Time Capsules

By Tamara Collins

1980 -The Oro Verde Takes the Plunge

The Oro Verde is probably one of the most frequently dived wrecks in the Cayman Islands. In her present glory as a dive attraction, it’s hard to believe she languished on the surface for years before Grand Cayman’s dive operators recognized her potential. Finally, on May 31, 1980, the 184-foot freighter was sent to the bottom. Nancy Sefton covered the event in Skin Diver’s September issue.

The wreck had an interesting past. After serving in WWII, she carried cargo across the Caribbean, but when her owners ran out of money, the unpaid crew ran her into the shallows of North Sound. Sefton didn’t mention it, but rumors hint at a secret cargo of Jamaican ganja.

Today, divers wouldn’t recognize the ship as it’s pictured in the article. Sefton’s photographs show a clean-hulled vessel lying on its side, with its propellers protruding from the bottom. Now the Oro Verde sits upright, and she is a living reef—time and the fury of Mother Nature have transformed her.

1971 - Eddie Bauer Outfits the Diver

Before Warmwind and TruWest, there was Eddie Bauer’s Four Season suit—a watertight, one-piece coverall that warmed the bones of divers caught in the chill of the north wind between dives. Spence Campbell of the Northwest Diving Institute wrote about the suit in Skin Diver’s March issue. He was used to training divers for hours on end in 38°F weather, but he wasn’t happy about it, so he approached the management of Eddie Bauer Expedition Outfitter. They suggested the Four Season suit, which had been designed for snowmobilers and hunters, but was perfect for divers. Zippered pant legs allowed easy access, and its heat-retaining properties made it “the most efficient and durable diver anti-exposure cover currently on the market.” When Campbell tested the suit in the freezing weather, his body temperature ran between 79 and 80°F. Snug as a bug and ready for the next dive.

1960 - Humor in the Early Days

Skin Diver hasn’t always been politically correct. In the ’50s and ’60s, the writing could be tongue-in-cheek and incredibly sexist. Carl Kohler set the tone of the humor in the magazine with his ruminations on women divers, and the trend continued with numerous jokes, spoofs and cartoons.

Zig Bulanda aimed his biting editorial wit on the sport of diving itself in “A Guide for the Beginning Skin Diver.” The article’s only illustration is the menacing face of a Wolf Eel, with the caption, “I am always looking for the beginning skin diver.” Bulanda wrote, “The good skin diver is able to provide fresh, warm-blooded meat on the hoof to flesh-eating denizens of the deep….” By the time he laid down his pen, he’d taken a shot at dive instructors, the instruction process and women divers. In the old days nothing was sacred, and no one took themselves too seriously.