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.
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.
Pictured above is Barry May, November 1983
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.
(click to enlarge)
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.
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.
Click to enlarge. This was near Lizard Island in 1967
The reefs off Townsville (Northern Great Barrier Reef) had spectacular formations until a very strong cyclone went through and smashed formations in deep water. These large corals are hundreds of years old and can be likened to giant forest tree’s. The above picture was November 1983 near Cape Bowling Green.