The shark was traveling south off the New South Wales Coast when we just happen to cross paths. Our destination was a sea lion colony where we’d be hired to get footage for an episode of Skippy the children’s show being telecast in prime time.
Filming the seals was put on hold. We’d swim with the whale shark for five minutes then back to the small dive boat (left drifting on the calm sea unattended) then find the whale shark and repeat the performance.
On the first occasion when I touched the huge tail. My heart sank as the whale shark responded with a sudden ‘crash’ vertical dive in the “bottomless” waters.
Later we were able to ride briefly with the giant – that practice now discouraged (banned) due to the unknown (but predictable) consequence.
This was 1968. It was the second whale shark filmed and photographed by divers in Australia. The Sydney evening tabloid newspaper The Daily Mirror bought pictures and helped sell them overseas.
I earned enough cash to buy two brand new Bolex 16mm movie camera bodies, a 17-86mm Pan-Cinor compact zoom, 10mm, 16mm, 150mm Switar fixed lens, a professional Miller tripod, a custom-made underwater perspex movie camera housing.
My plan was to make a surfing-dive feature movie. I’d spent everything and there was nothing left to buy film. The late T.D.Preece sponsored me with 3000 feet of 16mm film stock. I had to pay processing, but it was a good start.
A year later I premiered my first feature film Aquarius – People of the Sea.
Today it would be a lot easier with a small HD video camera. The cinema audiences are not available like they were. In the sixties we’d have 300-500 people per night at film shows. But a sale to TV would be easier.
Often the theatres were a bit expensive taking 50% of the door ticket sales. After advertising we’d be lucky to clear 25% – which was still very worthwhile.