PHOTO JOURNALISM 1960’s; 1970’s

Here’s a mixture of pictures selected by PIX (a weekly picture-news magazine in Australia) editors.  Once selected I’d be asked to tell a staff reporter like Syd King, Ben Mitchell or later, Jim Oram what it was all about.  The magazine paid sufficiently.  They were a good crew.  Editor Bob Nelson especially.  Meanwhile I was shooting 16mm film footage for my future project, a documentary that would enable travel as well as an income.  It was a good plan but eventually there was home video which made cinema films expensive for families.  (click to enlarge pages).

FATHOM magazine was compiled by divers.  For the first time in Australia, dramatic pictures and stories kept accurate by the people who wrote and published the material.  All original pages now online for students of the sea.  A benchmark to help understand the slow but steady changes occurring in the marine world. From shark hunting of 1963 to the beautiful underwater photo images of today.

GREEN SAWFISH – Caught in fisherman’s trap rope © Text and pictures

Green Sawfish after being towed back from the Sandon River Pinnacle to Minnewater NSW
Cropped picture. JHH speargun,  Extra long spear was accidental, yet more effective.

We were on a diving safari with Ron and Val Taylor who were using my new boat which had extra room for our friends, TV actors  Janet Kingsbury and John Bonny,  on the New South Wales mid north coast.

A fisherman in the Wooli Bowling Club  told John and I of “a monster” tangled in his deepwater fish trap line at the Sandon River pinnacle. He failed to recognize the catch and was quite frightened of what he saw without a face mask handy.

Next day we helped bring his catch home with our twin 40 hp Evinrude outboards and DeHavilland ‘Viking’ runabout doing the work his boat could not handle.

As fishermen need to do, the ‘monster’ was disposed of – it was a prize catch. The ‘meat’ sent to the fish markets in Sydney, the ‘saw’ retained as a souvenir by the fisherman, the late Keith Knox of Minniewater near Wooli, NSW. He spoke of the encounter for many years as a great adventure.

This is first and only sawfish any of us have seen alive and underwater to this present era. The photograph recently ‘surfaced’ and was signed by the Val Taylor posing with my speargun for this tongue-in-cheek picture.

A satire on ‘divers and their sea trophies’, extendable to all fishermen, all over the world.

Photos and text: © John Harding collection

Ron and Valerie Taylor in 1967


Part of perhaps one million starfish, near Mystery Cay

We were dumbstruck at the sight. Coralita had dropped anchor on the last day of our 10-day ‘Sea Safari’ to The Coral Sea. The charter boat, with 12 experienced divers aboard was returning to the Queensland port of Yeppoon, home base for this (at that time) world-class 79 foot dive boat.

The scene we discovered underwater was worse than anything reported elsewhere. Far worse than the Guam coral reefs of 1969 (which instigated Project Stelaroid to investigate Micronesian corals and Crown of Thorns intensity).

The late Theo Brown had found hundreds of starfish at  Slashers Reef, Townsville and obtained black and white pictures for his book, co written with journalist Keith Willey on the  subject.

Here we were much further south in the vast reef area of The Swains with possibly the largest concentration of starfish yet seen anywhere, including the Great Barrier Reef.

The starfish we guessed, numbered in the hundreds of thousands. The diving deckhands (Richard Weir and Roy Muller) then collected 1000 starfish using spears and long lines to thread the starfish on, like a needle and thread.

This way we thought an estimate of the population might be obtained. The further we swam from the charter boat showed no decrease in the numbers. Starfish may have been in the million and covered a huge area of lush living coral.

Reef fish hovered above, unable to occupy usual hiding space under coral ledges.

Some months later we returned to what our captain believed was the same location – but it wasn’t. This was the era pre GPS.

We had been on an unnamed reef, “Two reefs east of Mystery Cay” said Capt. Wally Muller.

Today the this reef would have a name or a number.

What became of the Crown of Thorns controversy? At the time it was a marine equivalent of climate change. People seemed to ignore the problem and it just ‘went away’, but not without cost to the reefs.

Beautiful example, a coral formation in The Swain Reefs not effected by boat anchors or starfish.

How did Mystery Cay obtain its unofficial name by the late Captain Wally Muller?   Wally explained that he’d sailed past this reef many times without knowing it was there.  It was therefore ‘a mystery’ to him.

The name would not have been adopted by authorities years later which makes tracking previous starfish damage impossible.