Born as a club for divers, our members have been at the heart of BSAC’s growth and development since the very beginning. Here are just some of the people, their stories and their achievements that have helped to not only shape BSAC but also to push the boundaries of diving and underwater discovery
London branch divers accompany adventuress Jane Baldasare on the first attempt to swim the Channel underwater. The bid looks as if it is going to be successful, but Baldasare gives up about three-quarters of the way into her journey after surfacing during a changeover.
In February, Torbay BSAC decides to undertake a survey of wrecks within the '20-fathom line', and discovers the 3,700-tonne wreck of the Maine. Club members buy the wreck for £100 and carry out salvage themselves, raising the bronze propeller and selling it for £800. The profits are used to produce the promotional diving film, ‘When you know how...’ which shows the public how easy diving can be with the correct training.
Bournemouth SAC sets up an underwater house, Glaucus, in Plymouth Sound, the brainchild of the branch's science officer, Colin Irwin. In September, two members live there for seven days, showing that Cousteau's experiments in underwater living can be done on a smaller budget. Today, the 'house' is still at the bottom somewhere, though probably broken up.
Southsea member John Towse and Alexander McKee discover the wreck of the Mary Rose after finding an obscure mark on a hydrographic chart. Towse and McKee, of the Scientific Group, do their historic first dive on the Tudor warship on 14 May 1966, in zero visibility. It's another four years before the wreck is formally identified, but the sheer significance of this dive still resounds today.
Admiral Sir Cloudisley Shovell's 18th-century flagship, the Association, is discovered and dived in July by members of the Naval Air Command Sub-Aqua Club (NACSAC) off the Isles of Scilly. The wreck is of great historical importance, having gone down in 1707.
It's the year of Operation Kelp, a massive environmental science project organised by David Bellamy. It involves the help of 25 BSAC clubs and 262 members from all over the UK, who take kelp samples from the North Sea as a method of checking pollution levels. Bellamy and the divers win the Duke of Edinburgh prize for their hard work, and BSAC asks the botanist to become its science officer.
Archaeologist Dr Colin Martin oversees a major expedition in July, which locates the Spanish galleon Santa Maria de la Rosa off Ireland. Dr Martin's team finds the wreck after carrying out painstaking swim-line searches covering an estimated 300 acres.
Alex Flinder is elected BSAC Chairman in June. An architect by profession, his major passion is for marine archaeology. He serves on the Runciman Committee, which results in the Wreck Protection Act. His lasting influence is in encouraging the use of amateur divers in this field, despite the scepticism of some professional archaeologists.
In April, retired Naval Commander Alan Bax and former Royal Engineer Jim Gill obtain a lease from the Ministry of Defence to use Fort Bovisand as a diver training centre. It goes on to become a centre of excellence for BSAC training, producing some of the club's leading divers in the 1970s and 80s.
BSAC divers John Bevan and Peter Sharphouse do a successful chamber dive to 1,500ft (492m) in March, with a bottom time of ten hours. The dive involves a total of 12 days inside the Navy chamber at Alverstoke, Gosport in Hampshire. The dive disproves theories that divers would experience a so-called 'helium barrier' at 1,200ft (393m), which would not allow them to venture deeper.
David Bellamy - by now British diving's brightest star - launches Project Starfish, to collect kelp, mussels and starfish to concentrate research on pollution in the food chain. The project has gone down as the largest single undersea biological investigation ever undertaken.
Reg Vallintine organises the first-ever expedition to St Kilda, an island that lies well beyond the Outer Hebrides. The expedition in June has eight divers from eight branches and discovers large Atlantic swells, blue water and some of the best diving in British waters. St Kilda remains the jewel in the crown of British diving.
In June BSAC divers join Peter Cornish's expedition to locate and establish the fate of the X-5 midget submarine in the Norwegian Kaafjord. The X-5 had been lost in an attempt to disable the German pocket battleship, Tirpitz.
Photographer Gordon Ridley - a dynamic expedition leader - leads a pioneering BSAC trip to the Vestmannaeyjar islands off southwest Iceland. Three consecutive fortnight voyages take place, including a visit to the world's youngest island, Surtsey, a volcanic island that was spewed out of the Atlantic between 1963 and 1967.
The Mary Rose is finally raised in October, in front of an unprecedented international television audience of 60 million viewers, the BBC's biggest-ever outside broadcast. The project's success is a tribute to the divers who have worked hard to realise their dream over the years, including BSAC divers from Southsea, Southampton, Brighton and the Isle of Wight, among other clubs. Even when the project was taken over by the Mary Rose Trust, the archaeologists in charge and their chief divers were BSAC-trained. In the final year of the Mary Rose's life under the murky waters of the Solent, an astonishing 5,000 dives were carried out. 14,000 artefacts were recovered and the ship herself was finally raised on 11 October.
The wreck of the Resurgam is discovered in December by BSAC diver Keith Hurley off the North Wales coast. Regarded by some as the Holy Grail of submarine diving, the Resurgam was the world's first practical, functioning submarine, but had been missing since 1880. Hurley reports that the wreck is in good condition, but has a hole in the bow.
Working with British Navy clearance divers, BSAC divers Gavin Heywood and George McClure win the race to recover the bell of the Prince of Wales from its grave in the South China Sea. The expedition, which takes place in August, is launched in a matter of weeks when Heywood warns that the British battleship's bell is in an open position, and could be lifted at any moment by technical divers.