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. 

Saturday, 11 April 2020


Brian Rodger (left) with shark bite friends Henri and Rodney (December 1964)

Also published in Australasian POST- a weekly magazine - July or August 1961

Footnote: Brian Rodger became a successful chiropractor in Adelaide.  He rarely spoke of his shark bite except if asked which was demonstrated in 2002 when we visited his home for dinner with Miss Christine Tsai of Taipei. 

As Brian told of his near-neath experience, other members of his family sat at the dinner table with open mouth's  apparently hearing the experience for their first time.   This observation  was later  confirmed by Mrs Tania Rodger. (JHH).

Author Andris Lidums felt Brian Rodger could capitalize on his experience  and suggested this record be made in the form of a interview told in the first person.

Sunday, 19 January 2020


Peter Benchley (Jaws author) on bow.  Ron Isbell and Ron Zangari up top.
Captain C Weed devised an emergency diving helmet and flippers.
A shark repelling wet suit (satire) with Captain C Weed (1986)

Sea Hunt was built by and for Ron Isbell in Gladstone 1968 the first to cater for free divers.  
Heron Island with Ron and eldest daughter Roslyn Isbell. (1973)


Yellowtail Kingfish this size were common in the era before floating traps decimated the entire east coast stock. John Barlow (PtHacking) at Seal Rocks in 1964.
Wally Gibbins (sometimes mis-spelled Wally Gibbons)

Glen Preece of Sea Hornet equipment (2004)

Tom Byron - aboard Auriga Bay (1983)
Sister and brother from the Snorkel-In Dive Shop, Sydney.

Val (in an unusual for her yellow wet suit) appearing in a for-cinema's cigarette commercial (not released) in 1967.  Featuring extinct kangaroo remains from The Pines, Mt.Gambier  South Australia.  Thirty crew were involved in the production being filmed in 35mm.  The big boss from overseas apparently did not like the theme devised by Sydney's leading advertising agency.

Early dive on the Dunbar - pre wet suits.  Wal Gibbins with a double tank.
(From 35mm newsreel film courtesy Don Linklater)

 State C/Ships Currarong October 1961

Monday, 18 November 2019

Australian Championships December 1965

 Sweet victory for Peter Kemp beating Ron Taylor - both attended the World Championship just a few months before in French Polynesia (won by Ron).  Stills from 16mm film.
The Little King (John Gillies) saying something important.

 Ron Taylor - his last spearing competition.

Ron boats a Coral Trout during the competition.

 Ron Taylor and Peter Kemp

 John Black (foreground)  Vic Ley in centre