By John Tapley
When divers get together, it’s a time to celebrate a world they understand, and, through their actions, impart wisdom to future generations. One of the most acclaimed dive shows in the country, Beneath the Sea (BTS) will carry this drive in its 2018 year, slated to take place March 23 to 25 at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, New Jersey.
Boasting over 300 exhibitors, 79 seminars and workshops (eight per hour), and a wide range of programs aimed at all audiences, BTS shares the majesty and fragility of the world’s waters. The show inspires current divers to engage with the international dive community, showcases what beginners can expect as their adventures and careers take root, and plants seeds for the future of diving by organizing activities and programs tailored for adolescents and young adults. Special social events add to the weekend’s festivities, including opportunities to mingle with guests, and enjoy the world of scuba diving on the big screen.
“We offer something for everyone, and people should have a choice of whether they’re interested in something beautiful or technical; wreck diving, deep diving, critters,” says BTS Executive Vice President Maria Hults. “We want to cover the gamut.”
The jam-packed three-day event opens its doors on Friday, March 23 at 8 a.m. as workshops start and exhibitors set up their booths. Most of the day’s seminars and programs will be centered on medical and public safety diving, with a Diving Sciences Symposium and Public Safety Divers Conference. Running alongside these programs will be Marine Careers: a free learning opportunity for high school and college students and young adults interested in pursuing careers in marine and maritime fields, which includes hands-on activities.
Hults elaborates on the Marine Careers program:
“Seven experts from various fields and marine careers will speak to the youths about how to approach a marine career, and what they can look forward to. Career specialists will be there to help find options for attending different schools… and a scholarship application writing seminar so students will understand what’s required. In a hands-on section they will learn commercial diving, knot tying, and diving with a helmet: they get to try all of this at different stations.”
Five in the afternoon opens the Legends of the Sea Pioneers reception: an event, which honors luminaries in scuba diving who have gone above and beyond to promote scuba diving and ocean stewardship. This year’s Legend recipient, Captain Wayne Hasson, was chosen for his devotion to educating youths and for forming the Aggressor Fleet, which bolstered scuba diving in the Cayman Islands. Following another series of floor exhibits, BTS will conclude Friday with two simultaneous events.
Beginning at 7 p.m., the Fish n’ Famous Reception offers opportunities for guests to mingle with speakers and exhibitors.
“It’s a party where we have all the speakers, presenters, VIPs, and evening film festival folks there,” says Hults. “Dinner is served and everyone is open to speak to anyone: it’s a friendly get-together. There’s a silent auction benefitting the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital; and we break out a dance floor with live music. We’re all together. Let’s have a party evening!”
Running alongside Meet the Fish and Famous will be an alternative for guests interested in the technical side of diving: the Tech Wreck party at the exhibit hall. Visitors there will enjoy opportunities to discuss the many exciting wreck sites found off New York.
Saturday opens again at 8 a.m. with a day of exhibits, including six hours of programming by Divers Alert Network (DAN), and the Women Divers Hall of Fame (WDHOF) membership meeting. At 5 p.m., the Diver of the Year Awards Banquet celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Historical Diving Society’s (HDS) U.S. branch while honoring co-founder Leslie Leaney, who established it from England to the U.S. Saturday night kicks into gear at 8:30 with the annual International Film Festival. Headlined by Leaney, the festival highlights the work of acclaimed scuba media producers Laurent Ballesta, Jonathan Bird, Jill Heinerth, Niki, Julie Ouimet, Becky Schott, Evan Sherman, Jim and Pat Stayer, and Douglas David Seifert – the latter honoring the accomplishments of legendary diver Valerie Taylor.
Sunday marks the final day of this year’s BTS show with another series of exhibits and workshops, alongside the WDHOF brunch. Key to this day is an ongoing program for youths, beginning at noon. The Ocean Pals Contest is a learning experience in which students throughout the world create art based on an animal chosen each year – 2018’s choice being the polar bear. A school curriculum complements the contest by equipping teachers with important facts on each year’s theme: after the lesson is complete, adolescents from kindergarten to interpret what they’ve learned into art, which is categorically judged prior to the event. Contest winners will proudly have their work displayed at a Sea of Sweets party, which includes arts and crafts.
As the sun sets on March 15, and BTS concludes another year, guests will return home not only with the valuable skills and knowledge they have attained, or gear and services from vendors, but with a greater understanding and appreciation of issues increasingly facing the world’s waterways. At its core, BTS is about conservation.
“We want to make people aware of the ocean and its peril – it has to be the base message for anyone that loves the ocean, and we foster this whenever we can,” says Maria. “We try to be information and entertaining… the film festival certainly has many humorous and beautiful pieces.”
For more information on Beneath the Sea 2018, including an extensive list of exhibitors and speakers and hotel accommodations, and how to order tickets, visit www.beneaththesea.org.