SHARK CONSERVATION (1969) – ‘one small step for mankind’

Tiger shark feeding on a stingray ‘burley’ – no hooks.  A joint filming and photography exercise with Ben Cropp  AM.


The Grey Nurse shark was first species to be given protection.  Big Seal Rock  NSW

Spearfishing convention, Kangaroo Island, South Australia 1963 – three weeks after his stitches were removed.Soon to become a celebrity shark bite diver. “Revenge of a Shark Victim” was a documentary filmed by Ron Taylor, (1965)

Sharks saved by a rough cesarean operation. Sandra Greentree inspired her friends this day at North Stradbroke Island, Queensland.  John Harding was filming sharks for NHK (Japan) TV.
PIX magazine was first to publish this shark saving story.


John Barlow - large Kingfish at Seal Rocks beach 1966. John Harding seniour taking picture with Rollei. Boat was a DeHavilland Tempest 803 with 40 HP Evinrude outboard.
John Barlow – large Kingfish at Seal Rocks beach 1966. John Harding senior taking picture with Rollei. Boat was a DeHavilland Tempest 803 with 40 HP Evinrude outboard.

REMEMBERING 1963 – when the largest outboard was 75 horsepower and only a dozen guys owned scuba tanks in Sydney. Girls sat on the beach while their boyfriends went spearfishing. Every club had boats so there was always water skiing and a barbecue in the afternoons.

Australian spearfishing record Snapper (1963). speared between the eyes by John Harding.

Spearfishermen of the early days were considered to be either very brave or fools. Sharks were the number one threat and there were a lot larger ones in the sea than today.

The Bondi spearmen were a hard bunch, Ron Ibel – a handsome yet tough, beer-drinking, street-wise guy that could have been a star (like Errol Flynn) in movies today seemed to lead the club. A mentor for many. Ron was a truck driver for the wholesale fruit market of Haymarket until he won the lottery and bought a prawn trawler.

The club guys met Saturday mornings at a hotel, got ‘half-tanked’ (courage for shark-infested waters) then went spearfishing, ‘off the rocks’ around Bondi Beach and Maroubra in the era before speedboats became popular.

The twice monthly spearfishing competitions were well attended by hundreds from a dozen clubs until the beginning of professional abalone diving attracted the keenest divers to live away from the city, nearer southern waters.

The limited shallow rocky reef around Sydney was stripped of all fish over 400 g in a mindless quest for ego gratification. There could have been other ways to find champions, and there still is.

Other leading spearmen (Ron Taylor, Ben Cropp) became the first media conservationists shunning the mindless waste where poor quality fish were speared, weighed and then dumped.

New tests of skill and stamina may be devised for the open ocean. Swimming pool competitions are ‘a sham’ to mask the environmental vandalism of the mindless waste elsewhere. It’s been happening for far too long.

Free diving with a speargun is still a great test of underwater ability, and a confidence builder like no other. But spearfishing competitions belong in the 20th century. (14 October 2004)


Sydney Sea Hunters was a small membership inner city spearfishing club of the past, it no longer exists but they had lots of fun without winning anything major in the battle of the clubs at monthly Alliman Shield competitions.


“Ron Taylor’s SAUMAREZ REEF” (1964; 2019)

Saumarez Reef is beyond the outside edge of the Great Barrier Reef, 240 miles offshore. Gannet Cay is located in The Swain Reefs, the southern section of The Great Barrier Reef.  The correct pronunciation for Saumarez is ‘saw-mer- rez’.  or possibly su-mah- ray.

Participants in the 1964 documentary  have  memorable professional diving careers.


Ron and Valerie Taylor. World class underwater photographers, adventurers, film cameramen, shark specialists now widely  remembered for their appearance in Blue Water White Death (1969), the filming of Jaws live sharks, and the book “Valerie Taylor an Adventurous Life”.  Both have The Order of Australia AM medal awards. Ron Taylor Reef located in The Swain Reefs has been named in Ron’s memory and honor.

John H. Harding helped promote diving in Australia via work with the Taylor’s 1964 to 1968. John began making his first 16mm film in 1968.  Simultaneously with a leading publisher began Fathom magazine.  Made Australian Seafari  (a 90 minute marine life documentary) as a traveling film show narrated live for many years before a sound-tracked version (inspired by his father John M. Harding, a cinema projectionist at Kings Theatre, Bega NSW pre 1953 and later a Sydney hotelier). Fathom magazine in color revealed to international  divers, film makers and travel agents how advanced Queensland had become. With a world class publication and a  new 79 foot live-aboard dive boat, Coralita the first with an on board air compressor. Now access to offshore crystal clear ocean water of The Coral Sea offering unparalleled shark filming activity was a must to experience.

Marine film shows promoted by John Harding and Ron and Valerie Taylor 1965 to late 1980s.


Wally Muller, Captain of the 36 foot fishing vessel Riversong hired by Gulf Oil (USA) to explore The Swain Reefs in 1965. The following year Wally Muller  purchased Careelah a twenty year-old 60 foot charter boat used during The Belgian Expedition of 1967. In 1969 Wally and a partner built the 79 foot Coralita at the Norman R. Wright shipyards in Brisbane, which became a world class live-aboard Commonwealth surveyed (to work anywhere in the world).  The Coral Sea became accessible for international dive trips for the first time.  With Coralita Wally and his young sons Roy and Alexander explored most of The Coral Sea Reefs and accepted risky charters in New Guinea rivers and elsewhere.   Mullers Reef in The Swain Reefs was named to honor this extraordinary pioneer skipper, fisherman and diver who explored most of The Coral Sea often collecting rare sea shells by diving for them at night.


Wally Muller in 1971 aboard his new charter boat Coralita.
Twin screw Coralita in 1974.

Bob Grounds held professional abalone diving licenses in three Australian states, worked as a diver on international oil rigs, started and successfully ran a company to repair  marine constructions and historic wharves underwater. Now builds restaurants and marinas in Australia.

Bob Grounds in 1968.


Ron Zangari lived a quiet life in Rockhampton, Queensland as a semi-professional diver after working on Riversong as an unpaid deckhand for many trips. Ran foul of the law by driving without a license more than a couple of times. Maintained a good sense of humor with naive mistakes.  A gentleman to the end.

Ron Zangari on cover of Ben Cropp's The Shark Hunters.
Ron Zangari with a Tiger shark became world famous through this picture by Ben Cropp, taken aboard Riversong in The Swain Reefs (1961)

Riversong  the legendary Wally Muller vessel exists today, owned-operated by an indigenous fishing community in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory.

Riversong built and designed along the lines of a lugger.