Life under water

Tony Bramley is a creature of the ocean and was as good as born at sea. He is pictured here exploring the Iron King shipwreck near Edithburg, where he was born and raised. Photo supplied by Chris Fewster.
Tony Bramley is a creature of the ocean and was as good as born at sea. He is pictured here exploring the Iron King shipwreck near Edithburg, where he was born and raised. Photo supplied by Chris Fewster.

Tony Bramley lives and breathes diving; short of having gills and webbed feet, Tony is practically a creature of the sea.

Tony has been underwater since the first days of recreational scuba diving in Australia, taking his first dive as a teenager in 1966.

“There was no training or anything like that back in those days, you just jumped in the water and hoped for the best,” he said.

Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (Scuba) diving was developed during the Second World War and became publicly available in the 1960s.

The sport has since been regulated with accredited training courses introduced in the ‘70s and Tony said people did not have to be commandos with a knife in their teeth to go under.

Despite its accessibility, diving is a sport that just three per cent of the world’s population participate in.

“That doesn’t mean that three per cent of the population are special, it probably means that 97 per cent is smart, because we are doing something in an environment that is not our own,” Tony said.

“We are land animals and we have to have life-support equipment just to be there.”

About 70 per cent of the earth's surface is covered by water and Tony said the three per cent who dive were witnesses to another world.

“If you take that risk and do the training it opens up another world,” he said.

“There is nothing on land that allows you to get up close and personal with nature in its real state.

“The great thing about diving is the more you look, the more you see.

“The scope and opportunities in diving are limitless.”

“The language of diving is universal because you can’t speak underwater."

Tony Bramley

Tony believes there is an underwater world of opportunities and that marine research is a growing industry.

“The whole of society is moving more and more into that marine world because we’ve pretty much developed our land resources and the new opportunities are in the sea,” he said.

“The new opportunities are underwater.”

Tony was as good as born at sea, growing up in the Yorke Peninsula town of Edithburg.

With a population of 300, Tony looked to the ocean for recreation, growing up exploring Gulf St Vincent and the Spencer Gulf.

Tony has never strayed too far from these gulfs, dropping anchor in Whyalla in 1979.

The 63-year-old has worked for Australia Post in administration, spent a decade working at BHP and now owns and operates Whyalla Diving Services.

Tony began operating the business on a full time basis in 1998, mainly catering for commercial diving, but his passion is scuba diving.

Tony has a Jacques Cousteau-inspired love of the ocean and yearning for discovering the unknown environment underwater.

He has swum with whales, dolphins, turtles and sharks across the planet, including in the United States, South Africa, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

“The language of diving is universal because you can’t speak underwater,” he said.

“If you’ve got a diving ticket you’ve got a passport to meeting people and getting accepted in any community anywhere in the world.

“I can’t recommend it highly enough but obviously I’m very biased.”

Tony said he felt privileged to have spent his life in the sea and remembers the experience of freeing a whale tangled up in netting.

“In ordinary lives there are those special moments and that was a special one for me,” he said.

“I’m privileged to have spent most of my life in the marine environment.”

Tony has learned a lot over the past five decades of diving but all of that is becoming redundant as new technology and knowledge changes the sport.

“That’s what is great about this sport; it’s such a new sport that it’s evolving,” he said.

“There’s a whole new set of barriers and challenges.”

Tony is a strong advocate for environmental awareness and is known as the Godfather of Whyalla’s cuttlefish.

Giant Australian Cuttlefish are unique to Whyalla’s waters and the spawning aggregation at Point Lowly and Black Point is unseen anywhere else in the world.

“This doesn’t happen anywhere else on the planet, it’s the most amazing spectacle there is,” he said.

“It’s so special.”