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Readers note: This is an excerpt from the Trailblazers: Australia’s 50 Greatest Explorers exhibition, developed in 2015. This content was written as a brief biography on why this person was included in the exhibition.
Ron and Valerie Taylor opened our eyes to the wonders of marine life, and specifically sharks. Ron and Valerie were born in 1934 and 1935 respectively, and met as members of the St George Spearfishing Club in Sydney.
Both were competitive spearfishers, with Valerie winning the national titles three years in a row in the early 1960s and Ron the world championship in 1965. During this time their fascination with the oceans increased and prompted them to give up spearfishing, and focus instead on marine research and filmmaking. They were the first people to film great white sharks without the protection of a cage.
By then Ron had been building underwater acrylic housings for both still and movie cameras for over a decade. In 1963 the couple made the film Shark Hunter, which sold in both Australia and the United States. Over the next decade they produced films and television series that gained international renown and awards, including the American feature film, Blue Water, White Death.
In the early 1970s, they were approached by Hollywood producer Steven Spielberg to work on Jaws. They backed this up with the productions Sharks for TimeLife Television and Orca for Dino de Laurentiis.
Ron and Valerie had mixed feelings about the public response to Jaws. While initially the film generated fear of the greater shark species, in time it evolved into a sense of fascination, and then a growing understanding that they should be protected.
They continued shooting underwater feature films, including Blue Lagoon, The Last Wave and The Island of Dr Moreau. For Operation Shark Bite, Valerie donned a chain-mail suit to see if it could successfully protect against shark bites. It did.
In the 1980s and 90s, Ron and Valerie continued to research shark deterrents and worked hard to promote marine conservation. In 1986 Valerie was appointed Rider of the Order of the Golden Ark for marine conservation by his Royal Highness Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. In 1992 Ron and Valerie Taylor were awarded the Australian Geographic Society’s Adventure of the Year Award and in 2003 were made Members of the Order of Australia for their conservation efforts.