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Wednesday, 10 June 2020

SPEAR GUNS - Ron Taylor (1966)

Ron Taylor World Spear Fishing Champion, French Polynesia (Tahiti) 1965

Ben Cropp in The Swain Reefs (1961)  photo by Ron Taylor


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Flinders Reef, Qld.  1965

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VAN LAMAN Underwater with Ben Cropp

Ben Cropp  AM
Calypso underwater camera 1963

 Van (1963)

 May 2020

Ben Cropp Thats Van beside anchor of Porpoise wreck, Matthew Flinders ship lost Wreck Reef 1803. Photo taken 1965 when we discovered it
 Van Laman, Nov 1963

circa 1963

North Stradbrokw Island, Nov 1963
Kangaroo Island December 1963 Australian Championships.

Thursday, 4 June 2020


First published in The Sunday Telegraph (1965) weekly column. Also in Fathom (1971)

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Taylor Cropp - Search for a Repellent. 1962

Before powerheads there was an experiment on the east coast and barrier reef to use industrial-grade hypodermic syringes (containing a poison such as strychnine nitrate).  Too slow doing the job on an attacking potential man-eater. 

The powerhead arrived in 1963 and the injecting experiments shelved.  Dr Shane Watson had devised the plan with leading skindivers volunteering the testing.  (There may exist a Movietone News showing a Wobbegong shark injected and instantly in convulsions.

The graphic scene was included in The Shark Hunters documentary by Taylor & Cropp which was a collection of their black and white short adventure filming  scenes.  Ron was cameraman, Ben did the underwater movie stunt work.  It was a good partnership.

In this era, and inspired by the best-selling true accounts book  Shark Attack by Dr Victor Coppleson, we were revved-up to know more about shark behavior from a skindivers experience. This is where Taylor and Cropp had the world at their feet (or flippers) with many fans and commercial opportunities.

 The newspaper headline (above centre) Killers Flee from the Smell of Death has merit.  A decaying shark in a beach meshing net satisfactorily warns of danger to other sharks having a look.  An accidental  natural form of  shark repellent.  A minor point missed by well-intending opponents of beach meshing nets.

P.S. Later in the sixties.
BC did underwater advertising for Gillette razors (that clean fresh feeling) and separately smoked Camel cigarettes.  Later an advertising devised a stunt where Ben speared a shark with a ballpoint pen attached to a shaft and unscrewing the head demonstrated the pen could still write properly afterwards.  Other commercials followed with marine themes and The Cropp Family.

Friday, 24 April 2020

SURF SCENE TRIP (under construction)

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Ron Taylor's boat with Rodney Fox up front.
The camera boat
(not shown) being driven by JM Harding (Snr) with Henri Bource (not shown) filming 16mm

SNAPPER (under construction)

Scuba speared fish from deep dirty (10 foot vis) water at Cook Island.  Swapped for a banquet for six people of Chinese food  - namely these fish cooked three different ways, at a  Coolangatta restaurant later that day. (1964)
Snapper speared at Split Solitary Island, Coffs Harbour NSW. Capture was recorded on Super 8 film appeared in Sea Safari video.

Snapper caught at The Group, Point Lookout. Posed by Vic Sumner (an outstanding Sydney press photographer at the time). 

Sunday, 12 April 2020

TAYLOR - CROPP 1960 -1963

1963 - North West Island, Qld.
Dynamic partnership in the early 1960s  might have become internationally huge. Photography opened the window for promotion of the underwater world in Australia.  Plus publishing (Handbook for Skindivers), Scuba training (Mick Simmons sports store), Exploring (Swain Reefs aboard Riversong), Documentaries (The Shark Hunters), Equipment (Taylor-made west suits, handspears),Advertising (PanAm), Oceanarium (later Marineland at Southport, Qld.).
Shipwrecks - Dunbar and Scottish Prince and others.

The partnership dissolved in 1963.  Cropp immediately began filming underwater documentaries and an invitation to Los Angeles to receive the Santa Monica based International Underwater Film Festival's 'Underwater Photographer of the Year' award was good timing for Ben who negotiated film sales with a network who had unexpected gaps to fill.

Ron was stunned.  He had been the photographer in the partnership and Ben was receiving an award he felt should have been his.

However the graphic Tiger shark pictures with Ron Zangari in The Swain Reefs were taken by Ben and played an important part in securing the judgment.   Ron received the same award two years later but the rivalry had begun between them.

Diving colleagues and friends split into two groups to support either Taylor - who was now with future wife and former stage actor and model, Valerie Heighes, or Cropp with wife number one (of three)
July - August 1962
model, Myf**** (renamed 'Van').
 Ron Zangari, The Swain Reefs tiger shark 1962  one of the pictures to rocketed Ben's profile as an adventure cameraman.
'The model wives' Van (married Ben) and Valerie (married Ron)  circa 1962

Ben Cropp supplied footage to Cinesound in the early 1960s, Ron Taylor contributed to Movietone News.

Early material for The Shark Hunters documentary

Sea snakes in The Swain Reefs

Valerie Hughes (sic) with a speargun.