Archive for category Australian Legends
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Vic Ley was filmed by me spearing this Black Cod in 1969 at Fish Rock, South West Rocks – now a sanctuary. The sequence appeared in my first film Aquarius – People and Wildlife of the Sea but was dropped from later editions. Today it should be of interest to environmentalists. Vic Ley remembers how prolific marine life use to be at this now famous scuba location. New South Wales mid north coast.
Brian Davies was a professional fisherman, surfer and free diver who lived is a cabin at Seal Rocks, New South Wales. His father was a local pioneer professional fisherman – a true man of the sea as was Brian. Brian took a job in Japan which involved working with toxic chemicals. A few years later, back in Australia his liver packed up and Brian passed away – just a short time after his father.
The young fellow takes a Rock Blackfish ashore for his father, Geoff ‘Boots’ Towner, our long term friend.
Conditions for ‘rock hopping’ are not ideal, as the picture illustrates. A strong NE sea breeze has made the water choppy.
Early morning’s are a better bet for calm conditions although during bthe summer, the NE breeze starts early too.
We were on a diving safari on the New South Wales north coast. A fisherman in a club told us of “a monster” tangled in his deepwater fish trap line. He failed to recognize the catch and was quite frightened of what he saw without a face mask handy.
We helped bring his catch home the next day with our twin 40 hp outboards doing the work his boat could not handle.
As fishermen need to do, the ‘monster’ was disposed of – it was a prize catch. The ‘meat’ sent to the fish markets in Sydney, the ‘saw’ retained as a souvenier by the fisherman, the late Keith Knox of Minniewater near Wooli, NSW. He spoke of the encounter for many years as a great adventure.
This is first and only sawfish any of us have seen alive and underwater to this present era. The photograph recently ‘surfaced’ and was signed by the glamourous young model posing with my speargun for this tongue-in-cheek picture.
A satire on ‘divers and their sea trophies’, extendable to all fishermen, all over the world.
Photos: John Harding collection
“The first dolphin oceanarium began as a accident at Snapper Rocks ocean baths. The story was some joking friends of Jack Evans (pictured with broom) dropped a dolphin (called porpoise in error) into his swimming baths at Snapper Rocks on the Queensland – New South Wales border.
The resulting publicity and income was such, that Jack Evans went into business and constructed an oceanarium on the bank of the Tweed River, at the border holiday towns of Tweed Heads and Coolangatta at the southern end of the Gold Coast strip which includes Surfers Paradise”.
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.
**RWF** (photo in mirror reverse) at the Australian Skindivers Convention, Kangaroo Island, South Australia. December 1963.
Very lucky the white pointer shark did not bite any harder. We helped in the making of a 30-minute documentary featuring this shark ‘victim’ making a return to the sea underwater.
In the 1960′s this was an original news story. A recipient of a shark bite going into the sea and to fight sharks.
It was my prior belief that perhaps, \\severe psychological trauma\\ would be a long-lasting side-effect following any such contact with JAWS after reading the best selling “Shark Attack” by Victor Coppleson.
Beach shark-bite recipients (aka shark attack victims) were spared what may be certain death when blood transfusions began being given at the beach instead of the hospital, on recommendations contained in the book.
About the same time leading club spear fishermen John Sumner, Ron Taylor, Ted Louis and Dave Rowlings were making regular donations to **the blood bank** – just in case.
Hi this was last Sunday’s catch off the Van Bruggan’s Dream and the Rick Mill wrecks then went for a quick dive with Chad on Monday morning same wrecks and the Bottle Washer, 1 to 1½ m viso yuk! Saw some Jewies but they were too smart. Had a shot at a Jewfish under the aft of the V.B.D. and just as I squeezed the trigger it moved and cleaned missed it only to hit a golden snapper behind it! (I meant to do that……) HAVE THE BEST WEEKEND EVER Cheers Rick.
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
OUR FIRST IDEAS AND THOUGHTS ON
After reading Ben Cropp’s advice and know how on underwater photography (\\Handbook for Skindivers\\) I have given the idea a little thought.
As this Sea Diary’s aim is to record any ideas which come into my head I thought I would like to have a crack at this underwater movies. I would select movie work in preference to still shots are it’s (\\sic\\) (as it’s) field has a greater range.
Ben Cropp suggests the 16mm Bolex and a home-made perspect (\\sic\\) housing. Then there is the cost of a projector. I must make an allowance now. Say camera 50 pounds as a maximum, housing 30-35 pounds; a projector 30 pounds second-hand. This puts the (total) cost at over 100 pounds which is fairly reasonable.
On H.P. (hire purchase) the camera shouldn’t be a very difficult problem.
It looks like we will be very busy from now on with maintainence on Evinrude (outboard motor), Tempest 803 (aluminum dive boat), trailer, all our (spear) fishing gear and USFA competitions & movie work.
Still this is a new and exciting field for us and I am looking forward to tackling new problems.
ROSE BAY TO NORTH HEAD AND LONG REEF - SHARK ALLEY 10.2.1963
We all left Rose Bay (boat) ramp early this morn. about 6:30 AM. The three boats (Ronny Ible, Snow and I) first hopped into the water just under \\The Gap\\. There were a lot of nice mowies and \\niggers\\ where I was, the \\niggers\\ where (\\sic\\) very tame but I missed getting one.
I soon lost the one and only flopper on the (home made) spear and I spent the rest of the day using a “killer spear”. (A slight fantasy – exaggeration based upon the barb-less shark hunting spear technique used by Taylor & Cropp).
We picked up a couple of mowies here & then shot over to North Head. Up past (\\sic\\) Blue Bay we got a few more mowies here. The ones I got were a good size and some of them were very tame. All the day I only lost about 3 fish because of no floppers (on the spear) mostly I was \\stringing them up\\.
The sewerage water (at North Head) became to (\\sic\\) bad at Blue Bay so we went straight up to the reef off LR beach. I got one bug (lobster) out of the same hole as last week. Had a bit of fun getting a small Blue (groper) about 10 – 12 pounds out of a cave because of the straight (barb-less) sharft (\\sic\\).
I borrowed Harry’s (Dowsell) pranger & plowed it into the Blue’s head then got him out. – nice LJ (leatherjacket) over 4 pounds and under 5 pounds.
At about 9:30AM the overcast conditions which we were experiencing brightened up a little & the sun came out. Then we decided to go around to Brownwater Beach & get some tucker.
On the way around the point we noticed how clear the water looked there were bright blue patches everywhere.
On the beach we greeted the arrival of NS (North Shore) members **Tony Smith, Bob Kemp, Ken Sapsford and Tony Leslie** in TL 6 (boat registration number) and the 60 horse power Scott (outboard). They had just come from \\Shark Alley\\ and reported that vis (visibility) was very good and they had encountered about 6 sharks in the morning.
We conned them into giving us the landmarks for the \\alley\\ which is approx. north of the island out the front & in-line with Collaroy Surf Club and a block of flats with a blue roof.
They also had with them a handspear with a device on the tip which held a 12 gauge shotgun cartridge. The idea was to wack (\\sic\\) the shark on the head or spine with this contraption and a pin would set-off the cartridge thus blowing a neat hole in Mr. Sharks’ head.
The only problem they had encountered was that they couldn’t get close enough to any sharks to experiment on them.
After a quick snack we tore off out to where we thought \\Shark Alley\\ was. The water was about 30′ (foot) deep where the boats we(\\sic\\) anchored vis was about 50 – 60 feet at least. There was a very strong current running NW to SE, this made any fishing difficult as also there was a fair north-easterly wind whipping up a chop.
Got a couple more good sized mowies here. Later Ron Ible said a Bronze whaler (shark) came up and had a look at him while he was getting a Blue (groper) out of a cave. We left early as we got sick of waiting.
Maximum temp today was 95 degrees F. The water was very warm on top and nice down deep.
Years before the \\JAWS\\ books and movies before \\Blue Water White Death\\ the supreme ocean predator was a subject spoken only between ocean professionals and experienced skin divers.
In this era the media published no information relating to the differences in sharks. The difference between grey nurse sharks and bronze whalers was still ‘high tech’ and a bit complicated for average readers to grasp.
A better understanding began when the first quality film frames showing a young and snapping white pointer were printed into still pictures.
These shots later inspired a better promotion between shark species when one of the frames became a movie poster for \\Blue Water White Death\\ (1971).
This in turn was to inspire the \\JAWS\\ books and movies – which were to do more harm than good (for many years) by presenting the great white shark as some super species with powers and ferocity to a silly excess. This worried many when entering the ocean.
In short, a powerful negative effect.
It also began a killing spree with high demand for shark teeth and cleaned jaws. Prices sky rocketed and threatened to wipe out many species from 1975.
A major question today. How did all the big budget \\Time-Life\\ type popular books, encyclopaedia’s, \\National Geographic\\ and all marine fishing publications miss reporting the ‘leaping white pointer shark’ phenomenon we see so often today?
It’s well documented with amazing video and pictures but why was this being overlooked for all those decades? Has it recently started? Are sharks being somehow trained?
I’ve tried unsuccessfully to find any old information that existed in the 20th century.
Big game fishermen knew blue pointer sharks (aka mako) jumped high but failed to pass along anything that suggested bulkier whites could do this too, when hooked.
We knew nothing of the now common air borne attacks on seals. How could fishermen have missed seeing and reporting this over hundreds of years?
Ron Taylor’s famous underwater movie sequence showing the snapping white pointer shark was recorded at Dangerous Reef, South Australia, March 1966. It was during a fishing shark hunt promotion for our film shows \\Shark Fighters\\.
Simultaneously the same sequence was recorded by a different underwater movie camera being run by Henri Bource, \\(above).\\ The frames have never been copied to still picture form. The distance from the shark was difficult to show detail.
It does show Ron Taylor’s camera being held underwater by hands only. Henri was filming from a shark cage and was underwater but too far away.
This was the beginning of a much better understanding of this species. My text which accompanied \\Trail of the White Pointer\\ was re-written by a reporter and became rubbish. However, it was a first start to a better understanding that this was the supreme shark.