In the Beginning…

On the 24 April, 1959 a meeting was called to form a SCUBA club in the Woy Woy area. This meeting was held at the home of Dick Burford in Burge Road, Woy Woy and seventeen persons were present. The result of this meeting was a total agreement on the formation of a club and an election of officers took place, the result being:

President: Dick Burford.
Secretary: Roy Cunningham.
Treasurer: Cyril Finch. Chief Diving Instructor: Dave Webb

Dave was the logical choice for the instructors position, as he was an ex-navy clearance diver.

At the second meeting the clubs name was selected from:

Brisbane Water SCUBA Club (BWSC)
Brisbane Water Undersea Research Group (BWURG)
Brisbane Water Aqualung Club (BWAC)

Club fees were also set, these were ten shillings ($1) joining fee and one pound ($2) per annum. Diving school fees were set at, two pounds ($4).

Next meeting the constitution and Club rules were adopted.


Becoming Self Sufficient

These early days were quite different from today where we take everything for granted and the technology is user friendly. Wet suits hadn’t been invented and air fills were only obtainable in Sydney, To overcome the air problem the Club hired from Barnes Scuba Service in Sydney a trailer with two very large cylinders on top and by decanting from these eased the burden of the trip to Sydney for a fill.

At the Clubs first annual dinner in June 1960, the Club had as guest speaker, Lt Cmdr. Titcomb from the Royal Australian Navy. This led to the Club visiting the Naval base at Rushcutters Bay which resulted not only in seeing over the base, but a dive in the recompression chamber and the following day in Sydney Harbour, using an oxygen rebreather set which was indeed quite an experience.

In August, 1960, a proposal was put to us by Hugh Baird, a local boat builder to finance us to buy a compressor. A seven cubic foot Bristol was imported from England and set up behind the winch house at the boatshed in Booker Bay and was in full operation by September 1961, solving all our air problems. By February 1963, we had repaid two hundred pound ($400) of the debt and Hugh generously denoted the balance three hundred and forty one pounds ($682). Our air was sold at the rate of one penny (1 cent) per cubic foot, that is 88 cents for a tank fill!


Instructing the instructors

Since formation, the Club had been running diving classes and the strain was starting to tell on our only instructor, Dave, so he decided to run an instructors course and set pass marks at 85% practical and 95% theory. By the end of I960, we had two extra instructors. Col Zwan and Roy Summersby. In those days theoretical lessons were conducted in the homes of club members.

In the early 60’s wet suits vere imported to Australia, until then we were wearing woollen jumpers, up to three at a time, normally with boiler suit overalls on top.

One important improvement the girls came up with was a jacket made out of rubberised material which was worn over the jumpers and reduced the flow of water through them. Club activities in these early days were many and varied and included building such things as camera cases, Hooker units, sleds, underwater scooters and even a two man submarine was attempted by Club members.SCUBA and Skin diving or snorkelling (now known as free diving) was a relatively new sport back then and highly unregulated. Club members took it upon themselves to ensure the sport was conducted safely and to inform the public of the dangers of diving without instruction or inadequate equipment. At the second annual dinner we had the now famous Ron Taylor as our guest speaker and he was very popular with his talk and film presentation. It was Ron’s early days as well as ours and while our home made camera cases were still leaking, Ron was showing films of Grey Nurse sharks at Seal Rocks.


Becoming organised

By 1962 there were a number of Scuba clubs in N.S.W., and they formed what was known as the Council of Underwater Activities and our Club along with the UnderwaterResearch Group of N.S.W. (Sydney), and the Underwater Research Group of Newcastle, met at the Central Coast Leagues Club, and set down the minimum standards for diving instruction. It was pleasing for us that we compiled with what was adopted, the only modification being a minimum time of five minutes buddy breathing be added to our syllabus, The Council of Underwater Activities was divided into three areas with ourselves and Newcastle making up the northern zone, which was very active. Along with the training of divers, SCUBA conventions were held at Halifax Park and Toowoon Bay, with boat transport being provided by private owners. These weekends were very successful. The northern zone also produced a small booklet explaining the theory of diving to make training easier for the Clubs. As time went on the Council of Underwater Activities or C.U.A., amalgamated with the Underwater Spearfish Association and later became the Australian Underwater Federation as it is today.

The stern anchor of the Lord Ashley, which sank off Terrigal in 1877, was raised in 1963, and this was presented to Henry Kendal Cottage Museum, along with two portholes. Two years later this anchor was joined by one of the main anchors retrieved from the Lord Ashley and these can still be viewed at West Gosford.

Towards the end of 1964, Dave Webb saw a better future for himself in Melbourne and Roy Summersby was appointed Chief Diving Instructor and continued in thiscapacity until the Club ceased teaching. Its a shame that a complete list of students can’t be found as a total number would be impressive. Our standard of teaching was high by today’s standards and the course which ran for six weeks included apart from the basics, navigation, search and search and recovery, hooker diving, (with the air tank on the surface) rope signals and working underwater.

Students passed the course on completion of a practical exercise, which involved diving with a length of railway track, a cold chisel, a hammer and a length of steel rope. The aim of the exercise was to cut through the cable whilst underwater, this skill certainly proved useful for some club members who made a name for themselves as “Wreck Ratters”. Times certainly have changed and one wonders if the professional schools and dive shops of today with their accelerated training courses can match the “old ways”.The only time we sent representatives to the Australian Championships, we won both senior and junior sections through Peter Armstrong and Stephen Fry.


Times were a changing

The Club kept a low profile for a number of years although members were still diving and meeting on an irregular basis. This all changed in 1982, when Peter Summersby was introduced to the sport and applied so much pressure that a complete revitalisation of the Club had to happen. This occurred on the 16 February 1983. At the Feb’ meeting in 1984, a motion was passed for a committee to find a suitable dive boat. For the protection of members against liability, the Club became a registered company in 1987 and Ltd was added to our name. Over the past couple of years the Club has finished the financial year with between fifty one hundred members, most of which enjoy their diving on a regular basis. In 2005 the Club's structure again changed, becoming an Incorporated Association within NSW, and the official title now being Brisbane Water Aqualung Club Inc.

Over the years we have assisted the community in many ways some of which are listed below:

  • Assisted in recovery of accident and drowning victims.
  • Advise and Survey of Park boundaries for the National Parks and Wildlife Services of Bouddi Marine Reserve, one of the first marine parks to be proclaimed in Australia.
  • Assisted in the catching of sea snakes for the collection of venom by Eric Worrel for the research and production of an antivenene by the C.S.I.R.O. and C.S.L. Deaths from sea snake bites are in excess of 1:500 per year in South East Asia.
  • Annual inspection of salt water baths for shark mesh condition and cleaning bottom of debris.
  • Escorting marathon swimmers from Gosford to Woy Woy.
  • Specimen collecting for the Australian Museum.
  • Search and recovery of lost property,
  • Assistance to Volunteer Coastal Patrol in towing of disabled vessels.
  • Assisting Fisheries Department in removal of illegal fishing nets (one in 1985 was 700 foot long).
  • Advise in location and laying of artificial reefs in Lake Macquarie in conjunction with the Newcastle Research Group.

Public displays have included:

  • Diving equipment in use
  • Demonstrations at swimming carnivals
  • Displays of past relics
  • Annual underwater slides night at Central Coast Leagues Club.
  • Participate in Clean up Australia Day events by collecting underwater rubbish from Brisbane Water and Terrigal Haven
  • Actively lobby for Artificial Reef projects

Our Club’s aims are to actively promote and foster the sport of Scuba Diving, and give assistance to the community where possible. In all the years our of existence we believe we have accomplished this goal.