Norma Hanson, Diving Pioneer

Scuba Diving on the Great Escape Southern California Live-Aboard Dive Boat

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Posted by --! on September 11, 2005 at 18:17:44:

Before scuba diving, people donned deep-sea diving suits with lead-weighted shoes and a huge inetal helmet. An air line supplied the diver with oxygen from the boat. At Catalina Island in the early 1950s, a pair of these lead footed divers would submerge themselves underwater, feed the fish, sing a song, answer questions and basically entertain the tourists aboard the glass-bottom boats.
From May to October, the divers worked for the Catalina Island Co. and did as many as 22 shows a day, including one that featured a surprise guest, a great white shark.
Norma Hanson, 81, of Harbor City was one of the underwater entertainers, her late husband Albert was the other. Hanson is now in the Women's Diving Hall of Fame.
Many of the stories by Hanson are in her book, More than Nine Lives," a 703-page manuscript released last year. It chronicles Hanson and her husband's lives and adventures underseas.
"It was wonderful," said Hanson, one of the only female commercial divers of the era. "It was an entirely different world. I had the opportunity to do what lots of women never
had the opportunity to take part in, and that is, my husband and I shared the work. He was a diver and I was a diver, too. We worked together and had a really great life." Hanson was the boat operator and tended to the air lines of her husband while he worked below.
Hanson played underwater monsters on several B-rated Hollywood movies. Otherwise, they did environmental studies, salvage work, harbor construction, inspections and just
about anything else that needed work underwater.
Their jobs took them to Peru, Australia, New Zealand and Alaska. "We had a wonderful life,"Hanson said.
One of the most intriguing stories Hanson tells is about the great white shark that made an unrehearsed appearance during one of the glass-bottom boat shows. As the divers got into position, Hapson's husband saw the shark and called out a warning to the line tender on the boat. He in turn relayed the message down the line to Hanson.
"I look down and here's this great white shark coming up with its mouth wide open, row after row after row of teeth," she recalled. "I was just in position where I could kick it in the nose. I gave it a hard kick and it veered off.
"Of course, my line tender pulled me right up. I was so frightened I couldn't stand up. .. I had super-deluxe rubber legs."
Her husband surfaced to make sure she was OK, and about half an hour later, they were back in the water to do another show.
She realized later that her first hint of trouble should have been the absence of the hundreds of little fish that showed up daily to be fed. "The funny part was, some of the people on the glass-bottom boat saw the whole thing and they thought we had a trained shark," she said. "We heard they wanted to take the trip again so they could take pictures of it

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