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They Like to Be Under the Sea

June 01, 2003|MICHAEL T. JARVIS

The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach recently hosted the second annual Divers Day, an exhibition of the oldest and the very latest scuba diving equipment with demonstrations by pro divers, including the California Classic Equipment Divers, a group of antique gear fans. Once they caught a breath, we asked a few divers why they're so well suited for the water.

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Harold Nething

Retired U.S. Navy frogman, 78

Lakewood

Tell us about your gear.

I dove with this type of helmet, the Mark V, from 1946 until 1953.

Why do people risk their lives to dive?

If you've got good training, 99% of the time you're fine.

Atlantis: Truth or fiction?

Fiction. But I did a harbor survey in Jamaica and [there's] a city itself there, sunk under the ocean.

What's your scariest underwater moment?

As far as I know, it was a great white shark, at Midway Island in 1957. There was a huge shadow over us. I stayed submerged. It was at least 20 feet long.

Favorite diving spot?

Bird Rock off La Jolla. There are caves and rock formations.

Secret to getting sand out of your suit?

No sand in the suit. They're airtight and watertight.

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Mark Howell

Firefighter, 56

Lake Forest

Tell us about your gear.

This is a vintage 1950s Aquala suit, a double hose regulator from the early 1960s, [and] Churchill swim fins from the early 1950s. We prefer old gear, like people who love old cars.

How did you get started diving?

My dad was a skin diver. He loved the ocean. He got me started in the late 1950s off Palos Verdes and Malibu.

Strangest thing you've found underwater?

Swimming in Laguna Beach in the mid '60s, I saw a wallet on the bottom. I picked it up and I'm looking at a picture of myself. I had left my wallet in my dive bag on the beach. Someone took the money and threw [the wallet] in the water to be ornery. It was odd to look at your own picture underwater.

Favorite diving spot?

The Red Sea off the Sinai Peninsula. Also Truk Lagoon in the Micronesian islands. There are Japanese wrecks there from World War II.

Secret to getting sand out of your suit?

It depends upon how tight your suit fits.

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Zara Cadia

Community relations coordinator, 23

Long Beach

Tell us about your gear.

It's modern equipment. It's more streamlined, but heavy because of the air cylinders. It builds muscle.

Why do people risk their lives to dive?

It's a deep passion to explore beyond the safety limits.

Your favorite sea creature?

The manta ray. It's one of those creatures that you say, "How could this have ever been created?"

Strangest thing you've found underwater?

A car window. We played Frisbee with it.

Favorite diving spot?

Apple Canyon off the northwest islands of the Great Barrier Reef. The most amazing nocturnal animals come out.

Is "SpongeBob SquarePants" an accurate picture of undersea life?

Not to dis SpongeBob, but he's a cartoon character.

Secret to getting sand out of your suit?

Not to get it in.

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Ken McElvain

Retired firefighter, 72

El Segundo

Tell us about your gear.

The helmet is a 1943 Navy Mark V. The shoes are 12 pounds each and the helmet is about 60 pounds.

How did you get started diving?

My first dive was in 1950 at the Navy Salvage Diving School in Bayonne, N.J. It was a 12-week course.

Why do people risk their lives to dive?

I did it in the Navy. [They] paid me $12 more a month for diving.

Favorite diving spot?

Any aquarium. Normally you don't get to see that many fish in one spot.

Secret to getting sand out of your suit?

We don't get sand in our suits.

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