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Australian Marine Picture Library ©

John Harding Marine Photography ©: 1960 – 2012

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John Harding

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**JHH \\(left)\\ obviously concerned**

It was far from the end of the road for the V8 Ford in the background. We did another 200,000km before retiring the ‘old girl’.

Too much weight (projectors, film and diving gear) being carried eventually caused the damage here. Plus the 5km of rough dirt road that linked Seal Rocks to the holiday township of Forster on the mid north New South Wales coast.

The Ford did over 500,000 km around Australia. Since then a even greater ‘mileage’ in a Toyota 4Runner.

The \\Australian Seafari\\ film shows no longer occur – coinciding with a decline in scuba dive shop takings. I’d like to think there was some connection but as the decline is happening everywhere there are obviously other factors as to why scuba diving is no longer considered a must-do high adventure activity.

Scuba diving is not a ‘competitive sport’ and has never been one. It’s been something unique and better than a competitive recreation sport, yet only when sufficient time has been devoted to understanding all the aspects of what can be entailed.

In Taiwan there are two huge **ocean universities** which teach every known aspect of working with the sea.

In USA there is a \\university of surf\\ and also another for the hamburger industry.

Seems we are missing a good potential somewhere.

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Grey nurse sharks were protected especially to give tourist divers something worthwhile to look at, and to shut-up a handful of environmentalists with underwater camera’s who were conning the media into thinking only 500 sharks existed.

How anyone could possibly count all the sharks at every reef on the east coast never occurred to the media, they just ran with the fairy story while the Fisheries responded with a protective ban.

The bottom line is, it was probably a good thing to have the species protected.

Suggestion for an aspiring  PhD student: Investigate the link between past onshore droughts and ‘vanishing sharks’ to determine  if there is a connection why this species was scarce in the years before 1986.  Include power head spears in the equation, plus professional fishing catches processed through markets.

Christine Danaher approaches a small grey nurse shark resting under a reef ledge.  Located north of Forster, New South Wales, the area has been called Taurus Reef by local dive charter boats.  When the flash went off the shark bolted.

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Bob Grounds gets personal with a blue groper in the very early era of marine conservation.

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During the 1970′s  Cairns was put on the international map by big game fishermen.  Before this the town was a sleepy fishing port and the only tourists were Australians who made the long trek north on a narrow sealed road we called The Crystal Highway (littered with broken car windscreens, one every 2 Km).

The story how black marlin were found as they spawned along the edge of the continental shelf is best told by the experts.

The changes to the town of Cairns between 1972 and 1982 were enormous.  Free  or very cheap vacant land given by the state government allowed international hotel’s and a resort at Port Douglas to be fast-tracked.

Today Cairns is the gateway to The Great Barrier Reef. Previously the major gateways had been further south.

In this collage  are the boat skippers who went searching for big fish, Peter Bristow, Peter B Wright and Dennis ‘Brizakka’ Wallace.

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Walter A. Starck, Vic Ley, Ron Taylor, Phil Eather,

Richard Weir, Wally Gibbins, Malcolm McLeod, Gai Girdlestone, John Harding.


Springvale Cemetary (Melbourne, Victoria)

Jewish Memorial Garden 2

Row W

Grave 68

Wally Muller, Van Laman-Cropp, Ben Cropp, Kathy Troutt, Lynn Roberts, John Michael Harding Senior, Bob Grounds, Dean Cropp – (a future Legend), Ron Taylor, Trevor Collins (with marlin), Valerie May Taylor, Henri J. Bource.


RON IBLE  (White Water Wanderers club, Sydney)  30 April 2013  R.I.P. mate

Ron would not like a whole heap of pretty words – “a real good mate” would sum him up. Ron’s guidance and advice plus friendship to me, as a young starting-out aged 18 diver, set a course I’m forever thankful to him for. Although the following name won’t ring bells, Bill Colbourne introduced us when we all worked at the Sydney Markets. Ron Ible was a tough truck driver – as they all were then. Tough physical work that produced a physique similar to the axe-men at wood-chopping events. When Bill retired he went to live in the fishing village near Ron and his family. Two guys who gave me good advice at a time when kids like I was take things for granted. I recently thanked Ron – but regret not being able to do so for Bill who passed away soon after retiring. 

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A brief summary for this Hong Kong recipe.  The skin of the fin is removed.  The fin is boiled with a chicken for many hours. The chicken cannot be a rooster or a hen that has produced any or many eggs.

This restaurant in Taipei caters for visiting Japanese tourists.

Soup is served bubbling hot, boiling in a bowl.  Small plates of  1. vegetables  2. a sweet and sour sauce  3. XO sauce are added to the soup in stages as it is being consumed so as to alter and create new tastes.

This restaurant will charge about US $40 for the soup as a dinner which also includes a small-to-medium sized  Chilean abalone in special sauce, plus dessert.

Many of the arguments used by China, Japan, Russia and several North African countries to oppose the measure were expected to be recycled by delegates later this week when proposals to tightening regulations on the shark trade are considered.

China and Russia argued that shark populations aren’t suffering. Japan insisted that current measures in place are more than adequate. Developing countries like Libya and Morocco complained that any effort to protect sharks would damage the economies of poor fishing nations and burden them with expensive enforcement requirements.

The Chinese delegation said there was no scientific evidence that the shark’s survival is threatened and CITES was not the right forum to handle the issue. The Chinese would prefer to leave regulation to existing tools like the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and regional bodies which conservationists argue have failed to crackdown on illegal fishing and even uphold their own modest quotas. (Courtesy: Associated Press).

It looks like a piece of fish and has the texture of crab.  This is Surimi.  Meanwhile a lot of shark meat is being sold to compensate for a world decline in fin fishes.  In other words, sharks are no longer wasted – unless the shark is over a certain length considered too big for handling.  In that case the fishermen decide it’s fate.  Whatever that is, the fins are not removed (unless a fisheries law is about to be broken).


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The octopus have not killed anyone lately – which is a wonder. It was almost an annual event years ago.  A common resident of Sydney Harbour these tiny octopus will kill a man with their bite.  The ‘victim’ dies quickly.  It is obviously very unwise to handle a live Blue Ring octopus.

The rings glow bright blue on the legs as a series of tiny disc-shaped circles rather than rings around the entire leg.

A science-themed story is contained in our FATHOM magazine No.3

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Land surrounding river is owned by a pastoral company.  Will there ever be shops, liquor store and a marina here?

It’s a wild river – inhabited by crocodiles, possibly squatters in a hut  (one surviving hermit living near the mouth of the river disappeared – possibly taken by a crocodile before these pictures were taken.  That story is elsewhere on this blog).

We’ve anchored at the Olive River several times while making marine documentary films offshore.  In the upper reaches of the river where water is brackish, grow unique palms.

Anchoring near the bank is a hazard,  many large submerged tree’s underwater.  You’d think these would make an ideal home for Barramuindi – the prize fish.   Professional fishermen always seem to have ‘cleaned them out’ before we arrive.

Currently before the Australian parliament is the Wild Rivers Legislation.

The future of this and other rivers of Cape York Peninsula rivers  is blowing in the wind.

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Ben Cropp is presently returning to Queensland aboard Freedom IV after almost a year in Western Australia.  Here are some pictures of mine taken on our most recent filming in North Queensland.

Due to the remoteness of the filming trips it’s essential to ‘live of the sea’ with fish being a meal aboard every second day- except for me.  I did not mind seafood on a daily basis, especially Coral trout and Barramundi – fresh.

No crowds in the far north.  Dean Cropp has a ski behind his dads’ dinghy.  (2005)

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PHOTO JOURNALISM 1960′s; 1970′s (FATHOM magazine)

Here’s a mixture of pictures selected by PIX (a weekly picture-news magazine in Australia) editors.  Once selected I’d be asked to tell a staff reporter like Syd King, Ben Mitchell or later, Jim Oram what it was all about.  The magazine paid sufficiently.  They were a good crew.  Editor Bob Nelson especially.  Meanwhile I was shooting 16mm film footage for my future project, a documentary that would enable travel as well as an income.  It was a good plan but eventually there was home video which made cinema films expensive for families.  (click to enlarge pages).

FATHOM magazine was compiled by divers.  For the first time in Australia, dramatic pictures and stories kept accurate by the people who wrote and published the material.  All original pages now online for students of the sea.  A benchmark to help understand the slow but steady changes occurring in the marine world. From shark hunting of 1963 to the beautiful underwater photo images of today.

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RAINE ISLAND – Northern Great Barrier Reef

There could be several reasons why visits ashore on Raine Island have been stopped, that is without a permit – which can’t be obtained anyway. The first that comes to mind are the dozens (hundreds?) of turtles that get trapped in crevices on the island and perish during the nesting season.   A bonanza for would-be environmental film producers.

Another reason might be to stop visitor graffiti on walls inside the stone tower.

What makes the ban more curious is that the island does not appear clearly on Google Earth, anymore, while surrounding reef does.  Same applies for other islands in The Coral Sea.   Willis Island, Marion Reef, Herald Cays, Saumarez Reef, Chesterfield Reef etc.  All have been blurred.


Raine Island is located at the top of the Great Barrier Reef, about one day of boat travel from the tip of Cape York.

The stone tower is an early navigational aid.  Sailing ships heading for England used this as a marker when ‘turning left’ (to port)  to sail around the tip of Cape York.

A few got stuck on Great Detached Reef – about 15 kilometers to the south.  Such were the perils of ocean travel 150 years ago.

Picture above November 1983  New pictures:

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There was an era when underwater photography was rare, unusual and novel.  I purchased a Calypso-phot camera in 1963 and on a memorable safari north with friends, asked Ron Taylor to take a single picture of me with a crayfish.  This was North West Island in July 1963.  When the film was processed I saw for the first time what I looked like as a diver, underwater.  No big deal today but back then it was a real thrill.  Like looking in a mirror for the first time, perhaps.

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Tiger shark about to bite the pole camera (1975).

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Married in December 1964, the above picture was the following month in 1965 while returning from the Australian Spear fishing Championships at Kangaroo Island, South Australia.  Ron and Valerie returned via Mount Gambier near the South Australian and Victoria border to do the first truly professional underwater shots in the crystal clear fresh water.  Ron mostly used color film in a 6x6cm Rolleiflex with wide angle lens – not the usual Rolleimarin housing.  This print was made from an inter-negative taken from the color original by Ron in his home darkroom.  Valerie often retouched the B&W prints  using her skills acquired as a commercial  artist on The Silver Jacket (adventure magazine for boys), this print appears to be as original.   The fresh water in Picaninnie Ponds isn’t exactly  ‘freezing’ but you have a headache after 90 seconds and three minutes might be maximum before common sense says ‘get out’.  Here in her late twenties in this picture, Valerie shows enormous will-power that has seen her persist or endure discomforts associated with diving better than anyone else I can think of – either male or female.  This picture is from a series first published in Everybody’s magazine that amazed Australian underwater photographers and also established Ron as the leader – a position he could still challenge without difficulty.

Valerie with Silky shark (1965) during filming of “Surf Scene” at Flinders Reef, Queensland

One of my favorite pictures of Valerie is this portrait from 1967 in one of the fresh water sink holes near Mt. Gambier, South Australia.   Ron was making his documentary The Cave Divers.  I used a Rolleiflex camera with flash fill.   Valerie viewed the picture for the first time in July 2010.

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The northern Great Barrier Reef, where surf breaks on the weather side.  Corals need to be tough to even begin life here.  A constant flow of surfs flows across the reef, except at low tide when the reef might dry or be reduced to shallow pools for a few hours.  Pictures with a Sony digital T-1

In deeper water a brain coral in trouble.  Something was attacking it.  Maybe this is the way life goes on a coral reef?  Eventually it might recover.  So much to learn and not much time to know all the answers.


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Hanks & Lloyd tea tokens cemented into a clump, found on the wreck of The Dunbar (1857) and returned to the sea.  The reverse side had words Australian Tea Mart, Peace and Plenty 1857.

From the documentary film  Aquarius – People and Wildlife of the Sea.

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The Late John LeBrun pictured

John LeBrun (a professional camera equipment salesman and diver) taught us a couple of points about photography he had learned from his service in the air force.

“When you focus on an object, the area that is actually in focus (also called depth of field)  is 1/3 in front and 2/3 behind the point that you’ve focused on”.

You can use this knowledge to some advantage at times.

Generally we were all self-taught photographers.  The most difficult part in the learning days was getting a good exposure, especially underwater.  Most divers tended to over-expose pictures.

Today the camera’s are automatic in this respect but sometimes adjustments make a nice difference.  Sunsets are better if the exposure is make darker, for example.

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Entering the water was necessary from the bow.

We were anchored in the lagoon at Middleton Reef (southern Coral Sea).  Wally Muller had roped Coralita’s anchor to an antique ships anchor we’d placed on the sand in the lagoon ‘yesterday’.

Now it was time to check the anchor.  I was joining deckhand Richard Weir for the inspection and would film it.

All dinghies were either out of the water or anchored on their own elsewhere.  In other words, no rescue vessel available.

Coralita was swinging in a great arc in the very strong breeze.  Easy to miss getting back aboard as a strong current was also running.  No problems.  All went well.

It was a cyclone called Colin.  Stronger than the cyclone that had wrecked Darwin a few years before.  This was 1975.  The wreck of the Runic, (pictured above during a previous visit) nearby, was battered by the heavy seas with waves breaking over her – we saw from a distance.

Wally Muller in 1971;  Wally Muller underwater with the ship wreck  anchor which saved Coralita during a cyclone at Middleton Reef.

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