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


Kathy Troutt - teenage mermaid model
Teenage mermaid model  Kathy Troutt Official site

Alan Badger
Alan Badger (1971)
Ben Cropp AM in 1996
Ben Cropp AM in 1996
Ron Taylor AM in 1965
Ron Taylor AM in 1965
Brian McKenna in 1971
Brian McKenna in 1971

1-1-Chesterfield WGM 1Captain Wally Muller (1971)

Alby Ziebell
Captain Alby Ziebell


Christine Danaher
Christine Danaher
Irvin Rockman CBE in 1973
Irvin Rockman CBE in 1973
Richard Weir, pearl diver, deckhand, Australian junior champion spear fisherman.
Richard Weir, pearl diver, deckhand, Australian junior champion spear fisherman.
Christine Danaher at Pixie Pinnacle 1991
Christine Danaher at Pixie Pinnacle 1991
Gordon Beaver at home 1980
Gordon Beaver – the amazing adventurer and maverick. (1980)
Australian champion, Alan Badger at a Long Reef weigh-in 1970
Australian champion, Alan Badger at a Long Reef weigh-in 1970
Paul Wilmont and friend at Middleton Reef 1971
Paul Wilmont (left) collecting at Middleton Reef 1971


(This is a recent picture from the northern Great Barrier Reef)

‘Pierre’ wore a bright red wet suit thought to have been used in the James Bond movie Thunderball, just recently completed in Florida.

Most of the diving and motion picture equipment had been purchased from that movie lot, which guaranteed professional quality. But making interesting and informative films requires more than good equipment the project was to later learn.

The son of a Belgian university director had obtained an incredible budget to make educational films underwater on the Great Barrier Reef, with the help of an entire crew of a navy ship.

Occurring at a time when media interest in marine matters was still in the dark ages, therefore it went largely un-reported, yet it was and still is the most extensive single scientific survey of the Great Barrier Reef, ever.

The Belgian Navy had hired to the expedition this former British warship re-named De Moor. With a crew of 75 plus guests and Australian Ron Taylor filming in 35mm motion picture film for seven months.

Locations between Lady Musgrave and Lizard Island, at a time when few people knew these waters underwater.

Captain Wally Muller (formerly of Riversong – a fishing boat, and now Careelah a charter boat) was contracted to guide the De Moor through the largely uncharted waters of The Swain Reefs, and remain with the expedition as a support ship for the entire duration.

The pattern was ten days at sea, four days ashore. Noted coral reef scientists were invited to join along the way. Three were to be participants with Project Stellaroid (a major survey of starfish eating coral reefs in the North Pacific) HQ’d at Guam in 1969. Scientists Dave Barnes, Robert Endean and myself – a photographer.

(My involvement with the Belgian Expedition was as a deckhand, therefore a great time was enjoyed with friendship and positive memories. A major lesson learned would be: How too many people underwater handicap projects as various mishaps occur and require attention).

Corals scientist, David Barnes of Townsville travelled back to the UK aboard this ship and was aboard for eight months or so.

Giving our boat a tow seemed a good fuel saving idea but the effort wrecked Careelah’s gear box.  We limped into Port Douglas for repairs and over the next seven or more days discovered a sleepy town that would eventually become the up-market tourist retreat of North Queensland.  The contrast between then and now is both interesting and mildly disappointing.  Kay Overell (pictured) was our diving friend from Sydney.

In background on left is Robert Pearson who was to work with crown-of-thorns starfish problems, later.   Corrine was Pierre’s girl from Belgium who spoke little English.  Later were later married.

Chief engineer and No.2 in command was Jules, a pleasant and popular man known by the name above.  The Captain was Charles and the interesting story there was after retiring from the navy Charles had the personal satisfaction of seeing his son rise to become ‘Commander’ (or whatever the correct title is) of the Belgian Navy.

Crown of Thorns killed Ellison Reef (off Mission Beach, Queensland) during the late 1990’s.

Large CoT (below picture in 1988) is a long term resident of a bommie at Fitzroy Lagoon, Capricorn and Bunker Group where starfish ‘plagues’ have not effected coral reefs to any noticeable extent.

Dr Robert Endean was a guest scientist during the Belgian Expedition