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|Captain Wally G Muller of TSMV Coralita (1971)|
Wally Muller’s dedication to exploring The Swain Reefs and The Coral Sea reef waters has placed him in local reef history and international diving history as one of the most committed Great Barrier Reef 20th century pioneers.
Wally was born on 18 July 1930 at Blackall, Queensland. He was a boarder at Rockhampton Boys Grammar School and was a brilliant long distance swimmer.
From 1948, Wally made his name in the fishing industry as the only person to commercially fish on the Swains Reefs. He also introduced the art of filleting fish at sea and freezing fillets in a 4000 pound holding freezer so he could stay out longer especially if the weather turned too rough for the return voyage.
Wally was contracted by USA's Gulf Oil in 1964 when they were making the first aerial maps of The Swain Reefs for future oil searching. He also navigated the seismic ship that mapped the coastline of New Zealand looking for oil.
Three boats: Wally’s beloved first boat was 43 foot and lugger-style called Riversong and his second was 60 foot Careelah followed by the purpose built 79 foot TSMV Coralita, in 1969. (Norman R Wright boat builders, Brisbane). Coralita immediately had a high pressure air compressor fitted (the first live-aboard to do this in Australia) enabling charters by USA scuba travel agencies (Sea and See, Bay Travel and La Mer Diving Safari) for diving and underwater photography especially in The Swain Reefs and The Coral Sea.
VIP: Coralita was chartered by the Federal Government for a VIP trip in the Capricorn and Bunker Group for a visiting overseas leader in 1972.
Family: Wally had two sons, Walter (known as Roy) and Alexander, who grew up on the water in the Capricorn region. Both became professional fishermen and expert divers appearing in documentary films by Ron and Valerie Taylor.
1950s: Many of The Swain Reef original names were given to them by Wally. The naming of one particular reef has became a much loved and retold local story:
“One day, after Wally had finished fishing, he was sailing back to a good anchorage for the evening in the Swains area. Suddenly, he ran past a reef that was not spotted previously and Wally didn’t realise was there. Wally said “Where did that come from?… it’s a real mystery" that’s how Mystery Reef was named!"
Contract work: Other charters were to New Guinea and the dangerous Fly River (for the OK Tedi mine company) and to ' pirate infested' waters of the Celebes.
Saving ship and crew: On two occasions Wally ran diving charters to Middleton Reef in the southern section of The Coral Sea east of Coffs Harbour, New South Wales in the hope of avoiding cyclones that were regular in Queensland. On both voyages to Middleton Reef, Coralita encountered a cyclone. (Named Ulan and later a larger cyclonme named Colin) In order to save Coralita, Wally salvaged a giant iron anchor from a nearby historic shipwreck and lashed his own ships' anchor to the old larger one. This was necessary due to shallow water in the lagoon at Middleton Reef.
Inspiration: Wally Muller's nautical hero was the British naval explorer Matthew Flinders who had chartered reefs in The Coral Sea. Wally had a personal quest to locate the same reefs using only his sextant and his own navigational skills as this was the era prior to GPS.
Rare shells: Also a keen shell collector, Wally would dive at night under Coralita to locate live shells such as Voluta thatcheri (at Chesterfield Reef French Territory of the Pacific) and Voluta perplicata at Lihou Reef also in The Coral Sea.
Movie work: Wally was also popular with Hollywood film crews seeking sharks for movies such as "Sharks Treasure" "The Deep" and several major TV documentaries. A favourite location became "Dynamite Pass" at Marion Reef where crystal clear water and an adundance of Grey Reef sharks was guaranteed.
Film career: Wally's first appearance as a dory fisherman and diver aboard Riversong is highlighted in the 26 minute color documentary by Ron Taylor's "Slaughter at Saumarez" (1964) which shows a visit aboard the stranded 7,196 ton Liberty shipwreck US Francis Preston Blair on Saumarez Reef.
Mullers Reef 21-173 was formally named after Wally Muller by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority on 1 November 2007.