Friday, 6 July 2012

No.10 THE BELGIAN EXPEDITION (1967)


Pilot whale - Yonge Reef 1967




Wally Muller's  'Careelah' used during the expedition, later renamed 'Pearl Bay'. (Pictured in 1990)
De Moor - Algerine class minesweeper.  

John and Valerie and a Becks beer in the Ward Room aboard De Moor
Rolleimarin housing with Rolleiflex camera.
Gorgonian fan coral (1967) transplanted to Low Isles off Port Douglas.

Kay Overell and Willie






Valerie with Wally's giant calms collected for De Moor



Ron with Crown of Thorns starfish being studied in aquarium aboard De Moor

Corinne and the crew at Yonge Reef off Lizard Island


Support vessel 'Careelah' near Gannet Cay, The Swain Reefs (Southern Great Barrier Reef)

Sir Maurice Yonge climbed Lizard Island to view a coral reef  (Yonge Reef) that carries his name. Earlier this day a telegram had arrived congratulating Maurice on his just appoint knighthood. Sir Maurice had led a British expedition to the Great Barrier Reef in 1927 that studied corals around Low Isles - near Port Douglas.  One of his students, the future Dr David Barnes was a member of the Belgian Expedition.
(In 2012 this entry is indebted to Dave Barnes for much clarification of information).

 Tradewind returning to Careelah from De Moor

Ron catching a bit of winter sun between dives.



Belgian National Day was celebrated.

Filming with lights in 33 meters of depth, cameraman Pierre Dubuisson (or his assistant setting up).

Pierre Dubuisson was chief 35mm cameraman in charge of the expedition.



 One of the crew was Henri Moeyaert who sent these pictures of everyone when they arrived home.  The ship’s doctor met and married an Australian girl.
Henri seeks a picture of the wedding which was aboard the ship.
David Barnes PhD, now of Townsville, Queensland was part of the expedition.  Dave commented to Henri:
"I am sorry that I cannot help you with photos taken on the day that Dr Pullinckx was married.  I remember that day very well.  Also, I visited Gus and his Australian wife in Ostend – and they visited me in the UK.
I think your model of the De Moor is fabulous.  I note that you even left the gun out of the forward turret – as it was for the expedition to the GBR (the forward turret was used for storage).  I have many times looked to see if there is a commercial model of a Flower class corvette but have never found one".

Note: The Belgian Expedition  (or Belgium Expedition to the Great Barrier Reef) was primarily to make scientific marine biology films in 35mm underwater.  It was a huge and very expensive operation on behalf of a university.  Ron Taylor was one of two cinematographers.
Charter boat owner and skipper, Wally Muller assisted with navigation, especially around The Swain Reefs – his home territory.
The expedition visited all the dive locations we know so well today between Lady Elliott Island in the south north to Lizard Island.

No divers had been privileged to see so much of the Great Barrier Reef during one expedition.  It was still a large and unknown frontier especially underwater in 1967.


These black and white's taken with newly released 28mm Nikonos lens



       Red Emperor for dinner.


De Moor towing us north from Cairns - which led to gearbox trouble with Caree


Pictured in the Ward Room (officers bar) aboard De Moor, Val Taylor.


German beer (Becks) was a favorite, duty free too. 27 000 bottles were brought from Belgium, another 35 000 were collected at Brisbane. Somewhere at various locations on the GBR are piles of bottles (aka green coral) left in deep water by the crew.
120 sailors aboard and a pretty girl.
Corinne spent much of her time aboard Wally Muller’s charter boat Careelah with Valerie and Ron Taylor and guest Kay Overell.   I was a deckhand for Wally.  What a fabulous experience and opportunity for us.

Wally Muller assisted the Belgian Expedition in many ways, especially by leading them to unique study locations such as Gannet Cay in The Swain Reefs.
(A location not then featured on marine charts and presenting very hazardous navigation problems for a large vessel).
Number two in command was The Silver Fox (Jules) – showing his ceremonial sword on the Belgian National Day.
This was the first and probably still is the largest marine expedition to the Great Barrier Reef, yet it remains largely unreported today.  (Corrections 23 July 2012 below).


The leader of the Expedition was not Pierre Dubuisson.  It was Prof Albert Distèche.  Albert Distèche is 3rd to the left of Commander Charles Robyns, the skipper of the DeMoor, in the photo in your compilation.  Pierre was the son the Rector of the University of Liège, Marcel Dubuisson.  Word around the DeMoor was that the whole Expedition was set up by Marcel Dubuisson to give his son a start in life as a photographer.

Albert Distèche was a world-renowned scientist who specialised in the measurement of the pH of seawater at depth (which takes some doing).

The 1967 Belgian Expedition was most certainly not the first expedition to the GBR.  The best-known, and probably the first, was the 1928-29 expedition which was based at Low Isles and led by Maurice Yonge.  He was on the Belgian Expedition with us and I was with him when he returned to Low Isles for the first time since 1929.

Maurice Yonge flew home from Cairns to be knighted.  That's also a great story because he almost did not make his date with the Queen because of an Australian Airline strike.  He got home just in time by flying through the US.  He's had a morning suite especially tailored for that occasion but had made the mistake of asking Tom Goreau (the American reef specialist on the Expedition) to take his measurements.  As always, Tom added bits to the measurements and the suite did not fit (Tom Goreau was my PhD supervisor and I would have advised against having him take such measurements).  Happily, Maurice's wife, Phyll, remembered that the great ecologist at Aberdeen , Andrew Arthur, had a morning suite and was about the same build.  So, Maurice Yonge became Sir Maurice at Holyrood Palace in a borrowed morning suite.  That was the first time such occasion had been held outside Buckingham Palace.

I say probably the first expedition because there had been a number of earlier organised trips to the GBR but I'm not sure such trips could be properly characterised as expeditions.  The earliest systematic, scientific explorer of the GBR was William Saville-Kent who wrote The Great Barrier Reef in 1893.  He is also an interesting guy who may have been involved in the murder of his half brother, for which his sister, Constance, spent 20 years in jail.  That story is told in a book by Kate Summerscale (2008), The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, Or the murder at Road Hill House, which was made into a TV show. (Dave Barnes 2016)


Corinne and Wally Muller

Dive gear locker aboard De Moor



Wikipedia   Belgian_Navy
Wally Muller spearing in The Swain Reefs.







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