In the sixties whale sharks were still a sensational and rare subject to be filmed. Only a couple had ever been seen by divers underwater. One was in The Red Sea, (by Hans Hass) another – the first in Australia was off Montague Island, New South Wales in 1964 (with cameraman Ben Cropp and diver George Meyer).
The 1968 Seal Rocks Encounter featured a much larger whale shark with not quite as clear underwater visibility conditions.
My black and white 35mm pictures made a three pages picture story in a Sydney evening tabloid that was syndicated around the world. These were the first 35mm pictures, all previous whale shark pictures taken in the world were off tiny 16mm movie film frames.
At Brisbane some years later, whale sharks were still a much sought subject to film. I was quizzed by one of the then leading American underwater film cameramen-lecturers, “John, where can we (both) go to film a whale shark in Australia”?
My answer was not entirely honest as I’d not been there – “The north-west of Western Australia.”
Several years later the whale sharks were ‘discovered’ off Exmouth in the north-west of Western Australia by a small National Geographic sponsored team. When the discovery was still hot news to only a few people I used an introduction by a friend to do something for TV in Australia.
We then suggested to a high rating current affairs TV show that we could film them underwater scenes for a whale shark story at Exmouth.
The show researchers noted with interest the details, then ceased contact and soon after sent their own people to do the story.
The producer and the researcher who I spoke with have since risen to the tops of their television professions.