Michael McFadyen's Scuba Diving - Southern NSW Book
Tom Byron has been diving for a long time, more than 40 years. He is one of Australia's most experienced divers. Most divers in NSW and Queensland will know of Tom through his series of dive guides. There are eight books covering the East Coast of Australia from the Victorian border right through to the top of Queensland and his book on the history of diving in Australia (you do not want me to even start writing about this one).
The books have certainly been popular, with the Northern NSW book into its fourth edition and the Jervis Bay book into its second edition. One of the most recent publications is the latest edition of the Southern NSW book, Scuba Diving, Snorkelling and Spearfishing Guide to Southern New South Wales. This book covers the coast of NSW from Sydney Harbour to the Victorian border.
The initial edition of this book was published in 1983 with the second appearing in 1984 and the revised third edition in 1986. This latest edition is a considerable rewrite of the the last book, with many new dive sites covered. However, I must say that as an experienced diver (in excess of 2,000 dives in the area covered by this book) that I am disappointed by the book. Although it is bigger (240+ pages versus 210+ pages) and better laid out, the book still has some very strange omissions and quite a few errors.
Some of the errors that I have picked up on a brief read of the book include the following. The depths are given in meters not metres (picky, but the correct use in Australia is metres) and the use of apostrophes is either incorrect or over liberally used throughout the book. One of the first pages of the book claims that in January 1788 Captain James Phillip sailed into a harbour that was later named Port Jackson. Sorry, but it was actually Captain ARTHUR Phillip, RN, who sailed into Port Jackson which HAD BEEN named in 1770 by Lieutenant JAMES Cook, RN.
Later in the book, the wreck of the Malabar is claimed to be a steamship. It was in fact a motorship, the first on the east coast of Australia (more about this wreck later). The wreck of the Hereward at Maroubra is described as a steamship when in fact it was a sailing vessel. The depth of the SS Kelloe (page 94) is given as 40 metres, it is 50 to 52 metres. The depth of the SS Undola (page 100) is given as 40 metres, it is 45 metres. The wrecks of the Tasman Hauler and Henry Bolte were scuttled in 1988 not 1987 (again picky, but...). On page 51 Middle Grounds (it is actually Middle Ground - see my comments later) is said to be best on the northern side. Unfortunately, this is wrong as the reef on this side runs right into the sand, with no wall at all. The southern and eastern sides are best! In the same paragraph, you are advised to "follow along the eastern or northern exterminates..." The last time I look, this word meant "eliminate, annihilate, massacre, destroy, murder"!!! I think that the correct word is extremities.
The name of some dive sites are either spelt wrong (Barons Hut when the common use, and that used by Tom in the earlier edition was Barrens Hut - various pages), Little Bay (see comments above - the site shown is The Fifth Hole).
Some dive sites described are difficult, if not impossible, to find using the marks and/or GPS readings. In addition, some sites are described but no indication is given as to how to find them (eg GPS readings or marks) and no dive charter vessel that I know dives these sites. Some examples of the first are the Minmi Trench at the mouth of Botany Bay which cannot be found using the marks given as they do not line up (URG Dive Club confirms this as do I), Fish Reef at Cronulla cannot be found using either marks or GPS readings (it puts you on adjacent reefs), some of the marks for the SS Kelloe no longer exist and the marks for other spots are very iffy (I know that this is very subjective, but there are better marks for many of the sites). An example of the second is Sea Whip Reef off Port Hacking. No GPS readings or marks are provided and none of the charter vessels in the area know its location. Even the former charter operators in the area do not know its location.
While it is great that the book covers many more dive sites, a large number of the additions appear to be very much based on articles I wrote in the early to mid 1990s for DIVE Log as well as the diagrams I prepared for those articles (I must acknowledge that I used Tom's early editions to start my research on undived sites and a couple of maps I produced started off based on his maps in the 1986 edition). The new sites that I wrote about in DIVE Log and which are included in this book include Clifton Gardens (page 16), Camp Cove (page 17), Ben Buckler Point (page 26), South Bondi Reef (page 27), Maroubra Point (page 33), Rifle Range Reef (page 34), Long Bay Reef (map only - page 35), Little Bay (page 36), the Container Wall Grotto (page 42), Inscription Point (page 43), Osborne Shoals (map only - page 50) and Jibbon Bombora (page 58). It would have been nice to read of some thanks to me for the ideas. In addition, I was also one of the persons who showed Tom Middle Ground (on the boat I co-own) but there is no comment or thanks to me or my co-owner at all for this.
There are some notable omissions of excellent dive sites, especially in Sydney. For example, Parsley Bay in Sydney Harbour is not covered (but Glass and Bottle Point is), Shark Point at Clovelly, possibly Sydney's best shore dive is missing (but Gordons Bay, one of Sydney's poorest dives is), Henry Head in Botany Bay is only shown on a map (but a very deep site like The Peaks gets a full page), Oak Park at Cronulla, a very, very popular site is mentioned on a map but no details given and many other sites off Royal National Park are not included. Other very common sites such as Little Bay (not the one included as Little Bay in the book), are not there.
What is puzzling is that some very poor sites that you would not dive except in the most dire circumstances are included in the book. Most, if not all, of the sites and wrecks are rated on a 1 to 10 basis. There are many sites which have been given a 1, 2 or 3 that could have been left out to include the above sites.
In addition, the ratings given for some of the sites are way out of whack with what I would give the sites (I accept that this is subjective, but I do not think that my views on site quality is that far out). For example, Camp Cove is given a 3 (I would give it a 5 at least and up to 7 for a night dive), Ben Buckler Reef a 2 (6 alone for the sea dragons), Clovelly Pool a 5 (only a 2 or 3 for an experienced diver), Gordons Bay a 6 (1 at the most, it was a great dive 10 years ago but now....), Maroubra Point a 3 (this is Mahon Pool, depth is 25 metres not 12, worth a 6 or 7), Long Bay Reef a 4 (the wreck of the Malabar worth a 6 alone), Six Fathom Reef a 4 (a 5 or 6) and The Balconies a 4 (The Balcony is worth a 6 just for its prolific fishlife). Of the wrecks, SS Hilda is worth more than 3 (at least 5).
I also find it strange that two wrecks (HMAS Encounter and the Koputai) are included when they are over 70 metres deep and only dived by a handful of technical divers. Why bother?
The book covers the main dive areas south of Sydney. As far as I can see, most of the best sites are included. However, there are many sites covered that Mr Bryon rates poorly and there are some excellent sites not included. Some sites appear with such a poor or incorrect description that it seems unlikely that Mr Byron has actually dived them. Some examples are the wrecks of SS New Guinea and SS City of Sydney (it is possible to dive this as a shore dive despite the claims made) which are both very good and interesting dives, with lots to see. In addition, the skipper of the SS City of Sydney is said to be Captain Sullivan when in reality it was Captain R. T. Moodie. No idea where he got this name from. He also says that there is nothing to see on the wreck when it is really quite interesting.
All in all, despite my comments, I suppose this book can be considered as an excellent book for the beginner diver or a diver new to the area concerned and a relatively good book for the more experienced diver.
I am disappointed that the book has been poorly executed, I had honestly hoped and thought that it would be THE book on diving southern Sydney and the South Coast of NSW. Looks like I will have to finish off my long-planned book on Sydney dive sites!
The book is available now but not many dive shops seem to be stocking it, check with your local store.