(Flat Rock and surrounding dive sites – a history in pictures)


The first free divers to ‘hit’ Flinders Reef got there in small boats from the mainland.  A long crossing of Moreton Bay from Victoria Point being the chosen method.  The reward was docile Black Cod, lots of them and very large to about 40 kg.

In later years the ideal free diving vacation was to rent a holiday cottage at North Stradbroke Island.  In the sixties a house with seven beds could be rented very cheaply.  Not so today.  Point Lookout has become a holiday destination for high salary earners, although camping grounds still exist.

There’s also been a dive shop at Point Lookout for years that caters for back packers and scuba dips at Flat Rock, (now a fish sanctuary).

Local professional fishermen were selling from their freezers (direct to the public)  imported fish fillets instead of the locally caught reef fish.

No longer possible to safely leave your dive boat and outboard on the beach overnight, unattended.  When we first visited the island  in 1963 we’d leave our diving gear in the 14 foot long boat overnight, unattended.  There was no thieving then, and few people.

The small hotel even had kerosene lighting throughout.  Patrons regarded divers as very brave people (crazy idiots) because the surrounding waters were plentiful with large, angry and very wild sharks.

Most people do not realize there was a time when all sharks were ‘wild’.  Many sharks today are food-trained and semi domestic.

The original hazard has been reduced to almost zero at dive sites where food is offered to sharks.

My diving companion  met this giant Queensland Groper at Shag Rock on the last day of his 10-day visit to North Stradbroke Island.


  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   https://fathomoz.wordpress.com).

The John Harding Australian Marine Picture Library


Marine Photography: 1960 – 2010

fathom (Reg. TM, Australia)

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The late Captain Wally Muller of Yeppoon, Queensland - a master navigator of The Swain Reefs - later The Coral Sea.

The late Captain Wally Muller of Yeppoon, Queensland – a master navigator of The Swain Reefs – later The Coral Sea. Main picture: replica of The Endeavour.

Shovelnose rays (or sharks) destined for the Brisbane fish markets.  Point Lookout, Queensland circa 1966

Shovelnose rays (or sharks) destined for the Brisbane fish markets. Point Lookout, Queensland circa 1966

White pointer shark 1963

White pointer shark 1963

Venomous sea snake, The Swain Reefs 1971

Venomous sea snake, The Swain Reefs 1971

Whale shark, Seal Rocks (actually Sugarloaf Point) NSW 1967

Whale shark, Seal Rocks (actually Sugarloaf Point) NSW 1967

Snapper speared between the eyes, 1963.  Blonde is Kay Milburn.

Snapper speared between the eyes, 1963. Blonde is Kay Milburn.

Snapper 1963

Snapper 1963