SCUBA Biography

Scuba Bio by:

Donna Peterson 
Professor Walsh
WRIT 132 – Profile Essay-FINAL
21 March 2006

Diving: More Than Just a Sport

If you are like me, winter always seems to overstay its welcome. If you are one of the 110 million Americans who take a beach vacation each year, you may already be booked for sunny skies, warm sand and turquoise-blue oceans. My recommendation for you beach bums, who truly love the water, is be sure to stop by the local dive shop. With any luck you will find a friendly scuba instructor named Terry. Look for a 56-year-old man sporting a mustache, a mile-wide smile and a truly hearty laugh. Scuba diving is his passion in life, and after 38 years of diving, Terry never runs out of stories.

 

 

 

 

 

Stingray City, Grand Cayman Island

 

With over 1,400 open water dives so far, Terry is no ordinary diver. His dive trips have taken him from Minnesota lakes to the Caribbean. From the Living Seas Aquarium at EPCOT Center to exotic places like the Cayman’s, Belize and the Bay Island of Roatan. Terry sums up his passion in a simple statement: “Diving is more than just a sport. It’s a state of mind.” A state of mind he loves to be in.

One well-known dive spot is Sting Ray City (Grand Caymen). The stingrays, once well fed by fisherman cleaning their catch, still remain, looking for the free meals from tourists. You can enjoy a shallow dive of about 15 feet, and hand feed them squid. The locals recommend you keep your hand closed under water. With their eyes are on the top of their head, and their mouths on the underside, stingrays can’t see what they are smelling. They will flounder all around you looking for it. Their mouths don’t have teeth, so they suck it in, and then crush it up. “One guy smeared the squid all over his face, arms, legs and neck. He came out looking like a giant hickey!” remembers Terry.

Born in 1950, Terry is the oldest of three kids raised in a small town on the Iron Range of Minnesota. His first interest in diving was prompted by the weekly television series called Sea Hunt; (1958-1961), which was filmed all over the world. When he wasn’t watching Sea Hunt, he was at the local Eveleth library, “…which for some unknown reason had a subscription to Skin Diver magazine.” Terry chuckles. (For those who have ever visited this remote town, you can appreciate the humor of that!)

Terry’s first dive was at age 18, with his friend Fred. They chose Ely Lake in northern Minnesota. Since the wet suits that Fred’s dad had purchased didn’t fit Terry, it was an incredibly cold experience. However, once submerged, the cold water was quickly forgotten. “It was a great freedom to breathe underwater. It was both exhilarating and frightening. I love the water. In it, on it, and anywhere around it,” said Terry.

He was hooked. Terry wanted to pursue further training; however diving certification training centers were not exactly prevalent near the Iron Range in 1969. He relied on one friend who received his certification while studying Oceanography in California and another friend who learned to dive from his father. Between the two, they were able to teach Terry the basics.

After moving to Minneapolis in the early ‘70’s, he was able to sign up at the Jack the Frogman dive shop for more formal training. Terry learned that the owner, O. Jack Blocker, was a founding member of the worldwide Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) and held Master Instructor Number 29. Jack issued Terry a PADI Open Water Diver certification in 1973.

Terry went on to pursue additional training in hopes of becoming a dive instructor. In 1980 he was certified as a PADI Open Water Instructor, and began blending his love of people and teaching with his passion for water and diving. His Open Water Diver Instructor Number is 12724, which might seem high in contrast to Jack’s number 29. Not so when you consider that today’s instructor numbers are six digits and climbing. “I didn’t fully realize what it meant then, but I learned to dive from a legend, both locally and nationally,” remembers Terry.

Dive shop employees and fellow instructors who understand the significance of the instructor numbers have been know to bow (frequently) after seeing his certification number, much to Terry’s embarrassment. Others have carried his gear for him, just so they could pitch him a job offer to teach at their facility.

While greatly rewarding, being an instructor also comes with its share of frightening moments. In one of Terry’s first open water training sessions, he was alone with two students, both of whom were lifeguards. After descending about 20 feet, one student became startled when he touched bottom. Panicked, he rushed back up to the surface.

“This is extremely dangerous,” Terry explains. “When you inhale from a scuba tank underwater, the inhaled air is now subject to the pressure of the surrounding water.” Rushing to the surface, without exhaling, causes the inhaled air it to expand to its normal volume. Normal volume is about twice the volume of the inhaled air. “The results can be fatal. I chased the guy to the surface where he showed foamy blood in his mask. I feared the worst.” To Terry’s relief, he only suffered sinus damage, but it could have just as easily been a ruptured lung.

 

Terry teaching an Enriched Air Nitrox class

A fun bit of knowledge for new divers is that water absorbs colors and sound. There is a distinct change in sound around the 60’ mark, the threshold for a deep dive. Experienced divers can tell when they have passed this mark simply by paying attention to sound.

You can’t see colors underwater without the aid of a flashlight. Yellows appear white, and colors are absorbed in a specific order. PADI has an acronym to help divers remember it; Roy G Biv (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet). Terry has been known to experience color-induced panic while instructing. “Reds are absorbed in the first few feet of water. If you forget, you’ll think to yourself; where did the guy in the red swimsuit go? Panic sets in as you envision being sued by his survivors.”

From 1980-1986 Terry developed and taught nine additional specialty instructor certifications. Unique categories like Ice Diver, Search and Recovery Diver, and even Underwater Treasure Hunter Diver (using an underwater metal detector). In 1985, he earned his Master Instructor certification, placing him just one level below the top rank of Course Director; reserved for those who run the Instructor Development Courses. Worldwide, more than a half million people earn their diving certifications each year, the average age being 29. To date PADI has issued over 11 million diver certifications.

Diving allows you to learn some fascinating things about nature that you simply can’t experience above the surface. Once Terry dove in an old iron ore pit in Crosby, Minnesota. While returning to shore, he noticed a loon swimming towards him. The loon was completely underwater, using its wings to propel it and control its direction. Another sensation that fresh water divers frequently experience is a called a thermocline. Warmer water lies on the surface, trapping colder water underneath. When swimming through a thermocline, you can feel exactly where the two water layers meet. Terry describes the transition “as abrupt as putting your bare arm into a bucket of cold water.”

Don’t be surprised if Terry recommends a hooker for your next dive. OK, not that kind of hooker! The Hilma Hooker is a 350’ long ship that was taking on water as it pulled into the Bonaire (Netherlands, Antilles) harbor. Customs officials received a tip and found it loaded with marijuana. They confiscated the ship, towed it to deeper water and let it sink, (knowing the salt water would destroy the pot). Resting on a sandy bottom at 110’ deep, it is a popular dive site, and home to a colony of garden eels. “They look like grass swaying in the current. As you approach they pull back into their hole and disappear.”

The wreck of the Hilma Hooker in Bonaire. Jim, Bret and Jeff.

Frequent divers are always looking for new ways to show off. One way is to walk on two fingers across the bottom, an easy feat since you are weightless. Another trick is to blow air rings. “You inhale and then blow an air ring just like blowing a smoke ring from a cigarette. If you get good at it, you can blow a nice ring that expands as it rises. They look just like hula hoops and seem to have form as they dance their way to the surface.” Terry explains.

Terry’s passion for diving is contagious! Ask him to name his favorite dive locations, and you will hear of many. For night dives; St. Lucia “…with a plethora of night life including squid and more lobster than I’ve ever seen!” Drift dives in Cozumel, where the boats never anchor, and you drift with the current, up to a mile at times. Lake Superior offers the best shipwreck dives; “Hands down, it out classes every other wreck dive I’ve been on.” Little Cayman for wall dives. It offers shallow to dramatic sheer walls going down 1,000 feet. Sting Ray City in Grand Cayman for sea creatures. Belize offers wild dolphins, and Bonaire is great for “critter dives” like eels.

Frequent divers are always looking for new ways to show off. One way is to walk on two fingers across the bottom, an easy feat since you are weightless. Another trick is to blow air rings. “You inhale and then blow an air ring just like blowing a smoke ring from a cigarette. If you get good at it, you can blow a nice ring that expands as it rises. They look just like hula hoops and seem to have form as they dance their way to the surface.” Terry explains.

Terry’s passion for diving is contagious! Ask him to name his favorite dive locations, and you will hear of many. For night dives; St. Lucia “…with a plethora of night life including squid and more lobster than I’ve ever seen!” Drift dives in Cozumel, where the boats never anchor, and you drift with the current, up to a mile at times. Lake Superior offers the best shipwreck dives; “Hands down, it out classes every other wreck dive I’ve been on.” Little Cayman for wall dives. It offers shallow to dramatic sheer walls going down 1,000 feet. Sting Ray City in Grand Cayman for sea creatures. Belize offers wild dolphins, and Bonaire is great for “critter dives” like eels.

If money were no object, Terry’s “dream dive” location would be Truk Lagoon (Pacific Micronesia). More than 40 Japanese military planes and ships were sunk there, making for an incredible wreck dive location. Second choice would be Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, located halfway between Hawaii and Australia. The world’s only sunken aircraft carrier is located there. The U.S. performed nuclear testing in this area. While the water is safe to dive in, going ashore is not advised.

 

Blowing air ring bubbles at a safety stop

Diving also offers Terry an opportunity to practice another hobby of his. He discovered a love of photography in high school and college. He brings his special underwater cameras when he dives. He took all of the photos provided here, with the exception of the air rings image. He has even sold some of his images to Corel Corporation, a software development company. A great way to help fund additional dive trips.

Terry always enjoys the people he meets on dive trips. He met Pat, one of his closest friends through diving. Pat earned his Master Diver certification, and then worked in the local dive shop to study and write about the retail business of diving. Terry spent his summer evenings and weekends teaching and coaching him through his research. Terry was in Pat’s wedding party, and they still keep in contact 20 years later.

Terry’s youngest student was age 13, and his oldest was a 66-year-old woman. He was the inspiration for two of his former students to become certified instructors. One is now an Open Water Instructor; the other is a Course Director at a center in Minneapolis.

Terry earned a Basic Sailing certification in 1995, which became a springboard for multiple other navigation certifications and licenses. He is certified as a Captain in the US Coast Guard, holds a USCG 50-Ton Master’s License for Inland Waters, and a Great Lakes Sailing endorsement.

In 2002 Terry purchased a 35’ sailboat, which he named Bon Aventure. He has primarily sailed in Minnesota lakes, Lake Superior’s Apostle Islands and the Virgin Islands. Upon moving to the west coast in 2005, Terry transferred his sailboat to a marina near Fontana, California and is now enjoying sailing and diving the Pacific.

So just what is so special about diving, besides being able to enjoy great viewing of underwater features and creatures? The aspect Terry enjoys most is one you can only describe if you have been there. “A vast body of water and you are such a small speck. The freedom of being weightless over spectacular sights, such as a huge coral reef.” There is no doubt that diving has and will continue to shape Terry’s life. While every dive is unique and exciting, the people he meets along the way are always memorable.

 

Terry enjoying his sailboat “Bon Aventure” on Lake Superior, Bayfield

Terry has a BA in theology, from North Central University. He also has extensive experience in computer technology, web design, and systems development. He is currently employed by Target. In addition to managing an extensive west coast regional instructor network, he also delivers skills-based training to Target’s Assets Protection teams.

Citation

Beach California.com. California Tourism Statistics. 18 Feb 2006.
Bikini Atoll. 18 Feb 2006.
Divers Link: Sea Hunt. 18 Feb 2006.
Peterson, Donna. Personal interview. 17 Feb 2006.
Professional Association of Diving Instructors. 18 Feb 2006. Sovil, Terry. 18 Feb 2006.
Truk Lagoon. 18 Feb 2006.