Men may outnumber women in the scuba-diving community, but what we lack in quantity we make up for in quality. This series examines the remarkable achievements of famous female divers and the contributions that they’ve made to numerous fields, including science, technology and conservation. We begin with Valerie Taylor.
Valerie Taylor was born in Sydney in 1935. She became involved in diving and spearfishing in her early 20s — she has now been diving for over 60 years. She actually met her late husband Ron through a spearfishing club. The couple quickly moved away from spearfishing and started building their own equipment for underwater photography and video.
In the 1960s they became interested in sharks more specifically. They were pioneers in this field, being the first ones to dive with great-white sharks without a cage, and soon started working on movies such as “Blue Water, White Death,” “Jaws,” and “The Blue Lagoon.”
They received criticism from the marine-conservation community for working on “Jaws” for contributing to a movie that has had such a gigantic negative impact on sharks’ image, but Valerie said at the time that the story was a just fiction and they did not expect the success, and therefore impact, to be that big.
The couple also used their imaging to produce renowned books about sharks such as Sharks: Silent Hunters of the Deep.
Still hard at work
Valerie Taylor was one of a handful of women in this field at the time and she reckons that this partly contributed to the couple’s fame. Sharks bit her on a few occasions but that never stopped her from diving with them. Today she is over 80 and still dives and travels to dive.
Valerie Taylor also put a lot of effort toward marine conservation early in her diving career, for which she received several awards including the Order of Australia in 2003. She is still very active in that area and despite saying that the oceans have changed a lot since she first started diving, she is hopeful that there is a way to turn the trend around, even though the underwater environment will never been the same as she knew it decades ago.