When deciding how and whom to choose deserves to be in the list of “My Top Diving & Ocean Legends”, I deliberately left out those that have trained me.
My Apologies to Steve Axtell, Ray Ives, Grant Graves, Alan James, and others that have schooled and coached me. I admire them all very much. I have been extremely lucky with my choice of trainers in Scuba, mainly because I applied virtually no research, but still ended up with some epic tutors and experiences.
My list of legends comes from those that indirectly influenced me and whose work I not only admire but they made me sit and say “wow, I would like to do that”. Although I have had the pleasure to meet some of the people on this list. Unfortunately, I did not get to actually dive with them, but I was able to talk to them without blushing.
Although not in any particular order. I will try and explain why in chronological order of influence.
Sir David Attenborough
The list Sir David’s achievements, Awards, and Honors deserves an article all on its own. Voted the most important living Englishmen in history. With more than 20 different species of animals named after him. Plus boats and buildings named after him. The man is a legend. It all started with the BBC series Life on Earth. For entire generations of British people, he has been the stablemate on Sunday evenings. Caressing incredible groundbreaking images with his voice. I had the pleasure of meeting him on a couple of occasions. Humble and can talk about pretty much anything and like his brother Sir Richard, a fan of Chelsea Football Club, what more can you say?
Hans Hass is often forgotten about for Cousteau, a little unfair on this pioneering Austrian and his wife Lotte. Hans Hass not only produced the First underwater documentaries but also pioneered the use of early rebreathers. Hass was responsible for more than 25 books and 70 television documentaries. Hass acknowledged a rivalry with the better-known French scientist Jacques Cousteau; according to the New York Times obituary, Hass told historian Tim Ecott that “For Cousteau, there exists only Cousteau. He never acknowledged others or corrected the impression that he wasn’t the first in diving or underwater photography.
Marine Biologist Rachel Carson is most famous for her book Silent Spring, but it was her book “The Sea Around Us” that really inspired me. The book starts explaining the primeval beginnings of life in the oceans and continues to the modern-day. Although first published in the ’50s this award-winning book is still inspiring. Carson managed to combine poetry, prose, and science. The book was turned into an Oscar-Winning documentary that Carson apparently was never happy with. Grab a copy of this book and read it.
James Cameron & Luc Besson
I hope neither Cameron or Besson discover I listed them together in this article, but it is very much for the same reason. The Big Blue movie was released in 1988 and The Abyss in 1989. These two movies had a huge impact on me. The enchanting storytelling, the combination of a fairy tale with real life. The stunning comic book composition and perspective of these two movies are a visual feast. Both inspired me to get into diving and take photos and videos underwater.
Our paths crossed a few times while living and working in the same place (La Paz, Mexico). Friendly, humble, caring, and always interested in the well being of others. Moving one’s entire life to another country 4000 miles away is daunting and challenging. Meeting someone that had done before you and that was willing to chat and guide you on those challenges between breaking Freediving records is inspirational.
Mesmerizing, enchanting, different. Like Carson, Besson, and Cameron – Chris Newbert takes a beautiful underwater concept and gives it a fairy tale twist. This incredible artistic photographer´s coffee table book “Within a Rainbowed Sea” (1984) is another huge inspiration for me. The book is a journey underwater of animal behavior while showing beautiful abstract forms of life and the natural world. To quote Newbert in an interview for Aquacorps, when asked what makes his images so different. Newbert said…
“Style is part of it. So much of underwater photography today is people imitating other people. There are not very many unique voices out there. So much is underwater photojournalism, which again does not feature the marine life so much as the sport. But I think that gets very old. I’ve tried to explore the aesthetic qualities of the subject matter, and have tried to find unique perspectives.”
The Wombles? Who the hell are the Wombles? I hear you ask… Well if you don’t know. I can forgive you. Unless you are British and born in the ’70s the Wombles are probably unknown. Incredibly successful British kids show. The Wombles are creatures that live on Wimbledon Common (a park) and pick up rubbish (trash), litter, and recycled things. I grew up close to this park and at a young age was mainly inspired to try and find their burrow, but also they inspired me to not litter and pick up other people’s litter. If small creatures from Southwest London can ensure no plastic trash is going into our ecosystem as long ago as 1970. So can we as modern-day divers. – Remember you´re a Womble!
Who are your ocean inspirations? Share in the comments!