The history of GBD Calamari

At the beginning of 1965, some underwater movies inspire some biology students in Groningen to start a diving career. However, diving had been introduced to the Netherlands (mainly near Amsterdam) 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, are 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 is abundant in 1965, knowledge of diving is not. At the start of Calamari, a diving instructor teaches 17 new students the diving principles, coming over from Amsterdam every other week. A second instructor is found not much later, who has to come from Texel. This instructor was himself educated to be a dive instructor by the just established Dutch Diving Nation (NOB). Really pioneers of the diving sport in the Netherlands thus!

Nearly a year after the establishment of the association, she is named GBD Calamari and receives 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 the high-current area of the Marsdiep).

Duiken bij Rovinj, 1968.


The annual club payments of the members (f 50,-) is completely used to hire a swimming pool and the air fillings of burrowed 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 are rejected during their first check, while the loan is not yet paid off. Meanwhile, the association owns an electric motor, several life jackets and a boat.

The story goes that this boat has 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. As she adjusts her shape to the waves, she is called “sausage”. Initially, propulsion is completely driven by (human) muscle strength, which is only replaced with a 2.5 pk Seagull outboard motor in 1970.

Equipment storage room

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

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

The first dive camps

They actually use the dive equipment. The first large Calamari-excursion was in the summer of 1966, to Rovinj (Yugoslavia), as the two years after. Organisation is in hands of the board and always has a scientific character. So do divers of Calamari collect live specimens for the NIOZ (Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research). Sometime later, members take the initiative to organise diving trips in the holidays with a less scientific character. Such trips are made up till 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 are, after a difficult start, a period that is characterized by growth. The number of members is rising (with more than 60!) and much money is 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 show off. Moreover, Calamari discovers some subsidies, which facilitate the purchase of some 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!), life jackets are replaced by stab jackets (which are useful underwater as well, and are therefore used), and a second air compressor is bought. Total number of members shortly is above 100. 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 increase the pressure to study, and general study period is decreased. This causes for fewer members and the students who become member stay for a shorter period. For calamari, this causes for a strange paradox: a lot of (new) equipment, and hardly any member with time to use it. To make matters worse, the university terminates the contract for the equipment storage room. However, Calamari survives and in 1998, Calamari opens a new equipment storage room. The new storage is 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 in 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...

... you can dive all over the world with a diving license from Calamari? Our Diving licenses are accepted internationally !

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