How the It’s About Time Scholarship Helped Me Scuba Dive Again

This scholarship provided the recipient an all-expenses paid trip to the Diving Equipment Marketing Association conference. DEMA is not affiliated with the Abingdon Foundation. This post was written by Deanna Morris-Stacey.

Deanna Morris-Stacey won the 2018 scuba diving scholarship.

Prior to my experience at the DEMA show, my dive log was filled with only five pages of information that consisted of a few hours in a local rock quarry and a dive with the gentle, giant manatee in Crystal River, Florida. After those adventures, I packed away my suit for over 10 years.

I was awarded the 2018 It’s About Time scholarship to the DEMA show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. DEMA (Diving Equipment and Marking Association). The Abingdon Foundation strives to influence, encourage and embolden women in their pursuits of extraordinary lives. The scholarship included registration, airfare, room, and board. Through this scholarship I was introduced to key people, careers, and hobbies in the diving industry.

The DEMA show is the largest trade-only event in the world for companies doing business in scuba diving, and other ocean water related sports. The convention center was packed from wall to wall with information on diving destinations, the latest and greatest in diving equipment, apparel, cameras, watches- the list goes on and on. The show also offered educational seminars throughout each day with topics ranging from promoting a diving destination to scientific research around the effect of diving and decompression on the female body. Special sessions included a recap from an elite cave diver, Erik Brown, who was involved in the rescue of the Thai soccer team from a flooded cave earlier in the year. For me, one particular highlight of the week was a session I attended conducted by maritime archeologist involved in the NOAA Maritime Heritage Program. During World War II, at least 91 vessels were lost off of the coast of North Carolina. A mission of the Maritime Heritage Program is to preserve the underwater battlefield off of the east coast, also known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic.

My time at DEMA opened my eyes to a world of exotic dive locations I can visit and opportunities to volunteer and assist as a dive buddy for individuals with disabilities. I learned about different conservation efforts and the negative effects that most popular sunscreens and other body care products have on our environment. And I learned about the efforts to educate and preserve the history of maritime affairs in the United States through work being done through the Maritime Heritage Program and the Historical Diving Society’s mission to archive and disseminate history related to underwater exploration.

I found the wall of diving history on my last day of the show. I have always loved history, and on that day I spent time reading through the display of information. The wall highlighted snapshots of diving throughout the centuries, beginning with a quote from Aristotle. In one of his writings, Aristotle noted that the earliest sponge fishers (divers) used vases lowered in the water as respirators. The Japanese Ama, know as “woman of the sea” have been diving for pearls and food for over 2,000 years. The NEDU (Navy Experimental Diving Unit) simulate ocean conditions in the Ocean Simulation Facility (OCF.) In 1979, divers completed a 37-day, 1,800 ft dive in the unit. Also in 1979, Dr. Sylvia Earle descended 1,200 feet to the sea floor while contained in an armored diving suit. She explored the seafloor for more than two hours at a depth no human has ever reached before or since.

For the past 20 years, I have worked in the education field. My personal mission has been to never pass up on an opportunity to learn. My creative submission displayed this. With my passion for education and my current work in the Tennessee college system, I developed fact sheets that provide more information about the 21 industries the Abingdon Foundation has focused its efforts on helping to diversify either professionally or recreationally. You can access these fact sheets on the STEAM pages of this website!

My next step will be to take a refresher course and plan a dive trip to a new location. Dr. Sylvia Earle said that “going into the ocean is like diving into the history of life on earth.” I look forward to exploring that history and diving not only for enjoyment but for a purpose.