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PARADISE IS UNDER WATER - Memoir of a Marine Biologist


Paradise is Underwater presents the life of a marine biologist and fisheries worker in South Australia from his earliest days in the country to the present. After a troubled youth, trapped by strict parents within a cult, he escaped just at the time when diving gear first became available in Australia. He donned an aqualung and was at once inspired for life, enthused with a sublime sense of the mysteries underwater that only increased the deeper he went. 

Lovers of the sea will be enthralled by these lyrical memoirs, full of astonishing facts about the hidden and fleeting beauties of underwater life. All is woven together into a seductive  blend of underwater research, travels to many parts of the world, and diving experiences in all oceans and seas, starting in Australian waters and then in the Mediterranean and Black Sea, the coasts of Mexico, the Arabian Gulf, and Alaskan waters. 

Mingled with these reminiscences is an account of studies of a marine shellfish – the abalone – and efforts to prevent overfishing of that valuable resource.  

All is written easily, poetically, with frankness and humour in a mix with history, philosophy and literature – enchanting at every level.

In Store Price: $33.95 
Online Price:   $32.95



Ebook version - $AUD9.00 upload.

ISBN: 978-0-9944084-2-6
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 354
Non Fiction

Cover: Clive Dalkins
Cover photo by Thierry Laperousaz (South Australian Museum)


Scoresby A Shepherd AO
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published:  2016
Language: English






Scoresby Shepherd AO has spent much of his life studying the fauna and flora of temperate Australian waters, and their ecology, and has published 131 papers or chapters in books.  

He is the author or editor of many books, such as Marine Invertebrates of Southern Australia, Abalone of the World, Biology of Seagrasses, Natural History of Spencer Gulf and Ecology of Australian Temperate Reefs, the last of which received a Whitley award for the best marine ecology book for 2013. 

He was awarded both the Australian Marine Sciences Association Jubilee Medal and the Royal Society of South Australia Sir Joseph Verco Medal, and was later appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2006.


Chapter 1 - part sample

 Family History 


Family backgrounds are always a good way to start an autobiographic work, as they show the influences that shape a person’s life. We all appreciate the importance of family as a stabilising force in a tumultuous world, though the features that influence one most will change between individuals. Unfortunately, English culture gives little emphasis to ancestry, as compared with some Latin American countries. For example, Mexico has an annual day of remembrance to celebrate family ancestry, ‘El Dia de los Muertos’ (the Day for the Dead). On this day families gather, first at the cemetery to visit the ancestral tombs, while the children happily jump around on the tombstones. Then they return home to share a meal with the extended family, display pictures of their forebears around the walls, recount stories, and discuss them during the celebratory meal.

The history of my own ancestors has been well preserved in museums of northern England, and in researches and books of historians and writers. So here I recount a few of the relevant highlights and features that interested me – notably the Scoresby family and the Shepherd migration to Australia.


The Scoresby connection


The name Scoresby has a Viking origin (Screwby), and the oldest known written record in England was in 1247 when Adam de Scauceby was inquisitor in a land case. In the light of the truism that behind every successful man is a woman, I start with Anna Harland, a hard-working farmer’s daughter in Cropton, near Whitby, a Yorkshire port in England. As a young lady she was recorded as being beautiful, and an object of admiration and interest in her community! One of her six children was William Scoresby (Snr) (1760-1829) (Figure 1). He joined a whaling ship at the age of 20, soon rose to become captain, and ultimately became Whitby’s most successful whaler, taking 533 whales in 30 Arctic voyages. He also invented the crow’s nest, enabling the captain to see far ahead in the ice-covered sea, and in 1816, while searching for whales, voyaged further north than anyone else, reaching 81°30´ N, only 510 miles from the North Pole.

At this time a whaling industry, based in Hull near Whitby, was developing in the Arctic seas between Greenland and Iceland. The object of the industry was the eastern bowhead whale, whose pristine population numbered some 900,000, and ranged along the east coast of Greenland. This is a slow-breeding, long-living whale, with a life span of 215 years – the longest of any mammal on earth. Hence it is highly susceptible to overfishing.

As the whaling fleet, soon to number hundreds of vessels, grew in size in the 1780s, whale numbers slowly declined, with each boat taking three or four ‘fish’ in a season. William Scoresby changed all that. He was a superb navigator and in five years his vessel Henrietta brought back 80 whales, ie. 729 t of oil and a huge quantity of whalebone, used for corsets, fishing rods, umbrellas and everything else imaginable. Scoresby’s trick was to strengthen the bow of his boat, enabling it to thrust through the ice in early spring when large numbers of whales were trapped in the small areas of open water. Pearce (2002) recounts that he ‘sailed close to the wind, weaving in and out of the ice… He could avoid the floes, sail faster, and have first pickings’. As other whalers copied his techniques, the harvest grew, and the stocks declined sharply, so that 40 years after Scoresby’s entry into the industry, the stocks had collapsed. The last whale was captured in 1833, and Scoresby bears the burden of history as being largely responsible for the extinction of the eastern population. However, fortunately a small population of the western bowhead whale still persists on the west coast of Greenland.

William Scoresby’s son was also William Scoresby (Jnr) (1789-1857), who became a whaler and captained his father’s boat in 1810, at first with some diffidence. But he soon gained confidence, and in his first voyage took 30 whales (230 t of oil) ‘the largest quantity that had ever been taken into the port in one vessel’. He continued whaling until 1823. However, William Jnr had developed other interests – first scientific and later religious.

He collected arctic plants and published accounts of the feeding behaviour and biology of the bowhead whale. He led a research expedition to explore Jan Mayen Island north of Iceland off the NE coast of Greenland, and returned laden with biological specimens. He also invented a ‘marine diver’ to sample seawater from great depths and to record its temperature.

In 1822 he charted the east coast of Greenland and named the deep glacial inlet Scoresby Sound after his father. The whale catch was now declining seriously, and he reported on its perilous status to the Board of Trade. For all his many discoveries William Jnr was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1819 and a fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1824. In that year, William Jnr lost enthusiasm for a sea life after his first wife died, and he retired to study for a doctoral degree in divinity. Later, after being ordained, he took a curacy at various churches, and finally led a ‘Mariner’s church’ in Liverpool. The church was a disused ship-of-war, and was set up to minister to Liverpool’s floating population of sailors! Yet he retained his love for the sea, and had long been interested in the deviations of the magnetic compass in ships, which were increasingly using iron in their construction, which caused deviation in the compass. In 1836 he designed an improved compass that could be attached high on the mast where the iron would have minimal effect on the magnetic compass. In 1856 he was offered a free passage to Australia to test the compass in the Southern Hemisphere, and arrived in Melbourne later that year. He returned to England and wrote an account of the efficacy of the compass – which was published posthumously in 1859. The town of Scoresby in the Dandenongs, Victoria, and much later the Scoresby Highway were named in his honour.


The Shepherd connection


This account of the Shepherd family starts in a cluster of villages on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors. Joseph Shepherd, the son of Susanna Scoresby and John Shepherd, wanted more than life as a peasant farmer, and so he joined his uncle’s whaling boat as an apprentice. Eventually he became a wealthy shipowner, owning a number of ships, and there is a story that he made his money transporting slaves from Africa to America. In those days cargo ships, plied to West Africa with goods from England, picked up a shipload of slaves and then sailed to the United States, unloaded their human cargo, and loaded their ships with cane sugar from Florida and sailed back to England.

Yet Joseph Shepherd also did many philanthropic deeds for the local community at a time when unemployment was high. He built a school in Appleton-le-Moors for his poorer relatives, and promoted industries to provide employment for the many unemployed. As family patron for his relatives and their very large families, he offered his sister, Ann, and her husband, Robert Shepherd, and their 11 children free passage to South Australia on his boat the Francis Spaight.

A diary of one of Ann’s friends vividly describes the long walk of the family of 13 from their farm at Appleton-Le-Moors (Fig 1.1) to the coast as the time of their departure approached. They walked for over three days to Hull, carting all they could take in several horse-drawn wagons. On 5th July 1843 she wrote:


‘we saw the whole family, father, mother and 11 children, coming slowly along the road with many of their most intimate acquaintances in their rear. The sight was an affecting one, for they were nearly all weeping, while the villagers… were coming to their doors… to bid a last farewell. After taking an affectionate leave of relatives and neighbours who they would never see again, they set off on their long, long journey’.

 On arrival in Hull, an accompanying friend recorded: 

‘the extent and bustle of Hull completely bewildered the greater part of my companions, while the sight of the shipping filled them with astonishment’. 

From Hull they sailed south to London and then weighed anchor and sailed for Australia. After several months at sea they eventually arrived at the recently settled town of Adelaide, and from there they moved to Willunga 50 km south and acquired a farm. Thomas’s second son, Richard John, also came with them and during the voyage fell in love with his first cousin, Hannah. They married on their arrival in Adelaide. Such familial marriages were common in the Shepherd family.

I conclude with the recent history of my antecedents in Adelaide (Fig. 1.1). My great grandfather, Richard John, ran a hotel at Talisker, near Cape Jervis (100 km south of Adelaide) at the site of a copper mine. He became an alcoholic and drowned off Yankalilla (see also Chapter 4). His wife, then widow, Hannah, lived in Adelaide and raised my grandfather, Joseph Scoresby Shepherd, and his siblings. My grandfather, not surprisingly after a troubled childhood, became attracted to the Plymouth Brethren sect, when his sisters invited him along to their services, where he received love and attention. It was a strict evangelical religion, and he became a devout follower.

The Shepherd family later developed a strong link with Port Lincoln when my grandfather, after graduating in law, set up a successful legal practice in Adelaide. At one stage he was offered an appointment as judge, but declined. Apparently the Brethren instructed him to refuse the offer on the basis of the Biblical statement: ‘Judge not that ye be not judged !’

Then in 1916, during World War I, he went to Port Lincoln, then a tiny town of less than 3000 people, set up a law practice and married a local girl, Rosie Clark. He soon rose to prominence and in 1918 hosted a ‘royal gala dinner’ for the French fleet, then moored in the bay. He became the town’s first Mayor from 1922-1923 and then returned to Adelaide, but made monthly visits there until 1930. In that year his son and my father, Geoffrey Lincoln, who had just graduated from law school, moved there with his young wife, Adele, and continued the practice. I was born in Port Lincoln in 1935 and named Scoresby Arthur.




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