The shark whisperer dives in Hobart

Published on LEUT Adam Grover (author), ABIS Tom Gibson (photographer)

Location(s): Hobart, TAS

Topic(s): Australian Clearance Diving Team FOUR, Exercise DUGONG, Australian Naval Reserve Diving Team TEN

Able Seaman Clearance Diver Matthew Johnston from Australian Diving Team Four on the wharf of Huon Quays, Tasmania, prior to commencing diving operations during Exercise Dugong 2015. (photo: ABIS Tom Gibson)
Able Seaman Clearance Diver Matthew Johnston from Australian Diving Team Four on the wharf of Huon Quays, Tasmania, prior to commencing diving operations during Exercise Dugong 2015.

Most of us are apprehensive of sharks when we enter the water.  Able Seaman Clearance Diver Matthew Johnston finds the prospect exciting.

A member of Australian Clearance Diving Team Four, Able Seaman Johnston has recently been in Hobart as part of Exercise DUGONG 15. The exercise brought together participants and observers from the Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, India and Sweden.  During the two-week exercise Australian Clearance Diving Team Four were involved in underwater damage assessment and repair working with personnel from other nations in addition to working with members of the Hobart- based Australian Naval Reserve Diving Team 10.

"It’s not that I want an encounter with a shark, I just find the buzz of diving so powerful sighting a shark simply releases the adrenalin to the next level,"  Able Seaman Johnston said.

"Luckily I have not come too close, however seeing a shark up close while diving near a seal colony in Albany, Western Australia, certainly focused my mind on the challenges of the underwater environment."

Growing up in Yamba, New South Wales and then on the Gold Coast, Able Seaman Johnston went to the Palm Beach Coolum State School. 

"I was lucky to attend a sports-based high school, my focus was kayaking and I spent a lot of time on the water," he said. 

As a member responsible for equipment maintenance, clearance divers know the importance of attention to detail and the trust placed in his hands by his fellow divers.  

"We work as a close group, and in my role I like to rely on my ability to see the big picture and to solve problems before they impact on the team."

Some of the most enjoyable parts of Able Seaman Johnston’s job is the ability to travel and dive in some special places.

"Diving off the Great Barrier Reef was remarkable and to be able to do that with the team was even better. 

"We are all mates as divers and I can’t imagine having a better job as this."