Captain Peter Bristow

The Cod Hole in 1983

CAIRNS was put on the international map by visiting fishermen. Before this the town was a sleepy  port and the main tourists were Australians who made the long trek north on a narrow sealed road we called The Crystal Highway (littered with broken car windscreen, one every 2 Km).


Avalon at The Ribbons

The story how black marlin were found as they spawned along the edge of the continental shelf is best told by the experts.

The changes to the town of Cairns between 1972 and 1982 were enormous.  Free  or very cheap vacant land given by the state government allowed international hotel’s and a resort at Port Douglas to be fast-tracked.

Cairns is the major gateway to The Great Barrier Reef. Previously these had been further south Gladstone, especially.

Fishing aboard Peter Bristow's "Avalon"
Fishing aboard Peter Bristow’s “Avalon” – Susan’s Perry. Deck hands Noel Burtt (guiding the chair) and Trevor Hathaway on the other side.


Camera running at 64 frames per second captured this. © John H Harding
At 64 frames per second. © John H Harding 1975


The men who put Cairns on the international map.
In this collage  are the boat skippers who went searching for big fish, Peter Bristow, Peter B Wright and Dennis ‘Brizakka’ Wallace.
Peter Bristow  and his charter-boat skipper mates. Tourism experts say it was the big game fishing  by international millionaire fishermen that put Cairns on the tourist map.
Bristow is one of the Famous Trio.

AstraThe Old Man of the Sea


Peter Bristow and TV personality of the past, the great Bob Dyer (a keen big game fisherman).
Peter Bristow and with radio and later TV personality of the past, Bob Dyer (an active  international big game fisherman).


Mr James Perry
Mr James Perry of Aspen Col. USA


The wire-man in action aboard "Avalon" (1975)
The wire-man in action aboard “Avalon” (1975).
Tiger shark recycles Brizaka's 1006 pound Black marlin (1975)
Tiger shark recycles 1006 pound Black marlin caught earlier.  16mm film frame


Captain Peter Bristow initially set in motion what was soon to become The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority with the talent of Mrs. Valerie Taylor, based in Sydney, lobbying the media and politicians.

Peter Bristow enlisted the help of his friend Mrs Valerie Taylor to lobby for protection of a small section of reef near Lizard Island known as Cormorant Passage (commonly called The Cod Hole).

It was feared a population of large and tame Potato cod would be wiped out if not given urgent protection.

Others had similar concerns.

Valerie Taylor through her influence was able to get the media and political attention which set in motion the first gazetted protection for the Great Barrier Reef.

For her success Valerie was ‘Ordained a Knight in the Order of the Golden Ark’ by the Prince of the Netherlands, an award which sadly no longer exists for conservation.

 © J.H. Harding.

The Most Excellent Order of the Golden Ark (Dutch: Orde van de Gouden Ark) is a Dutch order of merit established in 1971 by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. It is awarded to people for major contributions to nature conservation.[2] Although not awarded by the government of the Netherlands, it is considered by the government as a recognized chivalrous order.[3] Since its inception, over 300 people have been recognised by the award. Now that Prince Bernhard has died, the future of the order is uncertain. (Wikipedia).

SPEAR FISHING 1969 – Black marlin at Point Lookout

Black marlin The Group 1969We’d just arrived at the small bunch of rocks off Point Lookout (North Stradbroke Island, Queensland) where the water is quite deep.
A visiting game fishing boat was hooked up with a small black marlin. The fish made a few jumps then the line broke.
Trevor Collins slipped over the side of our boat with a  gas gun and secured the fish. From memory it weighed 78 pounds.
Trev black marlin Trev Collins black marlin
The reconstructed spear fishing scene was included in my first documentary \Aquarius – People and Wildlife of the Sea\ (1970).
It was meritorious as the first black marlin speared in Australia – under unusual circumstances which kept it out of the record book.
The game fishing boat’s name Mercury is visible on an enlarged version.  This post was using dial-up, so pictures were kept small.
I asked Peter Bristow via email if he might know who owned the boat.
Peter is a former Point Lookout- based fisherman. From about 1970 he pioneered big game fishing in Australia at Cairns, North Queensland, and subsequently helped put that once northern sleepy town on the international tourist map of the world.
Here is Bristow’s reply from the island of Madeira where he now lives:
My God yes. The owner and driving the boat is Steve Murphy. He was a close friend of Bob Dyer. The guy on the rod is his son Rick and standing next to him is his son-in- law, Jack. They were all close friends of mine. Steve was chief engineer at Bulimba Brewery in Brisbane and a constant source of free beer!
From memory, that (incident) took place somewhere near Boat Rock off Point Lookout–Correct?
It would have been mid to late 60’s ???
The boat was built by Clem Masters at Cabbage Tree Creek, Shorncliffe, Brisbane. It originally had Mercury outboards; hence the name.
It was 30 feet long. He then replaced them with inboard-outboard drives.
I was a regular crew on it when I lived in Brisbane and even went to the launching.  (Thanks for the memory).