Historic underwater gear now a museum piece


By Peter Collins - The Standard

When Peter Ronald first started diving down to wrecks off the rugged south-west coast he used oxygen cylinders from World War II aircraft connected with stainless-steel pipes and held together with ex-army webbing.

One of the diving regulators was made of silver solder brass.

It's primitive compared with the hi-tech gear on today's market, but it did the trick for the former Terang teenager and his mates Andrew and Tim Goodall and Gary Hayden as they dabbled in archaeology in the early 1970s.

They dived over the Falls of Halladale, Newfield and Schomberg and later the Loch Ard, all famous disasters along the Shipwreck Coast, and helped recover cargo and anchors from the wrecks.

Today the diving gear is part of the local history collection at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, where Mr Ronald once worked and was director.

He donated the equipment along with other maritime memorabilia last month.

"I was pleased Flagstaff Hill accepted it," he said.

"As teens we were very keen on spear fishing and snorkelling and our parents would drive us down to the Peterborough coast over the Falls of Halladale area.

"As soon as we could afford it we got some scuba gear and dived down to her. We were at the cutting edge of amateur archaeology. 

"The Loch Ard was 23 metres down. Most of the others were about 10 metres.

"We got interested in heavy haulage and used disposable fuel tanks from aircraft which we would sink, then refloat by filling them with air.

"The anchor on top of Flagstaff Hill weighs over two tonnes and was salvaged with Stan McPhee and John Laidlaw using 20 44-gallon drums.





Peter Ronald Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village Loch Ard World War II aircraft Shipwreck Coast