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5/8ths of my scuba heroes are Australian

Melinda Herndon, Scuba Instructor
Director eScuba Pty Ltd

5/8ths. That is the healthy fraction that Australian scuba diving pioneers played in exciting and inspiring me.

That’s sort of amazing considering how few of them there are in the world relative to the other 7 billion of us.

These five figures infused me with a sense of curiosity and excitement that brought me to Australia… which, like so many before me, I instantly fell in love with…but in my case, I loved it so much that I decided to call it home.

So who are these notable figures and what did they do to so profoundly rock my world?

We have the highly experienced and opinionated former shock jock of SCUBA: Bob Halstead. Among his many accomplishments-Bob played no small role in introducing all of us to the joys of muck diving. His dive boat, the Telita, helped put Papua New Guinea on the map for adventurous divers. His extreme positions-contrary to those of most training agencies on most topics –were always delivered via humorous narrative and he always kept us thinking.

Where Bob took us to the small stuff – Neville Coleman was the one who could always tell us what it was. A humble intellectual and brilliant photographer-Neville was the walking encyclopedia of all things Nudibranch. If you couldn’t find it in a book – chances are Neville could immediately tell you what it was.

Where do I start with Ron & Valerie Taylor? This incredibly enigmatic adventurous couple played no small role in my formulation of life goals. Ron could identify just about every species of shark and figure out where to find them and he was always happy to help Valerie don a chainmail suit to go check them out. Valerie continues the good conservation work that they started together well ahead of the bell curve during their 49 years together as husband & wife.

Oh my gosh, I love Mike Ball.
I love to pick him up and twirl him around and I do so every chance I get. Despite the fact that he’s an extreme athlete…he lets me. If it’s a thing-Mike did it first and he did it better… Way back when he built out the most iconic retail store in the history of dive stores & consigned a rock star boat to get you out to the Barrier Reef/Coral Sea effortlessly to show you the magic of minke whales and everything else these marine rich waters have to offer.

So how did I come to know about each of these four remarkable people? By the most prolific individual contributor of content for the SCUBA industry that ever lived.  The illustrious writer and publisher and avid diver-Barry Andrewartha

Through his many publications and books – he introduced the world to each of these four people in his own way.  Each month for 50 years he shared magical stories about the giant cuttlefish mating ritual in Whyalla & the weedy sea dragons in Botany Bay & the Whale sharks of the Ningaloo Reef & so much more. If it weren’t for Barry- the world would think that Australian diving began at one end of the barrier reef and ended at the other. His monthly publication Dive Log has informed us over this past half-century. It’s surprising to me every time I read it – I truly learn something new. But Barry is more than this. He is the truest friend anyone could have. He’s that guy who’s checking in on you to make sure things are going your way and if they’re not-he’s going to help you sort it.

This coming month marks the end of his iconic publication: Dive Log.   It will be a special collector’s edition so make sure to get your hands on one.  The best part about Barry‘s retirement is the fact that I’m pretty sure I’m going to find him and his beautiful wife Belinda diving with the humpbacks of Tonga with such frequency that we’re sure bump into each other. 

Barry, thank you for being the single most important voice in the dissemination of knowledge that our industry has, and ever will see.

You are a true legend!