Legends of Diving Articles

 

Jordan Klein
Camera Housing Manufacturer, Movie Mogul, Cinematographer, and Entrepreneur

It was his love affair with the ocean and his father leaving that caused Jordan’s migration from his birth place of Cleveland, Ohio to Miami Beach, Florida. The year was 1925 and Jordan Klein relocated at the tender age

of three. He attended school at Miami Beach Elementary then went on to Lindsey Hopkins Tech High in Miami. It was at this time he developed a fascination with what made things work topside and underwater. Self-taught, he gained all his engineering knowledge on his own. Klein became very well trained in engineering for his life’s challenges. In high school he did high board diving on the school dive team.

Jordan Klein - Camera Housing Manufacturer, Cinematographer, and Entrepreneur
Jordan Klein with Flipper


Like all divers, during this early period Jordan was experimenting on how to stay down and see what was in the ocean. He made most of his own dive gear. He and his good buddy, Truly Nolan, did most of their experiments together. Those of you who have been to Florida will see Truly’s name all over the place and on old cars.

He went into the Navy at the beginning of WWII. He was assigned to crash boat duty at Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Fl, then U.S. Navy Dive

First dive shop in Miami, Converted PT boat

School and later to a light cruiser (CL-11, USS Trenton) in the Pacific.

Upon returning home in 1946, he bought a 38-foot vessel from the Miami Marine Lab. He converted the boat for skin diving and developed underwater cameras with the saying, “shoot the fish with film.” It was one of the first skin diving

boats on the East Coast and was called the Arbalete. It’s important to remember that Scuba had not arrived yet. Skin diving was the underwater sport of that day.

Jordan’s first love was photography. He worked for the Ft. Lauderdale News, honing his skills. He also shot stills of hotels and guests along Miami Beach.

Jordan formed Marine Enterprises in 1947 with Jerry Greenburg, another famous photographer. The two manufactured underwater camera housings together. One year later, Jerry formed his own company called SEAHAWK Housings and Jordan called his MAKO.

During this period Jordan manufactured and sold over 55,000 (thru Healthways) underwater cameras using the guts of the Eastman Hawkeye

Camera. The camera sold for $14.95, with a flash it sold for $19.95. He also was making metal and plastic housings and was selling them internationally. He then built housings for Arriflex 35 mm motion picture cameras for a New York rental house. He later moved on from personal housings and into professional housings and the motion picture business.

In 1948 he started buying the Ingersol Rand 3321 compressors and was converting them for diving with filtration. At this time he contacted Rene Bussoz in LA to sell the French manufactured Aqua Lung in Miami. He bought Cressi from Gustav Dalla Valla. He also sold Scott Hydro Packs, eventually becoming the national distributor for Scott Aviation.


Jordan went to Dick Kline, president of Healthways, and sold him two of his patents to be manufactured. One was the Mako Shark 120 roll film waterproof camera complete with flash for $19.95. They eventually sold over 55,000. The other was an 8 mm waterproof camera which was never produced.

In 1952 Jordan opened Marineland Inc in Miami. He later changed the name to Underwater Sports in 1954. He eventually sold the company in 1968 to New England Divers which sold diver equipment nationally.


At this time he had bought a surplus PT boat, which was 80 feet long and offered charters throughout the Caribbean. He captained the boat for

three years for such famous people as Errol Flynn, Herb Shiner, William Randolph Hearst Jr, Cary Grant, The Shah of Iran, Princess Soroyan and “the great one”, Jackie Gleason, just to name a few.

When Jordan got bored he raced cars in the Bahamas, as well as racing hydroplanes, eventually winning the Orange Bowl Regatta Cup in Miami. He also started flying airplanes at age 14 and is still flying his airplane today.

At this time Jordan could see the growth of diving and the need for filtered air for divers because the lack of standards and the construction compressors being

used for breathing were dangerous. U/W Sports was sold along with his charter dive business.

He then formed Mako Products Inc and Jordan Aero Marine, Inc. in Miami, Florida. He started out by buying surplus air compressors and converting them to breathing air compressors for divers. He then started working with Bauer of Germany and developed standards for diver purification and air quality. These MAKO high pressure compressors became the standard for the diving industry. Jordan moved the Mako compressor business to Ocala, Florida in 1978 and in 1979 he sold the business to Compair Limited of London, England. A new company was then formed, Compair Mako Inc, and he remained the CEO for 3 more years.

Through all this he continued to manufacture underwater housings for the dive industry’s best photographers, Stan Waterman, Al Giddings, and Peter Gimbel, just to name a few. Jordan was making housings for 35 mm still and theatrical 35mm motion picture cameras, 8 mm and 16 mm movie cameras. These were sold throughout the world. When it came to movie making and being involved in underwater pictures, Jordan and his innovations to the underwater industry will always make him a legend of the underwater camera.

Mako Products Inc has designed and manufactures a stabilization system for holding “ horizon” while on a rolling boat. This unit is mounted on a

tripod or crane, and then the camera package is mounted.
The unit is waterproof so it can be lowered into the water off of a rolling boat to take stable pictures below, at and above the surface. It has been used in the Harry Potter and Bond pictures, along with many other films. At least one of the units is in use today, somewhere in the world.

Klein’s most memorable picture was THUNDERBALL, working on the designs with Ken Adam and then building all of the underwater props. He also worked with some of the greatest divers and underwater crews, like Ricou Browning, Big John McLaughlin, Courtney Brown and a

list too long to recount. Jordan worked together with many of these same men on many more pictures in the days to come. Klein treasures the time he spent working on Thunderball and to this day still owns the underwater scooters that he designed for the movie. It was greatly due to Jordan’s innovations that the movie received such attention and acclaim.

Jordan Klein’s contributions to underwater photography and cinematography are legendary. Some of the over 75 feature films he worked  on and/or designed and built props and sets are:

  • Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)

  • The Aquarians (1962)

  • Flipper (1963 & 1988)

  • Thunderball (1966)

  • You Only Live Twice (1967)

  • Live and Let Die (1973)

  • Never Say Never Again (1983)

  • The Day of the Dolphin (1973)

  • Chips (1980)

  • Splash (1981)

  • Jaws (1983)

  • Cocoon (1985)

  • Miami Vice (1985)

  • The Abyss (1989)

  • China Moon (1990)

  • X-Files (1993)

  • Bermuda Triangle (1995)

  • Sea Quest (1999)

Just a few of his many awards include:

  • Academy Award acknowledgment as Director of Underwater Engineering for special effects and props in Thunderball (1966)

  • Honored Photographer at the International Underwater Film Festival (1964)

  • Special Tribute at the International Underwater Film Festival (1966

  • NOGI Award for Arts from the Underwater Society of America (1991)

  • International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame (2002)

  • International Photographer of the Year Award from the Nassau Ministry of Tourism (1999)

  • Academy Award for Technical Achievement in Underwater Engineering (2002)

  • In 2001 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences awarded Jordan an Academy Award for” Technical `Achievement ”

  • The Bahamian Govt Awarded Jordan their prestige” Cacique” Award in 1998, usually reserved for locals

  • The “Australian Cinematography Society”, 1998

  • Grand Cayman’s “Film Festival Honors” in 2003

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