VERY DANGEROUS DIVE

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Entering the water was necessary from the bow.

We were anchored in the lagoon at Middleton Reef (southern Coral Sea).  Wally Muller had roped Coralita’s anchor to an antique ships anchor we’d placed on the sand in the lagoon ‘yesterday’.

Now it was time to check the anchor.  I was joining deckhand Richard Weir for the inspection and would film it.

All dinghies were either out of the water or anchored on their own elsewhere.  In other words, no rescue vessel available.

Coralita was swinging in a great arc in the very strong breeze.  Easy to miss getting back aboard as a strong current was also running.  No problems.  All went well.

It was a cyclone called Colin.  Stronger than the cyclone that had wrecked Darwin a few years before.  This was 1975.  The wreck of the Runic, (pictured above during a previous visit) nearby, was battered by the heavy seas with waves breaking over her – we saw from a distance.

Wally Muller in 1971;  Wally Muller underwater with the ship wreck  anchor which saved Coralita during a cyclone at Middleton Reef.

FRENCH PACIFIC TERRITORY – CHESTERFIELD REEF

Captain Wally Muller navigated using a sextant, the era pre GPS

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Divers, John M Harding (senior) and Roy Bisson (on right)
This was the longest voyage undertaken by the famous charter boat in 1971. Newly launched the boat was 79′ in length and had accommodation for 16 divers (later reduced to 12), plus a crew of four.

The lure for such a voyage was shell collecting, a search for the rare volute thatcheri. Half the charter cost was paid by shell collectors. I was sponsored by a tabloid newspaper to write and photograph five stories that could be serialized over one week.

Text written especially for divers would be published in Fathom No.6 issue. Art director and diver, Roy Bisson being on the voyage.

From San Francisco the late Dewey Bergman (Sea and Sea Travel) was scouting on this voyage for what would become regular parties of American divers and underwater cameramen. The world was about to discover diving Australian style. The future voyages would not involve so much traveling time.

Marion Reef was the new inshore destination, still in The Coral Sea and today almost unvisited due to fuel cost considerations.

The Chesterfield Reef trip was our most memorable. Near perfect weather and a good crew of professional divers. For further information, including names of shipwrecks at Chesterfield Reef, see Wikipedia.org

Roy Bisson swim fins (flippers) were filmed simultaneously by my movie camera and another by Richard Ibara. This was Chesterfield Reef at it’s best.  Grey Reef sharks were territorial with these displays as they probably had not encountered divers before.

VOLUTES …… Collected live in The Coral Sea

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**Christine Danaher and I found these volutes**

**Captain Wally Muller** had staked out a location well away from the charter boat where he’d look for shells. To his amazement (and probably disgust) the prize shells were to be found directly where the charter boat was, underneath and in shallow water, and by Christine.

Each shell is worth $300 or more, depending upon size and perfection.