By Dave Harasti & Neil Miller
On Sat August 16th at 7pm a very special event took place. And no, it wasn't those Kiwis beating us in the Bledisloe cup either! It was the night of the inaugural "Dive Oz - Up Close and Personal" or "DOUCAP" as it is otherwise known, which took place at Manly Oceanworld.
For those of us in the know, Diveoz (www.diveoz.com.au) is Australia's largest scuba diving website that now averages over 65,000 visitors a month. The Diveoz website is full of Australian diving information, including hundreds of dive sites, new product reviews, latest news, dedicated areas to nudibranchs and the grey nurse shark, an area devoted to learning to dive, a very active buy, swap & sell section and very active discussion forums where divers can talk to each other about a wide range of diving issues. It's also the place where divers hang out in there spare time and make new friends around the country.
Part 1An idea was formulated by the owner of Dive Oz 'Mr Webguy' aka Neil Miller to bring together the Diveoz members for a night of entertainment. This was how the idea of 'Dive Oz - Up Close & Personal' (DOUCAP) was born.
Neil arranged for an information night to be held at Manly Oceanworld with 4 guest speakers who are well known in diving circles. The speakers were:
Max Gleeson - One of Australia's leading authorities on wreck diving.
Dave Apperley - Leading cave & tech diver specialist.
Dr Simon Mitchell - Leading authority on diving medicine.
Dave Harasti - Expert on the grey nurse shark.
The DOUCAP night was a complete sell out with all 150 tickets being sold a week prior to the event. The interest was very high and people travelled from Vic, Sa, Act and Qld to attend the night. Tickets were sold for $11 a head, once expenses were covered for the venue, the remaining money raised was donated to the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) for their grey nurse shark protection fund.
The night festivities kicked of at 6pm when the Oceanworld doors opened allowing everyone to stroll through the aquarium to check out the marine exhibits. The large grey nurse sharks in the main tank were an obvious highlight; well at least for some people! At 7pm the doors were locked and everyone was ushered into the main auditorium upstairs, where they were greeted by large goanna's, snakes and poisonous spiders! The presentation night was being held around the Oceanworld's goanna pit!! A very unusual setting for a nights talkfest on diving!
The MC for the night, Daryl Waters from Divetek (also known on Diveoz as Oxyboy) kicked off the proceedings and reminded everyone that if they were bitten by a creepy crawly in the venue not to panicâ€¦ "Please die quietly so not to interrupt the speakers!"
Max Gleeson was the first of the presenters and made everyone drool over some of the images he had taken on the many wrecks he had dived over the years. I think one of Max's mottos must be 'if it's got rust, then it's worth diving!' Max described the experience of diving on the Yongala and also of the less frequently dived wrecks that can be found around the north Qld coast such as the Quetta.
The second presenter for the evening was myself and I provided a presentation on the status of the grey nurse shark. The grey nurse shark is one of Australia's most endangered marine species and I've been fortunate enough to work on it for the past 4 years. I assume the talk must have been informative as I wasn't booed off stage and nothing substantially large was thrown at me.
A 30 minute break followed where tea and coffee was provided and the staff from Oceanworld did a talk down in the shark tunnel about their grey nurse, whilst a member of their staff did a shark feed as people looked on.
Part 2Back upstairs and Daryl the MC started the lucky door prize giveaways, prizes included hats, caps, X-vision mask, Talaria split fins, subscriptions to Australasian Scuba Diver mag and a weekend trip onboard the Esperance Star based in Brisbane. The prizewinners were very happy with their good fortune! Now on with the show.
Next up was Dave Apperley, who gave a very entertaining presentation on cave diving in the Nullarbor, specifically focused on the exploration of the Cocklebiddy cave system. Some of the diving experiences in this cave system that Dave described were simply amazing, some really hardcore guys who are very passionate about 'making the longest push'. As Dave explained the 'push' into the Cocklebiddy system was very complex and required a lot of personnel, patience and a truckload of scuba tanks. My favourite quote from Dave was "it took an extra 10 years just to go a further 30 metres!"
Dr Simon Mitchell wrapped up the presentations and walked on the stage with a large grin on his faceâ€¦this might have had something to do with his Kiwis just winning back the Bledisloe Cup. Simon was very entertaining and gave an excellent talk on some of the myths related to diving medicine. I think I learnt more from his talk on diving medicine than I've learnt on all my dive courses put together! I also learnt some really useful things about cooking in the New Zealand Navyâ€¦ never eat pork chops! Simon is a very entertaining presenter and had the crowd constantly laughing at his diving related (and Kiwi sheep) humour!
The night was capped off by a special presentation to Mr Neil Miller, creator of Dive Oz, for his contribution to the Australian diving industry. Neil has put in over 3,500 hours of his time to make Dive-oz what it is today; the biggest and best diving Internet site in Australia. A special award was presented to Neil that contained a very nice brass porthole and it took 2 guys just to hold it up as it weighed in at a hefty 20+kg! Neil was also presented with a cheque for $200 which was donated by regular members of the Dive-Oz website, this was promptly added to the amount donated to the AMCS bringing the total donation towards marine conservation at nearly $1500.
This night was made even more enjoyable by the contributions from sponsors for lucky door prizes and giveaways. Sponsors for the night included Esperance Star, Cape Byron Imports, Manly Oceanworld, Australian Marine Conservation Society, Mares, Divetek, Australasian Scuba Diver mag and of course Dive-Oz. And the night was made possible by the fantastic audiovisual setup provided by Brett Tyler from Magiboard Presentations. He's the one that had to fight with the goanna's to set up the display screens. And what a job he did with the display!
Originally, the next DOUCAP was going to be held in 2005, but with the amazing response to this night, Neil has caved in and another is planned for April 2004. So keep your eye out on the Diveoz website for further information. This one will be bigger and better and I'm sure tickets are going to sell fast!!! And the next event will not be held on the night of the Bledisloe Cup final!. Remember that Mr Webguy ;-)