A BRIEF HISTORY OF D.U.C.
In the beginning………….
World War II, brought much suffering to the world, it also pushed the frontiers of invention years ahead. One of these frontiers was underwater exploration.
Many of the young South African soldiers and sailors who came back from the war, had been exposed to underwater warfare and marine salvage.
It wasn’t too long before small groups of “Frogmen” were seen around the SA coastline all the way from the Cape to Zululand, investigating the rich marine life, whilst wearing the strangest and most primitive equipment imaginable!
The abundance of fish life was truly amazing, and as no deep sea fishing had taken place over the years 1939 – 1946, the pickings were easy!
This hardy band of underwater adventurer’s, took to spearfishing, and developed some mean looking underwater “guns”.
Those inclined to participate in the growing pursuit of spearfishing, soon became known as “Spearo’s” or “Surf Steamboats” [due to the prohibition by the authorities at that time, of entering the sea from a small craft, so it was ‘ Swim out through the surf ‘ or find some other pursuit].
The “spearo’s” did their job so well, that local authorities were soon to insist on controls, to regulate this group of unconventional fish harvesters, that appeared to be a threat to the rod and reel brigade.
This then brought about the formation of the Durban Undersea Club by it’s founder, Gordon Lumley and his fellow spearo’s, the year was October 1951.
The inaugural meeting of DUC took place in the auditorium of Natal Technical College.
Thereafter DUC monthly meetings were held at the Palmerston Hotel, and members usually wore jacket & tie. The club continued to meet at various other clubhouses, hotel bars and function rooms until 1974 when a lease was negotiated thanks to the assistance of Mr. Nicolaas Steyn Snr, with the harbor authorities at the time and the original building was built which was the first permanent home to it’s members.
Over the ensuing years it saw many structural changes (1978 and 1984), and had a number of “face-lifts”, to become what at time of its demolition in 2017, the foremost, oldest surviving dive club building in SA.
DUC has a proud history in the development of and research of the local underwater environment. The Club has always been in close touch with the Natal Parks Board (now Emzevelo Wildlife) ORI , Smith’s Institute, Natal Sharks Board , Port Captains Office, SAP Dive Unit, and the SAUFF.
The club’s members have always excelled in the various disciplines of the sport and from the earliest days brought home top honours in:
- Underwater Hockey
- Underwater Photography
Another memorable event in the history of DUC, was the granting of an official Bar License [Liquor License] in February 1988. Prior to this license being granted, DUC had operated as a “Shebeen” and been “bust” on a number of occasions by the Liquor Board. These busts cost DUC a bundle as they then confiscated all stocks of booze and we also had to pay a hefty fine!
On the social side DUC has always been active. Before the advent of TV, Sunday night was 16mm movie night and a main feature movie would be screened, with supper being provided by the ladies, in our make-shift kitchen, between film spool changes!
As far back as can be recounted, “Theme Party’s” have been a feature of the social scene. Rock ‘n Roll, Mauritian, Ship-wreck, come as you are, Hag’s and Hobo, were just some of the fun filled parties that have spilled out of the Club in the wee small hours…………
Easter and long-weekends saw DUC at Sodwana Bay camp-outs, before concessions took over the dive scene and electricity was online to run compressors and freezers.
DUC members would consider it a tremendous privilege to have had a 2-mile dive. DUC boat owners would ferry members in their small 4 man craft all day to ensure as many as possible got to see 2-mile reef.
Aliwal Shoal diving only became a reality to DUC members and others in the late 1980’s, when the Ski-boat fishing fraternity finally agreed to “allow” divers to ride in Ski-boats out of their controlled ski-boat launch sites. To this end DUC and divers in general have to thank the late ‘Bryan Sutton’ for his unrelenting efforts in getting this archaic regulation banished from the rule books.
D.U.C. continued to attract many new members by introducing new disciplines such as
- Surf skis
All of the above water sports categories contributed enormously towards the existence of D.U.C. its success & achievements, making D.U.C. what it is today – a multi discipline water sports club.
So we look to our new members to add their passion to those of their predecessors and Committee who are charged to take DUC into the new clubhouse development and add their names to this history of the Durban Undersea Club.