Who remembers the 1970s TV show 'Barrier Reef'?
Who remembers sitting down to watch the 1970s TV show 'Barrier Reef' on Saturday mornings?
Barrier Reef was an early-1970s Australian TV drama series about the adventures of a marine research crew aboard their windjammer Endeavour. Ted King was the captain and his crew was a mix of divers and scientists studying the Great Barrier Reef's mysteries. A highlight of the show was the specialised equipment used by the crew, including a sleek two-person mini-submarine, futuristic looking scuba gear, sonar guns, underwater radio communication and jet-powered speed boats.
The show aired between 1970 and 1971, with only one season produced featuring 39 episodes. The show was almost entirely filmed in North Queensland and notably was the first series in the world to feature extensive colour on location and underwater filming, no tanks were used. At the time the show was reported to be the most expensive series ever produced in Australia and one of the few Australian series to be produced outside Sydney or Melbourne. Barrier Reef was produced by Fauna Productions who also created the uniquely Australian hit TV series Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, using some of the same crew and cast members, including actor Ken James (also from The Box). Like the Skippy series, Barrier Reef showcased iconic Australian locations in colour film and was destined for an international audience. The show was screened in many countries across the world, giving international audiences a glimpse of what the stereotypical Australia was like.
Queensland actors appearing in Barrier Reef included Toowoomba’s Harold Hopkins (who played bosun Steve Gabo), and George Assang (cast as diving expert Jack Meurauki). Interestingly, Thursday Island-born Assang was also a jazz and blues singer who performed under the stage name Vic Sabrino. It's possible he may have recorded Australia’s first rock’n’roll record. At one time he was married to fellow Barrier Reef actor Rowena Wallace (“Pat the Rat” of Sons and Daughters).
To document the Barrier Reef TV series the the John Oxley Library recently acquired two editions of the Barrier Reef annual, illustrated books based on the successful television series. The books were published in 1972 and 1973 in the UK, very few copies are held in Australian libraries. Aimed at a younger audience, the books feature adventure stories, comic strips, fun facts about Australia and Queensland and even board games.
Source: Don Storey, 2013, Classic Australian Television Barrier Reef, accessed 13 May 2021, <http://www.classicaustraliantv.com/BarrierReef1.htm>