Category: History

Snorkel described as lethal in Australian Parliament

Ping Pong Ball Snorkle
Ping Pong Ball Snorkel

Dr M. H. Cass (ALP VIC) told Federal Parliament in March that an underwater snorkel on sale in Australia was lethal.

He asked the Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, to investigate the sale of the snorkel.

Mr Gorton agreed to make the inquiries.

The snorkel was described by Dr Cass as a long, underwater breathing snorkel with Ping-Pong valves.

He said that an 8 year old boy had drowned in three feet of water while using the snorkel.

From: The Fisherman Winter, 1970 pg. 21.

Wally Gibbins

A touching presentation speech for the Wally Gibbins Trophy read by David Birch at the 2015 USFA Awards night.

Walter Hammond Gibbins was born January 16th 1930 in Sydney. In the early 1940s he harpooned leatherjackets from the jetties of Sydney Harbour to feed his family before entering the water with his  homemade mask, snorkel, belts, a scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) system and speargun to chase bigger game so successfully that most speargun manufacturers use his speargun design even today.

Wally Gibbins - 68lb (30.8kg) Fairy Bower 1952
Wally Gibbins - 68lb (30.8kg) Fairy Bower 1952

Wally’s adventurous aquatic life was often compared to the leading French marine explorer Jacques Cousteau. He was a pioneer diver who spent thousands of hours exploring fish, shells and underwater salvage sites. He filmed many of this exploits for TV or films along with a team of high-profile names, including Ben Cropp and Ron and Valerie Taylor. Wally pioneered the trigger mechanism still used today in many guns.

He caught his first shark, a wobbegong, at Middle Head in 1947, and shot and landed the first man-eating shark in Australia - a bronze whaler in 1950. The capture of a shark by a skindiver (rather than a man being caught and eaten by a shark) created headline news. He also caught with a spear a 400-kilogram tiger shark at Sykes Reef near Heron Island in 1963.

In 1948 he helped form the Underwater Skindivers and Fishermen's Association at Long Reef , winning spearfishing competitions for the next 10 years, as well as the 1952 contest between anglers and spearmen. Wally single handedly caught more fish than all 37 anglers who had fished from the shore or boats. The rest of the spearos that turned up that day, may as well have stayed at home! Continue reading Wally Gibbins

The first South Coast Spearfishing Championships

From Australian Skindivers Magazine April 1964

Wollongong Carnival of Sport Spearing Championships

A proud moment for Judy Sorrenson (Port Kembla) with her trophies.
A proud moment for Judy Sorrenson (Port Kembla) with her trophies.

The Port Kembla Club certainly turned on a well-organized competition on March 14, in conjunction with the City of Greater Wollongong’s 3rd Annual Carnival of Sport. This club showed many of the larger metropolitan clubs that when they said we would have an enjoyable day – they certainly meant it! And the prizes – wow! Never ever have the NSW Executive seen such a line-up of really valuable trophies. No silverware or tin cups but sensible (if not rather too expensive) products including Electric Frypans, TV Lamps, Tea Sets, Sherry Decanter & Glasses, Toasters, Record Players, etc. Over 100 pounds worth of goods all purchased (not donated) by the organizers – the Port Kembla Skindiving Club.

Unfortunately the water was not the clearest although John Black and Brian Raison from Sans Souci Club scored over 300 points each. Bill Lewis caught the heaviest fish (a 25 lbs. Blue Groper) and took home a valuable trophy – a box of pilsener glasses. Continue reading The first South Coast Spearfishing Championships

Submarine Spearsman – The Queenslander – 1 July 1937

Submarine Spearsman

1937       1 July 1937

The possibility of spearing fish under water is queried by “H.V. In doing so, he challenges the traditional manner of fishing employed by the almost amphibian Torres Straits Island natives. Armed with long spears, Binghi in these parts ventures down several fathoms in search of the finny quarry, and disappears from sight for minutes on end to emerge with a wriggling fish or crayfish impaled on the spear point.

In this submarine venture Binghi wears a pair of “swim glasses” or water tight goggles, which protects his eyes from salt water irritation and permit some yards of under sea vision.

Binghi’s spear thrusts do not have to depend on chance for a success, as they are the result of a perfectly developed marksmanship. So sure of his prowess is the native that on occasions he is able to transfix the brain box of the fish so that it dies instantly, instead of stampeding the rest of the fishy school by its death flurry on the spear point.

LAETITTIA

From:   The Queenslander 1 July 1937 Pg. 2

Spear Fishing – Cairns Post – 1940

Spear Fishing

1940       13 May

Spear Fishing is rapidly becoming a leading sport amongst the youth of Innisfail. The spear employed, unlike the four-pointed spear used by the aborigines, consists of a length of iron with a sharp barb at one end. The swimmers, who wear water glasses, enters the water and submerges to await the fish. When a fish comes near the end of the spear the swimmer makes a jab, and if successful, immediately raises the point to prevent the fish from escaping.

From: Cairns Post 13 may 1940, pg. 6

Angles on Angling

Angles on Angling

1947       9th May

24 years old Alf Rowen, who conducts a bootmaking establishment in Crown Street Wollongong, has a natty fish catching device.

None of this old-fashioned sinker and line business for Alf – he has a “sear-gun” that fires a 4ft. 6in. stainless steel shaft UNDERWATER!

He dons goggles and a lead – weighted belt (to keep him steady on the sea floor), shoulders his “spear-gun,” takes a deep breath and dives into the depths.

Usually, Alf hides himself under a ledge, or in a hole, and lays in wait for some large, unsuspecting fish.

He claims he never worries about the small ones and during Easter, at Sussex Inlet, the average weight of 80 fish caught was 1 3/4 to 2lbs.

Alf will be ‘shooting’ them on Sunday morning between eight and eleven o’clock, just off the Wollongong Continental Baths.

DAVID HENWOOD

From:   Illawarra Mercury Friday 9 May 1947 pg.1

One that didn’t get away – Record Black Bream

ONE THAT DIDN’T GET AWAY

1969 13 July

Spear fisherman Michael Bray, of Johnson Street, Peakhurst, holds a 23in long black bream which he caught in Sydney Harbour off Shark Island.

Michael arrived for the Metropolitan Skin Divers’ Club  presentations with the catch last night.

Record Black Bream“Now they will have to believe me” he said, nursing the deep-frozen bream weighing 8lb 1oz (3.657kg) and with a girth of 20 inches.

He saw the fish while swimming with a friend, Mr Mervyn Sheehan, of Sans Souci, on Friday.

“We both fired together: my spear hit him in the side – my friend’s spear missed.”

Michael said he used a rubber-powered gun for the catch.

Michael, a sculpture student at the East Sydney Technical College belongs to the St. George Skin Divers’ Club.

He said he would eat all of the fish himself tomorrow. “I’m very fond of fish.” He said.

The publisher of “Anglers Digest” said last night that Mr Bray’s catch was almost certainly a record for a speared fish.

He said an 8lb 4oz black bream had been caught with a line at Swansea in 1967, but previously spearfishermen had not caught one anywhere near that weight.

From: Sun Herald Sun 13 July 1969 pg. 2