Marine, underwater photographs made by John Harding from his time as editor of FATHOM magazine (Australia).
Coralita was returning to her home port at Cairns after a successful 10 day dive trip. There was just time for one last dive. It was either a gamble or a mistake by our captain. He was shocked that he’d dropped us on such a poor (dead) reef.
My notes, just found, record the location as Irene Reef, near Ribbon Reef No.2 which is north of Cairns, Queensland.
A bit of confusion here, the skipper’s wife is also called ‘Irene’. Therefore the official name today may be something else.
To my eyes this is an example of silt smothering a reef.
Maybe it was attacked by CoT starfish beforehand?
The point of publishing these pictures is twofold.
Firstly it’s a record of a reef in trouble – 1991.
Point Two, it’s an example not normally seen published in diver or travel magazine. In other words, an education to help the reader appreciate a good coral reef when they see one.
Not every Great Barrier Reef is as poor as this one, but some are and some are worse.
Game fishing skipper Peter Bristow knows this region well:
“Irene is directly inside Lena, the small reef south of #1 Ribbon. Irene and Lena are on the north side of Cruiser pass. Lena is on the edge and forms the outside northern corner of the pass. The water there is always dirty for some reason. Directly inshore you have the Bloomfield River and Cape Tribulation to the south. This is a high rainfall area and I think the dirty water and river silt would contribute to the state of the reef you are referring to. The push from the SE trade keeps the dirty water to the north side of the pass. Cruiser Pass is the best ‘Red’ fishing I know of right there close to Irene. They most likely prefer the dirty water”.
See the Crown of Thorns story in Fathom 5
We’ve circled a section of coral and then made enlargements. In truth the whole piece of platform coral was in trouble. It requires a trained-eye to ID dead coral in a situation like this. Is the culprit crown-of-thorns starfish? Probably not. Coral bleaching? Perhaps. A photo really requires an eye-witness report to be sure.
Location is thought to be on the top of one of the ten Ribbon Reefs, north of Cairns, Queensland.
Albie Ziebel was the 2nd owner and captain of Coralita, after Wally Muller. Albie passed away soon after this final roll of film was exposed.
We found it unprocessed and inside one of his fine underwater camera’s.
August 2009. We now know what happened on the Cooma wreck site. Charter boat captain and owner Ron Isbell told us he found the blades were attached to the ‘boss’ with bolts. Ron was able to detach three of the four blades – (the fourth being vertical and deep in coral rubble). One of the blades drifted away on floats into shallow water surf where it may still remain today – although highly unlikely. The other two bronze blades were ’salvaged’. Their fate is unknown.
Ron didn’t indicate what prompted him to visually destroy this magnificent shallow water spectacle for photography, but at least the mystery has been given some understanding.
Early episodes of the TV dolphin show Flipper featured cutaway scenes of the Cooma propeller.
Freediver John Harding was shown on the cover of SKINDIVER with the Cooma propeller in February 1965 issue of this former USA magazine and in Fathom 5 contents page shown here.
Excellent historical picture below by Ron Taylor.
Captain Perry Harvey took day-trip visitors to Beaver Cay (Mission Beach, Dunk Island region) for many years. With luck his deckhands would catch a mackerel on the way out – food for the pair of Giant Queensland Groper would would take up residence for several months each year.
The younger groper had sustained a boat propeller injury which had healed well.
Perry Harvey would hand-feed the large fish to the groper, right on the surface. It was a treat for the thousands of visitors who saw this over many years.
Further north at the now internationally known The Cod Hole a family of potato cod make friends with diving visitors – only because they are being offered food by the guides.
Potato cod are not Queensland groper.
It’s an example of how attitudes toward fish have changed. Live fish are worth considerably more than speared and dead ones.
In Taiwan the aquaculture people are testing the breeding of giant groper. These fish mature rapidly to “plate-sized” and may be ideal as breeders for this purpose.
A further example that a live Giant Groper is today far more valuable than a dead one.