Vale Ron Taylor: shark filmmaker dies

By AG Staff 10 September 2012
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Legendary shark filmmaker and conservationist, Ron Taylor, has died at the age of 78.

LEGENDARY SHARK EXPERT and Australian Geographic Lifetime of Conservation awardee, Ron Taylor has died at age 78.

Ron Taylor – who had battled myeloid leukaemia – began his love affair with the ocean in the 1950s, when he regularly spearfished. However, his interest in spearfishing was almost equalled by his love of underwater photography. He won his first award for photography was in 1962, when the Encyclopaedia Britannica recognised his film, Playing With Sharks.

In 1963, Ron and his wife Valerie produced their first major underwater film, Shark Hunters, which was shot in black and white and sold to Australian and American television. Ron and Valerie produced a library of spectacular underwater action footage used by many film directors for projects such as Blue Water, White Death, Blue Lagoon, and, most famously, Jaws.

During the filming of Blue Water, White Death, the couple left the safety of their cage and swum among dozens of sharks feeding on a whale corpse. The amazing documentary footage shows Ron, Valerie and the rest of the team in amongst the horde, becoming one of the pack. Valerie recalled that time, saying they had to teach the sharks respect in “a few frantic minutes.”

VIDEO: Footage from Blue Water, White Death

Ron Taylor: remembered for his contribution to shark knowledge

The couple spent a lifetime working with marine creatures, but their work with sharks has been truly extraordinary. For over 50 years, they have helped to dispel some of the myths that surround these misunderstood animals.

Despite not being trained as scientist, the naturalist couple made many contributions to the understanding of shark behaviour. Ron and Valerie are credited with being the first people to film sharks by night, and putting to rest the myth that sharks need to constantly keep moving.

They were also the first people in the world to film great white sharks without the protection of a metal cage when, in 1992, they trialled a new electronic shark repelling barrier during the filming of the National Geographic series Blue Wilderness in South Africa.

Ron’s extended to the conservation and protection of sharks.  Over the years he helped shut down two mining operations in the Coral Sea, lobbied the Queensland Government and National Parks and Wildlife Service to have the potato cod of Cormorant Pass near Lizard Island protected and filmed numerous education films.

Both Ron and Valerie have also been honoured with the Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia’s Serventy Conservation Medal, and Ron was made a member of the Order of Australia in 2003.

Ron’s body of work leaves us with a spectacular view of the oceanic wonders of the world. His film and photographs shed light on the murky depths and its predatory creatures, not to spread fear, but to promote respect, knowledge and love for the wonderful animals of the deep.