The formation of Southern Peninsula Rescue Squad
was prompted by the disappearance of Harold Holt from Cheviot Beach 50 years ago. This tragic accident along with the steady increase in boating incidents on Port Phillip Bay, highlighted the lack of emergency equipment on the then isolated Mornington Peninsula.
‘Mornington Peninsula Emergency Group’ was formed in 1967 utilising a donated delivery van and equipment such as ropes as well as borrowed boats.
In 1970 the group became formally incorporated and ‘Southern Peninsula Rescue Squad’ was born.
Above: Members past and present gathered to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of SPRS in December, 2007.
Since its humble beginnings the Squad has grown into a well respected marine search and rescue organisation.
During its early days SPRS had an agreement with Jayrow helicopters to utilise a Bell 47 helicopter contracted to fly newspapers to the peninsula for searches when not otherwise being used.
This proved very successful and following a fundraising campaign the SPRS purchased its own Bell 47 J model helicopter for search and rescue purposes.
Demand for the squad’s services quickly grew and a more powerful helicopter was needed to perform more complex rescues, this prompted the purchase of a turbine engine Bell 206B Jetranger. This aircraft was again upgraded to the larger Bell 206L-3 Longranger.
SPRS was also affiliated with the State Emergency Service (SES) for many years, providing Road Accident Rescue and Storm Damage Services. A separate SES unit was eventually formed in Sorrento and took over providing these functions leaving SPRS to concentrate on its core role or air and sea rescue. Throughout this time various boats, communications and other equipment were purchased and upgraded enabling the Squad to maintain the high standard that it has become known for.
Over the years, SPRS has operated a number of different rescue boats and in 2001 purchased its first purpose built vessel, a New Zealand built 7.53 metre Stabicraft. The “Stabi” as it was affectionately known was taken out of service and sold in June 2013.
In December 2011, SPRS took delivery of a 10m Naiad fitted out with the latest in GPS, Radar and Infrared technology.
During 2012/13, SPRS completed its relocation from Sorrento to new purpose built accommodation in “Scotts Shed” at Blairgowrie Yacht Club which enabled the Squad to establish a radio room, office and training facilities and importantly locate operations with the rescue boat.
In July 2014, SPRS added to its fleet with the delivery of a second Naiad. This 7.5m vessel was fitted out with the same state-of-art equipment allowing our crew to move between vessels without the need for additional training. Both Naiad’s were built in Western Australia by Kirby Marine and occupy permanent berths in the Blairgowrie Marina.
In November 2017 the Squad celebrated 50 years of service to the community. Members from the early years joined current crew to celebrate this milestone.
Since its establishment, the rescue squad has answered over 5200 calls for help and recued some 15,700 people. Those rescued include a wide cross section of the community with the squad’s primary activities centred in Port Phillip Bay and the adjacent coastline of Bass Strait although the rescue squad has been prepared to go anywhere within the State in support of rescue operations.