Saturday, August 14, 2010


Initially we early Christchurch divers followed Cousteau’s own pioneer diving patterns as hunter gatherers seeking food for the pot.   But the drive to explore that he imparted led us beyond breath-hold spearfishing exploits to scuba diving; after my mid fifties diving helmet  trials at Diamond Harbour Jaan Voot and I began illicitly fabricating our own scuba apparatus and dry suits at high school- where I also learnt a little French]. We went on to ice diving; seeking remote locations; wreck hunting and treasure diving.  The study of marine life gradually began to impassion us.  As the first generation able to fly through the sea and bring back pictures of unknown life forms we truly were like the first men on a new planet.  From Captain Cousteau and Dr Hans Hass the use of underwater photography and film making to document marine life became our major pursuits.  From then on the Cousteau influence has affected every stage in the evolution of my undersea exploration.

After making New Zealand’s first ice dive: exploring a frozen  mountain lake with diving mates Kelly Tarlton, Keith Gordon and others, [ we were hoping for really clear water and I drew the straw for first to enter the icehole...] we began organising expeditions to distant locations: gradually pushing out to the fringes of the New Zealand coast: Stewart Island, Marlborough Sounds, Poor Knights Islands, Three Kings Islands, White Island and up to the tropics: French New Caledonia, the Australian Great Barrier Reef and Fiji.  I think we were impelled to roam because  Christchurch did not offer the best of diving opportunities.  We dived Lyttelton Harbour, Taylors Mistake, Kaikoura etc.  Some of our dives in murky water were almost by braille...  But deprivation just made us keener.  To earn money for travel to coral reefs Allan Kircher and I even dived in wet cement.  We found people at A&P shows would pay to see us breathing underwater in a big perspex tank!  In those days divers were great oddities and my mates really filled the bill. Johnny Morton showed them how to knit while standing on his head!

Still image bank: sundry old photos and transparencies; news clips.

Ice dive at Lake Ida filmed by the National Film Unit, 1958 and in their archives.

Keith Gordon and Ron Crocker, my early diving mates, still have eight mm film* depicting us, shot near Christchurch: setting up diving gear at the Waimakariri Groynes, a clear swimming hole near the town and on initial expeditions with Kelly Tarlton south to Stewart Island: 1958;  up to Marlborough Sounds: 1958 and then by air to New Caledonia:1960.  [ I was to visit my beloved New Caledonia eight times; diving there taught me French.]

 * I have made a dub of this material ex VHS on to DVD.

Books: Ocean Planet Wade Doak  1989: pages:18-32.


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