Tales from the depths of a vivid career

Hector Donohue was a RAN diver and has written a book about the past 100 years of Navy divers. Photo: Graham Tidy.
Hector Donohue was a RAN diver and has written a book about the past 100 years of Navy divers. Photo: Graham Tidy.

It was a moment of truth, recalled Queanbeyan resident Hector Donohue, when after diving off a boat to find a shipwreck near Fraser Island, a shark came at him with it's mouth wide open.

And yet, after he shot out of the water with his diving weights still on, he got back in the very next day.

"I got back in the next day because I thought if I didn't do that, I'd never go in again," Mr Donohue said.

The story is one of many Mr Donohue tells about his time as a clearance diver with the Royal Australian Navy. He is sharing his story as part of the launch of his new book, co-authored by Jake Linton, called United and Undaunted - the First 100 Years.

Mr Donohue qualified as a clearance diver in 1961, under the tutelage of Mr Linton who was part of the first clearance diving course in 1955.

Mr Donohue said the idea for a book was originally Mr Linton's, however in 2012 after years of struggle trying to write it, Mr Donohue jumped on board.

It was finally published in December, 2015.

"It has been a fascinating journey," Mr Donohue said, who combines his own stories, historical information and current events in the book.

One such story of his own was an experience he had diving off the coast of Western Australia. Mr Donohue formed the clearance diving team there in 1963.

"We were diving on the wreck of the Gilt Dragon, a Dutch ship," he said.

"I'd been looking at this ledge and diving under it, and finally, as I was running out of air, I found what had been rows and rows of pieces of eight - that was the silver coin they used in that era.

"I suddenly found it, so I stayed underwater slipping it into my wetsuit and then I ran out of air. I couldn't go straight up because there was breaking water, so I swam out, and they finally pulled me half drowned out of the water."

Mr Donohue said he kept some of the silver, which he has to this day.

While he doesn't get in the water very often anymore, he loved his time as a clearance diver.

"I used to love diving," he said.

"In nice, clear water, you'd sit there and swim around with the tide. It's beautiful."

United and Undaunted - the First 100 Years is available to borrow at the Queanbeyan Library. It is available to purchase from the National Library bookshop or online.

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