1. Fathomwas a marine diving magazine published by Gareth Powell & Associates in Australia. It is considered to have played an important role in raising international awareness of the status of Australian marine life, especially sharks with underwater photography, and established new standards in terms of quality, content, design and accurate marine journalism at a time when most was being sensationalized in the popular press.
  2. It was said to be better designed and printed than the leading USA publication, Skin Diver.
  3. “Fathom magazine was a perfect fit for its time. The 48-page publication first appeared in Sydney December 1970, produced by Gareth Powell, an eccentric, entrepreneurial British publisher who knew, above anything else, how to employ talented people and give them the freedom to work. Fathom quickly came to reflect the new scuba diving and marine environmental awareness inspired by the Save the Barrier Reef campaign, and the crown-of-thorns starfish plagues threatening coral reefs world wide”.

  4. Gareth Powell has been quoted as saying the title Fathom was one of three suggested by editor, John Harding who had canvassed the idea of publishing a dive magazine to him on three occasions. The design was similar to Surf International which was soon to cease production.
  5. A major influence on the style of the magazine was the designer, Roy Bisson. In Fathom the freelance contributing photographers and marine journalists were among the best that Australia had produced and included Ron and Valerie Taylor, and John Harding. The art director (an accomplished diver) had full responsibility to choose the photographs used and to decide how they should be displayed. No other magazine company in Australia, at that time, allowed this level of involvement by their creative staff. The only person who was kept well away from the creative process was the publisher, Gareth Powell. He knew printing – and Fathom was to set new standards for the international diving world, attracting attention from many experts in this field, including the aloof Philippe Cousteau who granted an exclusive and rare interview during his Australian visit. The editorial content of the magazine was under the control of John Harding (a photojournalist and underwater film cameraman) and Roy Bisson.
  6. It was the responsibility of Harding & Bisson to devise stories, write, photograph and sell advertising and assemble all pictures rather than rely on haphazard contributions. Dive shops were initially reluctant to advertise until after issue number six.
  7. 1971 was the beginning of P.A.D.I scuba schools franchise being available to Australian dive shops.
  8. In early 1973 the magazine ceased production with issue ten and before completion of a proposed “Annual”. Various reasons contributed to the closure despite a rapidly rising circulation in Australia and USA. A plan to publish Fathom Yearbook much later was actively supported by all former advertisers.
  9. The magazine was printed in Hong Kong and  Singapore to obtain better quality than anything available in Australia.
  10. FathomOz.com will feature pages from all issues with hindsight captions and updates. Copyright applies. (Also view a back-up blog at   http://fathomoz.wordpress.com).

The John Harding Australian Marine Picture Library


Marine Photography: 1960 – 2010

fathom (Reg. TM, Australia)

Copyright 2005-2010 We reserve copyright for pictures, captions, text content of this web site. We own all such copyright, (or use it with permission of the credited owner). View this web site and its content using your web browser and make a temporary copy of parts of this web site for your personal use only. You may link to other sites with permission. NO commercial use without a written license and fee.

(1) Text, captions, photos is copyright and owned by John H. Harding and may not be reprinted, republished, or otherwise redistributed without a written copyright license.
(2) To obtain a license, make an inquiry via comments
(3) Copyright law relating to blogs applies.

NEW! For ALL pages from all ten fathoms go to the WordPress hosted blog


JOHN BARLOW – Legendary free diver, professional diver

Port Hacking Penguins, Abalone diving Tasmania, Hotel proprietors Queensland.

Port Hacking Penguins, Abalone diving Tasmania, Hotel proprietors Queensland.


Divers: John Harding (self), Rodney Fox, Val and Ron Taylor in 1967; Newspaper 1973

Divers: John Harding (self), Rodney Fox, Val and Ron Taylor in 1967; Newspaper 1973


Robert E Grounds (1968)

Robert E Grounds (1968)



Grey Nurse shark at Point Lookout (1968) Grey Nurse shark at Point Lookout (1968)

Maori wrasse at Saumarez Reef (1964).  Robert E Grounds

Maori wrasse at Saumarez Reef (1964). Robert E Grounds

Giant Groper and Robert E Grounds (1968)

Giant Groper and Robert E Grounds (1968)

Robert E Grounds (left) and John Barlow at Seal Rocks NSW

Robert E Grounds (left) and John Barlow at Seal Rocks NSW


Christine Danaher at Cable Beach, Broome, Western Australia

Christine Danaher at Cable Beach, Broome, Western Australia

Japanese divers section of Broome cemetary.

Japanese divers section of Broome cemetary.

One-man re-compression chamber 'relic' in a local park.

One-man re-compression chamber ‘relic’ in a local park.

Retail pearl shop in Chinatown, Broome

Retail pearl shop in Chinatown, Broome

Pearling lugger of the past.

Pearling lugger of the past.

Designer, Karen Yip made a tiara from local pearls, Argyle  mine diamonds and West Australian gold.

Designer, Karen Yip made a tiara from local pearls, Argyle mine diamonds and West Australian gold.

Sail training vessel 'Leeuwin' passing Broome.

Sail training vessel ‘Leeuwin’ passing Broome.

Low tide at Streeters Jetty, Chinatown. Broome.

Low tide at Streeters Jetty, Chinatown. Broome.

High tide at Streeters Jetty, Broome.

High tide at Streeters Jetty, Broome.

Sunday after pub session, Broome.

Sunday after pub session, Broome.

Broome - the pearl divers capital of Australia

Broome – the pearl divers capital of Australia

RON TAYLOR 1934-2012


French dive magazine

French dive magazine


Perhaps this was the first magazine cover picture published that featured a picture by Ron Taylor.  Top left is Dave Rowlings, lower left is Ted Louis – both leading pioneer free divers in the era.  Grey nurse shark speared by someone at Wattamolla, south of Sydney.

(Above) The original Sydney free divers involved with Ron Taylor’s first documentary The Shark Hunters.  Ben Cropp came into the filming project later, as a 50% partner and the leading diver.

The photo caption has an error, mixing Dave Rowlings and Ted Louis.  It should read: Left to Right, Ron Taylor, Dave Rowlings, Ted Louis and Norm Smith.

L-R.  Ron Taylor, Ben Cropp, Tommy Thomas, Ron Cox after a day at Flinders Reef, Cape Moreton, Queensland (1961)  The fish are Black Cod.


Reads well.  A few minor errors which I’ll attempt to correct in the order they appear under.  Very minor stuff but worth correcting – Ron would appreciate it.

The husband wife underwater combo began with Hans and Lotte Hass filming in The Red Sea in the late 1950s.  Their work must have inspired Valerie and Ron.  Valerie was an accomplished stage actor at The Ensemble theatre in Sydney working under noted director Hayes Gordon who was to later do the narration for our film Revenge of a Shark Victim.  (I was a part owner of that and of another production Slaughter at Saumarez, made in The Coral Sea in 1964).

I met Ron and later Valerie in 1963, later they joined a friend and I on our spearfishing-seeking-adventure quest along the New South Wales north coast to Proserpine and the Whitsundays of Queensland.

Unknown to many people who appreciated underwater photography, The Great Barrier Reef was in reality just a single bommie at Heron Island.  During the 1970s this is where most of the photography featuring ‘the reef’ occurred.  A single mound of coral representing 2,500 other reefs all with varying characteristics – some better – most not so good.

Ron and Val were stationed on Heron Island while filming underwater action scenes for ‘Barrier Reef’ a fictional TV series made by the company that had produced ‘Skippy -The Bush Kangaroo‘.

The TV series was only successful, many said, due to the high quality underwater scenes. The above water material was taken further north around Hayman Island – in the Whitsundays, featuring a large sailing ship.

The ‘barn storming’ the east coast with film shows probably means ‘road showing’.  This was where I helped by following the lead established by surfing films showing in theatres.

At Canberra in February 1966 the Prime Minister, Harold Holt (a keen spear fisherman) attended the second of three showings.  Next day Ron and Valerie were invited to have tea and biscuits with the PM at Parliament House. I missed out.

Later Ron filmed underwater scenes for Hollywood productions, I’m not certain about ‘Return to the Blue Lagoon’ – but ‘The Blue Lagoon’ was a definite commission.  Kathy Troutt (my future fiancee) was part of that production – Kathy originally hired to find and train dolphins that were required by the script.  When this was found to be impossible, Kathy remained part of the team as the main actress’ body double – appearing in much of the film in close-ups and underwater nude scenes.

The Shark Hunters was a 50-minute TV shocker that proved so popular on TCN9,  the Sydney station repeated it a week afterwards.  The documentary showed grey nurse sharks being speared by Ben Cropp Ron’s diving and  business partner at Brush Island (NSW south coast, not Seal Rocks as written). Ben was considered the leading diver in Australia at that time – a school teacher with overseas diving and  travel experience.

Their film did not explain that grey nurse sharks were not the man-eaters we all thought them to be.  That revelation was still a decade away.

The infamous sequence of a young white pointer shark snapping in front of Ron’s camera was filmed during the promotion of the traveling film show ‘Shark Fighters’ during it’s Adelaide season in December 1965, January 1966.  Rodney Fox was handling those showings and had arranged a shark hunt for promotion of the film using the experience of big game fisherman Alf Dean to attract sharks using whale oil.

The team invited a local TV station to show nightly news reports filmed by Ron.  Three shark bite victims would be aboard.  Rodney Fox, Brian Rodger and Henri Bource – all free divers that had been badly bitten in the previous years, Henri losing a leg, the others surviving with serious wounds.

The infamous ‘shark snapping sequence’ was recorded by two cameramen simultaneously.  Underwater in a badly rocking cage attached to boat was Henri Bource using a heavy metal camera housing.

Henri’s sequence shows Ron Taylor’s hands and camera immersed underwater, perhaps with Ron’s face slightly visible as well, while a young shark snaps in front of Ron’s camera.  It’s the identical action and appears in “Savage Shadows”, Henri’s 90 minute  feature length documentary made for theatres.

Unfortunately for Henri, his camera is further away and the framing is terrible.  With modern facilities and cropping a good sequence should be possible to recover to help highlight Ron’s historic material.

That film sequence is often referred to as the first underwater white pointer footage taken outside a shark cage, which it is.  It was several years later before Ron Taylor and friends including George Askew actually did venture outside a shark cage in South Africa to dive with this species.  In the meanwhile Blue Water White Death was made during 1970.  One incredible letter from Valerie to me detailed their experiences.  I passed the letter to journalist friends at the Sydney evening tabloid newspaper The Sun who turned it into a news story.  I was always promoting Ron and Valerie like that – and did so for years.  They were my hero’s and the same applied to many other young divers of the era.

The originally shark footage (featured on the video above) was on 16mm Kodachrome II.   Ron told me  a production company trusted with the material had lost it.  Many copies had been made prior, but nothing replaces original material.  Maybe it turned up eventually. Stills from the tiny frames appeared in National Geographic in 1968 and again published in Fathom magazine No.2 in 1971 – the magazine that was employing me as the founding editor between 1971 and 1973.

On the same expedition, that the film was recorded Ron and Henri both filmed a white pointer feeding upon another white pointer shark above water, that had been caught and brought alongside Alf Dean’s boat.  It was graphic material with the gill area of the equally-sized  four meter long shark being chewed away.

More recently Ron was encouraging me to get a digital camera and a laptop.  A couple of years later in 2002 I did so and now publish in about twenty different blogs.

Ron and I last spoke on the phone about four months ago.  He was depressed when answering but picked up with his voice tone during the conversation.  After about 15 minutes he had to excuse himself as he was becoming mentally too tired.

Our mutual friend Vic Ley would keep me updated regularly with Ron’s condition – and it was not getting any better for him. A slow decline and a sad one for his close friends. Multiple blood transfusions and experimental cures that may have cost a fortune. It went on for years.

Much more could be written.  I wonder what my underwater career would have been had we not met Ron in 1963.  I knew one thing, after viewing The Shark Hunters I wanted  a movie camera to film sharks also.

I did so from 1968 but never with white pointer sharks.  The charter boat fee was always too high, starting at $10,000 per person in the 1980s.  Prices have come down since.  The best location appears to be in the blue waters of Guadalupe. off southern Mexico, I think. Some brilliant material is appearing on You Tube.  When I see outstanding material a link is put on the following site  which I maintain:




Interviewer, Paul Lockyer (centre) was killed in a helicopter crash while working for the ABC TV in Central Australia 2011.

This picture is from 1999 – Ron and Valerie were telling how marine life was once much better at this part of the coast.