Underwater magic

LIFE UNDER THE SEA: Alstonville man Bill Silvester has self-published an autobiography which chronicles a history of scuba diving in Australia. He is pictured with some early diving equipment.
LIFE UNDER THE SEA: Alstonville man Bill Silvester has self-published an autobiography which chronicles a history of scuba diving in Australia. He is pictured with some early diving equipment. Graham Broadhead

ONE of Bill Silvester's first snorkel dives at 17 years of age resulted in a close encounter with a 3m bronze whaler that lunged at him and his father.

But it didn't scare the Alstonville man from the ocean.

The now 75-year-old went on to found the Black Rock Underwater Diving Group in Victoria - one of the first scuba clubs in Australia.

That in turn led to the formation of the Associated Divers Academy with a group of friends.

He authored The Magic of Scuba Diving and Down Under Scuba Diving, respected text books for the novice and advanced diver which sold a combined 80,000 copies.

He also founded Byron Bay's first scuba diving business in 1973 "when it was a dead little town".

It was the realisation of a dream he'd held since being blown away by the beauty of Byron's underwater landscape on his first dive there in 1963.


By the time he sold Bill Silvester's Dive & Sports World in Jonson St in 1988, it was turning over $775,000 a year.

Bill's latest book Down Under Magic, is both an autobiography and a history of the early years of skin and scuba diving in Victoria and Southern NSW.

It also includes some interesting revelations about the ocean conditions that led to the disappearance - and presumed drowning - of Prime Minister Harold Holt in 1967, who Bill had met two years earlier at a spearfishing symposium.

Bill has already started his next book which will document those foundational years of the sport in Byron including many of the early characters in the sport.

Despite still recovering from a car accident he was in last year, Bill goes out for a scuba dive several times a year when the conditions are right.

"It will never lose its appeal; it's the sheer beauty of the underwater world and the ability to take yourself away from the pressures of life," he says.

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