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The First Great White Shark Expedition
with Paying Customers
by Carl Roessler 

In 1975, the Peter Benchley novel  Jaws was a world-wide best-seller, scaring everyone out of going anywhere near the water. Naturally, such a blockbuster would soon be followed by the release of a major motion picture version.

As that remarkable movie was filmed, part of the underwater footage was shot by Ron and Valerie Taylor on an expedition organized by Rodney Fox at islands a few hours from Port Lincoln in South Australia.

During the filming expedition Rodney, Ron and Valerie discussed the idea of possibly having paying tourists come to view the sharks from the cages they had built, a kind of organized shark safari. To assess the feasibility of such a plan, they approached Dewey Bergman of See & Sea Travel, Inc. in which I was a partner. See & Sea was the world’s first full-service travel agency completely devoted to diving vacations

Could See & Sea, through the marketing the company did, attract small groups of people who would pay to cover the costs of such an adventure?

Dewey and I enthusiastically agreed, and began our ad campaign as the book sold in the millions of copies and the movie moved toward opening in theaters everywhere. I would have killed to lead the first group, and nearly had to, but Dewey agreed that I could be the escort for the inaugural expedition.

In February of 1976 when the world was paralyzed by the very thought of monster sharks, three intrepid clients signed up to face Jaws, each paying $4.000.00 plus their airfare for the privilege of exposing themselves to what had frightened millions in the book.

John Bell, an industrialist form the Midwest, Dr. John Fudens, a dentist from Long Island, N.Y. and Dr. Ted Rulison, a cinematographer from California were the courageous adventurers who joined me on the long flights to South Australia.

There were no live-aboards for diving in South Australia in those years, so we slept in the modest Blue Seas Motel in Port Lincoln, a tuna fishing and grain-exporting town on the western coast of Spencer’s Gulf, that sharp indentation in the southern coast of Australia.

Rodney Fox and his wife Kay owned and managed the motel, which could accommodate the four Americans plus Ron and Valerie easily. When we all checked in, the adventure was on!

We had for our charter two 42-foot fishing boats designed for deep sea fishing. One would stay out on station at Dangerous Reef or Memory Cove, baiting around the clock, while the other would be our day-diving boat as well as our transport vessel back and forth to Port Lincoln.

Each day began at 5:00 A.M. with a hurried trip to the dock and boarding our boat for the three-hour run to the dive site. After the adventures of the day were over, we would get back into Port Lincoln at about 10:00 P.M. wolf down a quick meal at a local restaurant and crash for a few hours after working on cameras. Sleep was a major casualty of those original expeditions, but none of us cared.

Kay Fox organized our food and accommodations, Rodney the bait and boats. The skippers were very experienced in these waters and always managed to anchor in the best spots for wind, currents and sharks. Between Rodney, Ron and Valerie, our guides had spent more time observing and filming great white sharks than anyone in the world.

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