Wally Muller’s dedication to exploring the region’s waters and devotion to commercial and recreational fishing has placed him in the pages of local history as one of the most loved and committed reef surveyors and fisherman. 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.
In 1948, Wally made his name in the fishing industry as the first person to commercially fish on the Swains Reefs. He also introduced the art of filleting fish at sea and freezing fillets so the boats could stay out longer, making him a hero amongst many commercial fishermen.
Wally worked for Gulf Oil in the Capricorn Bunker Group when they were blasting for oil in the mid to late 1960s. He also navigated the seismic ship that mapped the coastline of New Zealand looking for oil.
Wally spent many years surveying reefs off the Capricorn Coast including navigating the Surveyor General’s ship to map all the Swains Reefs.
The name of Wally’s beloved first boast was The River Song and his second was The Coralita, which was built in 1969. The Coralita was often chartered by groups for diving and fishing trips to the Reef. Wally even took leaders such as the former President of Canada, President Trudeau, and John and Margaret Gorton (former Australian Prime Minister and his wife) out to the Reef on a fishing trip.
Wally was a local personality and regularly took time out with some of his old school mates and other friends in the community to hold massive card games on board The Coralita. Wally had two sons, Walter (known as Roy) and Alex, who grew up on the water in the Capricorn region.
Many of the local reef’s names were given to them by Wally. The naming of one particular reefs has became a much loved and retold local story:
“One day, after Wally had finished mapping the Swain Reef area for the Government, he was enjoying some quiet time sailing around the Swains area. Suddenly, he ran into a reef that was not mapped and Wally didn’t even know was there. Wally said “Where did that reef come from?… it’s a bloody mystery that one!” and that’s how Mystery Reef was named!"