50 years of diving pictures by an Australian expert
Lower picture: A very old, large starfish on a bommie outside Fitzroy Lagoon (Capricorn and Bunker Group)
**Beaver Cay, on or about 1983**
Captain Perry Harvey had a battle with marine park authorities over obtaining their permission (believe it or not) to remove coral destroying starfish from a vast patch of coral reef at Beaver Cay.
The reef was visited daily by his charter boat Friendship.
To sit by and watch the valuable coral reef (for tourism) being killed was ‘not on”.
Thousands of starfish were removed, before permission was finally granted.
The reef was saved, but only just.
Captain Perry Harvey was regularly interviewed in marine documentaries. The late Robert Raymond did extensive documentary film reporting and wrote a book on the subject.
Eventually budgets for starfish eradication by divers were granted.
Is the problem under control today? Global warming is the new buzz word.
In 1963 filming was mostly by freediving
There were a couple of reasons for only free diving. Scuba was so new there were no convenient filling stations. Plenty of action existed in water less than fifteen meters deep anyway, and with available light and 25 ASA movie film – the shallow water was where most color was.
In some respects we had it easy with lots more to see and film. In other respects it was more difficult.
Camera’s were mechanical and primitive. It took an expert just to get the correct exposures. These needed to be spot-on especially with Kodachrome reversal film.
For the above pictures Ron Taylor was filming a very large turtle feeding using a 16mm Bolex and a 10mm Switar lens. This was 1963 when we first met.
I used a 35mm Calypso-phot still camera and 50 ASA Agfa film – which has since turned magenta with age, whereas Kodachrome retains original colors well.
We were free diving at Man and Wife Rocks located between North Keppel and Great Keppel Islands and virtually on the Tropic of Capricorn.
Ron’s movie camera held 2 minutes 44 seconds of film. It was hand-wound which gave about 16 seconds of filming before rewinding was necessary.
The results were superb and probably better than many expensive video cameras today – but the action was short. Just seconds per subject.
GREAT KEPPLE ISLAND TODAY
The Great Kepple Island Resort has been ‘moth-balled’, shut down and locked-up some two years ago.
The region has plenty of large sharks and venomous sea snakes if you are interested. Much of the surrounding coral is said to be now dead. Perhaps a freshwater flood being responsible?
It’s amazing how things change. During the early 1970′s nearby Yeppoon and the charter boat Coralita was the departure point for voyages to The Coral Sea.
Aboard were the then leading American film making divers – who helped put Australia on the international dive agenda which we pioneered.
Fathom magazine helped attract their initial attention with a very expensive looking production which illustrated that something was happening in Australia.
Scuba diving today has changed and is under strong competition from more adventurous do-once, sports.
The old villain, spear fishing is now seen as the best opportunity for high adventure water thrills once more.
The modern emphasis is on open ocean spearing, away from scuba diving shallow reefs out in the blue water with tuna and marlin the new target.
One thing is for certain, free diving is excellent for your lungs – something every diver learns to appreciate eventually.
The younger and the taller your body is, the bigger will be your VC (vital capacity of your lungs).
Therefore an eighteen year-old who is six feet tall should easily reach 33 meters or more on a single breath – with expert guidance and a lot of training.
Don McAlpine was also an underwater cameraman. Don has filmed several big budget Hollywood movies. We attended a lecture he gave at Film Australia. I ‘d worked with Don on the Great Barrier Reef off Heron Island in 1969 and had not seen him since in all those years.
It was the first black marlin caught at Cairns by Peter Bristow and his crew. Gordon Hallam alongside Peter. Both were beach fishermen at Point Lookout, Queensland beforehand.
After six-solid months of boat building Pete’s \\Avalon\\ was launched and so began his remarkable life on the sea. Japanese advertising agents named him \\The Old Man of the Sea\\ for a whiskey commercial.
We’ve touched on these subjects before. Briefly there were three young game-fishing skippers that went to Cairns and started an industry that became the talk of the world (of big game fishing).
The spin-off for Australia was it put Cairns, then a very sleepy fishing port, on the international tourist map.Large hotels eventually followed and hoards of tourists seeking access to the Great Barrier Reef.
Exact figures on how the catch rates went over the years is another story. During the 1970′s many one thousand pound (or larger) fish were caught and later, many released with tags.
Peter later moved to Pohnape (Fed States Micronesia) then on to the Portuguese island, Madeira, off the west African coast, where he has found a fisherman’s paradise, and a lifestyle most dream of.