Laura James Named as Oris Watch Sea Hero

Laura James, Oris Watch, Scuba Diving Magazine, Puget Sound, GUE, Megalodon rebreather, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, The Underwater Marketing Company, Sea Hero, Emmy award, underwater cinematographer, environment, Jill Heinerth, Annie Crawley
Laura is an active GUE, NAUI and Megalodon CCR diver

We reported earlier this year that filmaker, underwater explorer and Puget Sound environmental diver - Laura James - had won her second consecutive Emmy in the ‘Environmental Feature / Segment’ category for her story ‘Solving the Mystery of Dying Starfish‘.

Now this respected technical mixed-gas-diving instructor and rebreather diver has been named as an Oris Watch Sea Hero by Scuba Diving Magazine.

This award - sponsored by Scuba Diving magazine and Oris Watches - recognises scuba divers who have made a difference, by working tirelessly to protect our oceans through education, conservation and action.

Previous award winners include Annie Crawley and Jill Heinerth.

If you know someone like Laura James, Scuba Diving Magazine is asking for your help in locating future Sea Heroes. You can nominate anyone you know who deserves this special award.

John Dalla-Zuanna Receives OZTek 2015 Outstanding Achievement Award

OZTek 2015 Technical Diver of the Year, OZTek 2015 Industry Recognition Award, OZTek 2015 Outstanding Achievement Award, OZTek 2015 Media Excellence Award, John Dalla-Zuanna, Richard Vevers, Richard Evans, Lance Robb. OZTek 2015 Award Winners, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, The Underwater Marketing Company, The OZTek Awards celebrate the achievements and endeavours of Australia's leading Divers and Dive Industry personnel - the people who have helped push the boundaries of knowledge and exploration in the field of advanced and technical diving.

On Sunday 15th March 2015, during the Gala Award Ceremony, previous OZTEk award winner Dr Richard 'Harry' Harris announced OZTek's 2015 Outstanding Achievement Award. This is what Harry had to say to packed audience of advanced and technical diving movers and shakers.

"It is an enormous honour to be asked by the OZTek Organisers to present this very well deserved award to a close friend, a wonderful dive budy, a mentor and a constant voice of reason in the mad world of technical diving!

I would like to break with tradition and ask this man - John Dalla-Zuanna - to come and join me up here, whilst I tell you why he is such a special guy in this great sport of ours.

At the cheeky young age of just 58, JDZ is truly a veteran of the sport of cave and technical diving. Cave diving in Australia started pretty much at the time JDZ started cave diving, so it is impossible to consider one without the other. Around the time the CDAA became incorporated in 1973, JDZ started visiting the Mount Gambier area. He cut a fine figure in Piccaninnie Ponds with his Moray suit! He became qualified in 1975 as member #256 and from that time on was inspired by the sport. A trip in the late 70's to Florida to meet Sheck Exlley, Wes Skiles and Woody Jasper quickly led to adopting sidemount diving, and feeling the thrill of laying line in virgin passage.

OZTek 2015 Harry Harris and JOhn Dalla Zuanna by Rosemary E Lunn
Dr 'Harry' Harris introducing cave diver John Dalla-Zuanna at the 2015 OZTek Award Dinner Photo Credit: Rosemary E Lunn / The Underwater Marketing Company

Thus the passion was born and returned to Australia and began teaching both open water and cave diving. He has reached the highest levels of recreational and cave diving instructor. And, as a long time FAUI instructor, a PADI Course Director and CDAA Advanced Cave instructor, countless students have come under his thoughtful and methodical influence. The CDAA has benefited enormously from John's vision for cave diving, and he has filled a voluntary position with that organisation in some form or another almost continuously. Ken Smith always said that he used to think cave diving politics were a matter of life and death, and now he realises it is much more serious! JDZ has been a calming influence on all factions of the CDAA for many yearss and is unique in that he is respected and heard by all sides.

OZTek 2015, cave diving explorer, Paul Hosie, Craig Challen, Ken Smith, Wetmules, John Dalla-Zuanna, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, technical diving, scuba diving, The Underwater Marketing Company
Cave diving explorer Paul Hosie @ OZTek.15 Photo Credit: Rosemary E Lunn

I met John at OZTek in, I think, 2003. We had been exchanging emails for awhile and I was about to leave to live in Vanuatu. John had built a rebreather heads up display from an LED light and a mobile phone vibrating motor! He generously gave me this device to put onto my KISS rebreather, which considerably enhanced the safety of my cave exploration at the the time.

After my stint in Vanuatu JDZ was one of the instructors on my penetration course and we struck up a real friendship underscored by our passion for caves, rebreathers and exploration. John had dived in so many caves around the world and along with guys like Paul Hosie, Craig Challen and Ken Smith, I quickly found a group of experienced cave divers who mentored me into the world of exploration and expedition diving. I am sure John has had a major impact on many other peoples' lives, the way he has influenced mine.

JDZ's ingenuity goes way back. He built a radio detection device called 'the Thumper' which played no small part in the mapping of Mount Gambier's showpiece, 'Tank Cave'. John was an early adopter of closed circuit rebreathers, and along with Tubby McKenzie the early leaky valve CCR Dolphin was born and dived to 85 metres on the Bayonet in the ships graveyard in Victoria. It was this creation that caught my eye and got me into rebreathers in 2002.

John the inventor became an indispensable part of the Wetmules team. (Moto: Lurching from crisis to crisis). His lithium scooter batteries propelled Craig Challen and I to the end of Cocklebiddy in 2008, where Craig added new line to the end of the cave. They also now famously caused the fire which burnt my car to the ground on the way home! His early 12 volt heated undergarments kept us warm in the Pearse Resurgence and his wonderful pasta kept us fed.

OZTek 2015. Dr Harry Harris, battery fire, Cocklebiddy Cave Exploration, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, The Underwater Marketing Company
Dr 'Harry' Harris contemplating the fact that his beloved Mk15.5 rebreather was now a blackened blob inside the burnt out shell of his Nissan Patrol. (Along with all his other diving equipment, camera system, camping equipment, laptop and clothing). Harry was his way home from a two week cave diving trip to Australia's famous Cocklebiddy Cave in summer 2008, when he spotted smoke in the rear view mirror. 10 minutes after pulling over, everything was destroyed by fire.

John is a regular ocean and wreck diver. He has numerous sub 100 metre / 328 feet wreck dives to his credit and continues to teach young divers open water diving through the La Trobe university club, sharing his passion for all things aquatic. His huge passion right now is the 3D mapping of cave using a combination of video and gaming technology, and in this area he is becoming a world leader. I hope many of you got to see his talk on this today. As the current Site Director of CDAA he shows no sign of letting up, and I look foward to sharing many more dives with this wonderful friend and great ambassador for the sport of technical diving.

2015 OZTek Speakers, Heather Hamza, Alberto Nava, Richard Nicholls, Jayne Jenkins, Richard Taylor, Paul Raymaekers, Ben Reymenants, Liz Rogers, Dave Ross, Ken Smith, Lance Robb, Martin Parker, Simon Pridmore, Sue Crowe, Rod Macdonald, Daren Marshall, Barry McGill, Pete Mesley, Rosemary E Lunn, Simon Mitchell, David Strike, Dr Catherine Meehan, Michael Menduno, Richard 'Harry' Harris, Lamar Hires, Paul Hosie, Deborah Johnston, Richard Lundgren, Heather Hamza, Liam Allen, Michael Aw, Peter Buzzacott, Matt Carter, Steve Cox, John Dalla-Zuanna, John Garvin, Laura James, Paul Haynes, Paul Toomer,
The 2015 OZTek Speakers

John Dalla-Zuanna, please accept this Outstanding Achievement Award for your long standing contributions to cave and technical diving."

 

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"Solving the Mystery of Dying Starfish" wins Emmy for Laura James

Laura James, Puget Sound, Seastars, Solving the Mystery of Dying Starfish, Star Fish Wasting Syndrome, Meg Rebreather, GUE, Seattle, This Girl Can Dive, Sea Otters v. Climate Change, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, The Underwater Marketing Company, scuba diving, female divers, sea hero, Cox Conservation Hero, Sustainable West Seattle,
Laura James in her beloved Puget Sound

Talk to filmaker and underwater explorer Laura James for five minutes, and the name 'Puget Sound' will be mentioned in the conversation somewhere. You soon learn this is no coincidence. Laura's self imposed mission is to share the undersea world of this Washington State Sound in such a way that people discover what is going on beneath the waves, and learn to love and protect the Sound as much as she does.

It does help that this self-effacing West Seattle advocate is a respected, Emmy award winning, accomplished recreational, technical and rebreather diver with north of 5,000 dives underneath her belt. Using the power of film and journalism she highlights pollution problems and other environmental factors that impact on this inlet of the Pacific Ocean.

In 2013 Laura James collaboratived on a report 'Sea Otters v. Climate Change' and won an Emmy Award for her photography in June 2014. The report was honoured as best 'health / science feature / segment'.

On 6th June 2015 Laura earned her second Emmy in the 'Environmental Feature / Segment' category for her story 'Solving the Mystery of Dying Starfish'.

Drained: Urban Stormwater Pollution, Laura James, Halcyon, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, The Underwater Marketing Company, scuba diving, leading female diver, environmentalist, sea hero, scuba diver, Megalodon rebreather, Global Underwater Explorers
Laura is an active GUE and Megalodon CCR diver

"I had noticed on my dives in Puget Sound that the starfish were getting sick, deteriorating and subsequently dying quite rapidly. Other people had reported it, but nothing was happening about this mass mortality event, and I felt the 'Star Fish Wasting Syndrome' needed highlighting.

Reports starting surfacing from Alaska to as far south as San Diego of tens of thousands of starfish dying. This raised the question of whether this starfish die-off was an indicator of a larger problem. At first it seemed only to affect one species known as the Sunflower Starfish (or Seastar). Then it hit another species, and another. In all about a dozen species of Seastars were dying along the Pacific westcoast.

I was fortunate that I had an amazing team of dive buddies behind me, helping make the video dives possible.  I had pitched the story a number of times, but no one bit until I shot the first batch of footage and then it took off. I worked with husband and wife team, Michael Werner and Katie Campbell.

I knew that Katie would be perfect to produce this and do the story justice after working with her on 'Drained: Urban Stormwater Pollution'. (This video won the Society of Professional Journalists award for Best Online Video for the Western Washington Chapter and was nominated for two Emmys. And it was also featured in the Reel Water Film Festival and Sea Cinema Film Festival.) We make a great team - Katie and Michael filmed the topside footage - whilst Lamont Granquist and I shot the underwater stock.

Laura James, Congressman Danny Heck, Sunflower Starfish, Starfish, Seastar, Puget Sound, Michael Werner, GUE, scuba diving, Seattle, Katie Campbell, Environmental Emmy, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, The Underwater Marketing Company
Laura James with her 2015 Emmy Award

It was important to me that we got citizen scientists involved with this project. The big problem we had with this epidemic is that there was no baseline. Quite simply the starfish got sick and we noticed this. We needed a way to show this in real time - how it was spreading - hence we built a website to track posts to media sites using #SickStarfish. We encouraged Pacific divers to take photos of starfish and and hash tag it 'SickStarfish'.

I must admit I am still pretty stunned to receive this award because we were up against a great story about wolves. This Emmy is very pretty special to me. The story we created felt like my baby, from pitching it, shooting compelling underwater footage and then watching it grow and reach a national audience.

I want to shoot stories that connect with non-divers, that bring them along, without spoon-feeding or dumbing down the content. Jacques Cousteau brought diving stories into our living room. He invited us to join him on a grand undersea adventure. I don't have grand undersea adventures, I have environmental stories about Puget Sound that once heard, can help make a positive difference. Probably the most amazing part about 'Solving the Mystery of Dying Starfish' is that it inspired Congressman Danny Heck to write a Bill after he had seen the footage. For me that makes the process of 'tilting at windmills' worth doing."

Sea star wasting syndrome is still ongoing. If you wish to be part of the research, follow this link.