Legends of Diving Press Release
International Legends of
Diving A Huge Success
Diving Pioneers Gather on Grand Bahama Island
By Keith G. Cooper & Jeff Toorish
Legends Honored: At the
awards presentation Saturday night Dr. John Clement, Ollie
Ferguson, Dave Woodward, Ben Rose, Dr. Jose Jones,
Nick Icorn, Neal Watson, Dottie Frazier, Alec Peirce, John
Karen Rolle accepting for her husband Nick Rolle, and Robert
each received awards for their contributions to recreational and
Freeport News report of the event.
Photo by Chris Guglielmo.
GRAND BAHAMA ISLAND, July 17, 2009 – Few scuba divers achieve legendary
status in their lifetime; it takes more than merely finishing up an open
water certification course and donning scuba gear. It takes a certain
pioneering spirit, a sense of adventure and the heart of an explorer. It
requires the perseverance to become the first female scuba instructor.
It takes the vision to take the reigns of a nascent organization like
PADI as the first executive director. It takes the guts to be the first
person to set a record breath hold free dive to 243 feet. It takes the
spirit to develop the octopus now used on all diving regulators. In
April 2009 a dozen legendary divers gathered on Grand Bahama Island,
divers who were among the pioneers of diving and who have had an impact
on every diver since.
They are the Legends of Diving.
A little history: The Portage Quarry in Bowling Green, Ohio, has hosted
three annual “Legends of Diving” weekends. Jeff Rice, owner of the
quarry, has created these events so divers can get up close and personal
with some of the worlds most revered diving pioneers. The first “Legends
of Diving” event was held in 2006 when Dr. Sam Miller was selected to
appear as the guest of honor. In three short years the annual event in
Ohio has grown and Rice decided to offer a warm water winter program. In
1965 the International Underwater Explorers Society chose Grand Bahama
Island to build the first exclusive dive training and resort center.
Grand Bahama Island still hosts the society, commonly referred to as
UNEXSO. It did not take long for Rice to decide UNEXSO was the perfect
dive facility to hold the first “International” Legends of Diving event.
In the early years of scuba diving UNEXSO staff was among the first
diving instructors, training many of the first divers. Al Tillman
founded UNEXSO (originally naming it the Grand Bahama Underwater
Explorers Club) to teach scuba diving as a recreational sport. Since
then thousands of men, women and teenagers have learned to dive at the
world’s first underwater diver certification facility.
The list of honorees recognized at the first International Legends of
Diving event include notable legends such as:
Dottie Frazier, the
first woman certified as a scuba instructor.
Nick Icorn, first
Executive Director of PADI.
Bob Croft, the first
American to set a record breath hold dive to 243 feet.
credited with inventing the safe second stage regulator (octopus) now
used on all regulators today.
from the United States and Bahamas recognized as Legends of Diving
Dr. A. Jose
Jones, a Fulbright Scholar and Marine Biologist who founded the first
African American scuba club – the Underwater Adventure Seekers in
Washington, DC and co-founder of the National Association of Black Scuba
Alec Peirce, owner of the largest dive shop in Canada and the largest
collection of SEA HUNT memorabilia in the world.
A major element of the ILD event is to honor indigenous diving legends
and emigrants in the host country. While there are many who might
quality for this honor, only a few were chosen to receive the
recognition for their work in developing the business aspects of the
sport and as caretakers of the living seas and natural environment.
Among those honored:
Ben Rose, who pioneered marine identification and discovered the
underwater cave and cavern system located in the Lucayan National Park.
Ben’s Cave is world renowned and named after the man who discovered this
Neal Watson, an American who pioneered the dive industry in Bimini
where he started Neal Watson’s Undersea Adventures and who set scuba
dive depth records during competitions held in the Bahamas.
Ollie Ferguson, became the first Bahamian to hold the position of Vice
President of Dive Operations at UNEXSO and led the way in the
development of the Shark Feeding program with the assistance of Ben
Dr. John Clement, was the Bahamas first hyperbaric doctor who saved
countless lives of both recreational divers and local Bahamian fisherman
Nick Rolle, who was the first Bahamian to dive with Ben Rose during
the early exploration of the underwater cavern system and taught many of
the local youth how to swim and taught them about the use of scuba gear
and lessons to deserving individuals.
John Englander, former owner of UNEXSO and NAUI president who lead the
way to introduce the Dolphin Experience popular today with tourists and
cruise visitors alike.
Shortly before the fist UNEXSO/ILD event began, organizers started the
“Kids Meet The Legends” Program that provided an opportunity for local
Bahamian high school students who are studying marine science to meet
the men and women who lead the way in the early development of scuba and
Dottie Frazier and Bob Croft were the popular legends with the kids.
Dottie for her achievement to overcome a male dominated sport and became
the first female instructor. Dottie was also known to be able to tear
apart outboard motor apart and could be found tinkering with engines
until they were perfectly in tune. At only 100 pounds, Dottie would
spearfish bringing up groupers nearly as big as she was catching them on
a breath or two of air. She recalls having caught a 150-pound grouper
that drug her for almost a mile.
Bob made a powerful impact on the kids with the natural ability to “pack
air” in his lungs and to expand his lung capacity beyond normal breath
hold divers. Bob often retained more than enough air upon reentry at the
ocean surface to make another free dive without taking another breath. A
former Navy Submariner, Bob was the subject of countless test by Navy
doctors who were mystified with his natural ability to hold his breath
for up to 12 minutes underwater. The highlight of Bob’s career was the
1968 feature documentary done on his world record 243-foot dive that was
narrated by Charles Kuralt from CBS News. Bob was the first and only
American to hold the record.
The highlight of the Kids Meet The Legends program concluded with a
presentation from Divers Alert Network (DAN). Dan Orr, President and CEO
of DAN provided and insightful look at the effects of depth when diving.
He provided his own personal experiences with divers affected by
decompression sickness or the “bends” and the need to follow the safety
guidelines established by professional diver certification agencies. Dan
also served as the master of ceremonies at the ILD Awards ceremony where
the 12 Legends of Diving received a handcrafted glass diver performing a
giant stride as if leaping off the back of a dive boat. The dive
“Oscars” type ceremony was indeed a once in a lifetime experience for
both the guests as well as the honorees.
Joining the Legends were the amazing VINTAGEDOUBLEHOSE.com divers who
travel to dive destinations with authentic vintage dive gear that is a
throwback to the SEA HUNT TV show. VDH founder Bryan Pennington noted
that this was one of the most unique dive trips he has ever arranged for
his members. The most memorable part of the dive trip was joining the
legendary Ben Rose on the gut wrenching shark-feeding program he has
ever witnessed. Ben who is nearing 80 years old was able to place three
reef sharks under tonic immobility with the assistance of Cristina
Zenato, Dive Supervisor for UNEXSO. Cristina learned the art of shark
feeding from Ben and has been working at UNEXSO for over 13 years.
Christina Zenato (left) and Ben Rose exercise tonic immobility.
Grand Bahama Island offers a wide level of diving from shallow reefs to
wrecks, sharks, dolphins and cavern diving. The popular shark feeding
dive and dolphin dive provided divers with the thrill of a lifetime.
Close up encounters with Caribbean reef sharks and magical dolphins
provided an incredible experience for divers.
Over 130 persons attended the event and according to the guests it was
one of the most memorable diving programs they have ever participated
ABOUT PORTAGE QUARRY: Located just one mile
south of Bowling Green in Northwest Ohio, the Portage Quarry Recreation
Club is a complete recreation facility that caters to the Scuba diver
enthusiast. The Scuba diver will experience some of the best
recreational diving in Ohio with clear water visibility, wreck diving,
and plenty of fish. The Scuba dive shop includes tank rentals, nitrox
fills, equipment, and PADI instruction. There are three professional
beach volleyball courts along with recreational swimming from a sand
beach. In the summer the Portage Quarry Recreation Club is home to two
music traditions, a music BlowOut the first weekend of July and the
annual . Also on the schedule is a Divers Alert Network (DAN)
Barbeque and the Advanced Aquatics Steak Roast. Trademarks are the
rights of the perspective companies.
Portage Quarry Recreation Club, Inc.
12701 South Dixie
Bowling Green OH, 43402
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