Geoff Henry, a member of Wellington Underwwater Club since 1956, telling his story. written by Robin.

Geoff started diving in 1950, joined the club in 1956/57 and is a life member of Wellington Underwater Club today. He started out diving in Evans Bay with dive gear his god-mother used to bring back from her trips overseas, before some of it was available in NZ, and before wetsuits were commonly used. As most of you are aware, the club started, and continued for a long while, as a predominantly spearfishing club. Meetings were held in the huts opposite Miramar wharf. Some of the original members, and first SCUBA trainers Geoff mentioned were Joe Tomlin, Peter Strong, & Warwick Hurdley.

At one point, the Club’s membership swelled to 300 – mainly due to the success of radio advertising – perhaps we need to do this again!!

Mayor Island Trips

Geoff reminisced with fondness, about the Mayor Island Diving competitions during his youth, where they wore rubber wetsuits that would only stayed glued together for half a day. On one of these trips, he remembered a new member, Mike Ryland, (then a young teenager), who brought along his blankets and silk sheets, and who was letting off fireworks on the beach. Another trip was well illustrated with slides – Ferril Rogers and Hans Meier had some good catches.

Sharkhunting Expedition

Ferril Rogers was famous for his prowess at spearing sharks. He was the first NZ diver to land a shark. He bagged 3 sharks within one month during the 1960’s. The first was a 280lb bronze whaler, the second a 50/60 lb Mako and the third a 140/160 lb seven gilled shark. The rest of the club hadn’t caught any, and decided it was a bit excessive for one man to hold all these records, so organised a major sharkhunting expedition to Crater Bay, White Island. Geoff reminisced about this trip, on which went 18 of the best spearos in NZ (all but one of whom, of course, were from WUC…the other was Paul Hunter from the Hutt, who had an underwater movie camera!). They chartered the Tidesong (a 40 ft charterboat) from Tauranga, with 5 or 6 dinghies making up the fleet. There were two teams of divers, with Malcolm Blair and Geoff Henry the two group leaders. In the water, plenty of huge kingis, kahawai and trevally diverted everyone’s’ interest. Malcolm was circled by a 12 ft shark, which fortunately disappeared. Geoff shot possibly the same shark a bit later, as it was coming towards him, but the as the shark was towing him, Geoff broke the line and the shark swam away. On the second day at the Volkners, everyone was busy shooting more kingis – so many that at least one dingy started to collapse under the weight. The number of kingis had attracted the sharks – Geoff remembered at one stage a Great White swam alongside him, Eddie Davidson and Warwick Hurdley. However, at the end of this trip, no one had managed to bag a shark.

Geoff also talked about a Kingfish Cup Weekend and a Whitianga Spearfishing Competition at Mercury Bay. The Wellington team were the only spearos to catch Kingis as they were the first ones in the water.

Kawau Island Conference

This story was pretty interesting - after the annual conference held at Mansion House, Kawau Island, Geoff shot a 380 lb ray – a NZ record. He had used Malcolm Blair’s speargun, as he had bent all his own shafts. Landing the ray involved a lot of swimming, although, funnily enough, most by Malcolm, who was Geoff’s dive buddy. Other club members seen in the photos of this trip were Owen Brimble, Jean Broad, Leo Ducker, Joan Mountier (now Morrison) & Robin Rarere.

The Club & Boats

Eddie Davidson was always replacing his boat. They were always called the Myth. The club owned a boat at one point – it was a salvaged 40ft Island Bay fishing boat. However, it was sold once it was seaworthy, as the cost and maintenance was too much and the work always devolved upon too few people! An ex-army overland truck was abandoned and sold for the same reasons. The club relied mainly on boats owned by individual club members.

Other club members mentioned during Geoff’s talk were: Eddie Davidson (owner of numerous Myths), Bill Baldwin, Franz Resch, Doug Timbs (a life member and designer of generations of spearguns), Peter Sinclair (who had all the dive gear, but was never actually seen to dive), Owen Brimble (one time club president and Safety Officer), Bill Quirke (guitarist and builder), Paul Smith, (who invented the compressed CO2 speargun), Stu Thomas (who was the main adviser and filler of tanks), Bonny Quirk (womens’ spearfishing champ), Charlie Crowe (a young club member and very keen spearo, who unfortunately died while out spearfishing. The Charlie Crowe Safety Trophy was donated by Charlie’s father Jack Crowe), Hans Meier, Fred Beyeler, Hugh Parsons & Bob Reynolds.

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Geoff Henry

Life Member, Wellington Underwater Club and former Secretary, Treasurer, Club Captain, President etc.
Former Vice-President NZUA
Former Diving Instructor and author of first NZUA Diver Certification Programme
Formerly commercial diving contractor (environmental surveys, salvage surveys, hull scrubbing)
Former Recorder (record keeper)
Competition Weigh-master
coached scuba divers, snorkelling and spearfishing

 

 

 
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