- John Harding’s Fathom was a marine diving magazine edited by John and published by Gareth Powell & Associates in Australia. It is considered to have played an important role in raising international awareness of the status of Australian marine life, especially sharks with underwater photography the the leading experts. The magazine established new standards in terms of quality, content, design and accurate marine journalism at a time when this was being sensationalized by the popular press. Overseas diving magazines refused to publish shark pictures, dive shops told customers that sharks ‘have never attacked a scuba diver’. True at the time
- Fathom was known to be better designed and printed than the leading USA publication, Skin Diver.
“Fathom magazine was a perfect fit for its time. The 48-page publication first appeared in Sydney December 1970, produced by Gareth Powell, an eccentric, entrepreneurial British publisher who knew, above anything else, how to employ talented people and give them the freedom to work. Fathom quickly came to reflect the new scuba diving and marine environmental awareness inspired by the Save the Barrier Reef campaign, and the Crown-of-Thorns starfish threatening coral reefs world wide”.
- Gareth Powell has been quoted as saying the title Fathom was one of three suggested by editor, John Harding who had canvassed the idea of publishing a diving magazine to him on three occasions. The design was similar to Surf International which was soon to cease production.
- A major influence on the style of the magazine was the designer, Roy Bisson. In Fathom the freelance contributing photographers and marine journalists were among the best that Australia had produced and included Ron and Valerie Taylor, Neville Coleman, Walter Starck, Richard Ibara and John Harding. The art director (an accomplished diver) had full responsibility to choose the photographs used and to decide how they should be displayed. No other magazine company in Australia, at that time, allowed this level of involvement by their creative staff. The only person who was kept well away from the creative process was the publisher, Gareth Powell. He knew printing – and Fathom was to set new standards for the international diving world, attracting attention from many experts in this field, including a media aloof Philippe Cousteau who granted an exclusive and rare interview during his Australian visit. The editorial content of the magazine was under the control of John Harding (a photojournalist and underwater film cameraman) and Roy Bisson.
- It was the responsibility of Harding & Bisson to devise stories, write, photograph and sell advertising and assemble all pictures rather than rely on haphazard contributions. Dive shops were initially reluctant to advertise until issue number six.
- 1971 was the beginning of P.A.D.I scuba instruction being available to Australian dive shops.
- In early 1973 the magazine ceased production with issue ten and before completion of a proposed “Annual”. Various reasons contributed to the closure despite a rapidly rising circulation in Australia and USA. A revised plan to publish Fathom Yearbook much later was actively supported by all former advertisers, in writing.
- The magazine was printed in Hong Kong and Singapore to obtain better quality than anything available in Australia.
- See http://fathomOz.com for pages from all issues with hindsight captions and updates. Copyright applies. Links to other sites permitted.