Albert … the Last of the Trochus Divers … and CIAF …

Now 83 years old Albert ‘Boyo’ Ware began his career as a trochus diver deckhand at the age of fifteen. He is now one of just a handful of Torres Strait and Aboriginal survivors of the trochus and pearl shell industry that dominated the farm northern Australian economy in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Initially working trochus from small boats with a crew of four Albert eventually progressed to diving for pearl shell from larger lugger boats after the bottom fell out of the trochus market.

Albert still calls St Pauls on Moa Island in the Torres Strait ‘home ‘ despite his post seafaring exploits as a Cape York stockman and stints working on the railways and roads of far north Queensland.

A prolific story teller, Albert can bend your ears for hours with great humour and enthusiasm. One highlight of our conversations was this tale of the time he rode a whale. Diving for pearl shell at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef near Gladstone they came across a twelve metre hump back whale stranded in a lagoon. The whale has doing circles around the lagoon so Albert and his mate jumped in, hung onto the whale tail and went for a spin. (The whale was fine and escaped to freedom when the tide rose.)

I met Albert at the opening of “Lugger Bort” … a Cairns Indigenous Art Fair event at The Tanks Arts Centre in Cairns. The brilliant exhibition curated by Nerelle Nicol focuses on “the working life of the Aboriginal, Torres Strait and South Sea Islanders who worked the pearling, Beche-de-mer and trochus industries living on luggers in Far North Queensland” was a ‘must see’ but sadly ended yesterday, Sunday.

A pleasure to listen to Albert tell his stories and to make his portrait … and … as he told me … “The journey is still on”.

Image © Brian Cassey

My ‘Stills’ in Brilliant Stan Doco “The Cape” …

So gratified to be a part of the documentary film “The Cape” recently released on Stan.

The doco tells in stark graphic detail the events surrounding the disappearance of Queensland fisherman Bevin Simmonds and his ten year old son Brad whilst checking shark nets off the west coast of Cape York Peninsula in 2003 … and the subsequent investigations, eventual murder charges and 2005 trial of rival fisher Michael Gater (who was having an affair with Bevin’s wife Cathy) and Gater’s mother Joan.

‘The Cape’ story was an original concept of friend and former journalist colleague Peter Michael … and  also features a disturbing but fascinating number of gritty Cape character interviewees who knew the Gator, Simmonds and Ward families … alongside some wonderfully shot scenes of Cape York, the Gulf and the Great Barrier Reef.

Produced by veteran war correspondent Michael Ware and former news magazine exec Justine A Rosenthal, ‘The Cape’ is evocatively filmed and beautifully put together … and also contains over thirty of my images of the stories main protagonists, used to great effect full screen. All of my images were made during the two week Supreme Court trial in Cairns and portray murder accused pair Michael Gater and his mother Joan Gater, Bevin and Brad’s wife and mother Cathy …  and many other members of the Gater and Ward clan’s who attended the proceedings.

Just the ‘looks’ in the photographs I made there still send chills …

The show … available to Stan subscribers here … has received rave reviews. (For those not Stan subscribed the ‘trailer’ is here.)

Entertainment website MamaMia writes, “The new Stan Original Documentary Revealed: The Cape is one of the most gripping and emotionally charged documentaries of the year“. TV Blackbox put it this way … “The Cape” is the story of rival fishing families who built empires amongst the twisted mangroves in Far North Queensland. The isolation, an all-consuming sexual obsession and a series of small choices leads to a suspected double murder of Brad and Bevin Simmonds. Emmy® Award-nominated filmmakers, Michael Ware and Justine A. Rosenthal take us on a journey into Australia’s Deep North and the human psyche to uncover what we’re capable of when our humanity is stripped bare in this fascinating portrayal of an insular and isolated community.”

The Daily Mail also published this nice piece on the producers and the tribulations of making the film in the run up to it’s release.

Below is (top) the Stan doco promo … followed by just four of my thirty odd ‘stills’ © that were used in the film … from top … accused murderer Michael Gater pensive during the 2005 two week trial, his mother and fellow accused Joan Gater, Bevin Simmonds wife and Michael Gater’s lover Cathy Simmonds … and Michael Gater outside court with a grin following his acquittal.

It was a distinct pleasure to work with ‘The Cape’ team … they were a pleasure … Thanks All!

(NB … I also appear in TV footage at the Supreme Court trial in Cairns making images of the Gaters … and looking rather ‘scruffy’ doing it … if you are game … watch around the 69th, 70th minute mark!)

Images © Brian Cassey … Documentary ‘The Cape’ © Stan & various entities

@stanaustralia #TheCapeOnStan #StanOriginals #RevealedOnStan @fremantle @screenaustralia @screennsw @thepostlounge

“The Legend That Is George” …

Recently travelled to Green Island on the Great Barrier Reef with photographer colleague Emese Gyalog to meet and document, soon to be 93 year old croc legend George Craig.

To say George has lived a life is a massive understatement. Schooled in England but born in South America, George dived with epic Tarzan star Johnny Weissmuller in an aquatic show before stowing away on a ship at London’s docks to Jamaica where he picked bananas. Then he found himself in Darwin Australia defusing WWII bombs.

However, the travel that most impacted the direction of George’s life was to the Fly River in Papua New Guinea, where he set about croc hunting … later turning to croc ‘collecting’. George not only ‘collected’ crocs but also a massive trove of PNG artefacts unmatched almost anywhere.

In the 1970’s when he needed somewhere to put all these crocs and art he took over tourist venture Marineland Melanesia at Green Island on the Great Barrier Reef, where he lives and works to this day. George also brought a mate of his to Green Island from the NT … a now 5 5 metre “saltie” named “Cassius” … the largest croc in captivity on the planet. (See here Guinness Book of Records.)

You may read much more about George, his early croc hunting, collecting and PNG artefacts here …

It was an absolute pleasure to photograph George on Green Island … on his favourite chair where he sometimes paints, amongst his amazing collections of probably priceless art … and with his massive mate “Cassius”.

The Courier Mail were delighted to see the work and ran it today Saturday on page three (with a pic pointer from page 1), with a story brilliantly constructed by journo, wordsmith and mate Michael Madigan.

I do like “Cassius” but I’m much fonder of the portraits I made of George in his happy place with his art works, one of which leads this little set below.

Thanks George , Cassius and Emese … had a great rewarding day !

Images © Brian Cassey, publication © The Courier Mail

"The Legend That Is George" - Images and story of former croc hunter George Craig antis croc Cassius - the World's largest croc in captivity - by Brian Cassey

"The Legend That Is George" - Images and story on former croc hunter George Craig antis croc Cassius - the World's largest croc in captivity - by Brian Cassey

"The Legend That Is George" - Images and story on former croc hunter George Craig antis croc Cassius - the World's largest croc in captivity - by Brian Cassey

Covid-19 & Cairns … Economy in Freefall …

Reliant for a large part on the regular influx of now non-existent International tourists, the year long pandemic has seen Cairns suffering economically disproportionately compared with other parts of Australia.

As the Australian Government initiated JobKeeper support scheme comes to an end this month, Cairns immediate future looks bleak despite a Federal attempt at assistance via subsidised airfares and loans.

It isn’t a ‘pretty’ story for my long term home town … the current situation is dire …  but it did mean a nice gig for the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Brisbane Times.

Many of my images made last week were used to illustrate the effects and hardships of the current desperate financial situation in Cairns and district as a result of the total loss of International tourism.

A pic gallery of thirteen of my images ran online (the SMH link is here ……/cairns-tourism-on-the-ropes…) … whilst the main story variously in print and online (by Brisbane Times journalist Matt Dennien) was accompanied by more of my pics … here

It seems it is going to be a long, long time till Cairns recovers from the body blow caused by the loss of International tourists during the current pandemic and Matt’s story is well worth a read.

Below are just a few of my images the former Fairfax (now ‘Nine’) publications used … from top … a lone swimmer at the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon once crowded with International and Australian tourists … owner of Traveller Oasis backpackers Gabriel Thallon cleans his pool as lone International ‘guest’ Rina Yamauchi takes the sun … the locked and deserted Cairns International Terminal at Cairns Airport … crew of Passions of Paradise reef vessel Phoebe and Kirsty wash the boat down after a day on the GBR with few paying customers … and one of numerous closed businesses in Cairns CBD

Images © Brian Cassey

Covid-19 and the Pandemic in Cairns, Australia ... images by Brian Cassey
Covid-19 and the Pandemic in Cairns, Australia ... images by Brian Cassey
Covid-19 and the Pandemic in Cairns, Australia ... images by Brian Cassey
Covid-19 and the Pandemic in Cairns, Australia ... images by Brian Cassey
Covid-19 and the Pandemic in Cairns, Australia ... images by Brian Cassey

Getting Wet on the GBR …

… made a lightning fast visit to the Great Barrier Reef out from Cairns recently for The Australian.

Journalist Graham Lloyd and I were choppered out to Moore Reef … certainly one of my quickest (and shortest) visits to the Great Barrier Reef !

A twenty five minute helicopter flight … then straight into the water with camera, reef crew Katherine, reef ecologist Eric and journalist Graham … forty five minutes working in the lagoon, the flat and the wall of Moore Reef … then straight back on the chopper to Cairns.

The Australian published a couple of my images to accompany Graham’s story on page 3  (middle pic below) with a pointer from page 1.

In the top two images below Katherine is exploring the ‘wall’ area of Moore Reef which was smashed during Cyclone Yasi in 2011, impacted by Cyclone Ita in 2014 … and then extensively bleached during climate change related extreme temperature events in 2016 and 2017. Damage on the ‘wall’ section is still evident but it does appear that corals are making a comeback (and the fish numbers were astonishing.)

Even on the ‘flat’ area between the lagoon and the wall … where there has been extensive bleaching (which I documented back in May 2017 for @everydayclimatechange and News) … there is some coral regrowth.

Sadly, with more frequent extreme temperature events and cyclones almost a certainty as the planet warms, the World’s largest reef system still faces a distinctly uncertain future.

The reef trip also gave me a chance to use a nice new bit of kit … the Sealife 0.5X wide angle dome lens … on my Sealife DC2000 underwater camera (pic bottom below). The wide angle is perfect for my choice of underwater pics … making underwater ‘landscapes’ much more impressive. If you are interested in any underwater kit (including the excellent Sealife system) may I suggest contacting Tim Hochgrebe at Underwater Australasia for the best range and prices.

Images © Brian Cassey




‘Fluorescing’ Coral … and the SeaLife DC2000 …

… following a catastrophic incident with an underwater housing and not wishing to face the prospect of drowning a perfectly good and expensive Nikon D5 and turning it into a salty paperweight, I searched for an underwater camera that wouldn’t break the bank, shoots raw, has an off camera strobe, versatility … and would be stress free.

I came across the new SeaLife DC2000 when it was first announced. The specs included a SONY 2.5cm back-illuminated 20MP CMOS image sensor, RAW & JPEG capture, built in underwater colour correction, full Manual, Auto and Mode shooting, a comprehensive selection of lighting options and accessories … and both the housing AND camera are waterproof to depths far below that which I will descend to.

Surprisingly the BEST price deal on the new kit … I opted for the kit which included the Sea Dragon Flash … can be found in Australia from Tim Hochgrebe at Underwater Australasia. His price is way under anyone else I could find around the planet (including B&H) and he expedited stock into the country, offered free shipping AND a free extra battery. He still has some stock I believe and it can be found at

I’ve now used the SeaLife DC2000 (pic bottom below) on a couple of occasions on news stories on the Great Barrier Reef … and have found it easy to shoot … admittedly a little slower and more measured than a housed DSLR … and easy to view and make adjustments underwater. For my shooting style adding the SeaLife ‘Fisheye’ (which it isn’t) wide angle lens to the setup was a no brainer.  The image quality from the camera is fine …

It isn’t perfect … what camera ever is … but the SeaLife has provided me with a relatively stress free setup to use for underwater news jobs.

The image below (with marine biologist Sam Grey from Silver Sonic) was taken with the SeaLife at Moore Reef on the GBR this week … and … before you mention the vivid colours I should explain that many of these corals are ‘fluorescing’ … showing amazingly vibrant and brilliant colours as they become stressed by too high water temperatures. These colours are exactly how the coral appeared … particularly striking was the plate coral near the centre of the frame. A prelude to bleaching and possibly coral death. I also witnessed large gardens of totally white ‘bleached’ coral. Our Great Barrier Reef IS under threat from Global Warming.

Main Image © Brian Cassey

Fluorescing coral Great Barrier Reef Moore Reef by Brian Cassey

SeaLife DC2000 underwater camera with Sea Dragon flash


Great Bit of the Barrier Reef …

Over the decades I’ve been fortunate to visit many Great Barrier Reef dive sites working on reef stories for various publications … but this one spot – the Fish Bowl at the Sno Dive Site at Opal Reef out from Port Douglas visited whilst working for the Courier Mail just before Christmas …  is really something else !

Just before my visit the BBC selected this very reef spot and spent two weeks here filming a documentary and searching for the ultimate reef footage and ‘money shot’.

In this pic made on a Nikon D4s in a Ewa Marine housing, Heather Baird – a 23 year old dive master from the reef boat Calypso – is swimming amongst an amazing variety of corals.

Lets hope the threats of global warming, coral bleaching, ocean acidity, fertiliser runoff … and the crown of thorns star fish … do not impact this beautiful irreplaceable environment.

(September 2016 Update – I returned to the Sno Dive Site. It appears that the vivid colours of the coral in this image from December 2015 MAY have been due to the coral being ‘under stress’ from sustained high water temperature … as the bleaching process began. Certainly, on my return to Sno there were no corals showing such intense colouration.)

Image © Brian Cassey 2015

Opal Reef - Great barrier Reef Australia

Sarah Floating with Fishes is the ‘Business’…

Great to see this image (below) of Belgian visitor Sarah Idriss Yazami at the Great Barrier Reef used really nicely on the cover of the current Queensland Business Monthly magazine published on Friday. I made the pic with the help of the delightful Sarah and dozens of cooperative reef fish at Green Island several months ago – originally to accompany the story of the The United Nations World Heritage Committee decision against listing the Great Barrier Reef as ‘in danger’.

Another image from the same set was used to accompany that original story in Queensland Newspapers ‘Sunday Mail’, and this pic languished for a few months until picked up for the QBM cover of their new issue focusing on the resurgence of Queensland’s reef island resorts.

Sarah – a member of the Save the Turtle program – was a model of patience as we waited on the rain swept island for the tide to recede and for the sun to emerge … several hours later the rain clouds parted and we had a tiny window to make the pics before the ferry headed back to Cairns. Cue fish … !

Image © Brian Cassey

Swimming with the fish at Green Island Great Barrier Reef



Tough ‘Day at the Office’ …

Another ‘reef story’ in the Australian gave me the opportunity for yet another day of underwater imagery (I need the practice!)… this time courtesy of the crew of “Passions of Paradise” at Long Bommie near Michaelmas Cay off Cairns.

Journalist Sarah Elks wrote of the latest findings that some corals are hardier than expected when faced with climate change … and the story and pic ran over six columns on page 3 today 14th November.

Once again I have to thank a long suffering ‘dive buddy’ … or, in this case. more like a dive ‘daddy’ – “Passions” Adam O’Malley … without whom I would have found it difficult to get an image! Also a thanks to ex pat Frauleins Judith and Claudia who endured a hard day snorkelling amongst the coral gardens.

As on previous underwater occasions I used – with my heart in my mouth – the Ewa-Marine flexible housing (model U-BXP100), this time with my shiny new (thank you Nikon) D700 and trusty old 17-35mm lens.

Below is a tear sheet of the image as used on the Australian page.



The Reef …

Something a little different from the norm … The carbon tax launch by the Australian Government last Sunday was the catalyst for a visit to the outer Great Barrier Reef at the request of the pic editor at the Australian newspaper.

The requested image – an underwater reefscape – was to accompany a story on the carbon tax and the reef conundrum – the reef desperately needs measures like carbon tax to put a halt to global warming and ensure it’s survival … but any tax may make the reef  more expensive for reef tourism operators and therefore less accessible to reef visitors. The jobs of crew and dive staff may also be in jeopardy in the future.

The full story penned by journo Sarah Elks – and the image (also below) – can be found here in the Australian on-line edition.

I travelled to the outer reef with Tusa Dive on their vessel Tusa5. Their relatively young and enthusiastic crew and staff were extremely professional and amazingly helpful and my ‘wishlist’ was attended to very efficiently.
Special mention must go to my long suffering dive buddy/instructor/sitter – Lindy – who showed amazing patience with a wayward non-certified diver!

For anyone interested in such things, the image was made on a Nikon D3S with lens focal length at about 20mm … and the kit nestled rather worryingly inside my German made Ewa-Marine U-BXP10 (flexible) housing. No idea now of exposure settings although they would be in the EXIF data. (actually looked it up … 640asa, 250 @ 5.6, bit of fill flash)

Image © Brian Cassey 2011