In November, I looked forward to some out-of-state speaking gigs. Fortunately, they turned out to be very exciting. But there was also a memorable one in Michigan, my home state.
On November 21, I spoke to a combined audience of shipwreck divers and history buffs in the town of Milan. Tyler Schultz, president of The Great Lakes Wrecking Crew dive club invited me to speak for his gang and for the Milan Historical Society. We were in an old church which had been converted into a social hall. It had charm all of its own.
In addition to my talk, I had the privilege of hearing two friends recount their exploits to the Andrea Doria shipwreck; both of them dove in the summer of 2008 on separate journeys. Andrew Del Net and his dive partner, Chris Epp, drove through a snowstorm from Kitchener, Ontario to meet Mike De Luca in person. His heartfelt account of why he is passionate about the Doria touched all of us; his family emigrated from Italy to the New World on the Andrea Doria in 1954. His dive (which was his first) was symbolic of a family legacy–appreciating the Grande Dame. Moreover, Andrew’s dive was also an act of gratitude for the Doria’s Captain, Piero Calamai. The young diver and father of a two-year-old wanted us all to know that Captain Calamai is one of his heroes.
“I agree with Pierette that the Captain carried out the greatest sea rescue with valor. In honor of his heroism, I named my son Calamai.”
There were smiles and sounds of amazement from the audience.
Local diver Mike DeLuca also shared his thoughts on his first dive to the Doria, while his wife Mary listened intently beside me. Mike is almost twice Andrew’s age, yet his enthusiasm for diving the Doria was just as passionate.
“It’s a dive of a lifetime,” he explained. “All of my dives were a practice leading to this big one. I hope to revisit the Doria in a couple of years.”
I looked at Mary’s face as she shook her head, implying she is less than enthusiastic about it.
As he continued to draw us into his fervor, we couldn’t help but reflect on Mike’s experience of witnessing the 15th diving casualty of the ‘Mt. Everest of the Deep.’ I know it had a chilling impact on him and his family. Witnessing the death of young diver Terry DeWolf was a sobering reminder that, in spite of technology and preparation, life is fragile—especially when confronting a forceful entity, like the sea.
Fortunately, brave men like Mike and Andrew, are willing to take risks so that they may learn and teach more about the phenomenon of shipwrecks.
For more information:
Great Lakes Wrecking Crew: http://www.scubaboard.com/forums/great-lakes-wrecking-crew/
Article about Terry DeWolf : http://www.cdnn.info/news/safety/s080801.html