Legends of Diving Articles

 

Andreas Rechnitzer
Legendary Diver and Trieste Proponent

Dr. Andreas Rechnitzer with the USS Yukon in the background shortly before the ship was scuttled as an artificial reef in 2004 off the the coast of San Diego, CA.

 

Andreas Rechnitzer was born on November 30, 1924 in Escondido, California. He enjoyed exploring the natural areas and all of the waterways in the area. He began diving in 1942 as a free diver in La Jolla California.

In 1945 Andy graduated from the US Navy Midshipman School at Fort Schuyler, NY. He received his BS Degree from Michigan State in 1947 and a Masters Degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1951.

While attending college at UCLA he started his diving career in 1949 along with his friend Connie Limbaugh. They both transferred to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1951.

While attending Scripps Andy and Connie pioneered the use of scuba diving in ocean science. In 1951 Andy and Connie coauthored the very

first scientific diving manual which was the first civilian scuba training curriculum and safety rules. This entitled Diving Training and Field Procedures Syllabus. This later was used as the basis for training diving instructors for the sport diving community.

The Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department finally recognized that the sport of diving was growing they set up a special Underwater Unit. Those that attended were Al Tillman (manager in the Los Angeles Parks and Recreation Department) and Bev Morgan (lifeguard for Los Angeles County). They came to Scripps for guidance with Andy and Connie trained them in the safe use of scuba and other aspects of diving. The Los Angeles County provided the first sport diving training course for Diving Instructors in the United States in 1954.

Andy was also a Research Staff Member at Scripps while he was a doctorate student from 1951 "

Andy Rechnitzer early in his diving career

1956. Andy and Connie developed all types of diving techniques to conduct their scientific diving projects. Other members that were selected in helping to pioneer them were Willard Bascom, Jim Stewart, Wheeler North, Ken Norris, and Dr. Hugh Bradner.

Andy finally earned his Doctorate Degree from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1956 specializing in Ichthyology.

After receiving his doctorate Andy joined the Naval Electronics Laboratory in San Diego. He was the Deep Submergence Research Program Coordinator and Oceanographer. While he worked at NEL Andy recognized the tremendous research potential of the bathyscaph Trieste. He was also instrumental in proposing that the US Navy buy the Trieste. The Office of Naval Research agreed and bought the bathyscaph and assigned the Trieste to NEL for operations.

Angeles Parks and Recreation Department) and Bev Morgan (lifeguard for Los Angeles County). They came to Scripps for guidance with Andy and Connie trained them in the safe use of scuba and other aspects of diving. The Los Angeles County provided the first sport diving training course for Diving Instructors in the United States in 1954.

Andy was also a Research Staff Member at Scripps while he was a doctorate student from 1951 " 1956. Andy and Connie developed all types of diving techniques to conduct their scientific diving projects. Other members that were selected in helping to pioneer them were Willard Bascom, Jim Stewart, Wheeler North, Ken Norris, and Dr. Hugh Bradner.

Andy finally earned his Doctorate Degree from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1956 specializing in Ichthyology.

After receiving his doctorate Andy joined the Naval Electronics Laboratory in San Diego. He was the Deep Submergence Research Program Coordinator and Oceanographer. While he worked at NEL Andy recognized the tremendous research potential of the bathyscaph Trieste. He was also instrumental in proposing that the US Navy buy the Trieste. The Office of Naval Research agreed and bought the bathyscaph and assigned the Trieste to NEL for operations.

Andy was also recognized by President Dwight D. Eisenhower for his leadership as Technical Director and Scientist in Charge of Project Nekton. President Eisenhower also presented Andy with the Distinguished Civilian Service Award.

As an outgrowth of Scientific Diving Consultants, it was recognized that there was a large need for a retail store that would support their diving requirements. So a group of divers got together to launch The Diving Locker. It was named after the very small, cramped facility at Scripps


Andy Rechnitzer with a 355 lb California
Black Sea Bass in 1956. He speared the fish
off Coronado islands in 25 feet of water. Also pictured is daughter Andrea and son Martin.

used for diving equipment storage. The group was made up of Dr. Andreas B. Rechnitzer, Chuck Nicklin and others. Wheeler North, Emil Habeker and Jim Stewart provided evening diving instructions at the Diving Locker. Bev Morgan began as the store General Manager. Then Chuck Nicklin took over as General Manager and eventually bought out all of the partners. Nicklin later expanded the operations of the Diving Locker to include four scuba retail and training facilities in the San Diego area.

Dr. Rechnitzer also provided valuable support and expertise to the newly formed National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI). When the first NAUI Instructor Certification Program was held in
Houston, Texas in 1960, Dr.

Rechnitzer lectured on several aspects of diving and marine sciences. Dr. Rechnitzer also received NAUI Instructor #57. He served as a member of the NAUI Board of Advisors from 1960-2000.

Dr. Rechnitzer was Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Gyrotor of San Diego (1960-1963).

In 1963, Dr. Rechnitzer became Director of Ocean Sciences at the Ocean Systems Operations Division of North American Aviation (which evolved into Rockwell International). The new group of ocean scientists, engineers and technicians was initially based at the Autonetics Division in Anaheim and then the Space Division in Compton. Finally the Ocean Systems Operations Division got there own facility in Long Beach, California.

After leaving Rockwell in 1970, Dr. Rechnitzer was with the federal government for 15 years in Washington, DC. He was the Senior Civilian Science and Technology Advisor to four successive Oceanographers of the Navy. Some of the positions Dr. Rechnitzer held with the U.S. Navy included: Science and Technology Advisor, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Deep Submergence Systems Division (1970-1973); Head, International and Interagency Affairs Branch, Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy (1974-1978); and Professor (Adjunct) at the Naval Postgraduate School (1977).

In 1974, Dr. Rechnitzer served as the U.S. Navy Maritime History Representative for a joint expedition (U.S. Navy/National Geographic Society/Duke University) to validate the discovery and location of the Civil War ironclad U.S.S. Monitor. In March 1862, the U.S.S. Monitor and the C.S.S. Virginia had a major shooting battle off Hampton Roads, VA. This was first conflicts of ironclad warships, which ended in a draw. The Confederate C.S.S. Virginia was built from the burnt hull of the Union U.S.S. Merrimac. When the U.S.S. Monitor was later being towed at sea on December 31, 1862, she sank off Cape Hatteras. The 1974 Monitor Validation Expedition was using the research vessel Alcoa Seaprobe.

Dr. Rechnitzer was the Science and Technology Advisor in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Naval Oceanography Division (1978-1984).

In 1980, Dr. Rechnitzer organized the Trieste 20th Anniversary Deep Dive Celebration in Washington, D.C. He participated in the Trieste 25th Anniversary Deep Dive Celebration in Lucerne, Switzerland (where Jacques Piccard lived). Dr. Rechnitzer organized the Trieste 25th Anniversary Deep Dive Celebration in San Diego, California, in 1985.

On a leave of absence from the federal government, Dr. Rechnitzer was Manager of the Ocean Science Laboratories (Environmental Sciences and Deep Sea Mining) at Lockheed Missiles and Space Company (1982).

Dr. Rechnitzer was Leader of several CEDAM International expeditions, including the discovery of the 1847 wreck of the English Royal Mail Steam Packet Company sail/sidewheeler ship Tweed on Scorpion Reef, off Yucatan, Mexico. During 1968, he also led a CEDAM International expedition on the 1823 English merchantman Holiday on Scorpion Reef. In 1970, Dr. Rechnitzer participated in the scientific excavations of several sacrificial water wells (cenotes) of Chincultic in the Montebello Lakes region of Chiapas State, Mexico. During 1974-1975, Dr. Rechnitzer conducted underwater maritime history and Mayan archaeological studies at several sites in Quintana Roo State, Mexico. He was a frequent contributor to the CEDAM International Bulletin from 1968 through 1977.

Dr. Rechnitzer was Coordinator of Polar Affairs at the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. He visited both the Arctic and Antarctic. In 1975, Dr. Rechnitzer conducted exploration scuba dives under seven feet of ice covering the Ross Sea at the Antarctic.

He was Chairman of the MTS/IEEE Conference and Exhibition, Technical Program Subcommittee (1978-1979). Also, he was Vice Chairman of the MTS/IEEE "84 Conference and Exhibition.

He was the Operations Manager on the 1987 Beebe Project off Bermuda. Dr. Rechnitzer worked with Emory Kristoff, Dr. Eugenie Clark and others studying the six-gill shark off Bermuda down to depths of 6,439 feet, using the deep submersible Pisces VI. The results of this expedition were featured on television and published in the December 1988 issue of National Geographic Magazine.

During 1988, Dr. Rechnitzer participated in an expedition to the Monterey Canyon, which was reported in the February 1990 issue of National Geographic Magazine.

In 1990 Dr. Rechnitzer was a member of the U.S. research team that traveled to Lake Biakal in the U.S.S.R. The lake is the oldest in the world, more than 20 million years old. It is also the world's largest lake, being 650 miles long and 5,380 feet deep.

Dr. Rechnitzer was active in several aspects of television and cinema production, including: Performer, The Deep Dive, CBS TV Special (1959); Technical Director, The Treasure of Scorpion Reef (1968); Technical Director and Cinematographer, The Coral Archives of Alacran Reef for CEDAM International (1969), Award Winner of the Fourth International Underwater Film Festival, Santa Monica (1970); Executive Director, Five Fathoms to a Ship's Grave for CEDAM International (1970), Award Winner at the Fifth International Underwater Film Festival, Santa Monica (1971); Technical Advisor, The Aquarians, NBC TV Special for Ivan Tors Productions (1971); Technical Advisor, Return to the Sea for the U.S. Navy (1975); Technical Advisor, Bioluminescence: Light in the Sea, for the U.S. Navy (1976); Technical Advisor, Robots in the Sea for the U.S. Navy (1978); and Co-Producer (with Ed Cargile) of The Deepest Dive (about the bathyscaph Trieste) for The History Channel (2000).

He is featured in several books:

  • Seven Miles Down, by Jacques Piccard and Robert Dietz (Putman, New York, 1962);

  • Conquest, by David Alman (Double Day, 1963);

  • Men Against the Sea, by Ross Olney (Grossett and Dunlap, Inc., 1969);

  • The Trieste, by Dick Snyder (Golden Gate Junior Books, 1962);

  • Pioneers In Diving, by Edward C. Cargile (Multimedia Dynamics, 2002)

Dr. Rechnitzer's professional positions also included:

  • Research Associate at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, CA;

  • Senior Scientist at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in La Jolla, CA;

  • Professor (Adjunct) at San Diego State University in San Diego, CA;

  • President of Ocean Centers International in El Cajon, CA; and

  • President of Viking Oceanographics in El Cajon, CA.

His professional affiliations included:

  • President-Adjoint (with Jacques-Yves Cousteau), World Underwater Federation (CMAS) (1961-67);

  • President of SMAs Scientific Committee (1966-67);

  • Member of the NAUI Advisory Board (1960-2000);

  • Member of the Board of Directors, International Underwater Contractors (1988-2004);

  • Member, CEDAM International Advisory Committee to select the Seven Underwater Wonders of the World (1989);

  • Member of the CEDAM International Advisors;

  • President and Life Member of CEDAM International;

  • Life Member of CEDAM Mexico;

  • Member of the American Oceanic Organization;

  • Member of the Explorers Club;

  • Member of the Cosmos Club of Washington, DC;

  • Member of the Congressional Underwater Explorers Club in Washington, DC;

  • Member of the Navy League in Washington, DC;

  • Member and Fellow of the Marine Technology Society;

  • Member of the Association of Diving Contractors International;

  • Cultural Enrichment Lecturer for the Royal Viking Line (1975-2004), Crystal Cruise Line, Seabourn Line, and Fred Olsen Line;

  • Member of the Deep Submersible Pilots Association; Member of the Association of Diving Contractors;

  • Member of the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences;

  • and Member of the Historical Diving Society USA (member of the Board of Advisors).

For his long, pioneering contributions to diving and ocean sciences, Dr. Rechnitzer received many awards and honors:

  • The Distinguished Civilian Service Award presented by President Eisenhower for his scientific leadership and deep dives in the Trieste (1960);

  • the first recipient of the Richard Hooper Day Award, presented by the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences (1960);

  • Special Commendation from the Guam Legislature, in recognition of leadership of Project Nekton (1960);

  • Honorary Citizen, City of San Diego (1960); Honorary Life Membership, National Geographic Society (1960); Honorary Life Membership, Propeller Club of America (1960);

  • Commissioned Honorary Admiral, Texas Navy, by authority of Price Daniel, Governor, State of Texas (1960);

  • Outstanding Man of the Year Award, San Dieguito Chamber of Commerce (1960 and 1961);

  • Honored Photographer at the International Underwater Film Festival (1961);

  • the NOGI Award for Sciences the Underwater Society of America (now presented by The Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences) (1968);

  • Medalist Award, Underwater Society of America (1968);

  • Gold Medal Award, Underwater Photographic Society (1968 and 1969);

  • Engineering Merit Award, The Institute for the Advancement of Engineering (1970);

  • Special Award, National Capitol Film Festival, Washington, DC, 1970;

  • Honorary Life Membership, Club de Exploraciones y Deportes Acuaticos de Mexico (1973);

  • the NOGI Award for Distinguished Service from the Underwater Society of America (now presented by The Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences) (1989);

  • Fellows Award, Marine Technology Society, Washington, DC (1981);

  • Lockheed Award for Ocean Science and Technology (1990);

  • Escondido Hall of Fame, Escondido, CA (1990);

  • Lowell Award from the Explorers Club (1990);

  • Special Recognition Award from the Los Angeles County Underwater Instructors Association (1994);

  • the NOGI Award for Sports & Education from the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences (1999);

  • the Roger Revelle Award from the San Diego Oceans Foundation (2000);

  • induction into the Scuba Diving Hall of Fame (awarded in 2005 and inducted in January 2005); and other honors.

Sadly Dr. Andy Rechnitzer is no longer with us. He passed away August 22, 2005.

Many thanks to the Rechnitzer family for supplying these photos

 

(Excerpts from the book, Pioneers in Diving by Edward C. Cargile.)

 

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