FREE DIVING CAMERAMEN

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In 1963 filming was mostly by freediving

There were a couple of reasons for only free diving.  Scuba was so new there were no convenient filling stations. Plenty of action existed in water less than fifteen meters deep anyway, and with available light and 25 ASA movie film – the shallow water was where most color was.

In some respects we had it easy with lots more to see and film. In other respects it was more difficult.

Camera’s were mechanical and primitive. It took an expert just to get the correct exposures. These needed to be spot-on especially with Kodachrome reversal film.

For the above pictures Ron Taylor was filming a very large turtle feeding using a 16mm Bolex and a 10mm Switar lens.  This was 1963 when we first met.

I used a 35mm Calypso-phot still camera and 50 ASA Agfa film – which has since turned magenta with age, whereas Kodachrome retains original colors well.

We were free diving at Man and Wife Rocks located between North Keppel and Great Keppel Islands and virtually on the Tropic of Capricorn.

Ron’s movie camera held 2 minutes 44 seconds of film. It was hand-wound which gave about 16 seconds of filming before rewinding was necessary.

The results were superb and probably better than many expensive video cameras today – but the action was short. Just seconds per subject.

GREAT KEPPLE  ISLAND TODAY
The Great Kepple Island Resort has been ‘moth-balled’, shut down and locked-up some two years ago.

The region has plenty of large sharks and venomous sea snakes if you are interested. Much of the surrounding coral is said to be now dead. Perhaps a freshwater flood being responsible?

It’s amazing how things change. During the early 1970’s nearby Yeppoon and the charter boat Coralita was the departure point for voyages to The Coral Sea.

Aboard were the then leading American film making divers – who helped put Australia on the international dive agenda which we pioneered.

Fathom magazine helped attract their initial attention with a very expensive looking production which illustrated that something was happening in Australia.

Scuba diving today has changed and is under strong competition from more adventurous do-once, sports.

The old villain, spear fishing is now seen as the best opportunity for high adventure water thrills once more.

The modern emphasis is on open ocean spearing, away from scuba diving shallow reefs out in the blue water with tuna and marlin the new target.

One thing is for certain, free diving is excellent for your lungs – something every diver learns to appreciate eventually.

The younger and the taller your body is, the bigger will be your VC (vital capacity of your lungs).

Therefore an eighteen year-old who is six feet tall should easily reach 33 meters or more on a single breath – with expert guidance and a lot of training.

Don McAlpine was also an underwater cameraman.  Don has filmed several big budget Hollywood movies.  We attended a lecture he gave at Film Australia.  I ‘d worked with Don on the Great Barrier Reef off Heron Island in 1969 and had not seen him since in all those years.

TURTLE HUNTERS SAW SHARK ATTACKING DINGHY

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Batt Reef is a lonely place 26 km from popular Port Douglas in Queensland’s north. Few boats visit Batt Reef due to how shallow and sandy it is. No beautiful coral formations here – nothing except a big underwater desert with associated wildlife.

Turtle, stingray and occasional dugong. And of course sharks who search in very shallow water, at ease from humans as few boats are ever seen there.

Batt Reef was the destination selected by TV’s The Crocodile Hunter for filming and the location where he made the mistake of getting close to a large black stingray, which inflicted a fatal sting to his heart.

This picture was taken the day we had our memorable (and later well publicized) encounter with a large shark which chewed the side out of our inflatable dinghy!