Abbreviated slightly from a report at the time by Keith Cardwell. The Spirit of New Zealand is still going strong. Please donate to this fantastic cause.
In 1983 a special event occurred in New Zealand’s diving history. The Orakei Underwater Club was asked to help raise funds for building the Spirit of New Zealand, a sailing vessel committed to youth adventure programmes. The club’s brains trust came up with the rather oddball idea of modifying four bicycles and pedalling them across the Auckland Harbour from Rangitoto Island to Mission Bay, a distance of four kilometres.
It turned out to be a colossal event and raised not only a substantial amount of money towards building the training vessel but it also generated an equally substantial interest in diving generally.
The New Zealand Underwater Association diver certification count jumped from a steady state of 6500 a year over prior years to just over 8500 that year. Then dropped back to 6500!
A considerable amount of homework went into the event.
We were able to gain the expertise of an engineer with a factory we could use for modifying the (donated) bikes to modify (Healing & Goodyear), a friendly dive shop, wet suit manufacturer, a City Council person to facilitate communication with the appropriate authorities, marketing and advertising experts, the “Angitu”, our mother ship, owners and drivers of the service craft and of course, some fairly good divers.
The Auckland City Council showed such faith that they shut off Queen St on one Friday night for us to ride down it! What a kick off!
The Harbourmaster gave advice to all shipping to clear the area on the day and the vessel Angitu, the “mother ship” (was outfitted) with compressor, 100 scuba cylinders, spare BCDs, regulators and water bottles. Community interest was astonishing.
One early February morning we all assembled with the Angitu loaded with bikes, cylinders, compressors, water bottles and bodies. En route the bike wheels were filled with water and close to Rangitoto Island, they were heaved over the side. It was either 0600 or 0700 when the starter’s gun went off and the bikes took off.
Under the waves we went. It wasn’t a calm day!
For each of the four riders, buddy pairs were in attendance at all times in case of any unforeseen emergency. One such emergency occurred early on when I was caught up in a ghost net. And yes, we did eventually go back and retrieve it.
The mud was so thick that traction was often impossible a couple of the riders had to ‘throw in the towel.’
There was an incredible support team at Mission Bay. They had a large area cordoned off for sausage sizzles, drinks and entertainment from Radio Hauraki and it was estimated that a crowd of at least 2000 people were in attendance.