The history of GBD Calamari

At the beginning of 1965, some underwater movies inspired a few biology students in Groningen to start a diving career. However, diving had been introduced to the Netherlands (mainly near Amsterdam) only some ten years before and it was rather complicated to take diving lessons at a diving association or school. They didn’t give up, and to fulfil their dreams, they established the Groningen Biologists Diving Association on 25th of February that year.

The founders of Calamari, some students and staff of the biology faculty of the University of Groningen, were keen to dive in relation to biologic research. This intention is still alive within Calamari, as most current members only dive to enjoy the underwater life. Where enthusiasm was abundant in 1965, knowledge of diving was not. At the start of Calamari, a diving instructor coming over from Amsterdam every other week taught 17 new students the ropes of diving. A second instructor was found not much later, who had to come over from the island of Texel. This instructor was himself being educated to be a dive instructor by the just established Dutch Diving Nation (NOB). These novice Groningen divers were thus really pioneers of the diving sport in the North of the Netherlands!

Nearly a year after the establishment of the association, she is named GBD Calamari and received Royal approval for existence (following the law of April 22nd 1855). The association comprises 35 members at that point and the first dives outside the swimming pool have been made (including in the high-current area of the Marsdiep).

Duiken bij Rovinj, 1968.


The annual club payments of the members (f 50,-) were used completely to hire a swimming pool and the air fillings of borrowed tanks. A loan of the university fund enabled Calamari to buy an air compressor in 1966 (Luchard with a Clinton petrol engine), 10 7L tanks and as many regulators. Five years later, all tanks were rejected during their first check, while the loan was not even paid off yet. Meanwhile, the association owned an electric motor, several life jackets and a boat.

The story goes that this boat had been used during the landing of the allied forces in Normandy in the Second World War. However it may be, the boat originated from the US Navy, built in 1940. Since she adjusted her shape to the waves, she soon got the nickname “sausage”. Initially, propulsion was completely driven by (human) muscle power, which was replaced with a 2.5 pk Seagull outboard motor in 1970.

Equipment storage room

The air compressor and other club diving equipment were stored in the bicycle shed of the Zoology department in Haren. In 1986, all equipment was moved to the basement of the tropical glass house of the Hortus. After some years, in 1972, a new storage room was found in ‘de Grote Rozenstraat’.

Duiken bij Rocher La Vieille, Île d'Houat, 1972.

The first dive camps

The dive equipment was actually used as well. The first large Calamari-excursion was in the summer of 1966, to Rovinj (Yugoslavia), as was the destination for the following two years. Organisation was in hands of the board and always had a scientific character. The divers of Calamari collected live specimens for the NIOZ (Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research). Sometime later, members also took the initiative to organise diving trips in the holidays with a less scientific character. Such trips are made up until today, and the list of diving destinations is too long to mention (but we will give you Sardinia, Helgoland, Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, Galicia, the Algarve, and Bretagne).

Rise and growth

The seventies were, after a difficult start, a period that was characterised by growth. The number of members was (with more than 60!) and much money was invested in the (extension of) dive equipment.

Meanwhile, it is precedent that Calamari plans trips to Zeeland in four weekends a year. The boat is replaced in 1978 by a real Zodiac, including a 20 pk outboard motor. The air compressor is replaced as well, by a heavier model (a Bauer). To be able to move all equipment around, a trailer is purchased. Financial (and material) growth for Calamari is key in the eighties; the in 1978 introduced equipment-plan and associated financial reservations pay off. Moreover, Calamari discovers certain subsidies, which facilitate the purchase of some more equipment. The 7L tanks are replaced by 10L ones, manometers are added to the regulators (which enables inspection of the amount of air left in the tanks during diving for the first time!), life jackets are replaced by stab jackets (which are useful underwater as well unlike the safety vests, and were therefore actually used), and a second air compressor is bought. Total number of members even reaches above 100 members for a short while. At the fifth lustrum, the association is at her very best!

Groepsfoto G.B.D. Calamari, 1975


The nineties mainly depict the results of the (introduction of) the two-phase structure in the scientific educational system (bachelor – master). Financial measures increased the pressure to study, and generally the study period decreased. This caused for fewer members and the students who become member stayed for a shorter period. For Calamari, this caused a strange paradox: a lot of (new) equipment, and hardly any members with time to use it. To make matters worse, the university terminated the contract for the equipment storage room. Despite all this, Calamari survived and in 1998, Calamari opened a new equipment storage room. The new storage was placed in between the tropical greenhouse of the Hortus and the old Department of Zoology of the Biological Centre. It is completely new and twice as large as the old space.

Hok Haren

A new accommodation, again.

The Biological Centre was housed in Haren for more than 40 years. However, in 2010, this ended and all biologists moved to the Linneausborg on the Zernike Campus. Calamari had to leave its former storage room as well. Fortunately, a commission had been installed in time, which arranged for accommodation at the Zernike Campus. Very handy, as weekly trainings were moved from the Helperbad (Helpman) to the Willem Alexander Sportcomplex (Zernike). This saved time and money to transport equipment from and to trainings in the swimming pool.

Het hok op het Zernike-complex

Did you know... can dive at least 5 times a year in the most beautiful diving water of the Netherlands? Join us on our dive weekends and discover the Grevelingen and the Oosterschelde!

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