Bondi Beach, 1981 – has much changed – apart from the higher prices since the 2000 Sydney Olympics?
MIMOSA ROCKS – NEW SOUTH WALES SOUTH COAST
It’s a national park area between Tathra and Bermagui. Abalone on the rocks in shallow water but most are under-sized and best avoided. Centuries of wave action has placed the brick-like rocks in a pattern than humans would find difficult to improve. The shape of the bay is also very nice. Live periwinkles on the rocks too – these have become rare elsewhere as they are a cheap seafood. Eating the guts is necessary.
COOLANGATTA or GREENMOUNT BEACH
I lived across the road for a couple of years when the beach looked like this. It’s changed considerably. A ‘sand by-pass’ pump south of a nearby river has moved millions of tonnes of sand north in the prevailing current. Consequently the edge of the surf is now more than one hundred meters offshore. There would be space for a couple of streets in the area that was once water, in this picture. A scene unlikely to be seen ever again.
Coolangatta is on the border between New South Wales and Queensland, Australia
A friendly crew welcomed Christine Danaher and I aboard at Cairns, North Queensland. The Alcyone had just arrived in Australia from the north.
A week previously the ship had been low on food and appreciated some fish offered at Osprey Reef by Coralita’s owner-skipper Albie Ziebell.
Marc Blessington showed me the lights the team used for filming underwater. This was still the era of film cameras which meant a great deal of electrical power was needed underwater. Each lamp was 250 watts. The configuration designed and built by the Cousteau team.
These were not lights readily available to professionals. In fact using this system required two divers just to manage the underwater cables. Today the same effect would be tiny and fixed to a video camera, no cables necessary – the evolution of cinematography.
Ever wondered what is contained under the space-age plastic back packs? A pair of tanks.
The store bought scooters were tricked-up with an extra ‘tank’ on either side. I presume this was cosmetic and not functional?
Silver wet suits as used by Cousteau divers? The suits require sunscreen to help them last longer.
The world of film making is always different to reality.
Meanwhile downbelow Clay Wilcox was doubling as chef.
The guys had a library of Cousteau-made films and invited us to select a title for viewing.
We chose to view their work at the tip of South America. Our Canadian friend Jack McKenney had helped with the filming for that expedition.
So the Cousteau Foundation was opening up.
For the previous twenty years of TV film making it was a French-only group. Here on Alcyone they had a pair of English-speakers. Marc from southern England and Clay from New York.
A pleasurable and memorable meeting. Chief cameraman Michele Deloire (pictured above right) gave some of his precious time. There would be enough adventure material in this active cameraman’s career to fill many hours of verbal entertainment. In France he has worked as a cameraman with movie stars Catherine Deneuve and Brigitte Bardot.
Swimming with a large saltwater crocodile in the Jardine River of North Queensland being one outstanding episode.
Or the killer whale eating a hammerhead shark at Osprey Reef? The killer whale had swam to Michele with the three meter shark in it’s mouth as if to say “look what I’ve got”. That scene was recorded on 35mm motion picture film.
Amazing. What has become of the boat in recent years is another story.
Kameruka Creek on the far South Coast of New South Wales is trickle more often than not. It flows to the Bega River which is tuns enters the sea at Tathra. My first underwater view with a face mask was in the fresh water river about 1952. A memorable experience. Every diver remembers the first time they looked underwater. Although babies watch marine films these days, long before entering deep water.
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
Grey nurse sharks were protected especially to give tourist divers something worthwhile to look at, and to shut-up a handful of environmentalists with underwater camera’s who were conning the media into thinking only 500 sharks existed.
How anyone could possibly count all the sharks at every reef on the east coast never occurred to the media, they just ran with the fairy story while the Fisheries responded with a protective ban.
The bottom line is, it was probably a good thing to have the species protected.
Suggestion for an aspiring PhD student: Investigate the link between past onshore droughts and ‘vanishing sharks’ to determine if there is a connection why this species was scarce in the years before 1986. Include power head spears in the equation, plus professional fishing catches processed through markets.
Christine Danaher approaches a small grey nurse shark resting under a reef ledge. Located north of Forster, New South Wales, the area has been called Taurus Reef by local dive charter boats. When the flash went off the shark bolted.
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.
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.
Here’s a popular page from the original blog – it received more comments than any other subject. For more bird watching look in the folder category ”underwater models”.
Divers, John M Harding (senior) and Roy Bisson (on right)
This was the longest voyage undertaken by the famous charter boat in 1971. Newly launched the boat was 79′ in length and had accommodation for 16 divers (later reduced to 12), plus a crew of four.
The lure for such a voyage was shell collecting, a search for the rare volute thatcheri. Half the charter cost was paid by shell collectors. I was sponsored by a tabloid newspaper to write and photograph five stories that could be serialized over one week.
Text written especially for divers would be published in Fathom No.6 issue. Art director and diver, Roy Bisson being on the voyage.
From San Francisco the late Dewey Bergman (Sea and Sea Travel) was scouting on this voyage for what would become regular parties of American divers and underwater cameramen. The world was about to discover diving Australian style. The future voyages would not involve so much traveling time.
Marion Reef was the new inshore destination, still in The Coral Sea and today almost unvisited due to fuel cost considerations.
The Chesterfield Reef trip was our most memorable. Near perfect weather and a good crew of professional divers. For further information, including names of shipwrecks at Chesterfield Reef, see Wikipedia.org
Roy Bisson swim fins (flippers) were filmed simultaneously by my movie camera and another by Richard Ibara. This was Chesterfield Reef at it’s best. Grey Reef sharks were territorial with these displays as they probably had not encountered divers before.
The first we heard of \\The Julian Rocks\\ was a magazine feature in the Californian SKIN DIVER magazine, in 1962.
In those days we were based in Sydney and when traveling north there was an urgency to get to Tweed Heads ASAP.
Byron Bay was not on the common list of hot spots. The Julian Rocks often missed the blue current that was common further north at \\Nine Mile Reef\\, \\Cook Island\\ and especially \\Flat Rock.\\
Plus an abattoir at Byron was not a pleasant thought, the blue water seemed to pass well offshore often missing \\The Julians.\\
PEOPLE AT BYRON BAY: **Bill Silvester** saw a good potential and was first to establish a dive shop in town. **Bob Beale** and **John Heyer** were the next players, Bob is still in Byron, now with National Parks and Wildlife.
Maurie Vierow (pictured above, in 1981) is today a senior inspector with a state government department responsible for inspecting dive shop filling stations.
On the last dive I had with Maurie, (one of the few times I’ve been diving **without**an underwater camera), what amazing sight occurred did I miss getting on film? **A wobbegong shark eating a live sea snake!**
We now understand why there are not too many sea snakes in southern semi-tropical waters.
The venomous sea snakes get swept south in currents but don’t seem to last long.
Snakes have been noted washed ashore on Bondi Beach in rare examples.
Abalone collected from low-tide rock pools by local resident A J “Tony” Flook
Just beyond the rocks in the background is where a fatal shark attack occurred many years ago. The north entrance to Port Jackson (Sydney Harbor) is in the far left background.
ABALONE IN THE NEWS
The (Australian) Victorian Abalone Divers Association (VADA) wants the State Government to prevent poachers from spreading an abalone virus along the south west coast.
The Association’s Vincent Gannon says poachers have been close to areas where \\ganglioneuritis\\ (the abalone virus) has been found.
The State Government has banned the collection of abalone along a 13-kilometer stretch of coast near Cape Otway to help stop the virus spreading further east..
\\(Top picture)\\ **Original anti-shark ‘net’ was stainless steel rings** (Later replaced with nylon net then removed altogether).
\\(Bottom left)\\ Sydney tabloid newspaper **\\ Telegraph\\** regularly features marine stories. Tues 25 June was a 2.47 meter male bull shark tagged and released at Manly that entered Sydney Harbor (Port Jackson) and apparently became ‘lost’, moving throughout the harbor.
1. Bulk of the sharks time was spent west of Sydney Harbour bridge.
2. On a single day it traveled 55 km.
3. During 14 days it traveled 295 km with three days unaccounted for.
4. 230km was traveled during darkness hours.
5. Another 55 sharks have been tagged for tracking by Dept.of Primary Industries. Sydney harbor was a priority after recent near-fatal attack on a navy diver.
6.There are 38 listening ‘posts’ in Sydney harbor with another 200 along the coast to track the tagged sharks.
\\(Lower right)\\ Balmoral Beach showing original steel shark net. The rocks in foreground have been where divers photographed dozens of seahorses per night dive.
There was a fatal shark attack at Balmoral in the early 1960′s on a spear fisherman.
The last we heard of this pioneering day trip boat, was not good news. She’d been underwater and was then under repair at Yeppoon, Qld.
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.