(Insert new picture here) I came close to having both hands and forearms included in the gut of this 2.6 meter long tiger shark last Sunday.
A second or so later, the shark was obscured by foam as it ripped the holding wire loop free from the bait, the remains of a large cod. (This ‘hookless bait’ from a seafood wholesaler).
Watching three tiger sharks cruise around before feeding was tedious and hypnotic. Circle after increasingly larger and larger circles, possibly hypnotizing the intended prey (and me).
Then a straight-line swim for the bite. A live prey may not see it until too late. Chomp!
Tigers have a slower mental time-frame than us. Maybe we are just impatient for ‘action’? ‘They’ appear to study the prey with caution. Mostly this offers a diver time to get out, and into a boat.
When tiger sharks do feed, the power is awesome. They bite the entire piece away then swallow, no chewing required.
Just as dangerous in shallow water too. Beware of big shark getting too close. In some respects similar to a white pointer – when they bite, but a slower swimming pattern around the prey to begin with.
Lessons learned’ from the sharks episode of last Saturday** is how necessary an anti-shark device is for people at sea in a life raft. When these big tiger sharks finally decide to bite, nothing is going to change their mind, no amount of shouting, hitting or kicking. And when they bite – the entire piece comes away. No spitting out of anything. South Australian shark bite celebrity, Rodney Fox was fortunate a white pointer mouthed his chest in 1964 and not a tiger shark!
An inflatable lifeboat without an adequate shark repellant aboard as a life-saving device is a foolish exercise in cost-cutting, yet this is how they all are!
The electronic POD and a powerhead (on a handspear) would be my suggestions of the minimum additions to all life saving craft, especially in Hawaii where there are plenty of tiger sharks.
Costly and extra bulk but that’s information. Too many have already vanished at sea without a trace. We can guess their fate more clearly now.
Be prepared for the worst circumstances to happen. If these don’t happen – great. Powerheads are lethal and as dangerous as a bad shark so some form of container with a seal might be necessary.
More: A WARNING that inflatable boats are not much use around sharks. Single cell inflatable boats are a temporary life raft at best. Good for a few hours or until the first shark sees it. All life rafts aboard cruising boats should be fitted with both electronic and explosive anti shark devices, especially for tropical waters where tiger sharks are more frequent. Too many people go missing without a trace.
HELP! We yelled for assistance to these guys, five lads who we’d spoken with earlier. It was the sound of their outboard motor alongside that probably made the tiger shark release it’s grip on Ben’s dinghy after three to five minutes of holding on and dragging the boat down. These guys had a good look at what was happening and would have their own story to tell. “A shark trying to eat former shark hunter Ben Cropp’s dinghy”.
FIFTY YEARS AGO Sharks on film were a rare encounter.
vent and Australia led the world in this respect. USA caught up during the 1970’s. The Shark Fighters programme ran for months in South Africa. In Australia it had a 30 day season in a Sydney theatre.
We released these shark films at similar venues along the east coast. Shark Fighters did amazing business on 16mm but in that era we were all too busy having fun making new films and underwater photographs to bother with the effort involved with distribution.
In retrospect we passed up (potentially) millions of dollars of potential income. It’s all different today. Sharks saturated the pay TV screens. Cinema entertainment has changed.
The advertising copy (here on a handbill) was a joint effort between shark victim turned shark fighter and much later a ‘shark protection activist’ (Rodney Fox), the Taylor’s and I. It’s interesting to see how our attitudes have changed since those early days when we knew less and the public knew nothing of shark species and their respective behaviour. A grey nurse to them was just as deadly as a WP. The Saumarez Reef 30 minute film showed a tiger shark and grey reef whalers for the first time, yet these advertising pictured focused on grey nurse pictures – which were more graphic.
The three, thirty-minute-each films were shot and edited by Ron Taylor on non-fading Kodachrome film stock. Considered amateur film at the time it is beautiful as archival stock today. Beginners luck.
At each screening there would be about upwards of 300 to 500 people attending – mainly because I only screened on average for one night in any town. Theatre availability was limited.
The surf film addition guaranteed extra attendances from that entertainment-starved group. It was a fun project to make then and still is to look at today. Maybe Ron T. will release them on DVD?
The Rodney Fox film showed the graphic still pictures taken by doctors after his shark bite incident, that have been widely published since. Without fail, at almost every show, a young man would ‘almost faint’ at the sight of the real blood on film and leave the auditorium for fresh air.
Memoirs of the road shows? The Australian Prime Minister attended our Feb 16 Canberra Theatre Centre screening – arriving by limo with a police escort. Ron and Valerie were at this travelling show. (He was booked to attend a ball, but being a keen spear fisherman squeezed-in the last hour of the movies).
The PM invited us for biscuits and tea the following morning at Parliament House. 21 months later he vanished in the sea while body surfing one morning near Portsea.
The programme ran for weeks in South Africa. Later all three films were seen on TV but only in black and white. The Surf Scenefilm was notable as Ron Taylor took his 16mm Bolex camera aboard a speedboat and rode waves alongside the surfers – something novel at the time.
MORE: Shark Fighters was shown at venues known for surf films, i.e. older suburban cinemas struggling to stay in business, some with 1000 seats which were mostly empty except when a surf film screened.
Advertised via teen-radio announcers (Ward Pally Austin on 2UW) and with posters like this plastered all over the city, the surf and shark films were a cultural delight.
Hawaiian shirts worn by almost everyone – the forerunner of beach culture fashion. Bleached hair, white jeans were the uniform of surf addicts. Supporting films included old cartoons, war newsreels – which brought howls of laughter from the growing group of soon-to-be anti-Vietnam war protesters.
Shark films attracted both the surfers and the public. Divers were a minority. The true potential never fully exploited, we distributors being too lazy for that. ‘Better things to do’.
Conventional 35mm movie distribution did not work profitably you had to do it yourself in 16mm or not at all. The most successful 16mm film of all featured crocodiles. While surf films were more numerous than features like the above, the undersea titles were timeless and were distributed for years.
Queensland audiences, especially, were patriotic and huge when Great Barrier Reef content was exhibited via 16mm but by law only in licensed cinemas, huge single screen venues which were packed by schools by day and families by night, made possible by affordable TV advertising.
Narration for Shark Fighters came via three now infamous voices. American stage actor Hayes Gordon, TCN9 news anchor Chuck Faulkner, and 2UW disc jockey Ward Austin (who had the Aussie accent of the future in an era then dominated by British culture – seems more incredible today).
Henri Bource led a double life – some say a triple one. He made a film about sharks while being handicapped with half his leg missing (eaten by a shark). Some knew Henri as a Melbourne-based sax player with The Thunderbirds. Others knew him as a diver making a film about sharks. “Savage Shadows” featured a realistic recreation of the shark bite and earned more as stock footage than the film did in it’s 35mm release. Mike Perry (the Sydney journalist) and I assisted Henri make his film by taking him to Point Lookout at North Stradbroke Island in a search for adventure to be filmed. It became a big holiday and we had many funny moments. Filming girls (with no film in the camera) etc
A shark victim turns film maker with a 16mm Bolex camera and makes a feature film released in cinemas.
“The only money I ever made out of Savage Shadows came from stock footage sales of the attack sequence” Henri Bource told me at his Melbourne home, as he hopped about on his one good leg.
Using self-hypnosis Henri was able to convince himself he still had two legs. It also got rid of the phantom pains (i.e. an itchy toe that wasn’t there anymore). The big white pointer shark had bitten Henri’s leg off, just below the knee. (Above the knee would have presented greater hardship – at least he had a knee-cap left that served as a hard base for the artificial leg he wore.
Henri didn’t look for sympathy – he was far more positive than that rubbish being required. He even had us convinced (in a strange way) he still had two legs. I once questioned his right to park in a disabled parking place – and this was a man with half a leg missing!
This was the attitude and influence Henri Bource projected to all who knew him.
I assisted in the film production in a slight way, with friends Mike Perry and Irvin Rockman
We appear in the film searching for sharks off Queensland’s North Stradbroke Island, (at the time a hot location, far-less-so today).
The resulting film was excellent BUT didn’t get adequate exposure. At the time it was difficult negotiating any deal with cinema companies. The film premiered in the sleaziest of city venues in Sydney, the former State Newsreel Theatrette. It was once possible to almost stick to the seats in this tiny theatre which ran continuous short films for anyone with 60 minutes of spare time.
Henri is gone now, missed by a heap of divers who were his good mates. But he lived genuine dual lives, there was also the music he loved and the friends and girls there. (His original band The Thunderbirds recorded the first rock ‘n roll LP album in Australia).
Before his shark accident (aka attack) he toured with the leading international acts working Australia’s southern states. This duality remained largely unknown.
SHARK AIR PATROL Ballina, NSW January 1968
We were invited aboard the New South Wales north coast shark patrol aircraft to do a live interview about sharks. We were the experts doubling as film promoters during the January holidays in 1968.
Our film show would be held at the town cinema (which no longer exists) tonight at 8pm, a local radio station arranged for us to go up in their Cessna which was patrolling the beaches north and south.
At the airport we waited for the Cessna to pick us up. When it touched down and taxied
over, up drove a limo with a businessman who turned out to be a sponsor of the shark patrol aircraft and he was also selling real estate. “Stop seeing sharks” he yelled at the pilot “I’m trying to sell land and you are scaring people away (with your shark reports)”.
The big speargun. Wally at a Palm Beach, Sydney competition in 1972
Wally pictured by Jeff Carter. Stunning image from the 1950s.
The smallest and largest Gloria maris found by Wal in the Solomons.
The Chesty Bond trophy for largest fish.
Tiger shark at Heron Island – the largest for many years.
Wally was the Host Diver during more than one diver’s convention at Heron Island. He’d take his own five meter boat from Sydney to Gladstone by trailer then motor it out to the island.
This enabled spearing on nearby Wistari Reef and others.
When the island kitchen was running low on seafood one morning they asked Wally to \”spear them a few fish”. \
In his typical manner, Wal (with dive mate Warner Power) happily went to work with their spear guns.
Brown spotted cod and Queensland Groper seem to be the bulk of this catch. There would be a few coral trout in that pile also. The large fish with Wally on the left is a Queensland Groper. (See fish pictures on his blog Diver of Fortune listed below as a footnote).
Alan Power diving from Wal’s boat, Heron Island (1963)
Last portrait of Wally Gibbins at the Sunday markets – Coffs Harbour, 9 July 2006
A possible victim of Severe Depression Virus was the late Jacques Mayol who made a serious decision to leave this world on Dec 23, 2001 in Italy.
Jacques Mayol (centre) with Australia’s shipwrecks expert Johnny Sumner (left) and Australia’s legendary diver Wally Hamilton Gibbins in 2000 at Las Vegas, USA discussing the “Mr Wally Expedition” to the Solomon Islands, among other things, including Hollywood movies.
The cult movie The Big Blue (1988) was based on the free diving skills and rivalry between Jacques Mayol and his mate Enzo Maiorca.
Jacques was born in Shanghai to French parents. An exciting time for his conception. The city is described then as: Whore of the orient, Paris of the east, city of quick riches, ill-gotten gains and fortunes lost on the tumble of dice; the domain of adventurers, gamblers, swindlers, drug runners, idle rich, dandies, tycoons, missionaries, gangsters and back street pimps – Shanghai 1927″. Lonely Planet CHINA.
Jacques Mayol learned to freedive in Japan at age 15. His inspiration to become a world record breath-holding free diver was sparked while watching nude girls descend 75 feet without flippers (aka fins) to collect pearl shell oysters. Not a bad start to his diving career.
The fact that his own father was later to die in a diving accident is worthy of note.
At the amazing age of 56 years, Jacques Mayol set a world free diving depth record of 105 meters, yet less than 20 years later he chose to end his own life with a rope. Many prisoners on death row would have gladly changed places with him. But the depression virus is a powerful enemy.
Australia’s first team to the World Spearfishing Championships. French Polynesia (Tahiti) `1965
Update: October 20 2004. Wally Gibbins admitted to Coffs Harbour hospital. (Peter Fields preparing major interview for popular magazine featuring this legend of the sea, born 19 January 1930). Wally’s collection of spearguns and diving gear is ear-marked for Legends Surf Museum (Scott Dillon).
UPDATE JAN.7 2005. Only a brief but ‘scary’ stay in hospital. A burst blood vessel and great loss of blood. Back to normal as of this moment.
What defined a good diver in the early days was the ability to invent, design and improve equipment. To be a good diver it was advantageous to be also skilled with a lathe and other things. Most equipment was home-made from the 1950’s to 1970 and we all relied on friends for help or guidance or both.
The famous Sea Hornet (trade mark) speargun trigger was a design from Wally Gibbins.
Pictured at home in Sawtell 1990 with the most popular regulator of the late 1950’s – the double hose Aqua Lung (trade mark) regulator – quieter and easier to breathe from. Terrific for photographers as the exhaled air did not rumble passed ears and eyes.
Footnote: Wal Gibbins worked in many Ben Cropp’s underwater documentaries around Australia, PNG and the Solomon Islands for two years full-time. They share the same birthday, January 19th with a six-year age differences. Wally in 1930, Ben in 1936.