Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

by Tracy Hajduk
Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

Young Divers Discover the Wonders of the Deep

When Kwadjo Tillman got the opportunity to scuba dive on a century-old shipwreck at the bottom of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, he jumped in feet-first - literally. Bubbles swirled around Kwadjo's mask as he plunged into Lake Huron, the burden of his heavy scuba gear suddenly light in the buoyant underwater world. Down he drifted, peering into the bluegreen void. The rhythmic noise of his scuba regulator filled his ears. A hulking shape loomed out of the depths: the wreck of the 235-foot steamship Montana, lying fragmented and algae-covered on the lake bottom for nearly 100 years.

A 17-year-old aspiring marine scientist from Fairfield, Iowa, Kwadjo was one of three young members of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers (NABS) who traveled to Alpena, Mich., last summer to participate in a scientific expedition to the Montana. He worked side-by-side with underwater archaeologists as they searched for clues about the history of the ship, which caught fire and sank in 70 feet of water in an area known as "Shipwreck Alley" in 1914.

The highlight of the mission came when Kwadjo and two of his fellow NABS members discovered not one, but two, previously unidentified shipwrecks while searching for artifacts on the bottom of the lake. As these young team members found out firsthand, there are still plenty of secrets in our national marine sanctuaries waiting to be uncovered by the next generation of underwater explorers.

"There is no better way to get up-close and personal with the sea than scuba diving," Kwadjo said. "It's great recreational activity and can only be equated to sinking into another world."

Partnerships like the one with NABS are among the many ways the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries works to get young people interested in ocean recreation. Scuba diving is an important economic activity for many coastal communities, and encouraging new scuba divers helps promote continued interest and participation in the sport.

Last year, NABS brought its Youth Educational Summit to Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, giving students like Kwadjo the chance to experience these special underwater places for themselves. "We will do anything that gets the kids in the water and excited," said NABS member Ken Stewart.

As Kwadjo and countless other young divers already know, the best way to gain an appreciation for the underwater world is to see it with your own eyes. Through diverse partnerships and outreach efforts, the national marine sanctuaries are providing more and more opportunities for our future ocean leaders to do just that.

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