Ramon Bravo (Mexico) – nominated by John Fine
Accepting the award: To Be Confirmed
During the early years of recreational scuba diving the number of world-class underwater film producers and cinematographers was very small. Ramon Bravo's international reputation for not only his motion pictures depicting marine life behavior but his syndicated television series is legend.
In his lifetime Ramon Bravo was Mexico’s leading underwater film-maker, photographer and Spanish language diving author. An early diving oceanographer and environmentalist he had a successful television career promoting his environmental messages. Among other projects, Bravo photographed and directed the underwater scenes of the 1989 James Bond movie Licensed To Kill.
Ramon Bravo made scores of famous underwater films which have been broadcast all over the world. The famous and the humble diver alike would seek him out and receive his friendship, advice and hospitality at his home on Isla de Mujeres in Mexico.
At a time when Mexican television was heavily censored, Ramon had the courage to talk about issues of pollution and environmental ocean concerns. He was able to do it because he was a world icon, television personality and sincere spokesman for the underwater world. People listened because Ramon cared so deeply about the oceans.
A freak accident claimed Ramon's life in the very garden of his magnificent home on Isla de Mujeres. The world has a legacy of a writer of many books in the Spanish language as well as his amazing underwater films that pioneered the early days of underwater cinematography. Ramon's films rivaled the first films of this genre and once television came to the fore, he used television "talk show" format to bring his message to people around the world.
Dr. Joe MacInnis. (Canada) – Nominated by the Board
Hometown: Toronto, Canada
Accepting the award: Dr. Joe MacInnis
Dr. Joe MacInnis is the first person to explore the ocean beneath the North Pole. Supported by the Canadian government, he led ten research expeditions under the Arctic Ocean to develop the systems and techniques to make scientific surveys beneath the polar ice cap. His teams built the first undersea polar station and discovered the world’s northernmost known shipwreck.
After graduating from the University of Toronto, Dr. MacInnis studied diving medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Two years later, he was appointed medical director of the American Man-In-Sea program funded by Edwin Link, the United States Navy and National Geographic.
His pioneering research on the health and safety of deep-sea divers took him on high-risk projects in the North Atlantic, the North Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico.
Canada’s first deep-sea explorer has logged more than 5,000 hours beneath the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans. Among the first to dive to the Titanic, he was co-leader of a $5-million expedition to film the world’s most famous shipwreck in the giant-screen Imax format. This project inspired the deep diving elements of James Cameron’s Academy Award-winning movie. For the past ten years, Dr. MacInnis has been studying leadership in life-threatening environments and how it can be used to help resolve global issues like climate change. He’s spent time with astronauts who built the International Space Station, dived three miles beneath the Atlantic Ocean with marine scientists, and worked with the Canadian Forces on a leadership project in Afghanistan.
Dr. MacInnis has written ten books about undersea science and engineering projects and the leadership needed to make them succeed. Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter called him, “The poet-laureate of the deep ocean.” His latest book, DEEP LEADERSHIP, was recently published by Random House.
His research has earned him his nation’s highest honour, the Order of Canada.
Bob Barth (USA) - nominated by the Board
Hometown: Panama City, Florida
Accepting the award: Bob Barth
The Dean of Saturation Divers and the most famous living USN diver. The only diver on the bottom on every USN project from Genesis to SEALAB III. Although those programs were for saturation diving, all excursions were done with scuba, some at over 600 feet. (NOTE: Bob’s place in international diving history was ensured in 2010 when the U.S. Navy named their Panama City Diver Training Facility the CWO Robert A. Barth Aquatic Training Facility. It is rare that a living person receives such an honor from the American military, and it appropriately reflects the esteem in which Barth is held by his country. It is a fitting tribute to a diver who has given so much of himself towards the advancement of the habitat and mixed gas technology that changed the world.)
Robert A. Barth is the only diver to have played a central role in every phase of the U.S. Navy SEALAB program, from the first experimental saturation dives in hyperbaric chambers in the early 1960s to the first dives at a depth of more than 600 feet off the Southern California coast to set up the third and final SEALAB habitat in early 1969.
Barth is also in the exclusive group of divers who have had the futuristic experience of donning either standard SCUBA or a rebreather at depth, while inside the dry, pressurized interior of a habitat like SEALAB, and then dropping through a hatch in the floor to reach the seabed right outside.
Now 85, Barth was first attracted to the idea of diving in the Philippines, where he spent a number of years in his youth by virtue of his itinerant parents. The ocean was a frequent playground and Barth became a strong swimmer. At 17 he was living with his parents in Durban, South Africa, and made his way back to the United States to join the Navy.
He enlisted and worked his way up to quartermaster first class, serving on several ships and submarines, and he ultimately rose to the rank of chief warrant officer. Along the way, Barth got trained as a hardhat diver in 1949, and was eager to get SCUBA training, which he did in 1958, just a few years after the U.S. Navy adopted the novel gear. Barth soon added to his expertise with training in mixed-gas diving and rebreathers.
In the early 1960s Barth served at the Submarine Escape Training Tank at the Navy’s submarine base at New London, Connecticut. In the tank – a column of water 120 feet deep and 18 feet in diameter – Barth made many breath-holding dives and also used SCUBA in his job teaching submariners how to escape from out of a downed sub.
It was at the New London base that Barth met Capt. George F. Bond, the Navy doctor intent upon developing saturation diving and pursuing the possibility of creating sea-floor habitats like SEALAB.
Barth volunteered to be a test subject for the series of experimental saturation dives that Dr. Bond called Genesis, which were conducted at several different Navy hyperbaric chambers. Barth was with two other volunteers when he was sealed inside these austere steel chambers for about a week at a time. He performed various tasks, his condition closely monitored to assess the physiological effects of prolonged exposure to pressures equal to those experienced between sea level and depths of about 200 feet. Also monitored was the effect of breathing gas mixtures with a high percentage of helium for days at a time.
Then came SEALAB I, in 1964, which was set up about 25 miles southwest of the U.S. Navy base at Bermuda. Barth was one of the four divers to spend nearly 11 days at the prototype lab at a depth of 193 feet and he made frequent dives.
Barth was then part of a larger crew for SEALAB II the following year, which was placed at a depth of 205 feet off the coast of La Jolla, near San Diego, California. Three ten-diver teams would spend two weeks each living and working on the seabed. Barth continued on with the SEALAB program and was one of the two divers selected to open SEALAB III, at a depth of 610 feet, also off the Southern California coast, this time near San Clemente Island, in mid-February 1969. A fellow diver’s death led to the project’s premature cancellation.
Like other early saturation divers, Barth found his way into the offshore oil fields, eventually forming a diving company based in Dubai before selling that business and returning to the U.S. to join the venerable Taylor Diving & Salvage Co., based in New Orleans. In the 1980s Barth returned to the Navy as a civilian and worked for years at the new Experimental Diving Unit in Panama City, Florida. In recognition of Barth’s many contributions to diving, the Aquatic Training Facility at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City was named for him in 2010.
Philippe Cousteau, Senior (France) – nominated by the Board.
Hometown: Toulon, France
Accepting the award: To Be Announced
Philippe-Pierre Cousteau, Sr. was the second son of Jacques-Yves Cousteau and, working with his father, was a co-producer of numerous diving documentaries shown on tv around the world.
He was born in Toulon and took his first aqualung dive in 1945. In later years he became a pilot and a witness of the advance of science in the art of diving and underwater adventure. Working with his father he grew up traveling the world, learning about different cultures, and acquiring several languages. He became a documentary filmmaker specializing in environmental issues, with a background in oceanography. In February 1967, he accompanied his father on the RV Calypso for an expedition to film the sharks of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. As well as being the lead photographer for the expedition, Philippe also chronicled his experiences in the 1970 publication Shark: Splendid Savage of the Sea. Until his death in 1979, he co-produced numerous documentaries with his father, including Voyage to the Edge of the World (1976, for the cinema theatres) and his own PBS series, Oasis in Space (1977, for the television), concerning environmental issues.
Cousteau lent his technical expertise to the U.S. Navy's SEALAB program. In the aftermath of aquanaut Berry L. Cannon's death while attempting to repair a leak in SEALAB III, Cousteau volunteered to dive down to SEALAB and help return it to the surface, although SEALAB was ultimately salvaged in a less hazardous way.
Philippe died aged 38 in 1979 in a PBY Catalina flying boat crash in the Tagus river near Lisbon. His children Alexandra Cousteau and Philippe Cousteau, Jr. continue the family work in oceanography as the Co-Founders of EarthEcho International.
Stuart Cove (USA) – nominated by the Board
Accepting the award: Stuart Cove
Exposure in film, video and photography is important to recreational scuba diving; with more exposure, more people care about protecting the underwater world. Stuart Cove first got involved with the film industry in 1979, as the owner of Coral Harbor Divers in the Bahamas, working as a diver on the James Bond film, for Your Eyes Only. He began learning about the movie business, taught the cast and crew to dive, and even wrangled sharks for the film. The money he earned allowed him to buy his own boat, and continuing work eventually allowed him to create Stuart Cove’s Diving operation.
Stuart has also created shark feeding experiences for the general public, allowing him to promote better understanding of these fish, and create reasons for people to care about sharks and protect them. Stuart has created experiences for more than 50,000 people, turning these divers into shark advocates. He has also lobbied on behalf of sharks in the Bahamas, resulting in the Bahamas becoming a shark sanctuary. It is estimated that each shark has a tourism value of $250,000, and that shark experiences have contributed more than $800 million to the Bahamian economy in the past 20 years.
Stuart has worked for the betterment of diving, by creating mooring systems in the Bahamas as well as sinking more than 20 artificial reefs in the area. These artificial structures aggregate fish, and take the fishing and diving pressure off the natural reefs, helping to preserve them for more divers. He has also worked to bring kids into diving, focusing on children in the Bahamas, giving them an opportunity to dive like he did when he was young. The “Children on a Reef” program takes kids from open water (entry-level) diver right through becoming an instructor, giving them a livelihood and a way to continue the work with sharks, reefs and diving, started by Stuart.
EARLY PIONEERS - Riichi Watanichi, Kanezo Ogushi, and Kyuhachi Kataoka (Japan) – nominated by Nyle C. Monday
Accepting the award: Nyle Monday
While the development of diving equipment has been fairly well documented in Western Europe, the innovations which appeared in other parts of the world remain less so. Japan, as an island nation, has obviously had a long and vital connection to the sea, and it is hardly surprising that they would begin to develop equipment and techniques for exploring beneath the waves. “Ohgushi’s Peerless Respirator” was certainly one of the most successful of the former.
Most of what we know about this device and its inventors comes from the patents which were filed in various counties and anecdotal mentions in records of salvage operations. The man initially responsible for the idea for the respirator was Watanabe Riichi. A resident of Tokyo, Watanabe was a pearl merchant who was dissatisfied with the diving equipment then available to his workers. The standard diving dress then in use in Japan, patterned after the heavy diving helmets and dresses introduced from England and elsewhere in Europe in the last half of the 19th Century, was certainly useful, but was costly and difficult to maintain and use. The smaller stature of the Japanese at that time added a literal burden to the divers as well. Watanabe decided it was necessary to develop some new kind of diving gear that would be more flexible and easily transportable, requiring fewer workers and smaller boats. At the same time, it must be lightweight and safe to operate at the depths at which pearling typically took place.
Watanabe himself, however, had no real knowledge of diving equipment or its manufacture, so he enlisted the aid of a friend, Ohgushi Kanezo. Ohgushi, also of Tokyo, was a machinist. While it is not known if he himself had any particular knowledge regarding diving equipment, the two men worked together on the project and by 1916 had developed a unique diving device anything seen before. Patents on the new device were taken out in Japan, Great Britain (no.131,390), the United States (no.1,331,601), France (no.496,716) and Italy. In the end, the new equipment satisfied all the goals that Watanabe had set, and also give divers the ability to work in either a surface-supplied or self-contained mode.
While designing the equipment was a great step, it meant nothing if the gear was not manufactured and used. For this Watanabe turned to a true professional in the field of diving, Kataoka Kyuhachi (1884-1958). Kataoka was not only an innovator in the development of new equipment, but also actively engaged in salvage and other actual underwater operations. It was Kataoka who developed the third type of valve used on the Ohgushi Respirator which fully freed the diver’s hands for work. In 1918 Kataoka founded the TOKYO SENSUI KABUSHIKI KAISHA (Tokyo Diving Industrial Company) which manufactured the respirator, and he later embarked on a string high profile salvage operations using the new equipment, most notably the salvage of nearly 200,000 Pounds Sterling worth of British gold sovereigns from the torpedoed “Yasaka Maru” near Port Said. It was as a result of his less successful work on the salvage of the “Black Prince” for the Soviet government in 1927 that the Ohgushi respirator made its entry into Russia, where it continued to be used into the 1950’s.
The stories of Watanabe, Ohgushi and Kataoka and their innovative diving equipment deserve to be immortalized in the annals of diving history. While the device was well known in Japan and the pearling grounds of Asia, it was not until diving historians began to “connect the dots” that the link to Russia was discovered and recorded. We now know that Watanabe’s goal was probably realized beyond his wildest dream. Ohgushi’s Peerless Respirator was indeed an invention of worldwide significance.