Legends of Diving Articles


Conrad Limbaugh
One of the first to combine Diving with Research

Conrad Limbaugh was born in Chicago, Illinois on June 28, 1924. The family moved to Long Beach California in 1925.

Limbaugh began skin diving when he was a teenager along the coast of Laguna Beach, Corona del Mar, and Palos Verdes. The face plate that he

used was made of a coffee can and a piece of glass. This is when George MacGinitie of the Kerckhoff Marine Lab introduced Limbaugh to the taxonomic classification of marine organisms.

In 1942 Limbaugh was called up for military service and in 1943 was enlisted to the US Army Air Force. He trained as a weather observer and assigned to a weather station in the Yukon Territory. He received an Honorable Discharge in January of 1946.

In 1947 Limbaugh received an Associates of Arts Degree from Long Beach City College. Then in 1949 Limbaugh received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from Whittier College.

Conrad Limbaugh

Limbaugh began graduate studies in zoology at the University of California, Los Angeles. During this time Limbaugh became aware of technological developments that allowed swimming underwater while breathing by means of a Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.

With Limbaugh's insistence Professor Boyd Walker purchased an Aqua Lung unit. It was one of the units sold in the United States from the Westwood, California sporting goods store. Limbaugh along with his friend Andy Rechnitzer taught themselves to use the Aqua Lung without any instructions or manuals. This buddy diving approach later became an important part of the first scuba instruction program developed by Limbaugh in the years to come.

In 1950 Limbaugh transferred to Scripps Institution of Oceanography under the supervision of Dr. Carl Hubbs. This is when Limbaugh began to combine scuba diving with scientific research more directly. Then in 1951 Limbaugh began to develop the basic guidelines for training and other research students in scuba diving and began instructing others.

December 29. 1953 Limbaugh was officially appointed Marine Diving Specialist by Scripps Director Roger Revelle and became the first diving officer at Scripps. Limbaugh had to develop and maintain a safe training program which will ensure a minimum of accidents. When the completion of the training course the diving officer issued diving permits to the new divers and will write a diving manual for the safe use of the Aqua Lung.

Limbaugh coauthored many scientific papers but became more widely known for his articles on undersea life published in popular magazines especially Skin Diver Magazine. In the first ever edition of Skin Diver Magazine an article and accompanying photos by Limbaugh on the California Sheepshead in 1951.

Limbaugh was inducted into one of the oldest skin diving clubs in the world The Bottom Scratchers in 1953. This is a very elite group of divers and membership is by invitation only.

Limbaugh and Rechnitzer undertook a study for the Union Oil Company that culminated in the publication of "An Oceanographic and Ecological Investigation of the Area Surrounding the Union Oil Company Santa Maria Refinery Outfall, Oso Flaco, California.

In the 1950's Limbaugh also worked for the United States Navy. This consisted of underwater surveys using scuba, participating in various operations at sea, submitting reports, and taking underwater photographs.

By 1959 Limbaugh had published eight papers in scientific journals and numerous articles in popular diving publications.

In 1957 a private enterprise entity was set up by Limbaugh, Wheeler North, Jim Stewart, Andreas Rechnitzer, Harold Scotten, Ray Gilardi, Earl Murray and Chuck Fleming to handle consulting work and projects outside of the auspices of Scripps. This enterprise was called Scientific Diving Consultants (SDC).

In 1959 the SDC opened one of San Diego" earliest dive shops, The Diving Locker, and brought in Charles Nicklin to manage the business.

Limbaugh was involved in the underwater films two of which became well known in both scientific and recreational diving circles. They were "River of Sands" and "Underwater Wonders." These two films carry the production credits of both Scripps and the Scientific Diving Consultants and filmed by Limbaugh, Wheeler North, and Jim Stewart. Ron Church edited both films and contributed footage to Underwater Wonders as did Bev Morgan. They premiered at the International Underwater Film Festival in Santa Monica in 1959 and 1960 and received honors awards and accolades.

In 1958 Limbaugh was invited to undertake an assessment of the feasibility of establishing and underwater park in the US Virgin Islands. Limbaugh's most significant contribution in biology was his work on cleaning symbiosis.

In 1960 Limbaugh was invited by Jacques Cousteau and other leaders of the European scientific diving community to attend the first meeting of the Confederation Mondiale des Activities Subaquatiques (CMAS) which was to be held in Barcelona, Spain. Limbaugh left for Europe March 4, 1960 for the conference and while he was there he presented a paper on cleaning symbiosis and was voted a member of the board of directors of the new group along with the Chairman of Marine Biology.

While he was visiting Spain and France Limbaugh took the opportunity to dive the caves on the islands along the coast.

On March 20, 1960 Limbaugh lost his way in the labyrinth that was the underground river at Port Miou, near Cassis 20 miles from Marseille, France. This is were Conrad Limbaugh lost his life. One week later his body was found by professional cave divers about 350 feet from the entrance of the cave. He is buried in a small cemetery overlooking the Mediterranean at Cassis, France.


(credits from excerpts from Bio by Mary Lynn Price)

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