The dream of the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame having a permanent home in the Cayman Islands is getting nearer reality.
During their visit to the Cayman Islands for this year’s induction ceremony, members of the Board of Directors of the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame scouted possible locations for the museum’s physical location.
Minister for Tourism Charles Clifford explained, ‘One of the Government’s goals for the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame Board of Directors is to secure a physical site where we can honour the inductees year round in a fitting and suitable location. To this end, the Board of Directors has started working on a structured plan to achieve this longstanding goal.’
He pledged the support of the Ministry and Departments of Tourism to work with the board and the private sector to make the Hall of Fame vision a reality.
This year five individuals were inducted for their outstanding contributions to the sport of scuba diving during the sixth annual dinner and Induction Ceremony, held at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort. Two Caymanians were also recipients of this year’s Ministry of Tourism Local Honours Awards.
The awards were presented by Mr. Clifford during an emotional and poignant ceremony. The international inductees were award winning photographic environmentalist Neville Coleman, world authority on the great white shark Rodney Fox, pioneer of live-aboard dive trips Carl Roessler, accomplished author of underwater dives Paul Humann while the deceased Ralph Erickson (one of the founders of PADI) had his award accepted by Hall of Fame board member Al Hornsby. Local honourees were Cornell Burke, a dive ambassador for the Sister Islands and Darvin Ebanks, well known underwater photographer.
Also presented with the award he was not present to receive when inducted in 2000, was legendary underwater cinematographer and entertaining MC for the night, Stan Waterman.
Board member Leslie Leaney announced that he had managed to secure the very first book on underwater photography, ‘La Photographie sous-marine’ by Frenchman Louis Bouton, for the future International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame museum. The book was published in 1900 but the underwater photos would have been taken in the late 19th century.
Before the induction ceremony Mr. Clifford described the honourees as true champions of scuba diving. ‘Our guests are pioneers, innovators, educators, artists and travel professionals who have dedicated their lives to making sport diving and the exploration of underwater wonders possible, safer, popular and more enjoyable.
‘I am delighted to recognise not only the Hall of Fame inductees, but also two Caymanians who have spent much of their lives establishing sport diving as a major tourism attraction here at home.’
Speaking to the Caymanian Compass before the ceremony Mr. Burke said he was delighted with the unexpected award.
He expressed a wish to see more young Caymanians enter the sport of scuba diving, because they know the islands better and tourists love to dive with locals, he said.
There is the possibility for Caymanians to eventually open up their own dive businesses, he encouraged, adding that young people need not only worry about money, but about the good of their islands.
Mr. Burke also wondered why Grand Cayman dive operations do not opt to spread out and open up in the Brac, where they could do plenty of business.
Mr. Ebanks said he felt honoured as a native Caymanian to be receiving the award, not just for himself, but for the Caymanian people.
Mr. Ebanks said if more young Caymanians were to go into the dive industry they could make a good living from it and branch out in all kinds of fields related to diving.
Speaking earlier in the day before the ceremony, inductee Rodney Fox from Australia commented that Seven Mile Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches he has ever been on. ‘I find it hard to put into words the incredible colours of the Caribbean Sea and the white sand,’ he said.
Mr. Fox was looking forward to making a trip to Stingray City to see the southern stingrays’ interaction with humans.
Another Australian inductee Neville Coleman was also most interested in visiting the stingrays and viewing their interactions with humans. ‘Nothing in the ocean really sets out to hurt people – it is us who are ignorant of them,’ he said.
He noted that he had been hurt more doing gardening in his back yard than his years of research under water. ‘If you understand the underwater and abide by its rules you’ll be fine,’ he said.
Meanwhile, honouree Paul Humann, who had lived in Grand Cayman from 1971 to 1980, said he was very happy to be back for the first time in many years. However, he hardly recognised the place. ‘It’s certainly a lot busier and more crowded than when I used to live here,’ he commented.
The beach and water still looked good, he said, adding that he had taken a dive in Little Cayman the year before and the underwater world was still spectacular there.
‘It feels very good to be honoured where I first got my start to my life’s work,’ he said. ‘When I was here I made an oath that I’d photograph every marine animal in Cayman’s waters and that’s what has become my life’s work,’ he said.