Pushing the Envelope at TekDiveUSA

TecRec Blog caught up with Michael Menduno as he prepared a major display that will debut at TEKDiveUSA 2016. Founder and publisher of aquaCORPS (the now extinct 1990s magazine credited with bringing tec diving into the mainstream) and the original TekConference, Menduno whetted our appetites for what he’s creating.

TRB: Hi, Michael. Tell us about what you’re working on.

Menduno: It’s called “Pushing the Envelope: The People, Projects and Technologies Behind the Tec Diving Revolution.” Yeah, a big name, I know. But, it’s a big display – 64 feet by 8 [19.5 metres by 2.4 metres] It’s the story of where we came from and then grew in the 1990s.

TRB: What can we look forward to?

Menduno: [Laughs], Wow, where do I start? We’re still putting it together and gathering stuff, but more than 120 major images from the period. Plus memorabilia like an early DEMA guide warning against nitrox use [chuckles] and a copy of the Key West Consortium table – those were the first commercially available trimix tables developed by Dr. Bill Hamilton. Lots of faces and quotes from people who were part of it all – Sheck [Exley], Wes [Skiles], Billy Deans, Drew Richardson and Karl Shreeves, Kev Gurr, Rich Pyle, Tom Mount, Jarrod Jablonski, George Irvine, Gary Gentile, Jim Bowden and Ann Kristovich, Steve Gatto, Dan Burton, Leigh Bishop, Martin Parker, Larry Green, John Chatterton, Bill Stone, Olivier Isler, Rod Farb, Lamar Hires, the Heinerths, Mike Madden, Eric Hutcheson, Brett Gilliam, Dick Long, Hal Watts, Ed Betts . . . I could go on, and there’s more.

Think of it somewhat like aquaCORPS on a wall. The images will include some cool data with them – profiles, deco stuff, like Bowden’s Zacaton table. It’s scarier than s**t using open circuit to nearly 1000 feet [307 metres] in a cave and coming off heliox onto air at 260 feet [79 metres]. If you were part of the era, it’s a definite nostalgia hit.

M2 blog

TRB: What’s the coolest part you have planned, do you think?

Menduno: There’s a bunch of cool stuff. The memorial section moves me. DiveRite’s constructing a giant underwater notebook where we, attendees, will write the names of our heroes, mentors, and friends who died doing this diving – and I’m sad to say there were too many of them, as you know. Makes you think – a lot of what we know today cost lives to know it. We want to honor these people!

TRB: What insights did you get looking back – things you didn’t or couldn’t know at the time?

Menduno: I’d forgotten just how much pioneering work was being done, and what a passionate group we were. And still are of course. I’ve got images of people on stage at the first Tek Conferences with people standing in the audience shouting at each other . . . we didn’t agree on a lot of things, but we got the wreck divers and cave divers and commercial and military divers together . . . we all got together and shared our experiences and what we’d learned. And that’s part of how we made it work. It was definitely something we were passionate about because we were inventing how to do it as we did it. . . like [Richard] Pyle’s deep work and the first Wakulla Project. Back then, we were in constant learning mode.

TRB: What will new tec divers get out of “Pushing the Envelope”?

Menduno: For the new tec divers, it’s how we did things when we didn’t know how to do it and had to figure things out – what brought us to today’s relatively standardized tec community. It answers a lot of “why do we do this?” questions. Human factors consultant Gareth Lock is also summarizing the 80+ tech diving incidents that aquaCORPS published, which should give us experience-based lessons a lot like Sheck’s [Exley] Blueprint for Survival.

TRB: Tell us how you see TEKDive USA attendees interacting with this piece.

Menduno: I see Pushing the Envelope as a place where people will discuss the past, what’s going on today, the future and share information. I wanted to give it sort of a linear logic, but in a way that you can jump in anywhere. So it has a flow from one end to the other, but it’s clustered into stories like the Andre Doria, Eagle’s Nest and so on. Places, people and events that made us who we are today.

TRB: Any other thoughts?

Menduno: Yeah, a big thank you to TEKDive USA, PADI, AP Diving, DUI, IANTD, GUE for contributing to and sponsoring Pushing the Envelope. I also want to thank Becky Schott, my director of photography, and Dawn Kernagis, Mike Yasky and Joel Silverstein for their help and all of the people who have contributed photos! OMG! I’m curating the exhibit, but it would have been impossible without everyone’s support.

TRB: See you at TEKDive USA in April in Miami;.


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