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Merimbula: On the June long weekend we conducted a dive trip to Merimbula/Eden. We all departed Melbourne on Friday 9 Jun for the 600 Km trip to Pambula where the club had rented a house for the weekend at a cost of $40 per head for the 3 nights accommodation. Doug and Ted were the stars of the trip over and proved to the NSW police that a turbo diesel Landcruiser towing a black Zodiac is very hard to catch. Ted inadvertently failed to stop at the border check point set up by Vic and NSW police, fisheries, customs and the drug squad. The NSW police then proceeded to chase ted to Eden where they finally pulled him over for a cavity search.

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Jenny & Doug Eden Harbour Blue-throated Wrasse on Empire of Gladstone Pete & Jenny on Tasman Hauler
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Tasman Hauler Prop Tanya tieing a bowline at 30 metres Ted doing a safety stop Black Duck at Eden boat ramp

On Saturday morning we launched the Black Duck at the Pambula Lakes boat ramp and conducted our first dive on the wreck of the Empire of Gladstone which is located on the south side of Haystack Rock. The wreck is very accessible as most of the superstructure has collapsed and only the stern section has any compartments still in tacked. The wreck is a WWII Liberty Ship which sank in 1950 and now lies in 10 metres of water with the old boilers being the main feature of the wreck. The Saturday afternoon dive was cancelled due some wimps complaining it was to rough to dive at Merimbula Jetty.

On Sunday morning we made an early start and headed back to Eden with the black Duck for a dive on the scuttled tug, the Henry Bolte, which lies in 24 metres of water just outside Eden harbour. The Henry Bolte is the older of the 2 tugs and has started to collapse making it less interesting than the Tasman Hauler. On Sunday arvo we returned to Eden to dive the cave which is just south of the Tugs. The cave entrance is at 18 metres at the base of a drop off and the cave is about 40 metres long. The cave entrance is quite large and wide and slowly narrows towards the back of the cave were the exit is very narrow and requires the diver to exit side ways or remove your tank and push it in front of you. The cave is home to many fish, some very large cuttlefish and a big eastern cray. This is a very interesting dive, however the cave can get quite silted if to many divers try to enter at once.

On Monday morning we packed up early and headed off to Eden to launch the Black Duck for a dive in the Tasman Hauler, which lies in 28 metres of water just outside Eden harbour. The Tasman Hauler sits upright and is still intact with lots of compartments to enter and two large props.

Overall the total costs for the weekend were $40 for accommodation in a 3 bedroom house, $20 for 4 boat dives from the club boat and $8 for 4 air fills from the club compressor (hows that for value for money diving!).

For more info on diving at Eden follow this link.

Coffs Harbour/Southwest Rocks Trip: From 15 to 23 July the club dived at Fish Rock Cave and the Solitary Islands. We towed the club RIB up from Melbourne and dived Fish Rock, the wreck of the Agnus Erving, South Solitary, Northwest Solitary, Wrights Reef, Surgeon Reef and MAD Grotto (we named it). Although we had 3 days when it was too rough to dive we still did plenty of diving in the relitively warm 18 degree water. The highlights of the trip were diving with the gray nurse sharks, manta rays, Chuck almost being squashed by a whale, turtles and very large black groper. The best dives were MAD Grotto which we discovered by chance on the last day and Fish Rock Cave.

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Green Crays at Fish Rock Cave Gray Nurse at Sth Solitary Gray Nurse at Sth Solitary

PNG Dive Trip: In October 2000, eight club members went to Madang, New guinea for a week of diving. The diving at Madang is mostly coral reef wall diving on some very deep drop offs. On one dive at 70 metres the wall just kept going off into the deep blue. Other than walls there is a B25 Mitchell bomber wrecked at Jais Aben and a few scuttled wrecks. the dive services at Jais Aben are not the best and they do not deserve their PADI 5 Star rating. We had a number of cylinder valves fail on their hire tanks and air tased of oil.

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B25 Guns White Tip Reef Shark Clown Fish Moray

Xmas 2001BBQ and Car Rally: Just to end the year and get together, a car rally was organised, by a very secretive committee. All we were told is that it will start at Albert Park and finish near the water.

With vehicles finely tuned and engines revving in the Albert Park carpark, the atmosphere of the Grand Prix, rally teams were keen to get on the road. Supplied with clues and cheat notes, each team zoomed out of the carpark. However if you didn't know north from south, which was the first clue, maybe there was some hesitation.


Through the city, over the bridge and far away. Was this a set up ? I have arrived outside Barwon Prison. My parents always said I was destined for this place. Give the navigator a smackin` and we are off again… in the right direction. We are somewhere between Laverton/Werribee and Bacchus Marsh. Dusty unsealed roads and clouds of dust…….. Hands up who had visions of Burt Reynolds in Cannon Ball Run???


It looked like we were back into civilisation when we were lost in Geelong. I phone call to Chief adjudicator and all round nice guy Mal, who kindly informed us there is a mistake on the clues and you should be here and not there. Mental note: Kill Mal!!
Reaching the checkpoint, Mal had the BBQ set up and greeted us with lunch. Where have you been, you were the first to take off and the last to arrive?? A good driver will always blame the navigator!!!


After a bit of lunch, Mal said he had to go back and see if Jeff & Judy are ok….more on that later. Zooming along route66, our journey was along the West Coast. Portarlington - I have never seen the salt works before, St. Leonards and a few historical markers, through Queenscliff and cleansing ale at Point Lonsdale pub and a BBQ dinner at Breamlea.


Before departure at Albert Park, Mal said there is a small water crossing, he checked it out the night before and said it was "only this high" pointing just below his knee. Remember Mal is NOT 6'3", so the water should be shallow. Not so fellow thrill seekers.


When I arrived at the water crossing, I walked in; it was just under 1m. Should have walked in further because the water was over my bonnet and very close to coming in via the open window, water running in via the door seals, a couple of inches of water on the floor, Don't Stall Now I prayed. We made it through laughing and wiping our brows thinking what could have happened.


Jeff & Judy, I wish someone had this on video because you would be candidates for Funniest Home Video Show. In the family Ford sedan, Captain Jeff & 1st Mate Judy of the SS Titanic, ploughed through in a spray and wash that would have made any jet boat owner proud. The odd thing is that when Mal said he checked the creek depth the night before, he was not aware that it rained last night and the depth had increased from knee deep to waist deep. Or on Mal, about neck height.


Jeff & Judy were winched out by another motorist. Their story of the water lapping over their seat and the fact that the console was full of water was so amusing. The car boot full of water, all the clothing was wet as well as the car interior. When asked why they drove through "because Mal said it was only 12 inches deep!!!" Jeff & Judy may not have won 1st prize in the car rally, but they definitely won 1st prize for being good sports.


Thanks to Mal, Ted, Meagan & Tanya for organising the Rally & BBQ

Ships Graveyard: On 20 Jan 02 we ventured out to the Commonwealth Ships Graveyard to look for a couple of deep wrecks I had been given GPS marks for. We launched from Ocean Grove and headed out through Barwon Heads for the 12 km trip in the RIB to the first GPS mark. As luck had it some one was already diving on the Milora and we didn't need to search long to find the wreck. The boat we joined out there also had an accurate fix on the Batman so we decided that three of us would dive the Batman and three the Milora. The visibility was better on the Batman but the Milora being a much bigger wreck was the better dive of the two wrecks.
Both these wrecks, although quite deep, are worth the long boat ride. There are also many other scuttled wrecks in this area which we intend to look for next time the sea is calm.


South West Rocks: North of Sydney on the NSW coast is a speck size town, with excellent diving. I was always curious about the diving here from the pictures seen in dive magazines.


Theodore, Elisabeth & myself took the road trip of over 16 hours to the Rocks. That’s Ted & Lis in case you haven’t figured it out yet. What a joyous trip, "are we there yet?" was sung from the back seat. "Shut up or I will drive this car into an on coming Mack truck!!" That kept them quiet.


Eye spy became lame in about 2 minutes, though it seemed like an eternity.


We arrived Sunday morning, blue skies that stayed with us for the remainder of the week. The accommodation is for 22 people; we had one visitor for 2 nights then the place to ourselves. Great hot showers, good kitchen etc…


Onto the diving. Quick boat ride out to the Rock. This has a cave that runs 60+m in length, the entrance at 24m coming out at 10m. Big wobbegong sharks lay in the black caves, camouflaged on the sandy bottom, or wedged on rock shelves. Be careful where you rest your hands. Crayfish by the hundreds. I thought of 101 crayfish recipes, however it is a marine park so no taking. Sponges, 1000’s and 1000’s of fish block out the sunlight, nudibranchs, cone shells, the list goes on. When I stopped to rest and admire the scenery, a Spanish dancer came to rest on my stationary hand. Where is the camera when you need one, with Ted at another location of course.


I cannot find the words to describe the cave and its treasures without writing pages upon pages. We also found an air pocket in the ceiling; you can poke your head in for a chat, though you are still 2 atmospheres.


Going through the cave a second time without a dive guide was a little daunting, though Lis quickly found the way. She also left a trail of destruction so we could have followed that back out. Just look for a trail of dead creatures and follow that. Just kidding!!! Upon exiting Lis looked up to see a 2m wobby coming straight for her. Though it was startling to the diver, it was only going by to enter the cave. A crayfish shell was souvenired, swiped from under the nose of a large wobby. Very entertaining when your buddy has control of the torch and you are being eyed by the highly-strung wobby.


Mental note: get Lis to do the risky stuff.


On the outside of the cave, the dives are just as entertaining. BIG wobbegongs, gropers and turtles. Oh yes, did I mention Grey Nurse Sharks!!! They obviously have an excellent dental plan.


Cruising by effortlessly, the length of a car and the weight to match. Normal people would be happy to look in wonder….except for Captain Courageous. (Ted)


New South Wales Fisheries were there and wanted to tag and release the sharks for science. Their numbers are rapidly depleting. (Not to be confused with the Japanese whale research. What goes well with wasabi?) Ted not missing an opportunity to be shark food, volunteered to hook the Grey Nurse Sharks in the mouth. Much like using a gaff. Bang and they take off like a freight train and you better not be in the way. Only Ted and his dry cleaner know how scared he really was. He did this several times; it even made the ABC news. We endeavour to get the video and proudly show it at a club night.


Whilst Ted was toying with his odds against nature, Lis was parked on a rocky reef at 20m feeding the fish, gloves off patting and groping the large Groper fish. Who groped whom? The fish are still going through counselling. There were also heaps of moray eels in amongst the rocks. You never can tell if they are smiling. On the ascent you can inspect the rocky wall for nudibranch and starfish, or be accompanied by the batfish at your 5m-deco stop. On the surface there were whales and turtles frolicking nearby.
A small town that must boom in summer. A long drive from Melbourne, however if you get the lovely weather it’s worth it. – Matt Planksken