December 26, 2019

Next on Jonathan Bird’s Blue World, an underwater
blast from the past celebrating Sea Hunt! Hi, I’m Jonathan Bird, and welcome to my
world! In 1958, Sea Hunt was one of the most popular
programs on U.S. Television. It starred Lloyd Bridges as Mike Nelson, an ex-Navy diver doing
freelance underwater work. His underwater adventures spurred a generation of viewers
to learn to dive and appreciate the ocean. While Sea hunt was a little ahead of my time,
I know a lot of people who would not be scuba divers today if it weren’t for Sea Hunt.
And some of those people are here at Silver Springs for the Sea Hunt Forever Festival—celebrating
the history of Sea Hunt! Mike Nelson’s gear was state of the art
in the 1950s. He had his double-hose regulator, tiny rubber fins and no buoyancy compensator! The spirit of Sea Hunt is being kept alive
by a group of vintage scuba enthusiasts who restore, maintain and dive with classic scuba
gear from the 1950s. This weekend I am attending a special event,
that happens only once a year: the Sea Hunt Forever festival at Silver Springs State Park
in Florida. Silver Springs is a special place. It’s
a little piece of unspoiled Florida wilderness, complete with an alligator or two. There are
a lot of springs in Florida, but there’s a special reason why Sea Hunt Forever takes
place here. From 1958 to 1961, Silver Springs was a prime
underwater filming location for Sea Hunt. The clear water, and calm, controlled conditions
made it a perfect place for what was basically an underwater studio. Silver Springs is now a state park, and no
scuba diving is allowed. But today is different. Tourists are boarding a glass-bottomed boat
for a fisheye view of the spring. Below the boat—crystal clear water and divers. The rain won’t spoil this special day. We’re
here to get wet anyway. Alan Klauda is getting into his vintage gear
for a dive in the spring. I feel right at home here with all these double hose regulators! Cameraman Todd and I head for the water to
catch the underwater action. My doublehose is a modern interpretation of the classics,
so I decide to try out some real vintage stuff. Other than the algae we have all kicked up
near the entrance, the water in the spring is super clear and everyone looks like they
just jumped into an episode of Sea Hunt. If ever there was a chance for fully-grown
adults to relive their childhood, this is it. Re-enactments are game of the day. Play
knife fights with rubber knives break out every 5 minutes. A bad guy is hiding. Meanwhile, the good guy
has found a treasure chest. Another knife fight. With my vintage fins I try to keep
up with the unfolding action. Victory for the good guy. The reward: A chest
full of gold coins. The local fish keep far away from the action
while I look for the next knife fight. Unfortunately, a bad guy has seen me and is
coming after me with one of those terrible rubber knives. My buddy Luis Heros saves the
day with his extremely dangerous speargun! Jerry Lang zips by on his Voit Portasub, an
extremely rare and noisy piece of vintage gear. Meanwhile…Joe Musial fires up a magnesium
torch. Magnesium burns so hot that water can’t extinguish the flame, and the reaction releases
the oxygen from the water needed to support the combustion. Inside the mouth of the cave, the torch provides
light, and even produces smoke. These magnesium torches were all the rage in the 1950s, but
they are quite dangerous and not commonly used anymore. Still, it’s a highlight of
the day for me to see this torch. I have never seen one before. Scuba diving hasn’t really changed fundamentally
since the 1950s. We have a few new gadgets that make diving safer, but for the most part
it’s still a cylinder of compressed air and a regulator that allows one to breathe
that air underwater. But at the end of the day, events that keep vintage diving alive
are mostly about having fun. And isn’t that why we scuba dive? The Sea Hunt Forever festival
is a great tradition that not only keeps history alive, but is just plain fun.

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