I did my basic scuba course test dive at Port Noarlunga jetty on 4th February 1978. (Strangely, my certificate is dated the day before – 3rd Feb.) It was the first time that I had used scuba in the sea. Wayne Farquhar was apparently one of the dive instructors on my course. I knew Wayne from my job at Harris Scarfe Ltd. Wayne heard that I kept marine aquaria and came to see them at my home. He told me about MARIA (SA) of which he was President and invited me to join them for a dive the day after my test dive at Noarlunga. That dive was held at The Bluff at Victor Harbor. It was a ‘research’ dive involving recording sighting on quadrats. There were nine divers that day, including Wayne and myself.
Me diving in Ewens Ponds in later years
Two weeks later, I participated in a MARIA dive at Myponga Beach. Once again, nine divers took part. I believe that we did a rock entry and went on quite a long swim. My fourth dive was a night dive at Glenelg jetty. I bought a dive torch especially for the dive. I was buddied up with a 14-year old boy who, like myself, had never done a night dive before. We lost our bearings a little and my torch flooded.
Up to this stage, each of my four dives had been to a depth of less than 25 feet. We headed down to the Rapid Bay jetty for my fifth dive. Incidentally, I was not at all familiar with any of these dive sites at all. We had seven divers this time, including two interstate visitors. One of them was an Ian Kirwain, a MARIA (Victoria) member I think. He didn’t like the long walk out to the diver entry platform on the ‘T’-section so he merely leapt over the railings of the jetty, breaking many glass collection jars as he hit the water heavily.
Wayne had a young male relative diving with us. I recorded his name in my old first log book as simply “G.Ridge”. Almost 39 years later, I recently asked Wayne if G.Ridge had been a relative and was he possibly Glen Ridge of television game show fame. Wayne answered both questions in the affirmative. That being the case, I can now boast about having dived with Glen Ridge in 1978 before he became the host of Channel 9 TV’s “Sale of the Century” game show in 1991. He had taken over the job from Tony Barber and held the role for ten years.
I don’t recall much more about that dive other than that it was 40 feet deep and I remember thinking how very deep it was compared to my previous four dives. My next dive at Rapid Bay was two months later and I recorded that dive as just 32 feet. Each of my two dives there had lasted just 60 minutes, just like my third dive there 6 ½ months later, at the end of the year just after Christmas. It was my second ever night dive. Once again, I don’t recall any more about the dive other than that it was 40 feet again.
These Rapid Bay dives had been my deepest ones to date. Until I dived at Port Giles jetty that is. I dived at the very end of the jetty and down to 55 feet where I soon netted a ‘huge’ conger eel.
I stuffed the beast into my catch bag and took it out of the water onto the jetty where my colleagues had a big bin full of sea water waiting. I emptied the eel out of my catch bag into the bin. The eel was so long that it curled around the inside of the bin. My colleagues decided in their wisdom that the eel was too big to take home and put in an aquarium, so they promptly released it back into the sea. I think that it took two of us to hold it, point it down towards the sea and let it go. It swam down as soon as it hit the water.
The Port Giles dive was actually my first ever ‘boat’ dive. We had climbed down a ladder at the end of the jetty and swam over to our boat which had brought our dive tanks out for us. We geared up at (in?) the boat before making our dive. My first real boat dive was at Wright Island at Victor Harbor that same month. I eventually got to do a few boat dives by the end of that year.
Anyway, I seem to be getting side-tracked here. I didn’t get to dive at Rapid Bay for another seven months following my Christmas dive there. I was just with a MARIA colleague this time and we managed an 80-minute dive in the 40-foot depth. It was yet another seven months before MARIA did another dive there. We returned there once again three months later. I recorded this dive as being a record 45 feet for the site. This was when I found my first Leafy seadragon at Rapid Bay. I had found a Weedy seadragon at Seaford the week before, so I was on a roll! Both sightings were my first ever.
Me with my old 110-film camera
I didn’t have an underwater camera in those days. When I finally got one, it was a 110-film camera. I eventually got a 35mm camera to use. Both of these cameras were lost in diving mishaps. I bought another 35mm camera whilst I was still reluctant to go digital. A little waterproof digital camera eventually got me started and I ended up buying a waterproof compact digital camera. This was waterproof to just 10metres for just 6o minutes, so I invested in a housing that allowed my camera to go down to 45 metres for as long as I liked.