Response to posting of Jan 24, 2010

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Posted by Dr Samuel Miller,111 on January 25, 2010 at 08:58:36:

Subject: Seahunt--response

Posted by sea hunt on January 24, 2010 at 04:57:38:
In Reply to: Re: Re: Re: Wow! (-) posted by Dr Samuel Miller,111 on January 22, 2010 at 17:38:51:

"I think the title I would like most would be waterman.-- "

***Aged, crippled broken down deaf waterman would be more appropriate

"Really, I am very interested in the lore of diving. Some of it is so contradictory. Do you know if it is true that Jack O'Neill using neoprene as padding under carpet in airplanes when he decided to make a wet suit with it? He does not get credit for making the first wet suit these days, but I hear it was him."

*** Jack O' Neil is Popular lore--actually utterly nonsense!

Wet suits were serendipitously discovered in San Diego by the late Hugh Bradner and Willard Bascome. I knew them both and had conversations with them (Also suggest that you read Crest of the Wave (and Waves and Beaches) by Bascome)

The material was sheet rubber which had been used to line the exterior of WW11 aircraft and vehicle gas tanks to make them "self sealing." At the time of the Brander/Bascome discovery there were two manufactures of the material Rubitex back east and Kirkhill in Brea..

Bascome was not interested in the monetary gain but Bradner, a grad student was ..In early 1950s he presented the wet suit to the "Underwater swimmers Panel" of the "National security council" who promptly declared the wet suit "Secret" and would not allow civilian production.

After the Korean war in early 1953, Brander began marketing wet suits under the banner "Edco" via advertisement in SDM very expensive $$$$$.

SoCal divers discovered Kirkhill Rubber Co and began picking up all the surplus sheets they wanted for free, later the sheets were $1.00..I some how suspect the guard pocked the money. One sheet of would make a wet suit--the glue was called Black Magic and was also a dollar. My son who is in early 40s first wet suit was made from a sheet I obtained from Kirkhill for free.

LA Co UW instructor Bill Barada developed the dry suit in the late 1940s

(See my antique three part article "Exposure suits" or something near that title)

There are picture (s) of me in the SDM Anniversary issue painted by the famous diving artist John Steele wearing a pre-wet suit costume. If you have the copy you will note I am diving on a 27 pound Sheepshead (one of the few I shot) using a rigged Arbalete attired in green Churchill, a Sturgil mask, no snorkel, in a WW11 surplus GI khaki sweater for thermal protection-- That was the costume of the diver for many years. Yes I have several John Steele painting and prints in my home.

"I look at diving and think of how it must have been. I suspect that at one time Palos Verdes may have been among the best diving on the coast. Laguna would have been amazing."

***PV was generally cold, Laguna and OC beaches were generally warmer with the prevailing swell coming from the south therefore the OC beaches were the areas of choice. Spear fishing and shell fishing was the primary activity and generally participated in by athletic young men. In a survey by Al Tillman in 1970s he discovered most had been HS & College athletes. However there were exceptions: Dottie Frazier was the very first woman in the world to became a UW instructor in 1956, Barbara Allen was in 1957, followed by Zale Parry and Lyn (Yost) Chase-- They are all alive and still diving..Suggest you read Legends of diving for some insight on the early divers.

It is suggested that you read my article below titled "You can't go home again." I wrote it some time ago and at this junction can't recall who published it. It is interesting I have contacted a number of local, national and international magazines about preserving recreational diving history. Only one accepted, a French magazine- and they printed 3-4 articles and being French refused to honor my invoices..So history is not a popular subject--It does not sell magazine or attract new divers.

If would like to republish "You can't go home again" please give the appropriate credit


Dr. Samuel Miller

Several summers ago I visited with some relatives and old friends to reconnect with my roots down in southern California, in “smogsville,” as the smog shrouded area of Los Angeles and Orange County is known by most Californians who reside in other areas of the state.

This visit certainly verified the message in the Thomas Wolfe book “You can't go home again” which I found so difficult to comprehend as a young college student. Yes, Thomas Wolfe was correct! Indeed - You can't go home again.

I spent a very early Saturday morning at Diver’s Cove in Laguna Beach, the fountainhead of American sport diving. It has been a popular diving location since recreational diving began along the California coast in the early 1930s. “The cove” as local divers refer to it, was catapulted from obscurity into international diving fame when it was chosen as the location for the world’s first competitive spear fishing meet in June 1950. The Compton, California “Dolphins Spear Fishing club”, won the meet with a three man team consisting of Ken Kummerfeild, Pat O’Malley and Paul Hoss (of the Bottom Scratcher/Hoss gun fame)

The cove was immortalized for divers through out the world on the cover of the December 1951, issue of Skin Diver Magazine Volume 1, number 1 with a picture of Dr. Nelson "Matty" Mathenson of the Long Beach Nepunes proudly displaying a presentable White Sea Bass he had just speared at the at "the Cove."

Surprisingly Diver's Cove did not receive it's name from recreational diving but from the local youth's habit of diving into the shallow blow hole from the rocks below where the apartments now stand. The apartments were constructed in 1960 which physically separated the cove and Fishermen cove to the north. Prior to the construction and into the 1970s Fisherman's cove was the docking and storage cove for a number of small local recreational sport fishing boats

Lots of other changes have occurred in and around Divers Cove with the passage of sixty years.

In the 1950s the rolling hills surrounding Diver’s Cove were devoid of housing and covered with dry chaparral, which emitted the classic California golden glow always associated with the “Golden state.” Now when viewed from the cove the hills appear almost surrealistic emerald green, blanketed by modern multi- million dollar homes on well-manicured lawns interconnected labyrinth of roads.

It is no longer possible to drive up to the edge of the cliff at Diver’s Cove and park haphazardly. Parking places are now regulated. They are neatly identified with white stripes on the concrete and crowned with a row of coin eating parking meters; silent sentinels waiting for the next quarter for fifteen minutes of violation free parking.

Also absent is the steel cable that provided beach goers and divers to access to the beach. It was a much-appreciated gift from some unknown beach lover who spent their time; money and effort to securely bury one end of the cable in cement and dangle the rest of the cable over the cliff to create a Tarzan style hand over hand beach access. Now modern stairs complete with handrails and a drinking fountain welcomes the divers to the beach

The beach scene I remember so well from my youth is now only a distant memory, but they are memories of gold as were the hills surrounding the cove.

In the genesis of recreational diving the beach was populated with young athletic sun tanned male youths clad in the diving costume of the era, baggy long underwear, tucked in to equally baggy swim trunks, round diving masks on their faces, short green fins on their feet and the weapon of choice a “Jab Stick” (a pole spear powered by the trust of the arm) unceremoniously stuck in the ground.

Like ancient tribes returning from a successful hunt they stood in small groups, wrapped in surplus WWII olive drab army or navy blue blankets, shivering and blue lipped from the cold of the water and the chill in the air. Roaring bonfires fed by WWII surplus tires added much needed warmth as it belched fourth thick heavy black smoke into the clean crisp smog free Orange County air.

Now Divers Cove has become a popular diving destination for dive training classes. It is populated every Saturday and Sunday morning by young fuzzy faced certified diving instructors who have arrived before 7:00 to conduct the final ocean check out dive for their classes of aspiring divers. Under the ever-watchful eye of their SCUBA instructor, young and old, male and female don the costume of modern diving. Bright colored wet suits have replaced the long underwear for thermal protection; clear form fitting twin lens masks of clear silicone replaced the black round rubber masks; multi hued long lightweight split plastic fins now adorn their feet replacing the short green Churchill fins. Not a spear fishing weapon is insight, since this area has been a game reserve for over a generation.

Yes, there have been a lot of changes in the last sixty plus years. Tomas Wolfe’s message has been verified. "You can't go home again," but you can relive fond memories from the distant past and dream and hope for the future of recreational diving.

Only the sea, the eternal sea, has relentlessly remained the same


"My knowledge of biology suggests that way back when, most reefs you would have seen would have had a "reef master". A huge alpha bull lobster that would likely have challenged even divers."

*** I do not know, even though I have a Bio degree.

There was an upper as well as a minimum size limits on lobsters until about mid 1950s, then the F&G established the current size restrictions. The reduction of a bag limit from 10 to 7 occurred a few years back.

The late Charlie Sturgil (LA Co UW instructor) was the master of the bugs- very very difficult to top. I had several in the 20 pound class that I mounted and placed on display for many years in the popular LA Co UW Instructor Ron Merker's Aquatic Center in Newport beach. Only one has survived- an almost 18 pounder now on display --way up high - at Depth Perceptions Dive Center in San Luis Obispo. It is possibly one of the last big ones the public will ever see

"I suspect that today's divers would not recognize diving in the earliest days. Most divers these days don't spend time in the warm shallows that I must guess were the rich hunting grounds of the first divers. For that matter, few divers are now hunters. I think you will agree that that is quite a change. Hunting releases ancient instincts and makes one so much more perceptive of the waters around them."

*** I totally agree..110%. Early divers were breath hold divers and when the Aqua Lungs were introduced they were so unreliable that diving was confined to as deep as one wanted to make a free ascent. Early LA Co UW instructors course (UICC) required a D&R from 35 feet and a free assent from 100 feet.

"Ah... I would have loved to see it then, though I started diving in 1970, so I saw some of it. I do try to preserve the
diving lore as I can. "

*** I began in 1943 with goggles to protect my eyes from a re-occurring eye infection; Churchill fins & Sea Net mask in 1950, later wore a homemade Sturgil mask. (Patrick Smith has a picture of me with the mask -perhaps he will post it or seach for a copy of Discover Diving --Or Check out www.portagequarry.com Legends of diving- The Mask. First SCUBA on Memorial day 1951 with used equipment

"Why were they called "Underwater Instructors"?

*** The primary breathing equipment was the "Aqua Lung" Imported by Rene Bussoz, therefore self contained diving was called "Aqua lung" or "Lung" diving. The word SCUBA was in the lexicon but was not popularized until many years later--it is a long story.

In 1954 LA Co in order to avoid commercial endorsements and for lack of a better term for the activity the Instructors became "LA Co Underwater Instructors." In August 1960 when NAUI was established by the LA Co instructors they used the same terms; National Association of Underwater Instructors. Ten years later when PADI was established from NAUI, SCUBA was becoming in common usage but the founders, Cronin, Chow and Erikson chose Professional Association of Diving Instructors..It was a big political thing..

By the way, board statistics are that there are about 200 reads for every reply. Do not doubt that what you wrote was read and Considered.

*** Considered??? But comprehended by how many? Certainly not a good ROI of my time..But if history is to be preserved and it should be preserved ~ but correctly ~ I suspect the time I have spent on this reply is worth the effort if only a few read it


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