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).

SEA SNAKES Australian Seafari

A still made at the time a sea snake encounter was recorded at Centennary Reef, The Swain Reefs.
A still made at the time a sea snake encounter was recorded at Centenary Reef, The Swain Reefs.  From an under-exposed Kodachrome II original 35mm transparency.

1-1-sea snake 73

Tom Allen snake

While leading diving excursions aboard Coralita for Wally Muller, we recorded our highlights on 16mm underwater film.

The above  is Tom Allen – a reptile expert who was working with the Wild Kingdom TV crew when we made this still.  Tom Allen’s diving CV is amazing.

Insert Stokesi sea snake pictures here.

A big Stokes sea snake (stokesi) holds enough venom to kill a dozen divers. They don’t see us as being anything worth biting unless for their own defense, so you don’t do anything to annoy them.

The bite of any sea snake is to be avoided, venom is stronger than most land snakes.

The medical anti-venene used to treat sea snake bites is also a hazard and is only given as a last ditch effort – if given too soon it kills you.

This picture was taken offshore at Yeppoon, Queensland. Model: Christine Danaher.

GANNET CAY The Swain Reefs.

GannetCay (34k image)
The Swain Reefs are on the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. They are a cluster of hundreds of coral reefs seperated by deep water. The term Great Barrier Reef should really be plural as in reefs – which The late  Dr Robert Endean always highlighted during his lectures at the University of Queensland.

Many folk wrongly imagine the Great Barrier Reef to be as in The Great Wall of China – an unbroken barrier! The GBR is thousands of reefs, many or most with deep channels seperating them from each other.

. Gannet Cay has a surrounding reef rich in coral diversity.
. The Belgian Expediion ship De Moor anchored here in 1967 leaving hundreds of empty beer bottles (in deep water).
. Wally Muller established a radio base station here for Gulf Oil who were making aerial charts of the GBR in 1964
.Gannet Cay appears briefly in the 16mm documentary film Slaughter at Saumarez (1964)
.Wally Muller lost his false teeth here during a night of excessive rum consumption with his mates.
.(Ron Taylor and I searched unsucessfully for the missing teeth, with scuba, in the maze of corals, sharks and sea snakes below).
.The sand cay ‘moves’ due to wind and sea currents. A weather station built in the centre of the island-cay was position over water two years later when the cay shifted.