Dive Dry with Dr. Bill

#151: 60 FEET UNDER (NOT 6 FEET)

While my focus during my dives in our dive park is on the marine life (and the lovely ladies... oops, just one now, right?), occasionally other things draw my attention. There are a few human mysteries in the park that many divers never encounter. They are either moving too fast through the water, or concentrating on "staying alive" (with apologies to the BG's). One such source of mystery is the memorial plaques dedicated to divers who have gone on to the crystal clear, warm waters of the Great Dive Park in the Sky. There are a few hidden in the park that have triggered my curiosity over the years.

Most divers in the park are aware of the memorial to Jacques Yves Cousteau (the Captain or "Jeek" to those of us who had the pleasure of working with him or his organization). It was placed in the park after his death in June of 1997. Divers visit it daily to pay homage to the man who was most responsible for giving us the equipment to dive with, and the desire to go under thanks to his wonderful documentaries that opened our eyes in the early days of diving (and, sigh, our youth). JYC's invention of the aqualung with Emile Gagnan in 1943 paved the way for many of us to explore the undersea world. His documentary, "The Silent World," won a top award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1956 and later films would entice many of us into taking our first dives.

The Captain was born on June 11th, a day before me (but also 37 years). His father was a lawyer and the family traveled often. Like several of my former students, he disliked formal schooling and was expelled for breaking many of the school's windows! Few people know that JYC started his "diving career" at the age of 10 in a Vermont lake while his family was living in New York City. He entered the French Naval Academy in 1930 determined to become a naval aviator. However, a near-fatal automobile crash in 1936 denied him his wings and his career shifted to sea duty.

He swam frequently to rebuild his strength after the accident left his arms weakened. He wrote "Sometimes we are lucky enough to know that our lives have been changed, to discard the old, embrace the new, and run headlong down an immutable course. It happened to me ... on that summer's day, when my eyes were opened to the sea." I had a similar "enlightenment" some five years ago. During World War II, Cousteau was in the French Resistance. During this time he and Gagnan created their invention and he started taking underwater films. Five years after the war, a benefactor gave him the funds to purchase the Calypso and the rest is history. He certainly was a great part of my inspiration.

Not all of the memorial plaques in the dive park are so "imposing" or for such notable individuals. Because little is known (at least by me) they provide greater mystery. Two are dedicated to divers whose names most people have never heard. The first one I encountered years ago was a plaque for Nejat Ezal. Thanks to Google, I discovered that Nejat was a graduate student at my grad school alma mater, UCSB. He died in the waters off Catalina Island. I have yet to discover the details of his untimely demise. A scholarship fund was established at UCSB in his memory.

A more recently placed plaque is one dedicated to Adelle Woods. The wording on this small acrylic memorial is hard to read now due to algal growth, but she apparently was an avid diver who died in late 2004. I first saw this plaque about 6 months ago. I spent some time on Google and found a woman of that name died in a car crash with a semi rig. She was 47 years old at the time of her death. I e-mailed the San Diego Herald-Tribune reporter who wrote the story about the accident for that paper, but discovered she was no longer employed there. Again thanks to Google, I discovered that the reporter was now a sushi restaurant owner in Hawaii and sent off a letter recently. I hope she can clear up this mystery. If any of my readers know more about her, please contact me.

With my father's recent death, thoughts of mortality naturally enter my mind. I may only have another 30 years of diving left (if I can follow in the footsteps of "The Captain"). Currently my will requests that my ashes be scattered in locations on this island where I have experienced many of my best moments (including, of course, the dive park). Before I rewrite it, I'm going to consider some new options. Some divers have had their ashes interred in blocks of concrete placed to create artificial reefs, many in the tropics. There actually is a business that will do this for your survivors.

Much as I enjoy diving warmer waters, coral reefs are not my "home." I suppose it would be more appropriate to encase my ashes in concrete and place them 60 feet under (not 6 feet as is customary). If it were legal, I'd probably prefer that my unembalmed body be "buried" at sea so the critters I've enjoyed for so many decades could have a tasty (?) treat of their own! Maybe a shark would finally get its chance. Part of me might even descend to the depths of the San Pedro Channel where I could finally "experience" what goes on at 3,500 feet (and I wouldn't even go into "deco")! As my favorite poet Jeffers said, he would like to be incorporated into a hawk to soar above his beloved Carmel. I don't mean to sound morbid, but we all know that death (at least of the physical body) is the natural consequence of life. I just hope that I end up where the water is warm (but not TOO warm as in "Satan's Swamp"). However, I've got LOTS of diving to do before then... hopefully with my new #1 buddy.

© 2005 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. Buy my "Munching and Mating in the Macrocystis" DVD so you can take Dr. Bill home with you... we'll both be glad you did!

(Top) Jacques Yves Cousteau memorial plaque in the dive park; (bottom)
smaller bronze plaque for Nejat Ezal and acrylic one for Adelle Woods.

This document maintained by Dr. Bill Bushing.
Material and images © 2005 Star Thrower Educational Multimedia