Dive pioneers join scuba Hall of Fame

From left, Hall of Fame Executive Director Leslie Leaney with Nyle Monday, Stuart Cove, Deborah Bravo Velazquez, Bill Macdonald and Tom Ingram.

The inventors of one of the first diving regulators and the man who led the first explorations beneath the North Pole were among the pioneers honored at the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Friday.

Described by Leslie Leaney, the organization’s executive director, as Olympians of the sport of diving, five international and four local heros of the sport were recognized at the event at the Marriott Grand Cayman Beach Resort.

Organizers also announced Friday that a new exhibit honoring the pioneers of diving and including early dive artifacts will open next month at the Cayman Islands National Museum.

Local hall of fame honorees pose with Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell. From left, Chris Johnson, who collected the award on behalf of the late Gerald Willcocks, Anthony Scott, Mr. Kirkconnell, Wallace Rivers and Steve Broadbelt. - PHOTOS: JAMES WHITTAKER
Local hall of fame honorees pose with Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell. From left, Chris Johnson, who collected the award on behalf of the late Gerald Willcocks, Anthony Scott, Mr. Kirkconnell, Wallace Rivers and Steve Broadbelt. – PHOTO: JAMES WHITTAKER

Among those honored were Steve Broadbelt, the owner and founder of Ocean Frontiers dive operation in East End; Anthony Scott, a pioneer of the sport on Cayman Brac; and Wallace Rivers, one of the first Caymanians to work in the dive industry.

Gerald Wilcocks received a posthumous nomination for his contributions to diving, including bringing the first recompression chamber to the Cayman Islands – a potentially lifesaving piece of equipment for divers suffering from the bends.

The international honorees include Stuart Cove from the Bahamas, who pioneered shark interaction diving for tourists and worked on multiple movies including the James Bond film “For Your Eyes Only.”

Anthony Scott, one of the pioneers of diving on Cayman Brac, was among the local honorees at the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame event.
Anthony Scott, one of the pioneers of diving on Cayman Brac, was among the local honorees at the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame event.

Philippe Cousteau, the second son of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who worked with his famous father on multiple documentaries before his death in a flying boat crash in 1979 at the age of 38, was also recognized.

Canadian Dr. Joe MacInnis, the leader of multiple research expeditions under the Arctic Ocean, was another of the international nominees. Dr. MacInnis was also the expedition physician for film director James Cameron’s record-breaking submarine dive to the depths of the Mariana Trench.

Bob Barth, who was involved with the U.S. Navy’s experimental dive research, in a speech read to the audience by Mr. Leaney, said he was glad to still be alive to receive the accolade.

Mr. Barth was involved in the navy’s Genesis and SEALAB programs, pioneering “saturation diving” techniques that helped him become one of the first divers to go beyond 600 feet.

Peter Milburn, left, and local honoree Wallace Rivers - PHOTO: MAGGIE JACKSON
Peter Milburn, left, and local honoree Wallace Rivers – PHOTO: MAGGIE JACKSON

He paid tribute to his fellow Hall of Famers, calling them “brothers and sisters of the sea.”

Deborah Bravo Velazquez collected the award Friday on behalf of her late father Ramon Bravo, a writer and filmmaker famous for his television shows in Mexico.

A special pioneers award went to the Japanese creators of Ohgushi’s Peerless Respirator, one of the earliest pieces of diving equipment.

Professor Nyle Monday of San Jose State University, California, who has led efforts to have the invention recognized, said he was pleased to see belated recognition for Ohgushi Kanezo, Watanabe Riichi and Kataoka Kyuhachi. Invented in 1916, the respirator was widely used by commercial divers in Asia and Russia in the early days of diving.

Leslie Leaney, left, with Bill Macdonald, who accepted an award on behalf of Philippe Cousteau. - PHOTO: MAGGIE JACKSON
Leslie Leaney, left, with Bill Macdonald, who accepted an award on behalf of Philippe Cousteau. – PHOTO: MAGGIE JACKSON

One of the respirators will be on display at the new Hall of Fame museum exhibit in Cayman when it opens in November.

Mr. Leaney paid tribute to all the new Hall of Fame inductees.

“The Hall of Fame can be compared to the Olympics,” he said. “We have a sport that is not competitive, we don’t have a champion or an MVP or gold medals every four years.”

But he said the Hall of Famers are the gold medalists of the sport of diving, though their contributions are measured in lifelong careers rather than in minutes and seconds of competition.

Local inductee Mr. Scott said he never imagined as a young man working nights tending bar and days as a dive instructor at the Buccaneers Inn on the Brac that he would one day be inducted into the sport’s Hall of Fame.

He said he was privileged to have been among the first divers to experience the “beautiful and abundant coral” in the waters around the Brac and “grateful and blessed” to be honored at Friday’s event.

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