Associated Divers - Durban

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By Neil Gould - August 2007

My uncle Alan Gould was member of the Leeds under water swimming club, which later became the British Sub Aqua Club. This was before coming to South Africa Durban in November 1955.

He soon joined the Durban Under Sea Club but was among several of the members who broke away and formed the Associated Divers Club. They included Derek Wilkinson, Alan Egling, John Le Strange, Alan Tiley, Bob Johnson , Geoff Akin-Smith, Joe Dessels, Vim Smit, Alan Gould, Albert Lane, Bill Leftwich, Mike Popplet, Max De Groot. Ricky Schick and Charles Sprighton, to name but a few.

The reason for breaking away from the Durban Under Sea club was because these men were more interested in equipment diving than in spear fishing. Associated Divers were the first diving club in South Africa to create a training course for equipment divers, i.e.:- scuba and closed-circuit (re-breather ). It must be noted that the equipment could not be bought in South Africa at that time and so these chaps made it for themselves. They also coined the phrase 'Dive alone, die alone.

From the start, people came to them with tasks that only they could do. On one occasion, they were asked to help recover a drowned body from inside a Sunderland aeroplane that had crashed on landing at Lake Umzingazi, near Richards Bay. They didn't find the body because it was hidden behind a circular stair case leading from the wardroom to the main deck but, on that dive, there were many crocodiles, hippos and leeches in the water.

Subsequently to that, the wreck of the Sunderland was purchased by my grandfather Max Cowan, of Magnus Metals in Durban, who sent Alan Gould, Derek Wilkinson and Alan Egling to attach a cable to an eyebolt on the aircraft to enable it to be recovered.

Wearing their closed-circuit re-breather sets during the trip to try and recover the crashed Sunderland from Lake Umsingazi, were Alan Gould, left, and Derek Wilkinson.

<= Click pic to view enlargement.

In another memorable incident in October 1963, the ship Aimee Lykes ran aground on her maiden voyage on the Aliwal Shoal, off the coast of Natal. The club was asked to go and find six drums of poison that had been thrown overboard, together with a lot of other cargo, to lighten the ship. The damage to sea life would have been catastrophic if the poison eventually leaked into the sea.

The club completed the job very successfully even though surrounded by sharks and barracuda., which was where buddy diving proved its worth. The Lykes Shipping Line subsequently donated a compressor to the club for use in filling aqualungs with compressed air.

The club participated in what is believed to be a world first when it helped to clean the bottom of the ship Straat Freemantle without her having to go into dry dock. On another occasion, the club recovered a large anchor from a old sailing ship that had sunk off South Beach in Durban, and it was later displayed in the Old House Museum.

In the early sixties, the club used to train either at the submarine jetty at Salisbury Island or at the Rachel Finlayson swimming pool on the Durban Beach front. One day, the guys decided to play under water rugby but the problem was what to use for a ball. They first tried a 5-litre tin filled with sand, which proved to be too dangerous, so they filled a shoe polish tin with lead, sawed the handles down on hockey sticks, and underwater hockey was born.

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