October 4, 1957, was one of those dates in time that was transformational for me. Of course many of my readers can only "recall" it through history books, but that was the date the former Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 and triggered the Space Wars that ultimately saw men land on the moon the month before I moved to Catalina. After the successful launch, I immediately set out to sell enough greeting cards door-to-door so I could earn the $50 to buy my first real telescope, a 4" Criterion Dynascope. My friends and I formed the Northbrook Junior Astronomical Society (NJAS) in the suburbs of Chicago. Astronomy joined marine biology as one of my childhood passions.
During the latter 1960's I followed my dreams of ocean exploration and marine biology at Harvard, accelerated by Jacques-Yves Cousteau's television specials and my early experience with SCUBA diving. My interest in astronomy waned while living in the light-drenched skies of Boston. I did watch Star Trek occasionally, but didn't own a television back in my "starving" (what's changed?) college days. Besides, I preferred hard science to science fiction and didn't fully "get" the show's philosophical concepts of transcending our Earth-bound human perspective to gain an understanding of the larger Universe around us. I should have, since it was during this period I discovered my favorite poet, Robinson Jeffers. He espoused a similar philosophy of transcending our anthropocentric viewpoint to look at the bigger picture from atomic particles to the galaxies.
During the 1970's I taught marine biology and astronomy at the Catalina Island School in Toyon. By the mid 80's I had a 13.5" Dobsonian up on my sundeck here in Avalon that I used to scan the skies at night. After the bars closed, I'd bring the ladies up to the house after promising to "show them stars." I think they were a little disappointed to discover I meant through the telescope! When Haley's Comet reappeared, I held several viewing parties in town and even gave my friend Thelma Nowlin the opportunity to see it for the second time in her life. Using my first personal computer, a Kaypro 4, I wrote my first book, AWEstronomy, published on a computer floppy disk to save paper and trees. I only sold two copies since I had overlooked the fact that most people did not own personal computers back then.
Fast forward to 2009. A few months ago I received a dinner invitation from Greg Martin, Executive Director of the Roddenberry Dive Team, to meet Rod Roddenberry. Rod is Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's son, and an avid SCUBA diver. I listened as he and Greg explained their desire to extend the Star Trek philosophy to the ocean world through discovery and education. It was obvious both were quite passionate about the ocean and its critters, so we hit it off well. Later during the local premiere of the excellent new Star Trek movie, I dove with Rod and Greg in our own dive park. Their Star Trek drysuits were certainly impressive, but nothing compared to my old tattered M&B wetsuit!
I learned more about the underpinnings of the original Star Trek philosophy, and found they were very consistent with my own. The mission statement on the Roddenberry Dive Team's (RDT) website (www.roddenberrydiveteam.com) states it is "committed to the promotion of education, exploration and stewardship of our oceans through safe diving activities. As a leader in the science fiction industry, RDT is passionate about incorporating the philanthropic ideals embedded in Star Trek into real world experiences for divers and non-divers around the world. We are committed to carrying on the legacy of vision and optimism that was handed down by Gene Roddenberry." Based on that, we were in complete synchrony regarding our goals and all three of us could envision working together to bring greater appreciation of our ocean environment to the public.
A few weeks later I received an e-mail asking me if I'd be Rod and the Roddenberry Dive Team's guest on their first mission, a trip to remote San Miguel Island near Point Conception. I didn't have to think for a nanosecond before saying yes! I'd been to this intriguing island several times dating back to 1976 and was keen to return and dive its chilly (50 F) but highly productive waters. Our trip would be aboard the Peace dive boat out of Ventura, and my friend Kevin Dewaay would be the boat captain that day. You'll have to read next week's column to learn what we saw on that exciting mission!
People who live their lives with passion, and focus on goals that are outside their own self-interest, or even that of just our species, are always fun to be with. The enthusiasm such people bring to living is contagious and I look forward to working with Rod and Greg as well as their associates like Bill Powers and Carl Mayhugh on future educational ventures to increase understanding of our marine world and foster its protection for "the next generation." Speaking of people with passion, it was Herbie Sadd's passion for the Lakers that got me started watching basketball. After last night's game, we don't have to yell "Go Lakers" for a while. They dun went... all the way!
© 2009 Dr. Bill Bushing. Watch the "Dive Dry with Dr. Bill" underwater videos on Catalina Cable TV channel 49, 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM weekdays and on Charter Communications Cable channel 33 at 7:30 PM on Tuesdays in the Riverside/Norco area. Please help me climb out of self-imposed poverty... buy my DVD's (see this link). Yes, take Dr. Bill home with you... we'll both be glad you did!
The Roddenberry Dive Team's logo, the Peace dive boat, Rod taking an underwater photograph and members
of the RDT (I'm the only one still in a wet "suit," of course... after all, it was a formal picture!).
This document maintained by
Dr. Bill Bushing.
Material and images © 2008 Star Thrower Educational Multimedia