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WELCOME


“I began writing blogs about diving and shark history during the era of dial-up internet access.  It was a while before I had a digital camera.  Since then cameras have improved out of sight.  Brilliant video now shows sharks being fed and trained to accept the presence of divers.

Our knowledge of sharks is being re-written every few months.  Young women swimming alongside giant dangerous monsters  gives a false impression to non diving environmentalists.

Dead sharks, once the only way we could study and get-to-know the species is now shunned.

Well-meaning environmental groups need funding and sometimes campaign with distortions of truth.

This blog will not be able to inform fully.  It’s a tiny glimpse into the past and  how we began exploring the underwater world as free diving fishermen. It shows an era when it was believed the chance of being killed by a shark was a possibility  every dive.

There were fewer sharks along the Australian coasts in the 1960s than there are today”.  (JH Harding

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SHARK CONSERVATION – EARLY DAYS


Private scrapbook 1960s-1970s. These clipping are not the first to be published on this subject in Australia.  January 1969. Baby sharks saved and returned to the sea to swim away. At the time, some would have regarded this as an ignorant error.  To set the record straight, we did not sit down at a table a decide what was going to be a worthwhile cause.  What happened was a combination of things, pictures taken then magazine and newspaper editors coming up with a storyline.

The baby sharks being set free can be attributed to Yvonne Rockman who was standing behind the cameras with her husband, the future Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Irvin Rockman CBE.  “Let them go” was Yvonne’s shouted suggestion which was followed.  The 16mm camera was rolling and the images were to be first seen in Japan on the national NHK TV station.  What the reaction there was, is anyone’s guess.

Correct date: 10 November 1968 on North Stradbroke Island, Queensland.

(1974)

1976

Benchley visited Australia in 1975 to make a promotional documentary for the movie "Jaws". He dived with sharks and was in danger with a 95% fogged-up face mask while close to a pair of large feeding tiger sharks less than one meter from his head.
Benchley visited Australia in 1975 to make a promotional documentary for the movie “Jaws”. He dived with sharks and was in danger with a 95% fogged-up face mask while close to a pair of large feeding tiger sharks less than one meter from his head.

 

First tests with the chain-mail suit detailed in this booklet, self published in 1981 by Ron and Valerie Taylor.
First tests with the chain-mail suit detailed in this booklet, self published in 1981 by Ron and Valerie Taylor.

 

Surfing magazines educate readers on hazards. It has not stopped sharks biting surfers and even their boards. Western Australia has clocked up many fatal bites since this issue went on sale in 2000.
Surfing magazines educate readers on hazards. It has not stopped sharks biting surfers and even their boards. Western Australia has clocked up many fatal bites since this issue went on sale.

 

The shark that divers did not know was there. The Coral Sea and a harmless leopard shark.
The shark that divers did not know was there. The Coral Sea and a harmless leopard shark.

 

Photographed in 1983 at Marion Reef (The Coral Sea) before the official discovery that 'sharks did not need to keep moving'.
Photographed in 1983 at Marion Reef (The Coral Sea) before the official discovery that ‘sharks did not need to keep moving’.

 

Manta rays are popular with sharks - as food.
Manta rays are popular with sharks – as food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SHARK BITE ARCHIVE


It’s been a good story for newspapers over the years.  Shark attacks.  Far more of them were occurring in the 1930’s – obviously when the Australian populated coast had better stocks of seafood to attract and feed the predators.

Looking at a small sample of shark attacks in newspaper files indicates how these tragedies gave been forgotten.  There has been, seemingly hundreds of shark attacks around our coast – more than what is commonly stated.

Here is a sample from the archives from pages 10 and 11 – it could form a good university study in changing journalism standards over the years.

http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/result?q=shark+attack&s=180

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE 1967 BELGIAN EXPEDITION – fifty two years ago.


28mm Nikonos lens used for this picture of author Bernard Gorsky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DeMoor – Belgian Navy ship led the expedition.

 

© John Harding

 

 

THIS was a big effort. Ron and Valerie Taylor were contracted to film  underwater scenes along with the other principal cameraman Pierre Dubuisson.

Wally Muller provided support from his charter boat Careelah, and I was aboard Wally’s boat as a deckhand (and a private observer/photographer).

The news of what the expedition purpose was, was rejected as newsworthy by the newly appointed American editor of LIFE Australia, Mr Kenneth Gouldthorpe.

No other publication seemed to fit the 1967 unknown realm of marine biology.

Fifty years later the expedition remains the largest and most costly (and most useless) underwater marine biology filming undertaking on the GBR.

One valid story not overlooked was Acanthaster planci – The Crown of Thorns (CoT) starfish and the obvious damage (total) at Otter Reef off Townsville, Qld.

Pictures here show Valerie Taylor with Kay Overell and became the first tabloid report in Everybodys Magazine – a popular weekly as “The Thing that’s killing the Reef”.

When lifted from coral the starfish curls into a ball of dangerous and very sharp spines. Valerie was stung by one.
Filming in The Swain Reefs. Ron Taylor uses his new dual format 35mm/16mm and Techniscope (half-frame 35mm) cine camera among a forest of staghorn coral.

GREAT WHITE SHARK – 14 pups


 

Big, pregnant great white shark caught off Taiwan’s north-east coast.  (20 March 2019)

A Great White shark measuring over 4 meters long was delivered and sold at a fish market in Su’ao Township, Yilan County today, March 20, after being caught as by catch off the northeast coast of Taiwan.

The shark weighed in at 1170 kilograms and was sold by auction at a price of NT$50 (US$1.62) per kilogram for a total of NT$58,500 (US$1,898.90).

The buyer, named as “Taiwan Ocean Art Museum” in various reports, appears to be a company engaged in marine taxidermy.

A researcher from Academia Sinica’s Biodiversity Research Center, Dr Jeng Ming-shiou said it is the biggest specimen of great white that he has ever seen.

When an incision was made in the shark’s abdomen, it was revealed that the shark was a female, and contained 14 baby sharks.

The great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a vulnerable species. It takes 26 years for a male great white to reach sexual maturity, while the female takes 33 years.

At the same time, among all shark species, the great white shark is responsible for the largest number of shark attacks on humans.

In October 2012, a great white measuring 6 meters and weighing 1750 kilograms was caught off the coast of Yilan County.

DIVERS – SURVIVORS OF SHARK BITE


Shark bitten survivors, Raymond Short with Henri Bource in 1966
Rodney Fox made these two catches very late in the day. 1966.

John Harding (senior) with a young Great white shark in 1963 TWO DECADES before the species became protected..
About three days after the stitches were removed. This picture was taken at Kangaroo Island, South Australian during a skindivers convention. 27 December 1963.
Something in common, none of the three free divers saw the white pointer shark before it bit them.
Rodney Fox in 1963 and fifty years later. His former name card.
Tooth of extinct Great white shark worn as jewelry in 1975

EAST COAST TRIP – North West Island, Sea Snakes,Tweed Heads finale


I was on Lederkyn sulphur tablets courtesy of Riversong’s medical kit.  It was a potentially close call for me.  When Captain Wally Muller dropped us on North West Island for our camping and diving holiday, I was still OK to stand-up and walk.

The captain’s last words were, “I’ll be back to pick you up for more spear fishing.  See you in either three days or failing that, in a week from now”.

Fortunately Wally was back in the shorter time. In those three days away my leg ballooned with infection. It was too painful for me to stand upright.  I dragged myself along the sand to the ‘toilet’.

When Wally Muller returned in three days and saw my problem he radioed for instructions.  The treatment was Lederkyn sulphur tablets every four hours with lots of water to prevent crystals forming in my kidney’s. (I picked up his radio transmission on our transistor radio – there was nothing more that could be done).

So the infection was a week old by the time I got to a hospital at Yeppoon.  (The outcome would have been a lot worse, maybe even fatal had bad weather prevented my return to the mainland). The suggested hospital treatment was to ‘lance’ the infection.  The old hospital had a few blo flies coming through the open windows and doors. (No AC in ’63).  A bad sign.

So back to Sydney by plane.  End of the trip for me.  I don’t remember what treatment (if any) happened in Sydney as no notes appear in my book.  Writing ceased from when the infection began to take hold. I must have been ‘crook’.

Valerie (speaking this week in March 2019) remembers the Yeppoon hospital had suggested they amputate my leg!

I only remember a very swollen leg that had a lot of fluid within.

Ron, Val and Snowie then went back to the Man and Wife Rocks to film sea snakes with black and white 16mm movie film.  This was when the hedge-cutter scene was devised.  Snowie (reluctant to get near a snake) filmed Ron chopping up a sea snake with the cutters – an unusual  form of defense  being demonstrated.  That film was included in one of Ron’s live presentation film shows.

Ben Cropp borrowed the idea and used it in his documentary ‘Mermaids in Paradise’ (1966) featuring Gai Girdlestone (pictured) with Kathy Troutt and Van Laman as the mermaids.

Gai Girdlestone working in a Ben Cropp documentary in 1965.

On their way back to Sydney a stop off at Tweed Heads where Ron and Snowie returned to Nine Mile Reef, speared a Grey Nurse shark and brought it, still showing signs of life, back to shore where it was carried to the nearby Jack Evans Pet Porpoise Pool, thus becoming the first shark caught by skin divers for display in captivity.

Their slightly conflicting versions of the event was published in Skindivers magazine.