“Ron Taylor’s SAUMAREZ REEF” (1964; 2019)

Saumarez Reef is beyond the outside edge of the Great Barrier Reef, 240 miles offshore. Gannet Cay is located in The Swain Reefs, the southern section of The Great Barrier Reef.  The correct pronunciation for Saumarez is ‘saw-mer- rez’.  or possibly su-mah- ray.

Participants in the 1964 documentary  have  memorable professional diving careers.

 

Ron and Valerie Taylor. World class underwater photographers, adventurers, film cameramen, shark specialists now widely  remembered for their appearance in Blue Water White Death (1969), the filming of Jaws live sharks, and the book “Valerie Taylor an Adventurous Life”.  Both have The Order of Australia AM medal awards. Ron Taylor Reef located in The Swain Reefs has been named in Ron’s memory and honor.

John H. Harding helped promote diving in Australia via work with the Taylor’s 1964 to 1968. John began making his first 16mm film in 1968.  Simultaneously with a leading publisher began Fathom magazine.  Made Australian Seafari  (a 90 minute marine life documentary) as a traveling film show narrated live for many years before a sound-tracked version (inspired by his father John M. Harding, a cinema projectionist at Kings Theatre, Bega NSW pre 1953 and later a Sydney hotelier). Fathom magazine in color revealed to international  divers, film makers and travel agents how advanced Queensland had become. With a world class publication and a  new 79 foot live-aboard dive boat, Coralita the first with an on board air compressor. Now access to offshore crystal clear ocean water of The Coral Sea offering unparalleled shark filming activity was a must to experience.

Marine film shows promoted by John Harding and Ron and Valerie Taylor 1965 to late 1980s.

 

Wally Muller, Captain of the 36 foot fishing vessel Riversong hired by Gulf Oil (USA) to explore The Swain Reefs in 1965. The following year Wally Muller  purchased Careelah a twenty year-old 60 foot charter boat used during The Belgian Expedition of 1967. In 1969 Wally and a partner built the 79 foot Coralita at the Norman R. Wright shipyards in Brisbane, which became a world class live-aboard Commonwealth surveyed (to work anywhere in the world).  The Coral Sea became accessible for international dive trips for the first time.  With Coralita Wally and his young sons Roy and Alexander explored most of The Coral Sea Reefs and accepted risky charters in New Guinea rivers and elsewhere.   Mullers Reef in The Swain Reefs was named to honor this extraordinary pioneer skipper, fisherman and diver who explored most of The Coral Sea often collecting rare sea shells by diving for them at night.

 

Wally Muller in 1971 aboard his new charter boat Coralita.
Twin screw Coralita in 1974.

Bob Grounds held professional abalone diving licenses in three Australian states, worked as a diver on international oil rigs, started and successfully ran a company to repair  marine constructions and historic wharves underwater. Now builds restaurants and marinas in Australia.

Bob Grounds in 1968.

 

Ron Zangari lived a quiet life in Rockhampton, Queensland as a semi-professional diver after working on Riversong as an unpaid deckhand for many trips. Ran foul of the law by driving without a license more than a couple of times. Maintained a good sense of humor with naive mistakes.  A gentleman to the end.

Ron Zangari on cover of Ben Cropp's The Shark Hunters.
Ron Zangari with a Tiger shark became world famous through this picture by Ben Cropp, taken aboard Riversong in The Swain Reefs (1961)

Riversong  the legendary Wally Muller vessel exists today, owned-operated by an indigenous fishing community in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory.

Riversong built and designed along the lines of a lugger.

CORALITA: Alby Ziebell, Wally Muller

AlbyZiebell - Alby hitchhikerTSMV Coralita – ‘twin screw motor vessel’.

Alby and Irene  Zeibell became the second owners of the famed charter vessel Coralita when purchased from  Captain Wally Muller.Base of operations for Barrier Reef Cruises was moved from Yeppoon  to Cairns in north Queensland where there was an international airport.  Coralita had a ‘Commonwealth survey’ registration which enabled charters anywhere in the world.  Yjis was unique with Queensland  charter boats at the time.

Alby was a former Tasmanian abalone diver who excelled at most things he set his mind to. He began exploring The Coral Sea aboard his new vessel and soon turned it into the best international scuba live-aboard boat, catering to advanced divers. Alby was able to concentrate  time on underwater photography and was soon achieving the top quality professional results from macro to very wide-angle. Unique subject matter included the first ‘schooling hammerhead sharks’ at Osprey Reef in The Coral Sea (not a part of the Great Barrier Reef).

Coralita was not so fortunate. The first mishap occurred when a giant US warship accidentally ‘squashed’ the tied-up vessel against Cairns wharf, while attempting a difficult turn in a current.

After months of repairs Coralita later caught fire from smouldering electrical wiring in the galley on her first dive charter.  Worse was yet to come.

Just days before departure for months of pre-paid dive charter work in New Guinea, a suspicious explosion occurred in the sealed engine room which sent Coralita to the bottom of Cairns Harbour in seconds.

Alby was cleared of involvement in the accident after two investigations – although waterfront rumors always blame any maritime accident on the owner.  What can now be revealed (in 2020) was a serious verbal threat from a competitor hours before the accident.

Construction for a newer and bigger vessel were 90% complete but another financial disaster occurred when the builder declared bankruptcy before completion.  (Not uncommon in boat building where new project finances are required to finish existing orders).

Alby then turned his talents to angling and soon became an authority with a weekly radio slot and many new fishing friends. Anglers comprised 95% of the vast crowd who attended his funeral. Alby died from a heart attack in a remote region while returning from a fishing trip up the coast with his mates.

Christine Danaher

Twin screw Coralita in 1974.

 

More about Coralita  <click

‘THE SUN’ – SHIPWRECKS with Ben Cropp

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Ben Cropp AM in 1996

Relatively close to the border between Australian and Papua New Guinea, in the northern region of The Coral Sea are a pair of coral reefs.**

Ashmore Reef and Eastern Fields are not include on dive tourism itineraries, being still a little too remote for visits, but yachts en-route to Murray Island may call in.

At the northern corner of Ashmore Reef is an ancient shipwreck, positioned near a ledge which drops onto a shelf 40 meters below, and then falls away into presumably very deep water.

It was interesting country with hump head maori wrasse and tuna. The sort of place where anything could swim by if you were in the water long enough.

The shipwreck scattered in shallower water is \The Sun\ and has a connection to an early white settler, Frank Jardine of Cape York and his long-lost treasure of gold.

Shipwreck explorer Ben Cropp believes the two large iron anchors (pictured) were sitting on the deck of the ship – the timber having long since rotted away, which would explain why they are elevated from the surrounding flat coral platform.

There can be an eerie feeling around such a tragic site – which, in it’s era, would have been equivalent to an airline crash of today. Bit’s and pieces scattered everywhere. Time was against our brief visit as we were heading for Murray Island to film turtle hunters at work. We’d definately enjoy a return visit one day.