ATLAM Sub Aqua Club                

More than 50 years of diving history

The Malta Sub Aqua Club was founded by Mr. Eric Pace Bonello, on the 31st March 1955. The main of aim the Club then, was to organize spearfishing competitions according to internationally established rules. The competitions proved to be a great success, with the public at large closely following the progress of the competitors.The Club participated in its first International Competition in Portugal where it competed against 12 countries and obtained a credible 5th place. In February 1959, went to Monaco to represent Malta as a founder member of the "Confederation Mondiale des Activities Subaquatique" the CMAS. The Club now had obtained international recognition and a firm position in Europe's largest diving organization.

  

With the growing diversity of aquatic sports and the evolution of scuba diving, the general interest in spear fishing started to decline and in 1977 the Club officially started to teach scuba diving.

In 1978, the Club changed its name to ATLAM Sub Aqua Club, in accordance with Act No. XXII of 1978 the Club was not allowed to use the word Malta any more. Later on that year, the Federation of Underwater Activities of Malta, FUAM, was formed. This national body incorporated all the Maltese Clubs whose main activity was scuba diving or free diving.

The sporting traditions of the Club are now also directed at national and international underwater photographic competitions. ATLAM is also famous for its photographic competitions, namely the Blue Dolphin of Malta Competition, the first of which was organised in 1992. These used to be held every year and divers from all over the world came over to compete. Sadly enough the Blue Dolphin of Malta Competition was not held during the last few years due to financial constraints. Another annual photographic competition is that held between ATLAM and the British Airways Sub Aqua Club.

The major strength of the Club lies in its consistent dedication to the training of divers in a rigorous but informal learning environment. Every year the Club generally runs two diving programs. It is a tribute to the Club that the standard of teaching is considered to be one of the best on the Islands. One of the aims of the Club is to teach diving based on International recognized standards of CMAS, to promote safe diving and encourage marine life conservation. One of the long-standing problems of the Club is the lack of permanent premises. The Club was forced to change premises 5 times in the past 15 years.

Presently the Club uses a government tenement in Melita Street, Valletta. The Club currently has over 100 members.

Activities vary between the training of novice divers and other Club activities.
The main activities organized throughout the year include: Shore and Boat dives, Night dives, Charity campaigns, BBQ's, Photographic Competitions, lectures on various topics related to scuba diving, cultural outings, Easter Camping and organized diving trips to foreign destinations such as to the Egyptian Red Sea, Lampedusa, Cuba, South America and South Africa.

A brief history of CMAS
Extract from the official CMAS website

On the 28th of September 1958, delegates from the following Federations: Federal Republic of Germany, Belgium, Brazil, France, Greece, Italy, Monaco, Portugal, Switzerland, the United States of America and Yugoslavia met in Brussels on the occasion of the congress of the independent International Confederation gathering all underwater disciplines.
With this aim, a meeting was held in Monaco on January 9, 10 and 11, 1959 and a decision to establish the "World Confederation of Underwater Activities" in brief C.M.A.S., was taken. This Confederation succeeded, specifically in regard to all functions and responsibilities, the "Comité des Sports Sous-Marins" (Underwater Sports Committee) of the International Confederation of Sport Fishing founded on the 22nd of February 1952.

The following Federations or Associations, hereinafter mentioned with the Representatives of the respective Constituent Assembly, have the right to be considered as the founding members of the Confederation:

 
FEDERAL REPUBLIC
OF GERMANY
Verband Deutscher Sporttaucher
Mr. Jens-Peter PAULSEN
BELGIUM Fédération Belge des Recherches et d’Activités Sous-Marines
Mr. Paul BAILLY and Mr. William XHIGNESSE
BRAZIL Confederacao Brasileira de Desportos
Mr. Vittorio DE BERREDO
SPAIN Federacion Espanola de Pesca Sportiva
Mr. J.J. LOZANO RODRIQUEZ et Mr. M.D. VERGONOS BOIX
THE UNITED STATES
OF AMERICA
National Competitive Skindivers Committee
Mr. Serge A. BIRN and Mr. Gustav DALLA VALLE
FRANCE Fédération Française d’Etudes et de Sports Sous-Marins
Mr. Elie FERRAT and Mr. Jacques DUMAS
GREAT BRITAIN British Sub Aqua Club
Mr. Oscar GUGEN
GREECE Fédération Hellénique de la Pêche Sportive et des Activités Subaquatiques
Mr. Luigi FERRARO
ITALY Federazione Italiana della Pesca Sportiva
Mr. Carlo MANSTRETTA and Mr. Luigi FERRARO
MALTA Malta Sub Aqua Club
Mr. Eric PACE BONELLO
MONACO Club de Chasse et d’Exploration Sous-Marines
Mr. Camille ONDA (Yacht Club) and Commandant J.Y. COUSTEAU
HOLLAND Onderwater Jagers Club
Mr. J.H. HORA ADEMA and Mr. J.P. TOENBREKER
PORTUGAL Centro Portugues de Actividades Submarinas
Mr. Jorge ALBUQUERQUE and Mr. Antonio RAMADA CURTO
SWITZERLAND Fédération Suisse des Centres de Sports Sous-Marins
Mr. Charles KNIGGE and Mr. Robert METRAUX
YOUGOSLAVIA Savez Pormorskin Ribolovaga
Mr. J. MEDUR


ATLAM SAC Founder Member

A brief narration of the history of our club by the founder member.
Mr. Eric Pace Bonello

My narration of the history of ATLAM takes us back to World War II when the exploits of the frogmen and sommezatori captured the fancy of a group of young men on the island. Malta pioneer brothers Sonny and Denis Muscat soon produced acceptable home made equipment for skin diving and fishing. Before long we were spreading the sport and competing against each other. My participation was soon cut short, as I had to leave Malta in 1947 for health reasons. During my forced sojourn I made contact with Cressi, who was to become a household name in Malta. Our contact was originally commercial but a close friendship developed. Egidio became my mentor and spurred me on. He would not rest until Malta took its place internationally. His visits to Malta accompanied by persons of world repute, such as Luigi Ferraro (medaglia d’oro) and Mario Catalani, who was to become 1957 world champion, added to the enthusiasm. In 1955 the Malta Sub Aqua Club was founded.

Again it was Cressi who pushed us into participating in the 1958 World Underwater Fishing Championships in Sezimbra, Portugal and who sponsored our application through F.I.P.S. the Italian federation. By this time Malta was able to present very valid competitors, Arrigo – Ellul Mercer- Falzon – Micallef Decesare – Pirotta – Ripard etc., most of who continued to represent Malta for years to come. The performance of the Malta teams is now history. At Sezimbra we were able to make contact with everyone in the sport. The Malta team was so popular that when we showed interest in holding the next world championship in Malta we were taken at our word subject to confirmation by the world body in formation, “CMAS”. After obtaining the financial backing from the Malta Government I attended the meeting in Monaco 9/11th January 1959 as the delegate of the Malta Sub Aqua Club at which CMAS was founded. Thus Malta became a founder member of this world federation of all underwater activities. The meeting also accepted Malta’s application to organize the 1959 World Underwater Fishing Championship. The legendary Commander J.Y. Cousteau who chaired the meeting became the CMAS first president.

The success story of the Malta Sub Aqua Club was in part due to Malta’s geographical position, its (then) crystal clear waters and the publicity Malta received resulting from the World 1959 Championships. Throughout the 1950’s and the early 1960’s the M.S.A.C. was the only sub aqua club. The M.S.A.C. capitalized on all this. The committee and members were a very devoted lot and dedicated most of their time to the club. There was hardly an absentee on the Sunday weekly outings or at the training sessions. Everyone gave a helping hand. Funds to travel abroad came from sponsors, but also from the proceeds of the catches on the outings.

In the event all this led to over fishing, not only in Malta but everywhere. This was particularly so with the advent of the aqualung, the use of which was strictly prohibited in the M.S.A.C. underwater fishing competitions. It was inevitable that laws would be introduced to curb what had become indiscriminate hunting. During my chairmanship the M.S.A.C. was already in contact with underwater photographers of repute who regularly visited Malta for commercials. Underwater film sequences were also being shot. Silver Bay in Comino became famous for underwater shots because its clear waters provided plenty of light. It is to the credit of my successors that they immediately identified and followed the trend.

I am gratified to see the progress made over the years. I understand that the photographic level is indeed high and competes internationally. Likewise I have great praise for the professional approach adopted by ATLAM and its instructors in its diving courses. I am not surprised that so many applications are received for these. This is bound to accelerate once ATLAM completes its new premises so superbly placed. I have no doubt that the march will go on.

    

The president and members of the outgoing committee have fulfilled a dream born half a century ago. A new chapter has been opened and it is now up to the present committee and their successors to complete the premises and to make the best use of it once it is finished. It will not be easy – there will be problems – but nothing that sheer determination will not overcome. I can see a lot of this amongst you. You will get there, and in time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the foundation of ATLAM ( MALTA) Sub Aqua Club.

The new club premises are bound to bring a lot of change. The membership will increase and so will the activities. You will need to strengthen the infrastructure, create cells that can function on their own – decentralize. Once the premises are ready you will need to strengthen your financial base. You will do this by calling on sponsors to support you. The catering should be designed to attract not only patrons but also additional members. Advertise your activities more widely. Make contact with international bodies prepared to exchange visits and with tour operating companies with whom you can work out itineraries making sure that the club is left with a margin. There is an endless list of additional activities awaiting you. The future beckons.

My congratulations to the newly elected team. I understand there is very little change from last year. Thanks to the outgoing members, a big welcome to the new members and to the committee a successful year. You will first of all need to ensure the continued success and activities of the past years. Your main job will be the erection of the new club premises. Do not hesitate to share the load – create sub-committees and co-opt members to help. Above all maintain the enthusiasm and camaraderie which has always been the hallmark of ATLAM (and Malta Sub Aqua Club).

Founder Member

Past Presidents of ATLAM Sub Aqua Club
and the Running President