shark attacks had abated in the minds of most as no scuba divers so far had been reported maimed or killed. Perhaps this was the sport's golden era.

THE WRECK DIVER: During the latter part of the 1960s Dave Burchell from South Australia conceived the idea of locating and diving upon the wreck of HMAS Perth that lay at the bottom of Sunda Straits between Sumatra and West Java. Both Perth and Houston where sunk in action against Japanese cruisers and destroyers on March I, 1942. Eight hundred men and two captains went down with their ships. From the 1960s era evolved a new type of diver, "The Wreck Diver," a special breed of their own. Old shipwreck sites particularly in Western Australia became popular among treasure seekers. Wreck fever gripped Western Australian divers, spurred on by finds of treasure on many old ships that littered the West Coast of that state. Divers were out to locate sunken galleons, yet undiscovered. The coast was so rich with wrecks that they were almost as profuse as coral on the Great Barrier Reef. Many were looted before legislation was brought into effect to protect those remaining. Ancient shipwrecks such as, the Gilt Dragon, Batavia and Zuytdorp were all robbed before legislation was applied to stop offenders from further plunder.

SCUBA DIVING ON TELIVISION: In the early part of 1970, scuba diving became more commercial, touching people on the street through the medium of television. Channel 9 was the first with a telecast each Saturday morning Channel 2 also had a program in Sydney, as did Perth in Western Australia. These and other interstate dive programs reached into many homes to such an extent that the country had a diver as Federal Treasurer, Mr Harold Holt, who later became Prime Minister of Australia. The sport had never seen such an upsurge in popularity, becoming regulated as time passed, then eventually turning toward restrictions and red tape.

BAN ON SPEARFISHING WITH SCUBA: One ruling, a ban placed upon spear fishing combined with scuba equipment was probably the biggest upheaval in the history of diving seen in this country. Since the birth of scuba in Australia, divers carried spear guns for protection against sharks attacks, a psychological crutch, but it worked for most divers. To have this protection taken away was the last straw. For a long time, there were reactions throughout the sport to such an extent that a breakaway association from the Australian Underwater Federation (AUF) was formed to support scuba divers in obtaining the right to carry spear guns. However, the ruling was never changed no matter how hard the new association fought it remains in place today. Scuba diving with spear guns was the accepted thing between 1951 to the late 1960s. Few divers of that period would have chosen to leave their trusty old gun on dry land. These were the years of "going out there with all them sharks, yer game mate". Spear guns carried by scuba divers were mainly anti shark devices, but a few divers were slaughtering fish for profit, particularly rock and reef dwellers. First it was a minority but the practice soon gained momentum and, human nature being what it is, saw a large money making industry. This is when the Australian Underwater Federation (AUF) and government authorities stepped in and passed an act of parliament banning spear guns carried underwater by scuba divers. Some states legislated against power heads. Now there was no protection from shark attacks. Some divers took shark billies with them, a pole about 3 feet (1 meter) in length with a sharp object protruding from one end. These were discarded when no shark attacks occurred upon scuba divers. The general thinking at the time was that sharks do not attack scuba divers and at that point in time, there was no real evidence to prove otherwise, but the Scuba Divers Association was still fighting the ban. The Association, a New South Wales based organisation, eventually spread to other states in Australia.

SCUBA DIVING FAST GROWING SPORT: An increasing number of new dive shops began to open in all states. Underwater photography was just beginning to become popular and numerous underwater photographic competitions were held around the country mostly through clubs and dive magazines. Hydrostatic testing of cylinders once a year became compulsory. Many new scuba clubs began to appear and divers started moving away from the once popular sport of spear fishing. During the 1970s, the industry changed completely from the pioneering days. Spear fishing gradually lost its popularity as a competitive sport, although Australia produced many fine champions both men and women. New dive shops opened throughout many suburbs in each state, proving that a successful dive shop need not necessarily be near the ocean. Through the 1970s scuba diving established itself as a fast growing sport. Divers were swimming winter and summer as wetsuits improved in warmth, design, and comfort. Many participants were now seeking new locations around the Australian coastline. The introduction of specialised dive travel began with Allways Travel agency in Melbourne. It was owned and operated by the late Anthony Newley who died in 1989 of a diving related accident. His assistant was Jan Breavington, she worked for Allways Travel in 1978, then started the very successful Aquarius Dive Travel Company in Melbourne during 1980 with her husband Peter Stone, went on to establish the company as a trailblazer in scuba travel. Unfortunately in 1988, eight years after commencing business, Aquarius closed its doors. By this time other agencies had followed in its footsteps, bringing Australian divers a popular variation to the sport and opening up many sought after locations both locally and overseas.

WORST EVER DEATHS IN AUSTRALIA AT MT GAMBIER SINK HOLES: In the early part of 1970 the sport started to change again. The number of deaths over a short time at Mt Gambier's freshwater sink holes was to become a catalyst for government intervention through legislation or self-regulation of the sport. This was the stimulus for the foundation in late September 1973 of the Cave Divers Association of Australia. The Association was instrumental in the formation of procedure, training, and licensing of divers to participate in underwater activities at Mt. Gambier's sink holes and underwater caves. The South Australian State Government had directed that voluntary regulation of the sport of cave and sink hole diving was worth attempting before embarking upon a legislative program. As scuba diving grew in popularity so did tragedies. The decade of the 1970s was the most distressing in the history of sport diving in this country. Many lost their lives Australia wide, particularly at Mt. Gambier. Australia's first cave diving accident happened in an underwater cavern known as Kilsbys (a sink hole) at Mount Gambier on April 6,1969. It was a double tragedy involving two 18-year-old youths. Their bodies were discovered the next day, after they both failed to surface. The victims were located at a depth of 45 metres about 9 metres from their guideline. Another death followed two years later at Piccaninnie Ponds on January 29, 1972 after two divers entered a confined cave in the depths of Piccaninnie, called Turtle Pond, without a safety line with one diver holding onto his companion's tank. The area had become silted to such an extent that both divers found themselves in total darkness. The victim then let go of the cylinder, and was not seen again until recovery of his body the following morning. Then a triple fatality followed at "S-126" or Death Cave on October 9, 1972, when a group of four

Above ground hole in a farmers paddock, entrance to The Shaft.

inexperienced Adelaide divers entered a dark underwater cave. Three men and one girl descended the tunnel. The water was clear on the way in but when they turned around toward the tunnel opening, they found themselves completely lost in thick silt. For half an hour, they searched for the exit in total darkness until their cylinders ran out of air. The sole survivor, in the last moments of his air supply, saw daylight and ascended to the surface through a hole in the tunnel. If that was not bad enough, seven months later, a quadruple fatality occurred on May 28, 1973, at a popular and spectacular dive location known as The Shaft. The impact and ramifications upon sport diving were enormous. Those drowned, all from New South Wales, including two instructors, one a woman. This was the worst diving tragedy in Australian history. There were nine divers in the group, some from the South Pacific Divers Club of Sydney. No back-up cylinders or guideline were used for the dive when they descended into The Shaft. At 60 metres one of the group indicated all should return to the surface. Three of them did and found themselves trapped on the roof of the cave. The survivor of this trio descended whilst the other two remained where they were. That action saved his life. When he saw lights from other torches flashing and swam towards them, they were making their way toward the exit. Two others failed to surface, including a brother, sister couple. The last body was recovered eleven months after the drownings. Following this terrible tragedy another fatal accident occurred on December 23, 1974, again at Piccaninnie Ponds when a single person died entangled in a guideline. Two divers reached 33 metres where a tunnel began, finally reaching a depth of 60 metres. Ascending to 45 metres the victim became entangled in lines made of thin nylon. His buddy almost ran out of air trying to assist him, then ascended quickly to a spare tank that was at 9 metres below the surface during which time his buddy drowned.

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CROWN-OF-THORNS:  By March 1970, it had become obvious that a plague of crown-of-thorns sea stars had invaded the northern and central areas of The Great Barrier Reef. The sea stars were first noticed in unusually large numbers at Green Island near Cairns about 1960. The southern limits of the thorns seemed at the time to be Broadhurst Reef that lies off the coast opposite Townsville. Measures were taken to try to stem the plague, but when the Queensland State Government became involved in the issue, it became political. After some time it became bogged down in discussion and debate, the initiative was lost and somehow the sea stars over time eradicated themselves to a tolerable level.

SHARK ATTACKS: Midway through the 1970s abalone diver Terry Manual became Australia's first underwater breathing (hookah) victim of a shark attack. His body was never found. It occurred at Streaky Bay, South Australia. The general idea among scuba divers that they were somehow immune from shark attacks was now shattered forever. Many years before this tragedy on November 26, 1964, a great white shark attacked Henry Source whilst snorkelling with seals at Lady Julia Percy Island off the coast of Victoria. He was with a group of scuba divers filming seals when the encounter took place. Bource survived but lost a leg. Even then, it was still thought that sharks do not attack scuba divers, as Bource was snorkelling among scuba divers in shallow water.

DECOMPRESSION SICKNESS: People were beginning to dive deeper and stay down longer. Decompression meters appeared on retail shelves during the latter part of 1970, but were not at the time widely accepted although with the increase in diving accidents decompression sickness increased. There was a move to charge for services rendered by the authorities. Few divers could afford such treatment in decompression chambers and the idea was dropped. Many other accidents and drownings occurred throughout the country among snorkellers, spear fishermen and scuba divers, but it seemed that the deaths at Mount Gambier were the focal point of news media.

BOOKS-FILM-MAGAZINES: As the decade ended the industry introduced many new services for the student diver by way of extra courses. Dive education took on a new meaning. Three magazines specialising in underwater information and articles were up and running, selling in newsagents and scuba diving shops. It was not long before a monthly newspaper dedicated to the industry was published. Australian and overseas travel was now showing an upturn in business. More books appeared on the market on how to dive and where to dive. Popular underwater films were shown many times on television. Everything in the sport was booming as we headed into the 1980s, a free spending time for all.

FIRST CAVE DIVING EXPERDITION: The first organised cave diving expedition consisting of six divers and 30 cave explorers investigated Weebubbie and Cocklebiddy underground lakes, penetrating several hundred metres without reaching the end of either cave. Through the middle to late 1970s new penetration techniques were established enabling special diving groups to explore further. In 1977, cave divers pushed the world record to 1350 metres in Cocklebiddy Cave. Then, only one month later, Western Australian divers broke the record by another 500 metres. Again in 1979 two separate expeditions reached an amazing 3150 metres. Then, only one month later, Western Australian divers broke the record by another 500 metres. Again in 1979 two separate expeditions reached an amazing 3150 metres. Hugh Morrison, Keith Dekkers and Simon Jones led one of these expeditions. In 1982, divers reached 3700 metres and again the same year, 4100 metres. In 1984, Hugh Morrison, Ron Allum and Peter Rogers with a backup crew extended the record to an astounding length of 6240 metres, a world record that remained for 10 years. In the latter part of 1995, cave divers led by Chris Brown broke the old record, a total distance of 6 kilometres.

QUEENSLAND DIVE CHARTER BOATS: Queensland dive charter boats started to improve and moved away from the trawler type of sea transport to specialised dive live-aboard boats, the main emphasis being on services, better accommodation and first class scuba location. Instructors and their agencies became highly organized and more aggressive in selling their products. Teaching had progressed from the individual instructor and clubs to the professional dive shop. Through the 1960s and early 1970s there were few if any restrictions placed upon divers, as mentioned before anyone could dive where they wished, in ocean waters, lakes, rivers, harbours, underground caves and sink holes, and they did in their thousands. During this time, the Underwater Research Group of Queensland created an unusual artificial reef at Cowan Cowan behind Moreton Island in Southern Queensland, naming it Curtin Reef, after Queensland pioneer diver Frank Curtain. The reef consists of car bodies, trams, and a number of barges, tyres, tugs, pontoons, concrete pipes and old ships.

SEARCH FOR OLD SHIPWRECKS: Western Australian divers searched for various old shipwrecks along their lengthy coastline with a certain amount of success. Then legislation was introduced claiming all wreck sites the property of governments, the finder having to disclose their whereabouts. Rewards were paid in cash for divulging locations. All artefacts found by divers belonged to the states. One well-known wreck hunter of the time and author of the book, “Treasure Is Not For The Finder,” Alan Robinson, for seventeen years clashed with bureaucracy. He was arrested sixteen times and assaulted by police five times, threatened, harassed and humiliated for claiming he was the person who discovered the wreck of the Gilt Dragon and for salvaging artefacts from it and other wrecks. Sadly, he eventually ended his life in prison by committing suicide.

ISDHF AWARDS: It was announced that Australia's Allan Power will be inducted into the ISDHF. This award is regarded as the gold standard for such awards and is usually presented to someone who has contributed to the sport of diving at a National or International Level. Past recipients from Australia include Ron and Valerie Taylor, Neville Coleman and, Rodney Fox. The Western Sydney Awards in Business Excellence attracted hundreds of entries. Formerly Scuba Warehouse, Geo Divers, Sydney, in Parramatta has been in the business of training divers for more than 18 years. Owner and veteran diver, Judith McDonald has steered the company through the good and bad times. Not only did Judith take out the coveted Business Woman of the Year Award, but Scuba Warehouse also won two major Category Awards.

MAURICE BATTERHAM: Early last century under the lapping surface of Victoria's Corio Bay, a 10 year old boy was diving with his self-made apparatus consisting of a kerosene tin and garden hose. On the shore his younger brother pumped air down the hose with a pair of bellows. The boy with an affinity for the sea was Maurice Batterham, who went on to spend his life dedicated to underwater human endeavours. Maurice enlisted in the RAN Volunteer Reserve in 1942, throughout the second world war he was a frogman involved in mine disposal. When the war ended he became involved with Ted Eldred in the development of the Porpoise single hose regulator. Batterham also taught diving to many amateur divers throughout the 1960s. Commander Batterham held a managerial position at Australian Divers Spiro until his faltering hearing and eyesight made it impractical to continue. He retired permanently to Phillip Island in 1969. Maurice Batterham officially logged 6822 hours underwater. In his lifetime, the possibility of scuba diving was opened up to the world.

PIONEER CHARTER BOATS: In the early part of the 1980s the influx of diving equipment sales moved from the general sporting goods retailer to the professional dive shops. Some became very aggressive in their approach to business and opened a number of stores to cater for the ever-growing demand for underwater equipment, diver training and education. Pioneer Queensland live-aboard dive charter boat operators led by Mike Ball of Mike Ball Dive Expeditions, Barry May and Graham McCallum of Auriga Bay 11, along with Ron Isbel skipper of Sea Hunt and later Tropic Rover and Wally Muller owner skipper of Coralita opened new and exciting dive locations along the entire Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea.

SHARK ATTACKS: Still battling the recession in the early part of 1993, the diving community throughout Australia was shattered and torn apart again by two horrific shark attacks upon scuba divers, one week apart. The first happened in Tasmanian waters at Barrenjoey seal colony on Tenth Island, off the North East Coast where Mrs Therese Cartwright was taken by a huge white pointer shark. She was attacked whilst diving with two friends. Her companions had just reached the sea floor. They looked back up the anchor line and saw a huge shark bumping and then grabbing their companion around the middle of the body. With a few quick movements of its tail the 5 metre white pointer disappeared with Therese Cartwright still clamped between its jaws. The second shark attack took place at Byron Bay in northern New South Wales. Diving at the Mackerel Boulders, a popular location near Julian Rocks, John Ford and his wife with other divers paused for a decompression stop. Whilst holding onto the anchor rope John saw the shark a few minutes before the attack. Thirty one year old John saved his newly wed wife by pushing her out of the way. He was seized around the body and bitten in half. A short time after the incident fishermen caught a large 5 metre white pointer. It towed their boat 4 kilometres out to sea then disgorged part of John Ford's body before biting through the lines and escaping. Many divers kept out of the water, school attendance dropped by more than half and new gear sales declined. Some divers sold their equipment, but as time passed the hysteria settled a little, and the sport got back to normal again.

MORE SHARK ATTACKS: During September of 1987 a second fatal shark attack on a scuba diver in Australian waters occurred, again in South Australia. The victim this time was Terry Gibson collecting scallops off one of the state's most popular beaches he was completely devoured by a white pointer shark. Australian divers were shocked by a third shark attack upon a scuba diver, this time the victim was Jonathan Lee, a student at the University of Adelaide. He was killed off Aldinga Beach, again in South Australia, at an underwater reef reserve that had become a popular diving location for South Australian divers. Members of the diving party said the water was dirty and they did not see the shark until it was on top of him. It happened so swiftly Jonathan's diving buddy was not sure what was happening. He saw the shark thrashing its head from side to side, and then made out the shape of a wetsuit. It became apparent that the shark had nothing in its mouth but his buddy. The violence of the attack was terrible. There was nothing they could do but scramble to the safety of their boat and raise the alarm. Towards the end of the 1980s dive travel organisations were looking for something new, thrilling and exciting for scuba divers. This is when white pointer shark expeditions began to develop. Rodney Fox, a victim himself saw its potential and organised a number of very successful trips for Australian and overseas divers. These and others expeditions to white pointer territory in South Australia have become extremely popular among underwater photographers and thrill seekers. Western Australians saw a future in sharks and began promoting the highly successful Whale Shark Diving Expeditions to Exmouth's Ningaloo Marine Park. This opened up a huge remote section of tropical coral reefs to divers from all over the world. It is predicted that in time this area of the Australian coastline will become the next boom in underwater tourism within Australia.

INSTRUCTOR AGENCIES: During the early 80s, diving education took a giant step forward. Formed in 1969, PADI became well established in New South Wales. However, FAUI had the majority of instructors in Australia at that time. The federation first started in Victoria then shifted its headquarters to Western Australia. NAUI began operations in January 1980 under the direction of Peter Davidson, its head office in Queensland. Scuba Schools International (SSI) started business toward the latter part of 1989 with Bruce Jamerson as its director; there were then four instructor agencies Australia wide. Since then, another Australian-based instructor organisation has been added with headquarters in Victoria, namely AUSI.

MARINE PARKS: It was also an era of underwater greenies. The Capricorn Section of the Great Barrier Reef was declared a Marine Park on October 21, 1979. The park covers an area of 12,000 square kilometres at the southern part of the Barrier Reef. A year later, on September 14, 1980, the entire Great Barrier Reef was nominated for World Heritage listing. Many other marine parks around Australia became established during that time.

OCEANS FILM FESTIVAL: Melbourne had Australia's greatest entertainment for divers all under one roof the Film Festival "Oceans". Held each year over a full weekend, from Friday night to Sunday afternoon, it became the most important entertainment in the industry, both from a spectator point of view and from that of filmmakers and guest speakers. There were one or two attempts by other people to stage the same type of show, but they failed. Nevertheless the official winding up of Oceans took place in October 1987. After a decade, Oceans was transformed into the Diving Industry and Travel Association of Australia (DITAA), later renamed Dive Australia, and has since folded, leaving avoid in the industry. South Pacific Divers Club began their Australasian Underwater Film Festival at Bankstown, an outer suburb of Sydney, during the early part of the 1980s. It grew into one of the most popular yearly event in Australia, awarding prizes worth many thousands of dollars to underwater photographers.

SEVERE RECESSION: During the 1980s, Australia endured a severe recession, a result of its free spending years during the early part of the decade. Many dive shop retailers failed and manufactures and importers suffered. Prices began to tumble. New equipment costs remained static or became cheaper than in previous years. Specials were the going thing but dive schools student numbers began falling, and a general airline strike nationwide caused havoc among tour operators. The industry was at its lowest level. To try and boost dive travel within Australia in those difficult times, Lady Elliot Island held its first Scuba Festival in September of 1991 and there were plans to continue the festival each year. A great number of specials were being offered by many other tourist resorts and dive charter operators.

MIXED GAS DEATH: Re-breathing units were reintroduced to sport diving in 1993, along with mix gases for deeper and longer times underwater. Paul Cavanagh, Channel 7 Station Manager in Sydney, died off the coast at Long Reef a northern suburb of Sydney on March 20, 1994, whilst diving on Trimix gases. Although Trimix, a mixture of three gases for safe deep diving had been used overseas for more than 25 years, Workcover imposed a ban on its use in Australia in 1991. The ban was lifted on March 1, 1994, following advice from the New South Wales Crown Solicitor. Paul Cavanagh died 19 days later. Another fatal accident involving Trimix gases occurred on May 24, 1996, when Pat Bowring husband of Woman's Weekly editorial director Nene King, died whilst diving on the wreck of the paddle steamer Koputai, lying in 78 meters of water off Bondi. His body was never recovered.

TED ELDRED AWARD: In South Australia the Ted Eldred Award was presented to Frank Zeigler. The Award is given for outstanding contribution to the Society and Frank is in my opinion worthy recipient having organised classic and standard dress courses under the NAUI banner, and generated so much enthusiasm as a result

FOUR TOP SCUBA DIVERS PASSED AWAY: The death of four top divers was a blow to the sport of scuba diving in Australia. Wally Gibbons a champion spear fisherman and top scuba diver, Walter Deas, filmmaker and still photographer, Ron Taylor world champion spearman and filmmaker also Neville Coleman marine biologist and first class underwater photographer, all will be sadly missed.

129,000 DIVERS CERTIFICATED: Pro Dive of Cairns made history in the global diving industry in September when they issued their 120,000 PADI certificate. This is a remarkable achievement and will be remembered by both Pro Dive Cairns and PADI Asia Pacific as a significant milestone in time.

Since 1950 when a few men entered the water to test their new underwater breathing apparatus, the sport of scuba diving has grown into a multimillion dollar business with 700.000 to one million participants Australia wide.

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.