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Two physicians from Ohio, a husband and wife team, began scuba diving, raising tropical fish, studying fish behavior and ocean environmental issues. Their interest evolved into man’s penetration of the undersea. Drs. Joe and Sally Bauer researched then collected early diving inventions and historic hard hat rigs. Their collection expanded as they discovered and preserved historic diving gear, books, manuscripts and memorabilia associated with ocean exploration. Collecting historic dive equipment became their passion.
“Florida is the epicenter for sunken Spanish treasure galleons.” That was the mantra of the late Bob ‘Frogfoot’ Weller. Bob and Margaret Weller searched off Florida’s coast for forty years. Their discoveries rivaled those of Mel Fisher with whom they worked and shared close friendship. Frogfoot was always successful. He knew Florida’s underwater bounty can never be exhausted. Furious hurricanes wrecked about ten percent of Spanish colonial shipping. Centuries of wind, waves and storms in the Atlantic scattered this wreckage over miles of ocean. It will never all be found.
Joanne Birdsall, Gift Store Manager at the History of Diving Museum (HDM) in Islamorada, took out her phone. She scrolled down to show me photographs along US 1, known in the Florida Keys as the Overseas Highway. Her shots were taken after residents were allowed back and clean-up started in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Irma was a category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of peak intensity measured at 185 miles per hour.
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