Tony Bilby Scuba


When I was in grade school in the 80’s, I was obsessed with a national geographic book, containing large glossy color photographs, that chronicled diving throughout the world along with a history of how diving first began.  I was fascinated with how underwater exploration first started, the treasures unearthed from sunken ships, divers in their thick rubber suits with multiple tanks, and the beautiful coral that was alive and vibrant showcasing an underwater world at the turn of every page.

I was very young at the time so I asked my mother to read me the stories, captions, and air bubbled tales of sunken treasure and exotic marine animals whenever she was willing.  There were sharks, octopus, crabs, stingrays, eels, and beautiful color photographed families of creatures that lived within these coral cities under the ocean.

I decided I wanted to be a diver when I was older or at least learn and get the chance to scuba dive later in life.

When I was eighteen, a freshman in college, I took a diving class, studied in the classroom, dove in the pool, and then a murky mountainous river to finally get certified navigating a stretch of deep water with zero visibility using only a compass as my guide.  This was 1991, pre-internet, so no such things as dive computers; only manual dive tables, clunky equipment, and a thirst for adventure and the unknown.

Over the course of my sport diving, now as a middle aged man, I’ve logged a significant number of dives.  It seems over the decades I have experienced more and more death and darkness rather than the first eye popping, color filled, teaming with life dives I went on like at Looe Key Sanctuary in the Florida keys in the early 90’s.  Back then the locals were already telling me that diving was so much better in the 80’s.

It seems that Florida’s “dwindling” reefs, as they are referred to now, are disappearing at record speeds having been struck with a devastating coral bleaching disease, another impact of warming ocean temperatures caused by man-made climate change.

In just thirty years half of the worlds coral has disappeared.  What? And just in the last two years half of the coral on the Great Barrier Reef, part of the worlds largest living and ocean organism, is now gone.

It’s insanity to think what we’ve done in just a few short decades.  The almost complete destruction of Earths most important eco-system. And, not surprisingly, most don’t seem to care.

Perhaps the coral deaths parallel much of what American society has become today.  What was once a vibrant land filled with opportunity, promise, attracting generations of great thinkers, engineers, philosophers, artists, writers, and people wanting to do good and make a positive difference has now become an overbearingly destructive capitalistic machine concerned only with profits at the expense of everything else including human life and the environment around us.

Perhaps we are too glued to our screens watching the latest unfolding of the greatest and trashy American reality TV show, American politics today, to realize that our destruction and greed has gone too far?  It’s time for everyone to wake up!

Today the colorful first dives only exist in my mind, a recreation that can’t be re-done except with the help of hollywood and some cinematic genius.

I hope that I’m not the last generation to have experienced the ocean reefs personally rather than a story from a not-too-distant movie in the future discussing the worlds biggest ecological disaster.

Tony Bilby