The Original Amphibian’s
The Amphibians Club was the first post war sport diving club in the UK, formed by Ivor Howitt and his friends in 1948.
The Aberdeen based club also climbed mountains, canoed, skied and biked as often as they could.
Their pioneering spirit resulted in innovative experiments with home built equipment, their first ‘dive’ took place in 1945 in an icy cold farm dam; Ivor donned a modified civil defense gas mask connected to a car tyre foot pump and took the plunge!
This was the first of many adventures.
A brief timeline covering the main SCUBA related achievements by Ivor Howitt, the founder of The Amphibians Club:
- Formed the Aberdeen Amphibians’ Club in 1948, the first undersea dive club in the U.K. (Graham Balcombe and Jack Sheppard’s fresh water cave diving group was in the 1930’s).
- Wrote ‘Fathomeering’, for ‘Open-Air’ magazine September 1948, published Spring 1949. (This was primarily to encourage sport diving in the U.K. with home-made gear as none was available).
- First civilian to buy Siebe-Gorman’s Air Scuba December 1948, delivered February 1949.
- Ivor brought his Siebe-Gorman Air-Scuba to Australia December 1950, diving February 1951. (To Ivor’s knowledge no other amateur diver owned an Air-Scuba in Australia at that time).
- Four pages in the State Electricity Commission of Victoria’s Staff Magazine February 1952. (Following publicity of search and recovery of drownings for the Australian Police who had no gear).
- Recovery of a girl’s body resulted in billboard headlines larger than ’90 Unions On Strike’! (This because it was the first the public knew of their volunteer activities for the police).
- May 1952, undersea stills on Kodachrome colour film, with a home-made camera box. (In the Whitsundays, with first delivery of 35mm transparency colour film to Australia).
- Attended the first Australasian Sport Dive Course, beginning August 1953, in Melbourne.
- Ivor invented his first “reverse” viewfinder, which was more compact than the standard large front frame.
- Together with Bill Young, took some of the first undersea colour photos of the Great Barrier Reef in November 1953. (Ivor notes that Hans Hass and Chip Rafferty were elsewhere on the reef, but believed to be filming in B&W at the time).
- In 1956 Ivor settles in New Zealand with his wife Mary.
- Dave Moran published Ivor’s ‘Memories of an Aberdeen Amphibian’ in Dive NZ 1999. You can read these here:
- Ivor published ‘Fathomeering – An Amphibian’s Tale’ in 2007
- In 2010 Ivor received the Historical Diving Society UK ‘Reg Vallintine Award’ in recognition of his Historical Diving Achievements.
The Amphibians Club Reborn
My name is Lauren Smith i am a marine biologist and i love diving.
In late 2014 i was attending the Dive Show held at Birmingham NEC, UK. Here i visited the Historical Diving Society’s stand (i was attracted by the books they had for sale, and was ecstatic to find Cousteau’s The Silent World, Hans Hass’s Diving to Adventure and Eugenie Clarks Lady with a Spear), where i started to chat to someone about where i was currently living (Aberdeen) and they mentioned Ivor’s name and his early experiments with homemade set-ups.
Upon my return to Aberdeen i trawled the internet and found a link with Ivor’s email address on, and so began our correspondence half a world away from one another, between Scotland and New Zealand.
We discovered that we both took our inaugural dives at the age of 18, albeit with a 57 year gap! Ivor was kind enough to send me a copy of his book ‘Fathomeering’, whilst reading this and chatting via email, we soon discovered we had many things in common as well as diving, including in particular hiking adventures both within Scotland and across Europe.
As parallels between our interests became clear and having become aware of the incredible achievements accomplished by Ivor and his friends, in early 2019 i asked Ivor’s permission to reinstate the Amphibians Club. My mission; to continue our outdoor adventures and to honour the original members legacy whilst doing so.
And so the Amphibians Club was re-born. Our main pursuits are; diving, hiking, surfing, swimming and biking. If you are also passionate about some or all of these activities and would like to join the Amphibians Club, then we would love to hear from you no matter where you are in the world! You can get in touch via our ‘contact’ page.
Fathomeering; An Amphibian’s Tale
In 2007 Ivor published his book ‘Fathomeering An Amphibian’s Tale’.
Which in his own words is “being in the main a personal record of the adventures shared and the equipment used by a few amateur divers in Scotland and Australia after the end of World War 2 and prior to the explosion of interest in recreational diving in the mid 1950’s”. It is an extraordinary read and i thank Ivor for writing it.
Excerpt from the back cover of Ivor’s book:
“One Man’s Amazing Adventures and Discoveries: Ivor Howitt was one of the world’s first post-war recreational air-scuba divers and the first known in the UK. His story lay dormant for half a century until his magazine article Memories of an Aberdeen Amphibian was reprinted around the world and received an enthusiastic response. Ivor was asked to write a more comprehensive account and this book is the result.”
A few copies of Fathomeering are still available, if you are interested in obtaining a copy please get in touch via our contact page.