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Thursday, 22 December 2016

VIC LEY White Water Wanderers

Vic Ley's boat and crew, north of Long Reef. Winter 1963.  45 HP Merc, Quintrex

A few remaining former members of White Water Wanderers (Eastern Suburbs club, Sydney) are Vic Ley, Roy Bisson, Ron McEwen and John Gallagher (above, far left).
John Gal (aged 84) lives in Waverley, Sydney. Previously mentioned here, 'Gal' is the guy whose great aunt is on the reverse side of our $10 Australian note (Mary Gilmore). And equally noteworthy was Grace Kelly the movie star and former Princess Grace of Monaco who is one of the Gallagher family cousins.
Some diving history which appears not published in Australian Skindivers Magazines -Gallagher remembers (vaguely as it was not directly connected to him) were two accidents that members of the "wanders' sustained in the early 1960s.
One incident was a serious shark bite on a member (who quit diving forever after he recovered). Ron Ible (senior) also told me the story, briefly, as he'd help carry the injured diver. The bite may have been in the Port Stephens area about 1960. Serious-enough injury - to lower section of his body.
The 2nd 'bad-luck' storywas a fatality. A Blue-Ring octopus bite. The diver carelessly and unknowing of the danger allowed the tiny octopus to crawl over his bare back and was nipped on this spine. Paralyzed soon after- his breathing became impossible (which is how the venom kills). This may have been the first B.R.O. fatality.
The White Water Wanderers had pioneer divers with a few younger guys like 'Buck' Cain, and Mark Lee. Mark perished in a high speed power boat accident in the 1990s.
Buck Cain, shown in one of Ron Taylor's documentaries is the guy who spears a large Venus Tusk fish (aka Blue parrot) - loses it and thrusts the spear clean -through the centre of the fish to stop it swimming away.
See this in "Ron Taylor's SKINDIVING PARADISE" on You Tube.
Skindiving Paradise, for obvious reasons (it was made for the Queensland Government Tourist Bureau) did not show Wally Gibbins and the 11 foot Tiger shark, although spear fishing was strongly featured as this was 1963 and spearing was relatively new on film. Taylor used Kodachrome film - long lasting colors being an asset of the film type, whereas commercial (or professional) film stock was later found to eventually fade to pink. This makes the ten minute documentary very unique today with very nice quality.
John Gallagher was spooked by the Tiger at Sykes Reef and called to Wally partially for help and to see how the then almost legendary diver would handle things. Wally didn't delay in testing his anti-shark device.
They towed the large Tiger back to Heron where it was 'still kicking' an hour later. Gallagher and others took film footage, but not Ron Taylor who showed up later.

Wally Gibbins (St.George Sea Dragons club) at Heron Island (1963) with 'his' Tiger shark.
Below, Vic Ley at South West Rock (1969).Black Cod from Fish Rock.

Black Cod at South West Rocks.  (Above in 1970,  Below in 1963 - both with Vic Ley)

Sunday, 18 December 2016


Part One  15 mins

 The ending - Part 2  (90 seconds)

Optional - Part 1 - 15 mins

Monday, 12 December 2016

GREY NURSE SHARKS - Ben Cropp video

Bill Foster (right) dived with Grey Nurse sharks for a living at Marineland (Manly, Sydney).  He's pictured outside the opposition shark tank at Manly which was in a good location right at the ferry whar (1975f, however the viewing of sharks was an above water only experience. (1975)  Marineland closed in 2019.  There had been a couple of name changes.
Grey Nurse sharks follow their live food supply - then 'vanish' to unknown destinations of their choice.  This is often mistaken as their population declining.

The Vanishing Grey Nurse Shark - How Ben Cropp saw the subject in (circa) 2007.

Ben Cropp  AM reports on the situation in (circa) 2007 when it was believed the population was in peril.  Dive sites visited and known for GNS are Wolf Rock, Flat Rock, Big Seal Rock and 'Magic Point'. The since outdated tagging system of drilling holes through both dorsal fins to attach  plastic  livestock-style ear tags  is shown. The best material is the final ten minutes. There is an interview with a former professional fisherman (Bernie) at Seal Rocks beach who explains how 300 divers in any one day of a weekend had to have been spooking sharks during the late 1980s.  In retrospect (2016) it's no wonder the Grey Nurse were vanishing - they were going elsewhere to avoid scuba divers.  Plus the set lines catching them, also at Seal Rocks by another pro fisherman.

USFA of NSW presents: WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS 1965 and 1967

Stills from the Cuba film
Tahiti video 1965

Johnny Black (1979)
Cuba video 1967 (has abrupt ending)
(Top -  "Snowie" Ron and 'Blackie" Team to Cuba 1967)
(Above -  Peter, Ron and "Gibbo" Team to Tahiti - 1965)

Monday, 5 December 2016

FATHOM MAGAZINE (1971-1973) Australia Ten issues on line at Blogspot.

  1. Fathom was a marine diving magazine 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, and established new standards in terms of quality, content, design and accurate marine journalism at a time when most was being sensationalized in the popular press.
  2. It was said to be better designed and printed than the leading USA publication, Skin Diver.
  3. “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 plagues threatening coral reefs world wide”.

  4. 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 dive magazine to him on three occasions. The design was similar to Surf International which was soon to cease production.
  5. 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 the 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 1971 was the beginning of P.A.D.I scuba schools being available to Australian dive shops.
  8. In early 1973 the magazine ceased production with issue ten and before completion of a proposed “Annual”. Various reason contributed to the closure despite a rapidly rising circulation in Australia and USA. A plan to publish Fathom Yearbook much later was actively supported by all former advertisers.
 Fathom No.2 SHARKS

Saturday, 11 June 2016

PHILIPPE COUSTEAU (1973) - after visiting Australia

Cousteau told us and demonstrated how to prepare sea urchin roe for presentation.  Popular and expensive in France at the time, unknown in Australian gourmet restaurants.  (The ideal urchin is a smaller brown variety.

Philippe Cousteau at Seal Rocks NSW (1971) with sea urchin demonstration as a delicacy.

                          PC learning about Australian beach net fishing waste from Dave Golby.


Tuesday, 24 May 2016



Sthenurus ("strong tail") is an extinct genus of kangaroos. With a length around 3 m (10 ft), some species were twice as large as modern extant species.

c                          Valerie Taylor (1973) at the first Australian Underwater Film Festival.
                                                      (sponsored by Fathom magazine)

'SAVAGE SHADOWS' Full movie. By Henri Bource (1966)

PART ONE Savage Shadows

Savage Shadows Part 2 features a recreation of Henri's ordeal.

Three members. Shark Bite club. (1964) 

                                            Movie poster Savage Shadows by Henri Bource.

                                               Henri with Raymond Short (from the film)
Savage Snap.  Henri and Ron filmed the first White shark simultaneously. One was underwater in a cage (in rough conditions) the other was filming from a duck board.


Thursday, 25 February 2016


At one stage blood donations was a regular once-per-month effort by a dozen USFA delegates.

 "After the USFA delegates meeting we'd all down down to the blood bank in York Street (Sydney) and each of us would  make a donation - every month". (John Sumner, April 2020)

The thought or risk of a shark bite was obviously a stronger thought in 1961 than it is in 2020 - or is it?

NOTE: in the early 1960s USFA members met at 'the blood bank' in Sydney to make the standard donation ONE PINT OF BLOOD.  
The thought of a shark bite being at any moment being on the mind of spearo's - and all swimmers.
Book 'Shark Attack' by W. Coppelson was a best seller which warned against swimming in quiet ocean waters on overcast summer days.  Good info.

The Shark Menace (1955)

Monday, 22 February 2016


Part 1 of 4  

Wet suit has shark logo indicating the era 1963.  Diver could be Bela Csidei - a wealthy businessman, and later an author.

Classic pose - probably a re-enactment as both hands are best placed on the speargun butt.
Crown-of-Thorns starfish - diver using hookah attached to BEVA*.
Boat named after Ben and Eva Cropp, *wife #2)

Possibly the Montague Island whale shark (1964) which made Ben a fortune in both documentary film and still picture publication exposures.  At the time it was the first whale shark encounter filmed in color and the first in Australia.


The Hungry Sea (Part 2)

Not a Maori Cod - more like a Coral trout.  Part 2 shows the struggle to eat and survive.  A couple of fish are wrongly ID'd by the narrator - close enough to not matter.  Film then goes into the small world of the reef with life and death struggles.  Editing technique is typical of the 1960s (pre video/digital). Movie lights mostly produced a red color underwater in this era.

The Hungry Sea  (Part 3)

The Hungry Sea  (Part 4 - final)

Thursday, 11 February 2016



CMAS World Championship Archives < Click

Ustica ITALY 1960
TEAM Ben Cropp, Dallas Field
RESULTS Ben Cropp 19th
Dallas Field 21st
Australian Team 9th

Almeria SPAIN 16th to 20th Aug, 1961

TEAM Dallas Field, Brian Stagg
RESULTS Brian Stagg 31st
Dallas Field 45th
Australian Team 16th  


Moorea TAHITI 1st to 7th Sep. 1965

TEAM Wal Gibbins, Peter Kemp and Ron Taylor
TEAM MANAGER Andris Lidums
RESULTS Ron Taylor 1st
Peter Kemp 8th
Australian Team 2nd

Caya Avalos CUBA 3rd to 10th Sept. 1967

TEAM John Black, Vic ley and Ron Taylor
TEAM MANAGER Andris Lidums accompanied by his wife Jani and children Ingrida and Andris Jnr.
RESULTS Vic Ley 17th
John Black 19th
Ron Taylor 21st

Vic Ley in 1967

Aeolian Islands ITALY 1969 Australia Did Not Compete

Iquique CHILE 1st to 6th  Sept. 1971

TEAM Allan Badger, Les Siemek and Geoff Skinner
RESERVE Laurie Gaudry
TEAM MANAGER George Davies with Merv Sheehan and Slim Ward assisting and accompanied by Peg Sheehan and Glenys Ward.
RESULTS Geoff Skinner 25th
Les Siemek 26th
Allan Badger 35th Allen broke a rib during practice and retired part way through the second day.
Australian Team 11th

Cadaques  SPAIN  June 1973

TEAM Selby Iles, Steve Stefanowicz and Brian Westnidge
RESERVE John Banks
TEAM MANAGER George Davies with Slim Ward assisting accompanied by Glenys Ward.
RESULTS Steve Stefanowicz 30th
Brian Westnidge 41st
Selby iles 44th

Paracas PERU 23rd to 28th Nov. 1975
TEAM Richard Weir, Syd Harvey and Barry Paxman
RESERVE Graham Anderton
TEAM MANAGER George Davies
RESULTS Richard Weir 21st
Syd Harvey 27th
Barry Paxman Fished 1st Day Only
Graham Anderton Fished 2nd Day Only.
Australian Team 12th 

Ilo PERU 15th to 19th Nov. 1994
TEAM Mark Colys, Greg Pickering and Rob Torelli
RESERVES Gunther Pfrengle, Glenn Howlett
RESULTS Mark Colys 14th
Rob Torelli 21st
Greg Pickering 28th
Australian Team 8th (Top placed English speaking team)

CMAS World Championship Archives < Click

Gijon SPAIN 27th to 29th Sept. 1996
TEAM Andrew Ruddock,  Robert Torelli, Ian Puckeridge
RESERVES Adam Smith, Gunther Pfrengle, Reinhardt Strauss
TEAM MANAGER Merv Sheehan, Mick Carey
RESULTS Ian Puckeridge 24th
Rob Torelli 40th
Andy Ruddock 52nd
Australian Team 12th

(Thanks  Mel Brown for this information)