Archive for category Ben Cropp Explorer
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.
Inshore lighthouse on one of the Great Barrier Reef’s uninhabited islands, near Sir Charles Hardy islands.
Australian readers will be familiar with the name Ben Cropp, as will experienced divers overseas. You young guys will get to see more of Ben’s exploits here. A film maker with more than 100 TV specials to his credit, a recipient of the Order of Australia award and many others.
Aboard Ben’s high-speed live aboard private dive boat, I joined him for several expeditions north from his home base at Port Douglas. With a team of no more than five persons aboard Freedom III we ventured far beyond the reach of usual tourist dive groups.
Every young Australian should be shown the far north of Queensland. It’s all frontier country. The only visitors seem to be prawn trawler fleet related, yachtsmen and those associated with mining.
Initially I used film camera’s then switched to digital when better camera specifications and prices became available. Click on the category Ben Cropp Explorer during the coming weeks as we make more material available there from our archives.
Picture courtesy RJ Taylor collection
The Tweed Heads to Brisbane area was a super-hot spear fishing zone, Australia 1961. While we were seeing Red Morwong and Blue Groper around Sydney, the real underwater champions senior to us in age and experience were seeing giant Black Cod and Queensland Groper in shallow water up north. Pictures published in Australian Skindivers Magazine whetted our desire for a trip north. With friend Vic Ley our dream came true in July 1963 when we quit our jobs and drove north with a boat, outboard and camping gear. We’d swap speared fish and lobsters for food and fuel. The adventure of a lifetime awaited us.
Me with a typical coral trout. Aboard Riversong, a second trip in 1964. Captain Wally Muller and South Australian Brian Rodger in background. We speared thousands of kilo’s of fish during a ten-day voyage in the Capricorn and Bunker Group.
Vic Ley and myself on our first voyage with Wally Muller, August 1963. We speared fish in exchange for a boat ride out to North West Island – where I developed ‘coral poisoning’ in my leg and came close to dying, sulpher tablets pulled me through, probably not with some harm to kidneys.
Ron Taylor and Vic Ley August 1963, Riversong - Wally Muller‘s fishing vessel became legendary in the sixties. We were later to venture to Saumarez Reef in The Coral Sea aboard this small boat in October 1964.
Photo taken with Calypso-phot 35mm underwater camera
**Ben Cropp’s** live-aboard pictured near \\Sir Charles Hardy\\ islands, North Queensland, October 2005.
Moments after the three-meter shark let go, I jumped aboard the \\rescuing boat\\ and snapped this shot.
Father and son, Adam Cropp steers the 30HP Tohatsu outboard for Ben as they head out to set crab traps in North Queensland’s Princess Charlotte Bay.
The aluminum hull with inflatable pontoons is a good compromise for safety and a soft ride. An ideal small boat to carry aboard the larger live-aboard.
A large shark (annoyed by my accidentally running over it) chewed one pontoon, those details already logged in our archives.
Large shark chews on an inflatable boat
TODAY TONIGHT interviewed Ben Cropp and I for their version of events which began with “a pack of sharks attacked” (corrected at the end).
The filming team escaped with a ruined boat and some still pictures, but no injuries.
We were: 1. following a shark 2. in a red boat 3. with dog aboard. Three dont’s if you wish to avoid a shark turning nasty on you – eventually.
The incident raises a serious doubt as to the effectiveness of inflatable lifeboats. OK in the short term, but dangerous in a case of a long delay in rescue.
Avoid red also, a proven color which attracts sharks faster than other colors, we believe.
All lifeboats would therefore be advised to carry a hand spear and a power head for protection. Of course this message will fall on deaf ears. We feel some pity for the yachtsmen and women who will vanish each few seasons, like clockwork, into The Coral Sea somewhere between Australia and New Caledonia. Beyond New Cal it doesn’t make the news in Australia.
Close to a coral reef and their main worry will be grey reef whalers. Tiger sharks may watch a lifeboat for hours before doing anything. Eventually they will do something. Hope this isn’t in the dark.
This is a true warning.
**Fiction: Satire from fathomOZ.com**
A recent attack by a starving shark on an inflatable dinghy was a grim reminder they enjoy the roughage offered by rubber. Some called this a CRAZY SHARK but ‘it knew’ that roughage is necessary in every diet. (ha ha)
Modern observers have recorded this species to be sluggish at times. Every creature is docile when it has a full mouth. Getting to have that full mouth can involve a very different situation.
When feeding upon large meals the shark is so focused upon not damaging it’s teeth it can forget where it is and will therefore tolerate others holding onto it’s body, patting it’s head and so on. This does not mean the shark would not eat them if they were the only food in the sea, it simply means it is thinking about what to swallow next.
We can be thankful sport fishermen, long-line fishing boats and shark-fining enterprises have greatly reduced their numbers as it is one of the most dreadful sea creatures on the planet.
Feeding mostly by twilight the tiger shark has been blamed for the disappearance of many divers and swimmers who have possibly drowned during the day, but not always. This shark has a very wide mouth capable of making a complete meal of a swimmer with a few bites.
Natural food are stingrays found sleeping on the sandy floor of tropical reef lagoons.
Captured tiger sharks often have many broken-off stingray spines embedded within their mouth which has caused the shark incredible and maddening pain.
The maddened shark will attack anything and everything that swims in a vain attempt to eliminate pain by creating additional pain; (in much the same way we scratch and itch to prevent the itch spot itching).
With tiger sharks that ‘itch’ is a mouthful of agonizing and venomous barbs causing the worst pain known. Yet overlooked by Quentin Tarantino movies to date, but was considered during the writing of Reservoir Dogs as a substitute to the ear-cutting scene.
For the shark in pain, their temporary relief comes only through killing everything in sight. They will charge through schools of marine life snapping wildly and thereby increasing the already high level of heavy metal poisoning in their brain even further.
(The mercury in swordfish and marlin would have already sent them slightly mad).
The only true defense against a tiger shark charging a diver with mouth open wide is: the TS defense stick .
With the mouth open wide the diver inserts the rod into the shark’s mouth thereby preventing it’s closure.
This will kill the shark in time and it can never close it’s mouth or feed again. Other sharks see what has happened so the procedure will only require repeating a few times before these sharks get the message at any dive site on the Great Barrier Reef and avoid divers completely.
Footnote: This tongue-in-cheek report was an attempt at underwater humor and should not be confused with the real thing. A true report on the shark-dinghy episode exists in our ARCHIVES.
Batt Reef is a lonely place 26 km from popular Port Douglas in Queensland’s north. Few boats visit Batt Reef due to how shallow and sandy it is. No beautiful coral formations here – nothing except a big underwater desert with associated wildlife.
Turtle, stingray and occasional dugong. And of course sharks who search in very shallow water, at ease from humans as few boats are ever seen there.
Batt Reef was the destination selected by TV’s The Crocodile Hunter for filming and the location where he made the mistake of getting close to a large black stingray, which inflicted a fatal sting to his heart.
This picture was taken the day we had our memorable (and later well publicized) encounter with a large shark which chewed the side out of our inflatable dinghy!
Adam Cropp. The shark was still potentially active (i.e. not dead)
**From an aircraft the mangrove forest appears as a green carpet. A closer inspection will show a jungle that is impenetrable. A haven for mud crabs, crocodile and the elusive barramundi. No shortage of mosquitoes and sand flies either.**
All along the coast trawlers are hooking-up with things, including WW2 aircraft.
This example shows a lot of lost and expensive gear wrapped around the remains of a RAAF Hudson WW2 aircraft first dived on by **Dean Cropp** with his famous film making father Ben.
Aircraft wrecks are yet to be included in the strict legislation which protects historic shipwrecks.
Here’s a famous shipwreck site on the outside edge of the Great Barrier Reef(s).
The **\\Fatima\\** went up on the weather side of \\Great Detached Reef\\ and left a couple of anchors partially exposed as the wreck, or part of it, was washed across the top of the reef and presumably into the lagoon on the other side.
Here on the ocean side or \\weather-side\\ of this coral reef are unusual coral lumps or mounds which I have a gut-feeling might be now coral-encrusted parts of the original ship. A metal detector here could be interesting.
The shape of the coral here, especially near an established wreck site is the clue.
Working in the surf zone would be difficult. Just getting there is far from being easy.
It might be a while before anyone does anything, or maybe never?