Ronald Josiah Taylor
8 March 1934
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
|Died||9 September 2012 (aged 78)|
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
|Occupation(s)||Professional diver, |
underwater still photographer and cinematographer
|Known for||Expertise with sharks, conservation advocacy, underwater sports champion|
Ron Josiah Taylor, AM (8 March 1934 – 9 September 2012) was a prominent Australian shark expert, as is his widow, Valerie Taylor. They were credited with being pioneers in several areas, including being the first people to film great white sharks without the protection of a cage. Their expertise has been called upon for films such as Jaws, Orca and Sky Pirates.
Ronald Taylor began diving in 1952 and became interested in spearfishing and underwater photography. He met Valerie while both were members of the St George Spearfishing Club in Sydney. They became champion spearfishers, but switched from killing sharks to filming them after becoming fascinated with marine life. They married in December 1963. They made their living in the 1960s by making wet suits and selling underwater cameras, plus doing artwork for magazines.
Taylor won the Australian Open Spearfishing Championships for four years in succession before winning the World Spearfishing Championship in Tahiti in 1965.
Taylor's first major underwater film production, The Shark Hunters (1962), was made with diving and business partner Ben Cropp. In 1964, he made the Slaughter at Saumarez, the first Australian diving adventure to the Coral Sea aboard professional fishing boat Riversong with free divers John Harding, Bob Grounds and Ron Zangari with Captain Wally Muller.
In 1966, the Taylors sold their shark documentary Revenge of a Shark Victim to producer Robert Raymond who won a Logie Award for his adaptation with new footage.
The Taylors were employed by the Belgian Scientific Expedition to the Great Barrier Reef as advisers and 35 mm underwater cinematographers, for six months, the first major educational project of this type on the Great Barrier Reef sponsored by University of Liège, Belgium. In 1969, Ron co-filmed Blue Water, White Death with Stan Waterman, Peter Lake and Peter Gimbel.
In 1974, the Taylors, assisted by Rodney Fox (above water), filmed the live shark underwater sequences for Jaws. They also filmed the live shark underwater sequences for Jaws 2 (1978) and the shark sequences for the film Orca (1976). In 1978, they published Great Shark Stories book.
Taylor first devised an idea of a diver wearing a full-length chain-mail suit over a wet suit as possible protection against shark bite in the 1960s but it was more than a decade before the suit was made and tested but it was found the suit was too small for Ron so Valerie wore it to test it with sharks.
In 1979, the Taylors filmed the underwater scenes for, The Blue Lagoon. While on a dive trip in 1981, the Taylors discovered mining claims on several Coral Sea Islands. They brought this to the attention of the Australian Federal Government and saved these remote bird breeding islands.
Wreck of the Yongala, a TV documentary, was made in 1982, showcasing what was then the most spectacular of shipwrecks in shallow water. It was instrumental in having the wreck protected from fishing. The Taylors, inspired by Cairns game fishing charter boat captain Peter Bristow, lobbied via the media, the Queensland Government and National Parks to have the potato cod of Cormorant Pass near Lizard Island protected.
They were the first people to film great white sharks without the protection of a cage or anything else during the making of the series Blue Wilderness, Episode, Shark Shocker in January 1992, a huge milestone in ocean exploration together with South Africans Theo Ferreira, Craig Ferreira, George Askew and Piet van der Walt, founders of the South African great white shark cage diving industry. They tested an electronic shark-repelling barrier there. They were also the first to film sharks by night. Shadow over the Reef (1993) was filmed at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia and was instrumental in preventing the test drilling for oil inside the Ningaloo Marine Park. The Taylors' documentary Shark Pod (1997) used the Protective Oceanic Device invented in South Africa by Norman Starkey of the Natal Sharks Board against great white sharks, tiger sharks, hammerhead sharks, and other shark species.
Taylor died on 9 September 2012 at age 78, following a two-year battle with acute myeloid leukemia.
The Realm of the Shark is a biographical account of the Taylors' lives between the late 1950s, and the late 1980s.
Citation: For service to conservation and the environment through marine cinematography and photography, by raising awareness of endangered and potentially extinct marine species, and by contributing to the declaration of species and habitat protection.