Thursday, 22 December 2016

White Water Wanderers

Winter morning in Sydney.  1963 and a group of four White Water Wanderers travel from Rose Bay in Sydney Harbour up the coast toward Newport Reef  - in search of clear water.  45hp outboard was considered large at the time.  Biggest available was 75 horsepower.  A couple of years later this changed with Mercury's 100 HP monster.

 Arthur Taylor (not related to Ron Taylor) in 1964

Wetsuits in 1964 were Cousteau-style, American neoprene, hood-attached no zips.
Pictured: Ron Taylor and Arthur Taylor

A few remaining former members of White Water Wanderers (Eastern Suburbs club, Sydney) are Vic Ley, Roy Bisson, Ron McEwen and John Gallagher.
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.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Monday, 12 December 2016

GREY NURSE SHARKS - Ben Cropp video

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

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

Wednesday, 7 December 2016


Locals having a boat ride in our Zodiac.

Local canoes are now a rarity.

First view from seaplane.

Thin spear, surgical rubbers, home made trigger.

Toilet - tides take stuff away.

Bottom shelves away on a 45 degree angle.

Local carving.

HU-16 Albatross seaplane

Pilot, crew, our team of four, journalist at far right.

Self (red shirt) BR Wilson (in shorts).

CLICK OLDER POST to continue exploring this blog.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016


Valerie at Seal Rocks, New South Wales
Val speaks about her recent experiences with sharks.
Great scenes of White Pointer sharks film by husband Ron.

Valerie - when she was known as Valerie Heighes (called Valerie Hughes in error by the narrator).  An early newsreel photographed by her future husband.  This was about 1961.

Valerie Taylor (1973) at the first Australian Underwater Film Festival.

"SAVAGE SHADOWS' Part 1 and Part 2 Henri Bource documentary 1960s

Point Lookout location 1966

Savage Shadows Part 2

Thursday, 25 February 2016


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 on the mind of spearo's - possibly accentuated by theatre newsreels  and tabloid headlines of the era.

Monday, 22 February 2016

THE HUNGRY SEA (Courtesy Ben Cropp AM)

Ben Cropp years before making The Hungry Sea, pictured in 1963

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)