Myers Marine Division LLC commemorates divers of the past with a dive in Santa Catalina Island utilizing WW2 era dive gear.
CREDIT: BRETT STANLEY
As professional divers, most of us can look back and remember seeing or experiencing something early on in our lives that initially struck curiosity and wonder inside of us. Whether it was “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” Jacques Cousteau, visions of underwater treasure, mermaids, Atlantis, the Kraken, or pirate fortune on the seafloor. Maybe just the simple thought of being weightless in suspended animation. I think every diver has a sense of adventure and desire to discover something, if not about the ocean, to discover something about themselves.
For me, that curiosity started very early in life. I was obsessed with everything that had to do with diving and the ocean at a very early age, inspired primarily by Jacques Cousteau and undersea treasure. I would lay in bed at night and wonder if Atlantis was actually out there and if mermaids really existed. I can remember being in kindergarten telling adults and friends alike that, “I was going to be a diver when I grew up.” So, I became a diver and the growing up part came much later. I first became a SCUBA diver when I was 16, then went to an ADCI affiliated commercial dive school in Wilmington, Calif., at the College of Oceaneering.
In early 2003, I graduated commercial dive school as an ADCI-certified underwater commercial contractor with a specialty in underwater welding. Within two weeks of graduating dive school I was offshore diving on the oil platforms in Southern California. I knew that I was made to do this job, and I fell in love with my work and even more in love with the ocean, as it revealed its beauty and wonder every time I entered the water. I discovered that my job was ultimately to protect the ocean and support anyone who shared in that belief.
CREDIT: BRETT STANLEY
I traveled the globe diving during my career and eventually decided to start my own commercial dive company in 2017. I wanted to strictly follow ADCI and OSHA consensus while providing top-of-the-line diving and marine services. Thus, the birth of my dive company, Myers Marine Division, LLC. As my dive business evolved, I began to meet other divers in the community including commercial divers, dive instructors, treasure hunters, and even underwater creatives – photographers, filmmakers, and even professional mermaids who specialize in underwater production and creating underwater art.
The more folks I met, the stronger my desire became to create something timeless and commemorate the men and women who helped pioneer diving. I wanted to inspire wonder and curiosity in the next generation, just as those before me have done. My mind kept going back to classic images of divers in antique heavy gear and mermaids on the seafloor and I thought, “what better way to pay tribute to the beauty of the ocean and the men and women that pioneered diving than to do an actual dive with a mermaid out in the ocean? What better way to grab a child’s curiosity than to create underwater art?”
CREDIT: BRETT STANLEY
Excited by this idea, and inspired by the work of underwater photographers Brett Stanley and Justin Lutsky, I realized that with proper planning and networking a project like this might be possible. Brett and Justin had a great deal of experience creating real life imagery with mermaids, and one such image of Hannah Fraser captivated me, so we reached out to her to gauge her interest in participating, and our underwater “dream team” of uniquely skilled dive professionals and creative artists was born!
The images on these pages are the culmination of my childhood dreams. Seeing a vintage diver and a mermaid underwater together had previously only been created using CGI (computer-generated imagery), or in paintings and drawings. Never in real life on the seafloor. It took two months of intense labor, prop creation, logistical planning and teambuilding to create these images. In addition to the production crew, there was a full team of professional safety divers present. Joseph Rosado (ADC), Jon Curtis (Riverside County Sheriff Dive Team), and PADI open water instructor, Brandon Wermes. My good friend Ron Warren chartered us his commercial dive boat, “Marlin,” located in Long Beach, Calif., accompanied by dive boat captain Dan Berman. Individual safety divers were assigned to Hannah Fraser and underwater photographers Brett Stanley and Justin Lutsky.
CREDIT: BRETT STANLEY
I had an ADCI-certified commercial diver on-site assigned solely for my safety, outfitted with a superlite Kirby Morgan 77 and various cutting tools. He is a second-generation ADCI commercial diver named Joseph Rosado and the son of my great friend and fellow commercial diver Eric Rosado. Both men (father and son) are former Marines, and I am proud and honored to have them along with me on any dive.
The helmet we used was the third Kirby Morgan air hat ever made, and the mermaid is absolutely real! Hannah was down there on the ocean floor zipped and tied into a realistic and constrictive mermaid tail that took her months to create. She is an ocean conservationist and travels the globe swimming with sharks, whales and manta rays creating epic imagery to help save the oceans. Incredibly, while most of us wore dry suits, Hannah slipped off the boat and into that frigid California water (low 60s Fahrenheit) completely exposed to the elements, and remained for nearly 30 minutes. Her dedication to her craft is remarkable.
CREDIT: JUSTIN LUTSKY
When the safety divers first brought Hannah down on the seafloor, it felt like I had gone straight into a vintage undersea science fiction movie. I looked out of the top face port of a brass heavy gear helmet at a real-life mermaid descending into the depths. Beside me, my self-built treasure chest glistened and reflected light off the gold and jewels. The only sound I could hear was the air hissing into my helmet. Hannah would swim up to me for a briefly as the water surged back and forth against the rocky Catalina reef, and the camera strobes would flash capturing magic every time. Brett Stanley and Justin Lutsky are both experienced divers and have worked extensively underwater in the production industry. With cameras in hand, the two men worked in unison capturing these amazing images as well as documenting the entire process.
We had many obstacles to overcome that day, from strong ocean surge to significant safety considerations, but nothing phased Brett and Justin. For these two, creative problem solving is second nature, and without their expertise, this extremely challenging shoot would not have been possible. The view from inside my helmet was spectacular, watching this team we assembled smoothly execute and bring our collective vision to life at the bottom of the ocean.
For most of the shoot, I was pinned to the seafloor under the immense weight of the antique heavy gear. What shocked me more than I had expected was that this was the way commercial diving was done in the past. It was insanely heavy in comparison to the modern gear, and I was acutely aware of having to continually purge the CO2. My air supply was a single hose simply displacing water in my helmet. I was very encumbered, and yet felt oddly comfortable in the heavy gear. What was also on my mind was the fact that all of the redundancies we find on modern dive gear simply were not there. All of the systems that I was previously accustomed to were not present. In a very counter-intuitive way, I felt almost more connected with the ocean being stripped of all those modern systems. I also thought about the evolution of diving systems and how far the equipment has come. What it must have been like in World War II, diving down into a wreckage with a cutting torch in hand. I immediately felt humbled and at the same time proud of being a diver with enough experience to pull this off safely.
We could not have executed this project safely without my training in and use of the ADCI consensus standards. As a dive operations manager, my ADCI training has guided me throughout my journey as a diving professional. I’m so grateful to everyone who donates their time and energy to ocean awareness. I hope that these photos inspire younger generations, just as I was inspired by Jacques Cousteau all those years ago. After all these years of diving professionally, and all that this career has given me, I am thrilled to give something back that perhaps inspires the next generation to care about the underwater world.
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