Athol Bryan ( George) Davies was born on the 17 th May 1923 and left us on 5 th June 2019 at the age of 96.

George could rightly be described as the father of Spearfishing in Australia. George’s interest in spearfishing began when the July 1939 issue of “Popular Science” magazine contained an article
“Human Submarine Shoots Fish with Arrows” and a lifelong passion for the sport of spearfishing was aroused.

At this time there was no equipment available and George found himself experimenting with homemade equipment designs. Face masks were made from a piece of oval glass and rubber cut from car tyre tubes. Continue reading VALE GEORGE DAVIES BEM PIONEER SPEARFISHER

A brief look at Australian Skin and Scuba diving periodicals

Inscriptions from the Depths of Time

In February of 1951 the Underwater Spear Fishermen’s Association (USFA) produced its first magazine, “Spearfishing News”. With USFA secretary Jim Ferguson as editor this publication consisted initially of 6 typewritten pages. Produced monthly it contained hints on spearfishing and equipment, information on rules, monthly and committee meetings, clubs, trophies and a Man of the Month section.

“Spearfishing News” continued being produced by the committee every month until September of 1952 when it first appeared as a commercial publication of 24 A5 pages. After the first 2 issues Jim Ferguson wasn’t happy with the new format and reverted to a typewritten publication for the November issue.

At the November committee meeting of the USFA Jim Ferguson was requested to outline his plan for the future of the magazine. As the committee wished to continue with a commercially printed publication Jim Ferguson resigned and a magazine committee consisting of Edward Du Cros (Editor), Keith Vagg (Associate Editor ) and Jeff Jackson (Advertising) was elected with the first issue being in December 1952 with a cover price of one shilling.

The September 1953 issue saw a name change to the “Australian Skin Diving & Spearfishing Digest” and in November of 1953 Keith Vagg took the reins as Editor.

Producing the magazine was a continuing struggle and in July of 1954 the production and Editorial role for the magazine passed to Phil Knightly. In November of 1954 he was replaced with Richard Dreyfus, who worked in the Mirror office.

By January of 1955 it was reported that the handling of the magazine was unsatisfactory and the services of Mr. Dreyfus were dispensed with. The Feb-March 1955 issue was produced by Dick Barton as temporary editor until September of 1955 when Ray Cooper became the editor. In August of 1956 John Thompson as the USFA’s Business Manager took on the task of producing the magazine until October of 1960 when H.R.Smith & Biro with Bob Smith as Editor, produced the magazine  for the USFA.

Australian Skindivers Magazine - March 1961
Australian Skindivers Magazine – March 1961

This commercial agreement did not work out and in March of 1961 the USFA again resumed control with a new editor and a new name. With Jack Evans as editor and the title “Australian Skindivers Magazine” (ASM), production ran smoothly under his stewardship until he reluctantly relinquished his position as editor, due to overseas commitments. Jack Evans last magazine was the June/July 1969 issue.

John Gillies was then appointed editor with the July/August 1969 edition his first issue with another first for the ASM, a coloured front cover. However by July of 1970 a financial storm was gathering with the USFA not being in the position of being able to pay the printers for the release of the June/July 1970 issue.  When payments were recouped by advertisers, the July issue was belatedly released, this being the final issue of the ASM.

During 1968 a new publication became available nationally with the title “Diver Magazine”. Consisting of 24 pages it was sponsored by Brisbane’s Underwater Adventurers Club with the editor being Don Scheikowski. It appears to have been confined to just a single issue.

This was followed in October of 1969 by “Australian Diver”, also with Don Scheikowski as editor. With a cover price of thirty cents and 24 pages of content it lasted for three monthly issues.

In the latter half of 1970 the man who was to become the undisputed king of dive publishing in Australia introduced his first publication “Skindiving in Australia”.

Barry Andrewartha had developed a passion for skindiving after seeing a spearfisher in action while on holidays at Lorne in 1954. The following year Barry began to spearfish and joined the Black Rock Underwater Group and two years later the USFA of Victoria where he held a number of positions.

Barry had served an apprenticeship in the printing industry as a compositor and later formed a friendship with Jack Evans, the editor of ASM, and began assisting with its production, producing half tone printing plates and other items and on the way gaining much invaluable experience.

Realising the ASM’s demise was inevitable Barry planned to fill the void with “Skindiving in Australia”. Initially produced as a quarterly magazine it underwent several name changes in its 46 years of uninterrupted production.


1970      August?                Skindiving in Australia 1st Edition

1974      Vol. 4 No 5          Name change to Skindiving in Australia and New Zealand

1980      Vol. 10 No 2        Name change to Skindiving in Australia & the South Pacific

1987      March/April        Sport Diving in Australia & the South Pacific N0.1

1993      June/July             Name change to Sport Diving

2016      June/July             Final issue of Sport Diving (No. 171)

In October of 1978 Barry Andrewartha first published “Dive News”, on behalf of the Scuba Divers Federation. With Peter Stone as editor and a cover price of 20 cents this eight page newspaper ran for three years until it was discontinued due to lack of support.

Then in August of 1988 with David King as editor Barry published the first issue of “Dive Log”. Initially a   20 page tabloid style newspaper it was available free of charge each month through Dive Shops. It ran very successfully but rising costs caused production to be discontinued with Dive Log available online. Production of a printed issue was recommenced, being available through newsagents and is now a flagship publication incorporating Sport Diving.

Then followed “Scuba Business” a trade journal that ran for four years.

Barry introduced another tabloid newspaper during the summer of 1993/94 when “Australian Freediving & Spearfishing News” became available. In March 1998 with issue number 15 it was renamed “International Freediving and Spearfishing News”. It is still being produced to this day.

In December of 1970 “Fathom” magazine appeared in newsagent’s stands. Produced by Gareth Powell with John Harding as Editor and Roy Bisson in charge of design,  Fathom set new standards in production and design and continued for 10 issues until early 1973.

Another magazine with the title of “Australian Diver” was produced in September 1976 by J.W. Publications, Springvale Victoria. Like its predecessor it was short lived.

Neville Coleman published his first issue of “Underwater” in mid-1981. Introduced as a quarterly publication it initially consisted of 48 pages with a cover price of $2.50. In 1989 with issue number 25 the name was changed to “Underwater Geographic”. The magazine had grown to have 96 pages of content and the cover price was now $5.00.

Also in 1981 another magazine catering for scuba divers had its beginnings when in December Chronicle Publications, with Anthony Newly as editor introduced “The Scuba Diver”, a bi-monthly publication of 56 pages with a cover price of $1.95.

The 10th Anniversary issue dated Oct/Nov 1991 with Cassie Welsh as editor and now produced by the Yaffa Publishing Group was renamed “Scuba Diver”. In March/April 1999 it became “Australian Scuba Diver” with Sue Crowe as editor.

The Dec 2001/Jan 2002 issue heralded yet another name change, this being to “Australasian Scuba Diver”. The magazine now had 104 pages of content and with Michael Aw at the helm the magazine was now being printed and published in Singapore.

Described as 68 pages of spearfishing action “Spearfishing Downunder” was introduced as a quarterly publication with Craig Barnett as editor/publisher in 2004.

These periodicals and the many publications produced over time by clubs and state/national organisations etc. encapsulate the events of their time and provide a wonderful resource for historians, now and in the future. No effort should be spared in their preservation.

False statement to be rectified in the Hawkesbury Shelf Bioregion Assessment

Following an official complaint made to the Department of Primary Industries about a false statement made in the Hawkesbury Shelf Bioregion Assessment concerning spearfishing, Mel Brown has gotten an apology on behalf of spearfishing.
The two pieces of correspondence mentioned are published here:

From Mel Brown:

To: Geoff Allen,
Attached are copies of correspondence to Peter Gallagher and Minister Niall Blair concerning a false statement that appears in a document of the Hawkesbury shelf Bioregion.
Peter Gallagher has neither acknowledged receipt of this document or responded to it.
Previously the reasoning for excluding spearfishing from the North Harbour Aquatic reserve whilst continuing to allow other forms of recreational fishing was only made in correspondence to the USFA. To now see this claim, which was utterly false, appearing in print necessitates the strongest possible response.
There was, and never has been, a legitimate reason to exclude spearfishers from this reserve where other forms of fishing are allowed.

Yours sincerely
Mel Brown AM

DPI’s response to Mel:

Nth Hbr Aqu Res Pg 1 200616Nth Hbr Aqu Res Pg 2 200616Nth Hbr Aqu Res Pg 3 200616

Continue reading False statement to be rectified in the Hawkesbury Shelf Bioregion Assessment

Letter to Minister for Primary Industries re: Complaints Handling Protocols by DPI

15 April 2016

The Hon. Niall Blair MLC
Minister for Primary Industries
GPO Box 5341

Dear Minister


Does the complaints’ handling policy on your website under the banner of NSW Trade and Investment apply to NSW DPI Fisheries staff?

On Monday 14th March 2016 at 7.30 am I sent by email correspondence to Mr Peter Gallagher, Programme Leader – Marine Protected Areas, an official complaint that a statement in one of the Hawkesbury Bioregion’s accompanying documents “Review of 15 Pre – identified Sites” was false – to wit

“Rationale for excluding spearfishing was based on research from the U.S.A. at the time of declaration (1982) which indicated that this fishing method makes fish less approachable by passive divers wanting to photograph or study them (DPI internal 1979)”.

A copy of this correspondence is enclosed. To this date I have not received an acknowledgement or response from Peter Gallagher.

Dot point 4 of the complaints handling policy requires all complaints to be acknowledged and complainants kept informed about the progress of the matter, particularly if delays occur.

This protocol has been ignored – Further under the section   RESPONSIBILITY FOR COMPLAINTS INVESTIGATION  it names the Executive Director FISHERIES NSW and goes on to require “Branch head to ensure complaints are thoroughly investigated and reported on _ _ _ _ and the complainant advised of outcomes within one month.

Again this has not occurred.

Could you please advise on why my complaint has been treated with such appalling indifference by your fisheries department?

It is of importance to spearfishers that the injustice perpetrated by this snide and derogatory comment that unfairly stigmatizes this fishing activity is rectified.

Every day this claim continues in print compounds the damage.

Yours Sincerely
Melven Brown AM

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.

Official Complaint regarding content in Hawkesbury Bioregions accompanying documents

Monday, 14 March 2016

Mr. Peter Gallagher
Program Leader – Marine Protected Areas
Locked Bag 1

Dear Peter


I am writing to lodge an official complaint re a statement in one of the Hawkesbury Bioregions accompanying documents “Review of 15 Pre – identified Sites”.

If you are not the appropriate person to deal with this complaint could you please advise ASAP.

On page 34 which deals with the North Harbour Reserve it justifies the lock – out of spearfishers with this statement “Rationale for excluding spearfishing was based on research from the U.S.A. at the time of declaration (1982) which indicated that this fishing method makes fish less approachable by passive divers wanting to photograph or study them (DPI internal 1979)”.

 This statement is a little milder than that made in writing in correspondence from B. Lynch for G.H. Knowles Director General Department of Agriculture to George Davies (Federal Secretary of the Australian Underwater Federation) dated 29th October 1985 – “The rationale for excluding spearfishing from the North Harbour Reserve is based on studies conducted in the United States of America which has shown that spearfishing, as opposed to most other common methods of fishing, scares the fish to the extent that they are no longer readily approachable by divers wanting to photograph or study them”.

 This statement was fraudulent and dishonest then and remains fraudulent, dishonest and misleading to this day.

 On receiving a copy of the above correspondence I queried the validity of this statement in correspondence to George Davies dated 29th November 1985 as I had copies of all known spearfishing studies and immediately suspected this statement was false.

George Davies again wrote to the Director General (undated, copy received by me on 5/2/86) requesting a copy of this “study” to enable us to determine its relevance to Australian conditions.

Following a meeting of the Recreational Fishermen’s Advisory Council George Davies received a verbal apology from Dr. Peter Ayres, Director of Fisheries for “some sections of the previous letter (29/10/85” however this was never put in writing and no copy of the “study” was produced, prompting another written request.

George Davies wrote again on 17th June 1986 after finally receiving a copy of an article concerning spearfishing in the United States of America. He said in part “In referring to this particular letter (29/10/1985) I find the information therein extremely misleading and inaccurate”.

The “study” had turned out to be nothing more than an article published in the American magazine “Skin Diver” by Bill Barada concerning the neglect of the John Pennekamp State Park and voicing a personal opinion as to spearfishing by the author.

To construe this article as a “study” or having any scientific validity is quite simply reprehensible.

At this particular period of time spearfishing with Scuba was (and still is) extremely prevalent in the U.S.A., whilst spearfishers in NSW had been pro-active in ensuring Scuba spearfishing was prohibited thus providing a depth sanctuary, an initiative that has been extremely successful in conserving shallow water species.

These facts never received any consideration, nor was any expert advice sought from spearfishing representatives in NSW.

An underwater photographer’s biggest problem when photographing fish is the noise his Scuba makes, both on inhalation and exhalation. This is what scares Fish! And this is why professional photographers employ breath – hold diving techniques or use Re – breathers when taking fish photo’s.

The whole art of successful spearfishing is to be able to approach fish without scaring them. The argument that fish are so scared by spearfishing that they are not approachable by other divers is ridiculous and once more evidence of prejudicial treatment by the Department.

I have several times found it necessary to accuse NSW Fisheries of prejudice when dealing with spearfishing matters. This has always been denied but there is no clearer case of prejudice than what has occurred with the locking – out of spearfishers from the North Harbour reserve.


An opinion, judgement or evaluation conceived without proof or competent evidence, but based on what seems valid to one’s own mind.


Injurious, detrimental

 To be frank I am thoroughly disgusted that after all the correspondence from us concerning this issue, a statement that was corrupt and malicious and injurious to our fishing method is still persisting.

My last correspondence on this issue was to the Manager, Protected Areas on 15th May 2001.

One of my greatest concerns with my many dealings with Fisheries over the years is their inability to be frank and honest and to admit to mistakes and rectify them. The same applies equally to governments (of all persuasions).

My writing to you is just the first step. I am quite prepared to take this as far as necessary to have this injustice rectified.

Could you please advise as a matter of urgency your department’s intentions regarding a resolution?

Yours sincerely
Melven Brown AM

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.


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.


From:   Illawarra Mercury Friday 9 May 1947 pg.1

One that didn’t get away – Record Black Bream


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

Results of an Unbiased Fishing Survey – 1966

1966 September


An article by a very old friend of mine, Bill Barada, is based on the findings of a survey on the “Sport Fish Catch and Effort” made by the Resources Agency of the Department of Fish and Game of California. This comprehensive report by Daniel J. Miller and Daniel Gotshall, took four years to compile and concerned nineteen employees of the Department directly assigned to field duties on the project, apart from scores of persons acting in honorary capacities. This 135 page report, which I have read carefully, completely dispels any theory that skindivers could be held responsible for any overall depletion of fish stocks in the U.S.A. and there is nothing to suggest it would be otherwise in Australia.

Of all sport fishermen, anglers fishing from piers, jetties, etc., captured 1,034,000 fish representing 32.1% of the total sport catch. Shore fishermen, angling from beach, rock and estuary, contributed 31.9% of the total, while anglers operating from charter boats caught 24.9% and from small craft 10.5%. Skindivers or spearfishing, with all its so called efficiency, accounted for 0.7% of the total sports fish taken.

George Davies

From: Australian Skindivers Magazine September 1966 page 13.

Spearfishing Competitions – 1976


Dear Sir

I am the unrepentant hunter of fish, and manufacture equipment to hunt fish. I think most groups of spearfishermen ensure that their catch is eaten, that ecological principles are observed, and their sport is correctly enjoyed. Of prime importance is that the young are maturely guided – there is no generation gap between underwater buddies… (Let’s use the Australian term – mates).

Spearfishing clubs have to be commended for their work in education. Such indoctrination can only be done through clubs, and if over restrictive measures are taken they will not be followed, but broken in a regrettable manner.

The sport of spearfishing has saved many lives. Men have learned to obtain food and in emergency have learned to cope with tempestuous conditions to save their personal lives and the lives of others – in many cases to cooperate with authorities to retrieve bodies. There are quite a number of awards for bravery given to the risk of life.

The sport demands the utmost physical challenge and it has particular appeal to the adventurous young who are willing to be guided in balanced conservation by the leaders of their sport – but without the willing guidance of such sportsmen they would be rebellious!

When one considers the millions of tons of fish taken commercially, and compare this factor to the catch of spearfishermen in the occasional shallows which allows their sport, it seems the conservationists are using the sport of spearfishing as a target for the promotion of that cause, or their personal advocacy – rather than to achieve effective measures of fish preservation.

Yours faithfully

Don Linklater
Managing Director
Undersee Products Pty Ltd

From: Skindiving News from the Metropolitan Zone    Vol. 2 No 7 Jan 1976 Pg. 4

The Underwater Spearfishermans Association N.S.W. First Annual Picnic


To be held at
Malabar Beach.

Events for the day Starting at 11.a.m.

No. 1 First Fish.
No. 2 Breath Holding Contest
No. 3 Underwater Target Shoot.

Lunch Adjournment

No. 4 Two hour Fishing Contest, for the greatest weight of Fish (other than Sharks and Sting Rays).


1. For the Best Fish of the Day.
2. Largest Fish.
3. Best Bream.
4. Best Black Fish.
5. Best Groper.

Summary of fishing laws for the information of speargun fishermen operating on ocean beaches and saltwater streams of New South Wales

1959 1st December


The following is a digest of the provisions of the New South Wales Fisheries laws as they apply to speargun fishermen operating in the tidal waters of New South Wales. Tidal waters are all streams affected by tidal influence and also include ocean beaches, coastal saltwater lakes, lagoons and ponds. The use of spears, spearguns and similar devices for the capture of fish is totally prohibited in inland waters.


Persons taking fish by means of spears, spearguns or similar devices are not required to hold a licence.

Bag Limit:

There is no bag limit in respect of fish taken in saltwater except bass and all species of groper, but speargun fishermen are requested to avoid waste by ceasing to fish when they have obtained sufficient fish to satisfy their own requirements.

With bass, there is a bag limit of ten (10) fish per person per day but, as their capture is limited to a rod and line or handline with not more than two hooks attached, they cannot be legally captured by a speargun. The bag limit with groper of any species is not more than two (2) fish per person per day.

Sale of Fish:

Speargun fishermen are permitted to take fish for their own consumption and under no circumstances are they permitted to sell their catch. Continue reading Summary of fishing laws for the information of speargun fishermen operating on ocean beaches and saltwater streams of New South Wales

A major marine disturbance

1948 9th October

Yesterday’s piece about the feud between Manly’s rod fishermen and fish – spearers reveals much more than a mere ruffle on the angling waters. The feud shows signs of developing into a major marine disturbance.

The Amateur Fishermen’s Association has already hooked spearmen out of Tuggerah Lakes, Port Hacking and Wallis Lake, near Forster; now seeks to cast a wide and fine – meshed net to drag them out of metropolitan waters.

Neither side has much hope that a compromise plan – no spearing within 50 yards of an angler – will work out.

The anglers reckon that even at 50 yards the spearmen will scare the fish off. And that doesn’t take into account the apoplexy that the mere sight of a spearman tends to engender in their normally placid bloodstreams.

Each force has closed its ranks. Spearmen are busy organising themselves to stave off threats to their freedom; lobbyists from both camps are already employed trying to manoeuvre the political machinery their way. Trouble is there’s no provision for or against spearing in the Acts governing methods of fish capture.

Hasn’t been so much tension in Izaak Walton’s business since the introduction of the barbed hook.

From: The Sun 9/10/1948

Spearing is winter sport for surf men

1946 1st July


Fish – spearing is the latest craze among Coogee Surf Club members.
Even these cold mornings young Don Millar is in and under the water at daybreak, spearing fish for breakfast.

Millar yesterday was proclaimed champion of Coogee Surf club when he speared three fish (two morwong and a sergeant baker) in almost as many minutes.

1946 Spearing Fish is Winter Sport.Armed with spear gun, goggles and a lead belt that takes him to the sea bed, Millar always gets a catch.
He lies on the bottom to catch flathead and sergeant baker, and swims about to spear morwong and blackfish.
He dives from the rocks and swims out to about 25 feet of water.
He is not worried about sharks as he thinks they go to warmer water in the winter.

Millar is getting to know his fish.
Every morning a 40 lb. drummer watches him at work.
Millar never takes a shot at him, as he is too strong and might swim off with his spear.
“Morwong and blackfish are the most curious fish”, said Millar.
“They will sit and take a look and will often swim up to me to see what is going on”.
Millar says under – water swimming gives him wonderful breath – control which he thinks will improve his swimming next season.
The spear gun is made of wood with brass fittings. It carries a long stainless unattached steel spear.
The spear is launched by a thick elastic band fired by a trigger.

From: Sydney Sun 6/7/46

Pioneer Spearman – The story of Jim Linquist

This is the story of Jim Linquist By Ron Cox

When the war finished in 1945, Jim Linquist returned from the Islands to his home town of Cudgen, situated near the borders of Queensland and New South Wales. With his return he brought back a vast knowledge on the art of spearfishing.

Jim LinquistJim’s fondness for the rocky foreshores of the Cudgen Creek made him realise that, by the clarity of the water and the knowledge he had gained in the Islands, it was apparent the waters around his home town must contain fish worthy of spearing. The idea did not remain dormant and, in a short space of time, a very hurriedly – made set of equipment was forthcoming.

Continue reading Pioneer Spearman – The story of Jim Linquist

Review of Spearfishing Regulations in NSW

1996 May


The Minister for Fisheries, Bob Martin, today announced a review of spearfishing regulations in NSW. The review is consistent with my pre – election commitment to “Review the management arrangements of all major fisheries on a regular basis”. A review of spearfishing regulations has not been held in the last five years and a number of research, compliance, education and management issues regarding spearfishing in NSW need to be addressed.

The review will address the relevance of the existing spearfishing laws in NSW. The review will recommend, where necessary changes to laws to ensure the long term sustainability of fish stocks in NSW. The review should also ensure that a maximum number of fishers can enjoy the sport and contribute to an equitable distribution of the catch. The review should ensure that spearfishing laws are, as far as possible, consistent across the state, easily enforceable and understood.

A committee of spearers, industry representatives and NSW Fisheries staff has been formed to oversee the review. The review committee has the appropriate knowledge to comment on the current regulations and to represent a broad cross section of the diving community.
A discussion paper and questionnaire on the major recommendations will be prepared and distributed for comment.

There is a need to implement fishery regulations that are effective, based on sound research data, and have broad community acceptance. I urge all spearfishers and members of the community to participate in the review.

Bag Limit on Red Morwong

1974 31st August

BAG LIMIT ON RED MORWONGRed Morwong At a previous meeting of the Amateur Fishermen’s Advisory Council, council was advised that representations made by the NSW Underwater Federation regarding the imposition of a bag limit on red morwong would be investigated.

Council was advised that these investigations had been completed and action was being taken to introduce a bag limit of five red morwong per person per day.

From: Information Sheet A.F.A.C meeting 31/8/1974

Camp at Bass Point, Shellharbour

1950 September


A camp will be held at Bass point, over the 8 Hour week-end, everyone is invited. A marque will be put up for those who cannot supply their own tent. It is essential for us to know how many is coming, and who is coming by train, as we will meet two trains only. The trains leave Central, Friday 29th September at 7.27 p.m., arrive Shellharbour 10.41 p.m. Saturday 30th September, leaves 8.08 a.m. arrives Shellharbour 11. 08 a.m.

All supplies for the week-end must be taken as there are no shops. There are excellent Fishing Grounds, and you can get a lee out of the wind any time.

So come along, one and all! !

Yours sincerely

The Underwater Spear-Fishermen’s Association of N.S.W.

Man Spears Tiger Shark Underwater

The first spearfishing competition and Jach Egan with the first Trophy awarded to a Spearfisher. – Mel Brown

Underwater fisherman Jack Egan, of Potts Point, yesterday speared a six-foot tiger shark in 10 feet of water at La Perouse beach.

The President Dick Charles Trophy The Underwater Fishermans Assoc of NSW For the best fish of the day 17 Oct 1948 won by Jack Egan
The President
Dick Charles Trophy
The Underwater Fishermans Assoc of NSW
For the best fish of the day 17 Oct 1948
won by Jack Egan

Egan was one of a party of 20 members of the Underwater Spearfishermen’s Association of N.S.W. which had dived into the sea of the rocks at the northern end of La Perouse Bay in search of prey.

All the fishermen wore swimming trunks and carried sling spearguns.

Two hundred yards from the rocks Egan submerged and swam slowly above the sea bed. “Through the water, I saw the tiger cruising along the bottom,” he said later.

“He was a nasty brute.”

Egan aimed his gun at the shark and fired. The spear , with a line attached, pierced the
shark behind the gills.

Jack Egan
Jack Egan

Egan swam to the surface and called to two other speannen who were swimming nearby. One of them, Les Gleeson, swam over to Egan and helped him pull the shark towards the shore.

“The tiger was threshing the water as we got close to the rocks,” said Gleeson.

“We hauled him up on the rocks and finished him off.”

Gleeson, a committee member of the association, said a cup was to be awarded for the largest game speared during the day.

“Jack Egan will certainly get that cup,” he said. “He is the first member of the association to spear a shark.”

From: News report Sunday 21“ November 1948

Aquacades 1949

Aquacades 1949 letter with Bill Heffernan (left) & possibly George Sheen (right)
Aquacades 1949 letter with Bill Heffernan (left) & possibly George Sheen (right)

Sydney will have its first close — up public View of those intrepid sportsmen, the spear— fishermen, at tonight’s premier in North Sydney Olympic Pool of the Aquacades of 1949. They’ll use a variety of equipment, including the famous Salvus outfit which was used by Allied Navy personnel in the recent hostilities for attaching mines to the hulls of enemy ships.

Three different types of spear — guns will be used (range  underwater 40ft.).

One of the experts who’ll be demonstrating tonight is sportsman Bill Heffernan, of Tuggerah, who averages a meagre 451b. of fish daily! The other day before he came down to rehearse for the aquacades he took his gun and nabbed a l6lb. flathead in six feet of water.

The Salvus outfit, incidentally, is being bought up fairly extensively by councils for jobs ranging from harbour diving to the cleaning of swimming pools. It allows the wearer to remain under water at a depth of 30 feet for up to 40 minutes. It’s operated by oxygen bottles strapped beneath the arms.

Sunday 12th January 1949

Diving into Serious Danger

Despite warnings on hyperventilation given by spearfishing clubs and their state association, the NSW Underwater Federation, near drowning from the practice still occur in spearfishing contests.

After making six deep dives during the Australian Spearfishing Championships at Ulladulla last Christmas, Ray Johnson, 18, of Kingsford, hyperventilated for about 45 seconds before making a seventh descent.

He swam down about 70ft. As the fish were “Spooking” – shying out of range – he decided to explore a cave, a rash act at that depth.

“I saw something at the back of the cave and tried to get a better look,” Johnson recalls “but realised I had been down too long”. Continue reading Diving into Serious Danger

The Underwater Scene

1951 January

An exploration of the underwater scene answers many queries for anglers. The old adage “fish are where you find them” is undoubtedly true, particularly when you are looking for them in your own element.

Whether it be an angler or an underwater spear fisherman, the movement of fish is of intense interest. Many observers of both methods of taking fish have seen fish captured from what has often been considered barren area. This, naturally, has stimulated interest of anglers and spearmen alike.

The most interesting aspect of being an angler-cum-spearman is that one has the opportunity of observing all the interesting underwater movements of the fish for which one angles from above.

This, in itself, must interest the angler who has never had the opportunity of working under-water.

Having spent the past 20 years fishing with rod and line for drummer and luderick, I feel I can speak with some confidence. As a keen angler, I had often fished a locality where it was customary to catch reasonable quantities of these species and disregard the possibility of fishing in less inviting places.

The Underwater Scene

Like most rock fishermen, I considered the surge and wash in the vicinity of reefs, etc., most likely places to fish successfully. Undoubtedly, fishing in such positions does produce the desired results, but my activities as a spear fisherman has given me the opportunity to explore the fishing grounds with almost a fish’s eye.

This, coupled with my unabated interest in angling, has completely re-educated me, regarding the possibility of catching fish in various places along the foreshores. Places where an attractive “cabbage” or “weed” bait would appear to be of little purpose, now suggest more than just a mere possibility. As a rod-and-line man, I would have by-passed the calmer water. As a spear fisherman, I see extensive schools of luderick feeding in places where, as an angler, I would never have imagined them to be feeding.

On a rising tide at dusk in both calm and milky surging water, I have seen drummer willing to rise to floating food. Often, when below the surface, I have felt confident that a bread bait used in such positions would be a positive.

Places such as this can be shown to any keen drummer angler by an experienced spear fisherman.

Many anglers, owing to physical limitations, cannot be expected to take an active interest in underwater spear fishing. But, would not such information be of value to them?

Fishing spots are a subject of much discussion among anglers, particularly rock hoppers. A glimpse of them through the goggles would end many arguments.

Fish habitats and movements beneath the water are of interest to line and spear fishermen alike.

The drummer, or “pig” (that is, the black gentleman), are about our most common sight underwater. The smaller fellows play in a group of often a hundred or more, but the bigger fish are much more scattered. The “pig” is essentially a curious fish, and its swallow-like movements make it hard to target, except for the experienced.

Even then the shot is a moving one, and there is no greater fighter on spear or hook.

The luderick, another “gorilla” (to become zoological) is good to eat and good to hunt. Occurring mostly in schools, our striped friend is always a wary target and yet has the innate flightiness of his species.

To quote the old hand at this art of spear fishing, one Denny Wells, “There is nothing more exasperating or exhausting than looking for a shot in a flighty school of niggers.”

Red morwong (or red carp) are fascinating rock dwellers. Many a bream angler, hooking “the biggest bream of the night,” has been disappointed to find either his gear busted up or has dragged a morwong from the rocky bed.

The red morwong is relatively easy prey for the spearman. His fighting efficiency when hooked or speared is unquestionable. The approach to him, as an underwater intruder, has two aspects: Firstly, the morwong is undoubtedly a most stately fish. To most, he appears as some proud stallion. He has a lofty air of almost studied indifference to his surroundings. His sheeplike stupidity makes him a comparatively easy target.

As a second consideration, the morwong is an excellent table fish, combining the taste of blackfish and bream.

The black bream is a fish that has always had the respect of the light-line angler.

The keen night breamer, with his insistence on quiet, no lights, and his endless theories on when and how to “hit” a biting bream, is an interesting man.

A visit to the black bream under water would surprise him. Fishing among the boulders, the spearman often comes upon a school of feeding bream. They will never stay around as long as the luderick but their timidity is not so acute as the line angler would suppose. The bigger ones are more wary, but quite a few fall to the spearman’s steel.

The big “blue” – the famous and beautiful groper of the N.S.W. coast – is the spearman’s ambition. Experienced spearmen never take a shot unless reasonably certain of mortally wounding the big fellow. His initial rush is so powerful that 150lb. nylon behaves like cotton under the strain.

The loss of a spear and expensive headwear is a consideration, but wounding and loss of such a large creature is something that the humane fisherman abhors.

The blue groper is often found in quite shallow waters and near a “wash.” He becomes obviously excited upon being approached and his tiny pectoral fins flutter in agitation. A ‘
“blue” will either move rapidly off on sight, or will twist and move in an agitated manner in much the same area, giving the spearman a chance for a breath and a shot.

Fast-moving fishes, such as salmon, kingfish and mulloway, are infrequent catches for the underwater man. A chance school or odd individuals give an occasional opportunity for a shot.

The ‘rays are fearsome objects seen underwater. Their lazy, rippling swimming action and their batlike heads create a rather awesome atmosphere. They are embarrassingly friendly at times and their presence is not welcome, particularly when a glimpse is caught of the ratlike tail, with its enormous barbs.

On one occasion I saw one of these “Army blankets” sink over a wounded luderick and then move on its rippling way leaving no trace of the poor “nigger.”

A lot is heard of the carpet shark or wobbegong. Being a nocturnal feeder, he is seen most often towards dusk. He is a lazy-looking, ugly creature, but capable of terrific speed if scared or on the hunt. This can be proven by the fact that we have found remains of the speedy salmon in the stomachs of some of them.

As a personal theory, I feel that “wobbies” become more active and antagonistic in early summer. Most stories of definite attacks on spearmen have occurred during this part of the year.

Ron Ware, a prominent spearman and sworn “wobbie” enemy was recently bitten on the foot by a large member of this species. Only for the fact that he wore leather shoes at the time, I am sure the outcome would not have been so uneventful. Even so, the shape of a “wobbie’s” dentition, in deep puncture marks, is not a pleasant reminder of his potentialities as an underwater menace.

Spearmen do not disturb fish to the disadvantage of the line angler. For three winters now, I have taken nigger gear and speargun to Pussycat Bay, at La Perouse. There, in rough, southerly weather, we search the washes for luderick, bag a few with the gun and, when the cold beats us, we warm up at a fire, rig the rods, and fish in the same place with good results.

All spearmen return time after time to their favourite fishing spots. Even a break of half an hour between “dips” is enough to allow the fish to return and continue their feeding and usual habits.

Often a spearman will notice that a fish is most agitated and apprehensive when between a rocky projection from the seabed and the hunter. A fish is always a less flighty target when not hemmed in. This is because all fish have a lateral line. This line starts at the operculum. Or gill opening, and runs along the thicker part of the body, curving down to its end short of the tail or caudal fin. It is in effect the fish’s radar mechanism. J.R. Norman, in his excellent work “A history of Fishes,” says: “A lateral line system has been generally regarded as the seat of a sense akin to feeling, but it would perhaps be more accurate to describe this sense as combining the qualities of hearing and touch.”

The lateral line is a concentration of nerve endings that convey sounds and vibrations to the fish’s brain.

Dr. Barton, one of the world’s leading ichthyologists, marvels at a fish’s ability to dash about a pool without injury. . . .”One cannot but admire the marvellous muscular response, the extraordinary rapidity of co-ordination of the body of the fish to the varying stimulation on the lateral line sense on one or other side of the body.”

So it must be stressed to the spearman-learner that quiet and lack of hurry are essentials in good hunting. One’s muscular contractions, even heart beats under stress in quiet waters, are a warning signal to perturbed fish.

This is but a brief resume of fish movements under water, but constant observation by spear fishermen will provide invaluable information, not only for spearmen but for anglers, too.

So much more can be said on this subject. Every phase of it could be enlarged and expanded, which only goes to show that fishing is not just a matter of baiting a hook or loading a speargun, but full of enormous detail and endless interest.

Let us not count our success by the number of fish we bring home. Let us appreciate the relaxation, the friendships, and the wealth of interesting detail that those magic words “Comin’ fishin’ ‘’ bring to us.

From: Anglers Digest January 1951 Pgs. 260-262, 294.



Old Sport – New Method – Jan 1949

Old Sport

Fishing by spears is an ancient method, but they’ve really brought it up to date in the last few years, with the use of guns to propel the spears.

So much so that underwater fishing is now in the organised sport class, with a rapidly growing list of followers and a stiffening opposition from the orthodox rod and line anglers, who regard the practice as unsportsmanlike.

The Underwater Spearfishing Association of N.S.W., formed last summer, now conducts regular outings.

Equipment for the sport varies. The most popular consists of a gun, spear, diving mask, and a weighted belt, at a total cost of about five pounds. Other outfits are more complicated – and expensive.

The most widely used gun has a barrel about nine inches long, to which is attached a strong rubber band in the form of a loop, and a shoulder piece to steady the gun. The spear, of quarter-inch stainless steel, has two moveable barbs. The top barb opens at right-angles after the fish has been speared, to prevent it slipping off the end. The lower barb opens if the fish slips down the spear.

The rubber mask has a glass oval front, and covers the eyes and nose but leaves the mouth free for breathing.

The webbing belt has about 5lb. lead attached to steady the spearfisher against currents and to enable him to get to the bottom quickly.

From: A.M. for January, 1949 Pg. 58

Chesty Bond Trophy

1951 Chesty Bond Cup W. Gibbins
USFA – Chesty Bond Cup, Heaviest Fish 1950-51 Season by W.Gibbins with a Blue Grouper weight 45 1/4 lbs or 20.5 kgs.


USFA members packed the A.F.A. rooms to capacity on 1st November 1950, to exchange ideas on gear and view equipment. President Dick Charles once more urged members to abide by and promote Association safety rules and ethics, stressing particularly the need to turn their backs to the shore when unloading spearguns.

Former secretary Les Hawley was presented with an inscribed tray with cut glass trimmings, in recognition of his hard work during the difficult early years of the organization; he received a tremendous ovation.

It was announced that Bond’s Industries, makers of Bonds Athletics, etc., have donated a valuable trophy for the heaviest edible fish (sharks, rays, etc., excluded). The competition, open only to USFA members, opened on November 3 and will continue until 4 pm on February 28, 1951.

To give the competition as much interest as possible Bond’s Industries arranged for their super salesman Chesty Bond to go spear fishing in the pages of the “Sun” from November 9 to December 12.

From Outdoors and Fishing December 1950

Formation of Speargun Fishing Association

March 1948

Dear Sir,
Many followers of this popular sport are concerned that as a result of the general hostility and organised protests by line fishermen, the Fisheries Department may be obliged to add to the restrictions already existing at Tuggerah Lakes and at other places.
A recent deputation of speargunners to that Department at which it was disclosed that a Speargun Association was contemplated was favourably received and it could be inferred there might be some official recognition of our interests.
It has been arranged to hold an informal meeting of all interested in the formation of an Association at Long Reef, Collaroy, at 2.30 p.m. on Sunday, April 4th. Please invite every speargunner known to you to attend and incidentally to bring his gear as there is plenty of room and fish and the tide will be O.K.
The rendezvous will be in front of the Long Reef Golf Club House premises. We shall be glad to learn of your intention to attend or otherwise.

Yours Sincerely,
57 Lagoon Street, Narrabeen

47 The Avenue, Hurstville

Spearmen Went In After the Fish

1948 5th April

Spearmen Went In After the Fish
Spear fishermen formed an association yesterday to educate the public in the sport and then gave a demonstration at Long Reef to show how they caught fish.

Mr. Dick Charles, of Hurstville, who is president of the new body – the Underwater Spear Fishermen’s Association of New South Wales – told the meeting the public did not understand spear fishing.
He told members they were in danger of having it banned. For this reason the association was being formed.

About 50 enthusiasts expressed willingness to join.

Mr. Andy Armstrong of Neilsen Park, last week annoyed an orthodox fisherman by his success with the spear and received a blow on the head from the butt of the rod. He agreed that the interests of spearmen must be protected.

About 40 members gave the demonstration. Conditions were cold and overcast, but the spearmen caught about 30 fish up to 4 ib. in weight. They included red carp, black-fish, morwong and one big stingray, almost three feet across, which was earlier thought to be a shark.
The spearmen, watched by hundreds of spectators, were not deterred. “See you later if a shark doesn’t see me first,” was one characteristic comment as the took to the water.

All types of spears were used from a simple barbed rod with bamboo handle, with which Mr. Don Linklater, of Bondi, landed a fish within a few minutes, to elaborate spring guns like that of Mr. Charles.
Most of the fishermen wore face masks and held their breath while submerging for short periods.

Others had more elaborate apparatus, including small rubber floats to which tubes were attached, carrying air down to spearmen below the surface.

One man wore a “frogman’s suit” of rubber, with a diving helmet and air tube which enabled him to stay below indefinitely.

Mr. Jack Egan of Potts Point speared the stingray, using a rubber-powered sprin-gun.

From: Sydney Morning Herald Mon. 5th April 1948

Dare – Devil Adventure: A Blast from the Past

This storey reprinted from the June 1949 issue of “Outdoors and Fishing” magazine documents the first recorded outing by spearfishers to Jibbon Point on Port Hackings southern headland. At this time fins were unknown in Australia. My how things have changed.

Spearfishing has caught the imagination of the adventure – loving Australian and the ever increasing membership of the Underwater Spearfisherman’s Association of NSW is indicative of the growth of this sport.

To many who are familiar with the formation of the rocky foreshores along the coast, the task the spearmen have set themselves in seeking this sport under the ledges and among the caves in the reefs, leaves the average angler aghast at the daring and adventurous spirit of these aquatic dare – devils.

It would be foolish to ignore the element of danger in respect of this sport and, while the spearfisherman may take every precaution against attack, it is agreed that the Wobbegong shark is a prevalent danger. Quoting from “The Fishes of Australia” by G.P. Whitley, F.R.Z.S. this shark is described as follows, ‘The Wobbegong Shark, or carpet shark, is noted for the beautiful colour patterns of its skin, which is ornamented with symmetrical designs in brown and greys. They live among weed – covered rocks where they feed on whatever swims their way and generally lie dormant on the bottom.

They have long, sharp teeth and curious weed – like outgrowths around their mouths. Unless by chance a wader’s foot or hand comes within reach, these sharks are not dangerous to man.”

Despite the hazards attached to this form of fishing, three members of the spear fishing fraternity recently made an investigation of the rocky foreshores of Jibbon Head.

One of the party, Ron Clissold, dived into eight feet of water and, in the process of investigation, found himself sharing the vicinity with a huge Wobbegong shark. Ron surfaced, called his companions and a plan of action was decided.

David Rawling was sent down to reconnoitre the proposed scene of battle. The Wobbegong was still in his lair and after further discussion with John McColl, the third member of the trio, they decided to attack in force. With spearguns loaded, the daring trio prepared to go below and engage the shark. Adjustments to belts and knives were made in case of urgent need and an inspection of the surrounding reef was made in readiness for the possibility of a quick escape if required.

Prepared for the task ahead, the lads went down. Approaching the lair with care the trio spread out to give each other cover. The baleful eyes of the shark watched the swimmers with a calculating gaze that boded ill for careless mistakes; and the hunters were on the alert for the sudden rush that might come at any minute.

The first spear flashed through the water and found its mark in the tough hide of the shark, followed by two more as the guns were brought into action. The force of the spears as they entered the body caused the shark to be dislodged from its position, but it quickly regained its place ready to charge. The spearmen surfaced for air, keeping a sharp lookout for attack from below as they regained their breath. Ready for a renewal of the hunt, David went down and approached the wounded shark with caution.

The blood from its wounds misted the water with a thin film of red as the hunter grasped the spears in an effort to force the shark away, but it charged him as he stood on the uneven sea bed. With the threshing shark fighting against his grip on the spears, David saw his mates enter the fight.

A tough battle ensued and the shark was finally forced into shallow water and held down on a ledge three feet under the surface with the help of David pushing from below. With super – human effort their quarry was finally manoeuvred on to the shore.

The estimated weight of the “catch” was in the vicinity of two hundred pounds while its length was seven feet six inches. The danger in this episode can be fully appreciated by the following extract from Mr. Whitley’s book:

“As long ago as 1789, Phillip wrote of the Wobbegong in his ‘Voyage to Botany Bay’ , he stated; ‘this fish was met with in Sydney Cove, Port Jackson, by Lieutenant Watts and is supposed to be as voracious as any of the genus, in proportion to its size; for having lain on the deck for two hours, seemingly quiet, on Mr. Watts’ dog passing by, the shark sprung upon it with all the ferocity imaginable, and seized it by the leg; nor could the dog have disengaged itself had not the people near at hand come to its assistance …’ “

The spear fishermen of Australia will no doubt continue their adventures, and let us hope that only pleasure will be the result.

Ban on Scuba Fishing in NSW

1969 27 June

The N.S.W. Government has banned the use of self – contained underwater breathing apparatus (Scuba gear) for spearfishing.

The Chief Secretary, Mr. E.A. Willis, said that the new regulations issued yesterday under the Fisheries and Oyster Farms act would make it an offence to take or attempt to take any fish except abalone while wearing the apparatus.

In effect the only breathing device that can be used is a snorkel.

Mr. Willis said the regulations had been recommended by the NSW Amateur Fishermen’s Advisory Council, and had been endorsed by the Underwater Skindivers and Fishermen’s Association.

The USFA of NSW Committee expects every affiliated club and member to respect and enforce this law, aimed at conservation, and report any breach of same.

From: Australian Skindivers Magazine July/August 1969

USFA of NSW Foundation Members

April 1948


Skindiver Dies in Championships

1962 23rd April

Newcastle, Sunday – A young experienced skindiver was drowned when competing in the Pacific Coast Spearfishing Championships at Broughton Island, near Newcastle.

The man, Kevin O’Sheehy, 23, of Villawood, Sydney was a diabetic. A doctor who attended him said he could have died while in an insulin coma.

(Canberra Times 23/4/1962 pg. 1.)

1st NSW Premier Club Competition


In an effort to determine just which club was the best the Sans Souci Dolphins decided to organise a “Premier Club Competition”. An invitation was sent to Mid-South Marlins, top Southern Division Club, and Newcastle Neptunes, the best from the north. Both clubs readily accepted.

The rules were as follows – the top ten from each club fished, with one diver from each club in each boat. The scores from each diver were totalled for the club’s result.

Plenty of hard work by Bob Searl ensured that everything was right, except for the weather, but even the strong southerly and rough seas did not dampen enthusiasm and friendly rivalry. It was good to see the Dolphins able to supply the ten boats required, but special thanks go to John Stone and Barry Heywood for taking their boats out even though they did not fish in the competition.

Scores were low due to the dirty water, but they were sufficient to cause excitement in the weigh – in ring as, with only George Davies and Jack Jones to weigh in, only nine points separated the Neptunes and Dolphins. The final result put the Dolphins in front by 23 points.







1.   J. Black


1.  G.Budden


1.   R. Montcalm


2.   L. Austin


2.   R. Hatch


2.   G. McCauley


3.   A. Badger


3.   F. Swinkles


3.   D. Tinsley

4.   J. Waples


4.   J. Merlo


4.   B. Pauling


5.   J. Jones


5.   A. Nunn


5.   S. Isles


6.   P. O’Connor

6.   P. Gibson


6.   N. Leibeck

7.   B. Raison


7.   L. Siemek


7.   D. Skelton


8.   R. Searl

8.   P. Wilkinson


8.   P. Rourke

9.   P. Britton


9.   K. Lewis


9.   D. Pepper


10. S. Harvey


10. G. Davies


10. D. Birch








The most meritorious fish was a Black Reef Leatherjacket weighing 2lb. 4oz., scoring 46 points by John Waples and the biggest fish was a Mulloway of 21lbs. caught by Phil Gibson.

It is intended to make this an annual event. It is hoped that the top club of each division will compete for the perpetual shield which has been donated by the Dolphins.

(From Australian Skindivers Magazine November 1967)

Tragedy at Bendalong

1987 1st November

The running of the Southern Zone’s Taylor Shield Competition at Bendalong on the 1st November 1987 was unfortunately marred by a tragedy.

The day began as any other competition for the area with the promise of a great day despite some wind – blown choppiness at the start.

At approximately 11:00 AM an unattended float was observed at Berrara Reef by the crews of Gary Allen’s and Bob Crook’s boats. On inspection it was found to belong to Emmanuel Mifsud.

In the ensuing search it was his brother George that eventually found Emmanuel on the bottom. Out of respect for Emmanuel the competition was cancelled and all competitors were informed as they returned to the venue.

Emmanuel leaves behind his parents and two younger brothers, George and David. He was an energetic person who threw himself wholeheartedly into anything he believed in and in all sports in which he competed.

A tireless worker, having held positions within soccer and spearfishing circles, both locally and state-wide he will be sorely missed by all. His contributions to meetings and other events were always entertaining where he could be relied on to liven things up. His efforts behind the scenes at many events such as the 34th National Underwater Championships and numerous coaching courses will also cause his absence to be felt.

Emmanuel G. Mifsud: 31/5/1962 to 1/11/1987

The first Australian Pacific Coast Spearfishing Championships

APCC 1960Promoted and run by the Newcastle Neptunes Underwater Club, the first Australian Pacific Coast Spearfishing Championships was held at Shoal Bay, Port Stephens over the Easter Long Weekend from 15th to 18th April 1960.

Fridays programme featured a mystery trio spearfishing event during the afternoon and whilst this event was in progress judging took place for the photographic competition. Friday night featured an Open Air Theatre screening of the winning slides followed by a showing of the film “The Silent World”. Best underwater transparency was won by Walt Deas with a magnificent photo of a Giant Groper. The mystery trio event, which was a novelty competition designed to get everyone used to the three man team event was won by Russ Smith, Newcastle Neptunes; J. Wynne, Canterbury Underwater Club, and G. Mathews, Western Sub-Mariners.

On Saturday 16th the Pat Helsham Trophy for the Premier Club of the Australian Pacific Coast was contested from 8am to 4pm. This competition was decided on the aggregate scores of the top eight competitors from each club. Most competitors fished Broughton Island but others fished as far south as Rocky Point. The day proved quite eventful and quite a few competitors encountered sharks.

The Neptunes became the Premier Club with a score of 4,268 points. Runner up club was St. George Sea Dragons with 3,440 points, followed by North Shore Sea Hawks with 2,551 points.

Just over 160 competitors signed-on and were limited to one fish of each species. Top scorers for the day were Allan Whitford, Newcastle Neptunes; Dave Rowlings, St. George and George Davies, Newcastle Neptunes, each with more than 20 varieties of fish.

A Cabaret was held at Shoal Bay Country Club on Saturday night with most competitors retiring early in preparation for the teams event the following day.

The sun shone brightly once again on Sunday and competitors were on their way at 8am sharp. Thousands of spectators crowded the control centre area as competitors raced back to deposit their fish in the weigh-in area by 4pm. The Premier 3 Man Team Trophy was won by Bill Lewis, Jack Evans and Jim Harper, all from ST. George Club with 1,566 points followed by the Sans Souci Dolphins team comprising Johnny Black, Brian Raison and J. Lock with 1,245 points.

Trophies were presented at the Country Club Hotel in the evening and a representative from Belmont Apex Club was presented with a cheque for seventy seven pounds, ten shillings and six pence, being the proceeds from the fish auctions held over the three days.

The closing competition held on Monday from 7am to 11am brought in some really good fish. The winner of the most meritorious fish prize was George Schulz of Newcastle Neptunes with a 66lb. 8oz. Kingfish.
The final days trophies were presented to the winners and so ended the first Australian Pacific Coast Spearfishing Championships.

Spearfishing and the USFA – NSW’s Pioneering Years

Bill Heffernan 1949 - NSW’s Pioneering Years
Bill Heffernan in a Sladen Suit and Salvus Oxygen Re-Breather taken in April of 1948 during the meeting to form the USFA in NSW’s Pioneering Years.

Indigenous Australians were skilled at spearing fish from above the water surface and ventured underwater while breathing through hollow reeds to capture water birds and turtles, but it was not until 1917 that spearfishing as we know it was introduced to Sydney by Alick Wickham. NSW’s Pioneering Years.

Alick Wickham was the son of Frank Wickham, an English sea trader who in 1875 had settled in the Solomon Islands after being shipwrecked. Frank settled on the Island of Hopeka, managing a Copra plantation. Alick’s mother was a Melanesian from the nearby settlement of Munda on the shores of Roviana lagoon.

Pacific Islanders had developed their breathhold diving skills over many centuries and certainly were spearing fish underwater long before Europeans. It is fitting therefore that our first record of spearfishing in Sydney Harbour was from a young man who was born in the Solomon’s. Alick gained fame as the person who introduced the swimming stroke which became known as the Australian Crawl and in 1918 attained international fame with a 62.7 metre world record high dive from a cliff-top tower in to the Yarra River, 6 metres higher than the roadway of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Alick remained in Sydney until 1926 when he returned to Roviana Lagoon following the death of his father.

In 1920 when Bill Heffernan was 12 years of age and living at Tamworth he began to look under the water in the Peel River. After making a spear by inserting a sharpened piece of fencing wire into a wooden stick he was successful in spearing his first fish, a catfish. Bill pioneered spearfishing around the Tuggerah Lakes entrance area commencing in 1940 and was also a designer and manufacturer of spearfishing equipment.

During 1926 16 year old Denny (David Denzel) Wells began diving around the rocky shores of Sydney Harbour wearing a pair of goggles. These were soon discarded and goggles with a single faceplate made. Upon finding that he suffered from eye squeeze a facemask was designed which incorporated a space for the nose.

Denny was very inventive, designing and making all of his spearfishing equipment. Denny was responsible for the design of the speargun trigger mechanism that is still in use in the “Undersee” range of spearguns today. It has been widely copied throughout the world.

By the time of the great depression during the 1930’s Denny had married and his wife May took up spearfishing which provided a valuable supplemental food source during this difficult time. May has the honour of being the first female spearfisher in this country.

By 1940 other spearfishers had arrived on the scene. Frank Cunliffe became interested in diving after seeing a youth wearing diving goggles. He experimented with them and finally made a single lens mask which covered the eyes and nose and gave something like normal vision underwater. He began spearfishing in 1940, spearing his first fish at Lake Conjola on the 17th March 1940. From Frank’s notes “My first catch by new method of fishing. I have a 4ft. By ¼ inch steel spear which is fired by means of a catapult arrangement. The spear can be fired about 20 feet through the water but to use it I dive down and sneak up to within 3 feet of a fish before firing. I have a greenhide belt containing 9 lbs. of lead to facilitate the ‘sneaking’ upon the fish. I can get quite close by avoiding sudden movements”.

Frank tried many different speargun designs before settling on a successful design. He applied for a patent for this and a diving mask during 1941 with the patents being granted in 1942. He began making sets of spearfishing equipment consisting of mask, weight belt and speargun which he sold for six pounds and ten shillings under the name of the “Ming” speargun outfit.

Dick Charles had become interested in spearfishing in about 1937. Using an old mirror with the silver scraped off and fitted into an old tyre tube he made his first mask and ‘opened up an entirely new world’. For a spear he bought some shark hooks, straightened them out and fixed them to an eight feet piece of wood. Dick was a convincing salesman who would try his hand at anything and had established a motor trading business in Hurstville in 1924 and also built and sold caravans.

Goff Gapp and Keith Vagg, boyhood friends had become interested in diving when seeing a party of Solomon Islanders spearfishing off Bondi during 1936, however success eluded them until one day in 1942 they saw a face mask made from a jam tin and inner tube for the first time. They made a spear from a six foot length of hardwood with a knitting needle set in one end and were finally successful in hitting, but not catching, their first fish in Clovelly Pool.

During the Second World War many servicemen had experienced duty in the Pacific Islands and had seen and been taught to spearfish by the Islanders. One such person was Don Linklater. Don had seen action on many fronts before being promoted to Lieutenant and given command of a company from the Torres Straight Light Infantry Battalion. It was in Torres Straight he was taught to dive by the Islanders and discovered an intense passion for the underwater world which was to become so much a part of his life.

In 1947 Don commenced manufacturing skindiving equipment from his Bondi home with his first product advertised as the Undersee Swimmers Mask, leading to a complaint of patent infringement by Frank Cunliffe. In December of 1949 his first speargun, the Loxin was introduced at a price of Six Pounds Ten Shillings. This speargun was so named due to its unique trigger mechanism which enabled the spear to be ‘locked’ in place.

In these early days, before the advent of flippers and snorkels, individual spearfishers were unknown to each other, developing and making their own equipment, gaining ideas from the limited publications dealing with the sport. An article in the July 1939 issue of Popular Science Magazine entitled “Human Submarine Shoots Fish with Arrows” had attracted the interest of George Davies who, with his brother Trevor, had ventured in to the shallow waters of Lake Macquarie during 1946.

Another, Jim Linquist had gained his knowledge of spearfishing during the war and upon his return to Cudgen made his own equipment and began spearfishing in the Tweed River. His spear consisted of a broom handle with a fire poker that had been sharpened to a point fastened to one end. He soon began to attract a large audience whenever he entered the water. In one session he speared 135 Luderick in less than 3 hours establishing a formidable record.

Following the 2nd World War the number of spearfishermen started to grow, and so too did the antagonism between anglers and speargunners (as they were then known).

Protest letters were being sent to the Chief Secretary’s Department and letters to daily papers calling for the banning of the sport. Finally during 1947 an incident occurred which formed the catalyst for spearfishers to band together and form the USFA.

Dick Charles and Bill Heffernan were spearfishing in the channel at the entrance to Tuggerah Lakes and had speared a few fish when they heard a Sergeant of Police calling out to them to get out of the water.  They were told they were to be arrested and to get dressed and accompany him to the Police Station. They argued there was no law to say they could not go in the water and spear fish. After much argument on both sides the old sergeant was not too sure of whether he was coming or going and in the end away he went without carrying through with his threat.

At this time they only knew two or three other spearfishers, but both agreed the only thing to do was to form an association to protect the rights of spearfishers. The problem was how to get in touch with others who were interested.

Dick had a thought that the newspapers would print anything and ‘phoned the chief-of-staff of the Sydney Morning Herald telling him that a meeting had been called for all those who were interested in spearfishing, to be held at 3 pm at Long Reef on April 4, 1948 and afterwards there would be a mass dive by over 100 spearfishermen. The Sydney Morning Herald ran this as a front page article.

When the appointed day arrived it was cold and raining. An early arrival saw the setting up of a table and a large Calico sign. Lunchtime came and it was still raining and cold and no one had arrived and they were getting a little worried.  About an hour later cars started to arrive, then more and more and they were flat out answering questions and taking names and addresses.

By 3 o’clock there were hundreds of people there and Dick Charles arose to address the crowd. He explained why they would have to form an association and band together if they wanted to continue spearfishing. It was a case of “united we survive, divided we fall”.

Amongst others to speak at the meeting were Bill Heffernan, Frank Cunliffe and Les Hawley. It was decided that the association be formed. Dick Charles was elected as president, Frank Cunliffe and Bill Heffernan as Vice Presidents and Less Hawley Secretary/Treasurer and a committee of 15 appointed. Thirty two signed up as members and the association was on its way.

The meeting then closed and about 50 men went into the shark infested waters, giving the press a field day with a few fish and a large ray being speared. Bill Heffernan stole the show by dressing in a World War two vintage shallow water diving suit. The public had never seen anything like this before and photo’s featured prominently in the following day’s news.

The first committee meeting for drafting rules and getting things underway was held at Dick Charles house at Hurstville the following week.

Victoria vs New South Wales – Interstate Spearfishing Competition

Vic Ver NSW R.MontcalmAfter nearly 10 months of planning, the first official Victoria versus New South Wales Interstate Spearfishing Competition took place at Eden on the Far South Coast of New South Wales over the Queen’s Birthday weekend in June of 1967.

Over 200 skindivers and their families from as far away as Avoca and Warrnambool in the Western Districts of Victoria and Canberra and Sydney arrived at Eden for the weekend.

Most of Saturday was spent looking over the fishing areas and preparing for the big competition.

On the Saturday night at Eden’s “Hotel Australasia” had never had such a packed beer garden in its history and I think that also went for the Hotel Eden and the Eden Fishermen’s Club.

Ross Page, of Port Hacking, Sydney, was on the loudspeaker bright and early on Sunday morning and pretty soon the camping ground was a hive of activity. Just before the word “go” was given at 8:30 a.m., we noted the sign on was 198 competitors, one of the best sign-ons for a spearfishing competition for the last couple of years. And, just to make it an extra-successful weekend, two late sign-ons brought the total to 200.

At 8:30 a.m. sharp 200 skindivers raced to boats moored off the beach and to cars and were soon scattered over 60 miles of coastline.

At 2:30 began the massive task of weighing-in nearly 3,000lb. of fish. With two weigh-in areas going flat out this was not completed till 6:30 p.m. that night.

While this was going on the organisers were also flat out working out scores and allotting the 60-70 separate prizes.

On the Sunday night we had hired the Eden picture theatre and with two of Ron Taylor’s top underwater movies were due to start at 8:00 p.m. with the presentation of prizes at interval.

The films got underway around 8:30 and once again the old town was in for a shock. Nearly 300 people packed into the theatre and by 9:00 there was standing room only.

At interval the presentation of prizes got underway and it was noted that the individual winners all had fantastic scores. Open: Robin Montcalm, 663; Junior: Rick Baker, 605; Ladies: Robyn Page, 342.

Highlights of the evening were the announcement of The Most Meritorious Fish Overall with the prize of a “Tudor Oster U/W Watch”, donated by Angus & Coote of Sydney, and the drawing of the lucky sign-on number for which the prize was a “Nikonos U/W Camera”, donated by Maxwell Photo-Optics of Melbourne and Sydney. These prizes went to Doug Trinder of Mid-South Marlins and Allan Potter of Port Hacking Penguins in that order.

After the presentation of prizes, we all settled back to the second half of the programme.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank every skindiver who travelled to Eden to compete in the competition, plus everyone who helped with the organising, plus all the generous companies and people who donated the $1,000 worth of prizes.

Report by Barry Andrewartha (Marauders Club, Victoria), Australian Skindivers Magazine July, 1967 Pg.17

The ‘Ming Diving Mask’

ming mask patent drawingFrank Cunliffe of Waverley NSW applied for a patent for a diving mask in June of 1941, ‘for use for short periods by trochus, pearl and beche de mer divers and also for use in fish spearing and generally seeing underwater as in the location of submerged objects’. The patent was granted on 7th April 1942 (Australian Patent No 114,992).

According to the patent document ‘This invention has been specifically devised to provide a simple and handy diving mask which is adapted to be slipped in place on the face and covers an area thereof embracing the eyes and nose and is suited for seeing things underwater in a clear and comfortable manner as long as the diver can stay down without breathing, also it is of cheap and durable construction’.

Frank Cunliffe became interested in diving after seeing a youth wearing diving goggles, which he borrowed and tried out. He experimented with goggles and finally made a single lens mask which covered the eyes and nose and gave something like normal vision underwater. He began spearfishing in 1940 and tried out many different speargun designs before settling on a successful model, which he also patented. He began making sets of spearfishing equipment consisting of a mask, weight belt and speargun which he sold for six pounds and ten shillings.

Alec ‘Curly’ Alliman

The Sydney Metropolitan Zone’s Alliman Shield competition is named in honour of Alec ‘Curly’ Alliman.

Curly Alliman, the 1955 NSW Spearfishing Champion, was attending the USFA outing at Malabar on March 11th 1956 and while wearing Scuba was walking up the hill behind the Anzac Rifle Range when he collapsed and died of a heart attack. He was only 26 and had recently passed a medical prior to enlisting in the army.

The following tribute was published in the Australian Skindiving and Spearfishing Digest:-


Ben Cropp (Left) with Alec 'Curly' Alliman (Right)
Ben Cropp (Left) with Alec ‘Curly’ Alliman (Right)

Curly Alliman (Right) with Ben Cropp (Left)

Whatever our colour, creed or sport, somewhere, sometime we must all leave this world. That is inevitable.

When a man reaches his six score and 10 he is prepared to go, but when it strikes a healthy, happy-go-lucky club mate of 26, there seems a tragic waste. “Curly” Alliman was a club mate in every respect of the word, a good spearman and aqualunger, ready to lend a hand when work was to be done.

Always smiling, Curly’s passing is a big loss to his friends and club.

The first heat for the “Curly” Alliman Memorial Trophy was held on Sunday 8th July 1956 at Bilgola.

It attracted 64 entries with all clubs represented, but with only three feet visibility only four fish were weighed-in, two small groper, one drummer and a Sergeant Baker.

The newly formed St. George club was declared the winner with D. Rowlands 1st with 20 points and N. Shaw 2nd with 6 points.

A meeting following the weigh in confirmed the following rules to apply for future Alliman Trophy competitions:-

  1. Staring time shall be from 10AM – finishing time 2PM.
  2. That the next seven monthly meetings will be conducted by the Branch Club’s Captains, who with their committees, will set down the programme for the day and attend to all amenities etc.
    The August Day Outing will be in the hands of “Parramatta”.
  3. Boundaries. No boundaries for monthly competitions, except State Championships.

The “Aquamatic” an Historic Australian Speargun from the 1940’s

Aquamatic DiagramAquamatic DiagramThe brothers, George and Trevor Davies, pioneered spearfishing in the Newcastle area taking up the sport in 1946. They were certainly talented and inventive. They made facemasks from car tyre inner tubes, started the Newcastle Neptune’s Spearfishing Club, made one of Australia’s first Scuba sets and designed the Aquamatic speargun.

On new years eve of 1960 Trevor was killed in a tragic accident when, whilst filling a cylinder with air, a water trap on the compressor exploded, spraying jagged fragments of metal over a wide area.

Trevor was the inventor and designer, George the engineer. They experimented with several speargun designs and during 1948 the design principles of the Aquamatic were conceived by Trevor and then further refined by George during the next five years.

Over this period every spare minute of the brother’s spare time was put to use with exhaustively testing and refining the gun, experimenting with it until George was satisfied, proclaiming “This speargun is, without fear of contradiction, the most powerful in the world”.

The first Aquamatics produced had a two inch diameter cylinder with a one inch bore and when charged to 359 PSI of pressure contained 45 cubic inches of compressed air. Later the cylinder was changed to one made of stainless steel, one inch in diameter with a one half inch bore. This cylinder, when fully compressed by the spear contained about 1800 PSI.

The gun has an overall length of twenty two inches, with the barrel extending eighteen inches behind the handle. The gun’s barrel was made to take any one of three spear shaft sizes of either five sixteenths of an inch, three eighths of an inch or seven sixteenths of an inch in diameter. Spears were usually 54 inches (four and one half feet) long with 23 loading notches.

To load the gun the trigger is depressed and the spear, with notches facing upward, is pushed into the barrel until it contacts the piston. The lever is then raised and lowered with a pawl engaging the notches and using a ratchet action forces the spear into the cylinder.

The nose of the aquamatic has a line discharge attachment clamped to it. The line is attached to the spear and wound around the rear movable arm and forward to the fixed arm. This is repeated several times with the other end of the line terminating at a reel.

The air in the cylinder lasts indefinitely. The gun has been used continuously for twelve months without any loss of pressure. When fired there is no explosion underwater and no discharge of bubbles as in a CO2 gun. It has tremendous power, propelling a spear for 350 ft out of the water. Its spear, with the head removed, can penetrate two inches of seasoned hardwood.

George considered the main essentials for a speargun were power, accuracy, manoeuvrability, balance, reliability and durability and believed the Aquamatic encompassed all of these traits.

Fifty to sixty Aquamatics were made, with most being sold in and around the Newcastle area. Dick Charles, the founder of the USFA bought one and one was sent to America, however it was never paid for, the purchaser denying ever receiving it. Later a similar gun was produced and sold in the USA as the “Airmatic”.

Dick Charles – Founder & first president of the USFA

Australian Junior Spearfishing Champion Gary Hunter and Dick Charles Tallebudgera Qld 1958 - Image supplied by Ron Taylor
Australian Junior Spearfishing Champion Gary Hunter and Dick Charles Tallebudgera Qld 1958 – Image supplied by Ron Taylor

With his ever present yachting cap perched jauntily atop his balding head, burly 5 feet 11 inches tall, hazel – eyed Dick Charles was an imposing larger than life character.

Richard Stanley (Dick) Charles was the youngest son of Laura and Edward, a master builder and was born in England at Moseley Worcester on April 23rd 1901. The family moved to Canada and Mexico before settling in Hobart during 1913. Dick was successful in obtaining an apprenticeship as a fitter and turner with the IXL Jam and Sauce company and went on to become an aircraft mechanic, being employed as a ground engineer with the Australian Aircraft Engineering Co. at Mascot, obtaining licence no. 15. During 1923 he married Ruth Kelly and in 1924 they moved to Hurstville where he established a motor trading business.

In 1927 he was a founder of the St. George Motor Boat Club. Having a need for speed he built his own boat which he named the ‘Eagle’. Powered by a 360 hp Rolls Royce aircraft motor it could attain a speed of 89 mph and for a time held the record as the fastest boat in Australia.

In 1937 he began to manufacture and sell caravans from premises in McEvoy street Alexandria. Named the “Charlavan” it was Australia’s first pop – top van (Australian patent no. 3587) and was produced in 3 models, the Charlavan Junior for 67 pounds, the Charlavan Senior for 95 pounds and the Charlavan Senior Deluxe for 120 pounds.

During World War 2 he joined the National Emergency Service and became chief instructor at the Hurstville branch. He heard that the Australian Government was looking for inventions to assist the war effort, so he invented a special pulley system which was used for carrying injured soldiers down the Owen-Stanley Ranges of New Guinea.

Dick Charles1

During his time with the NES he was informed that Vaucluse Council was in need of cliff rescue apparatus to be used by the Police Rescue Squad to retrieve bodies from the bottom of the Gap.

He drew up plans for a system and was asked to construct it which he did, building it at Hurstville. It was found to be satisfactory and put into use. The apparatus was later improved by Hurstville Council Engineer, Mr. Webster.

It was during 1937 while on a camping holiday to Lake Conjola that Dick’s interest in spearfishing was born. He described it in these words:

I had been out hand fishing in my 10ft dinghy. Coming into the bank, I could see fish darting all over the place – mostly blackfish. On impulse, I got into the water, but as every skin diver knows, you can’t see much with the naked eye.

This set me thinking; you can see alright when you look through the sides of a fish tank, so if you looked through a piece of glass, kept water out of your eyes, you should be able to see under water.

You know what it’s like when you’re away camping, fellas! Something new gets into your bonnet and you can’t rest until you try it out.

Dick Charles2By using a round piece of glass, in fact an old mirror with the silver scraped off, fitted into an old tyre tube, I made my first mask and, at the same time opened up an entirely new world to me. I bet all of you got a great thrill out of your first sight underwater! I know I did.

There were all the big niggers swimming about, getting me excited. I grabbed an oar from the boat and tried to stun one underwater. How silly can you get!

Next, I sharpened a six feet stick and prodded at them. I actually hit one, to my amazement, but didn’t get it.

We were due at Burrill Lakes the next day, so we packed our gear and, on the way down, I bought some shark hooks, straightened them out and fixed them on an eight feet piece of wood. There were always plenty of fish under the bridge at Burrill, so I went down after them. I got one or two, but it was always a job to stay down because I was too buoyant”.

Dave Rowling described Dicks first attempt at breathing underwater “Snorkels were unheard of and Dick tried one memorable day at Minnamurra to put a full face contraption on with an air hose attached to a free floating 4 gallon kerosene tin and with a typical ‘she’s apples fellas’ jumped off Minnamurra rail bridge.

It was after that day he became aware it is impossible to suck air down 12 to 15 feet underwater. With 30lb. lead round the middle and safety catches completely unheard of, it was a very bulgy – eyed, purple faced Dick some two minutes later who clawed himself to the mangrove edges’.Dick Charles3

At the time Dick began spearfishing there were very few others, but as the numbers slowly grew, so did the complaints and harassment. The angling clubs were up against us and everywhere they went spearfishers were met with a hostile attitude. Finally the last straw came when Dick Charles and Bill Heffernan were spearfishing in the channel at the entrance to Tuggerah Lakes. Hearing a loud voice yelling at them they looked up to find it was the local sergeant of police telling them to get out. They were then told they were being arrested and to get dressed before being taken to the police station. Then the arguments started. Why were they being arrested? Where was the law to say they could not go in the water? Where was the law that they could not spear fish? After quite a lot of argument on both sides the old sergeant didn’t know if he was coming or going and in the end away he went.

The pair then agreed they will have to do something or they will be stopped altogether and the only thing to do would be to form an association to regulate the sport properly and to protect our rights. At the time they only knew two or three other spearfishermen between them.

On going home Dick pondered the situation and then ‘phoned the chief of staff of one of the Sunday papers and told him that a meeting had been called for all those who were interested in spearfishing to be held at 3 pm at Long Reef on April 4, 1948, for the purpose of forming an association. Afterwards there would be a mass dive of over 100 spearmen. The newspaper gave the story a run on their front page.

When the day arrived it was cold and showery and Dick remarked “it’ll be a bit funny if no one turns up”. They arrived early and set up a table and erected a calico sign. Lunch time came and went and it was still raining and no one had turned up. About an hour later cars began to arrive and then more and more cars. By three O’clock there were hundreds of people there and Dick got up and addressed the crowd, telling them why we would have to form an association and band together if we wanted to continue spearfishing. It was a case of “United we survive … divided we fall.”

After a few others spoke it was decided to form the association with Dick Charles being elected the president, Frank Cunliffe and Bill Heffernan vice presidents and Les Hawley Secretary-treasurer. A committee of 15 was also appointed. The meeting was then closed so that about 50 men could brave the shark infested waters. Bill Heffernan created quite a bit of interest with a shallow water diving suit as the public had never seen anything like this before, a large ray was speared and the news boys were having a field day. Everyone had a good time, the association was off to a good start and the newspapers played it up. Dick was well pleased with the way things turned out.

Dick Charles4Dick continued to guide the association through its formative years and was president from 1948 to 1953 when he organised the first Australian Spearfishing Championships at Tweed Heads that same year. He donated a perpetual trophy for the event and to this day it still attracts keen competition from Australia’s best.

During the championships Dick Charles chaired a meeting to form the USFA of Australia with representatives from other states. Dick was elected the first President and Dick Barton the first Secretary.

Also during 1953 concerned about the near drowning and tragic deaths of skindivers Dick announced at a USFA meeting that he was working on a device to make spearfishing safer.

Shortly afterwards tragedy struck when at Harbord on Saturday 5th September 1953 a very popular USFA member Merv Caulfield got into difficulties while spearfishing and lost his life. Two others also got into trouble while trying to assist and only just managed to make it to shore. Merv left behind a young wife and infant son.

By October Dick’s device was at the point of going into full production and an advertisement of the time announced “The Dick Charles Safety Belt has been specifically designed for all spearmen and anglers who at times are in danger of losing their lives. A pull of the trigger and you float to the surface. Easy to wear you don’t know you have it on. All belts fitted with shark repellent. The first 500 belts should be ready end of October”.

The Safety Belt was of plastic construction and worn around the waist. It was inflated by triggering a small CO2 cartridge and had a pocket that contained a shark repellent dye of copper sulphate.

During its production it was credited with saving 20 lives and assisting many more in difficulty. Worried about its plastic construction Dick discontinued production, but re-introduced it during 1960 this time made from “the best insertion rubber money can buy’.

Dick withdrew from active involvement after a few years, but always maintained his interest. He suffered a fatal heart attack in July of 1994 and was cremated at Woronora Crematorium.

His contribution will be long remembered.

History of the Skindivers Magazine

In February of 1951 the Underwater Spear Fishermen’s Association (USFA) produced its first magazine, “Spearfishing News”. With USFA secretary Jim Ferguson as editor this publication consisted initially of 6 typewritten pages. Produced monthly it contained hints on spearfishing and equipment, information on rules, monthly and committee meetings, clubs, trophies and a Man of the Month section.

Spearfishing News continued being produced by the committee every month until September of 1952 when it first appeared as a commercial publication of 24 A5 pages. After the first 2 issues, Jim Ferguson wasn’t happy with the new format and reverted to a roneo’d publication for the November issue.

At the November committee meeting of the USFA Jim Ferguson was requested to outline his plan for the future of the magazine. As the committee wished to continue with a commercially printed publication Jim Ferguson resigned and a magazine committee consisting of Edward Du Cros (Editor), Keith Vagg (Associate Editor ) and Jeff Jackson (Advertising) was elected with their first issue being in December of 1952 and with a cover price of one shilling.

In July of 1953 the magazine finances were investigated and found to be chaotic. Over a period of 8 issues the magazine had suffered an average loss of 52 pounds per issue with the June issue recording the largest loss of 76 pounds with a net cost of One shilling five and a half pence per issue. It was recommended that the sale of magazines to shops at 9 pence each be discontinued. It was also recommended that drastic measures be taken to remedy the losses immediately as the financial future of the association was in jeopardy.

In September of 1953 Secretary, Dick Barton reported on the reaching of satisfactory financial arrangements and the production of the September issue with a name change to the Australian Skin Diving & Spearfishing Digest and in November of 1953, Keith Vagg took the reins of Editor.

Producing the magazine continued to be a struggle and in July 1954, the production and Editorial role for the magazine passed to Phil Knightly. Unfortunately, this did not work out and in November 1954 he was replaced with Richard Dreyfus, who worked in the Mirror office. Richard Dreyfus was empowered to produce the magazine on the USFA’s behalf on the same conditions as agreed to with Phil Knightly.

Australian Skindiving and Spearfishing Digest 1958 November
Australian Skindiving and Spearfishing Digest 1958 November

By January of 1955, it was reported that the handling of the magazine was unsatisfactory and the services of Mr Dreyfus were dispensed with. An endeavour will be made to obtain the services of some other interested person in the spearfishing world. The Feb-March 1955 issue was produced by Dick Barton as temporary editor until September of 1955 when Ray Cooper became the editor. In August 1956 John Thompson as the USFA’s Business Manager took on the task of producing the magazine,  until October of 1960 when H.R.Smith & Biro with Bob Smith as Editor produced the magazine for the USFA.

Once again this commercial agreement did not work out and in March of 1961 the USFA again resumed control with a new editor and a new name. With Jack Evans as editor and the title, Australian Skindivers magazine production ran smoothly under his stewardship until he reluctantly relinquished his position as editor due to overseas commitments. Jack Evans last magazine was the June/July 1969 issue.

Australian Skindivers Magazine 1969 – July-August – First cover in colour

John Gillies was then appointed editor with the July/August 1969 his first issue and also a first for the ASM, a coloured front cover. However, by July of 1970, a financial storm was gathering. As always finances were very tight and with the production of Australia’s first commercial magazine in the offing, advertisers became reluctant to pay. The USFA was then in the position of not being able to pay the printers for the release of the June/July 1970 issue.

Australian Skindivers 1970 Vol 20 No 6 June,July - Final Edition
Australian Skindivers 1970 Vol 20 No 6 June,July – Final Edition

In July of 1970 Skindiving in Australia hit the newsstands and advertising support for ASM completely dried up. Meanwhile, payments owing from advertisers were pursued and several months later enough money was in the kitty for the release and circulation of ASM’s final issue. The irony of the situation was such that if advertisers had met their commitments and paid their accounts on time, ASM would have continued.

I had joined the USFA in 1962 as an 18-year-old youth and recall how eagerly I awaited each monthly issue of ASM. With regular contributions by Ben Cropp, Ron & Val Taylor, Wal Gibbins, John Harding and a host of others, I would dream of being able to take part in similar adventures.

In December of 1970 “Fathom” magazine appeared in newsagent’s stands. Produced by Gareth Powell with John Harding as Editor and Roy Bisson in charge of design,  Fathom set new standards in production and design and continued for 10 issues until early 1973.

The USFA continued to pursue its own publications. In 1972 Norm Leibick produced several issues of a USFA Newsletter followed by Bill Suters reverting to the ASM name, producing several typewritten issues with the USFA’s Gestetner printer.

In May of 1974 Merv Sheehan began producing Skindiving News from the Metropolitan Zone and with its adoption by the state became Skindiving News from the NSW Zone with its Jan/Feb. 1979 issue with a name change to The NSW Skindiver with the July/August 1988 issue with the final issue in June 1998.

With Shane Spicer as Publicity Officer, several issues of Scale Tales were produced with issue 1 appearing in 1999 and issue 4 in December 2000. Then with Merv Sheehan as Editor and Adrian Wayne supplying the facilities of Waycon Pty. Ltd. The Underwater Fishing and Free Diving Magazine was produced for three issues between December 2001 and Feb. 2003. In March 2004 Oliver Wady as editor and Adrian Wayne’s staff at Waycon produced Spearfishing, Free Diving and Film Fishing News.

With this issue of “Australian Skindivers Magazine” we enter an exciting new era of production of a news magazine for our membership. With everyone’s help, long may it continue.

We have scanned over fifty editions of Skindivers Magazines from the 50’s and up. If you have one we don’t please share it with us.