Farewell to Stan Waterman

By Mark Strickland

The diving and underwater imaging communities have lost an iconic and greatly loved personality with the recent passing of Stan Waterman at the age of 100.  Growing up in New Jersey and spending his summers in Delaware and Maine, becoming one of the world’s most revered underwater filmmakers was not an obvious career path for young Stan, although he did gain an appreciation for the underwater world when trying out his first facemask in Florida at age 11.  After serving in the US Navy during WWII and graduating from Dartmouth where he studied English under renowned poet Robert Frost, he and his wife Susy tried their hand at blueberry farming in Maine, which provided a modest income, but did little to satisfy his thirst for adventure.  But the farm had a pond, and while there was little to see beneath its surface, it was intriguing enough that Stan bought one of the first Aqualung units in the U.S., taught himself the basics and was soon investigating the murky depths.  Before long, though, he scraped together enough funds to build a 40 ft. motor vessel and set it up as the first diving live-aboard in the Bahamas, providing a great opportunity for his budding interest in underwater filmmaking. 

If asked when I first became aware of humans exploring the underwater world, like many others of my generation, my answer would have to include a reference to Jacques Cousteau, whose weekly television show opened the doors to the world beneath the waves.  But it wasn’t until I saw the movie Blue Water White Death, The Deep and other films featuring the camera work of Stan Waterman that I started entertaining the notion that someday, maybe I too could capture underwater images to share with others.  That was years before I was old enough to be a certified diver, but the seed of an idea was planted.  Of course there were other influences as well, including ground-breaking work by Austrians Hans and Lotte Hass, Australians Ron and Valerie Taylor (also contributors to Blue Water White Death) and other pioneering image makers like Chuck Nicklin, Bill Curtsinger, Jerry Greenberg and Ernie Brooks II, but Stan, who went on to win 5 Emmy awards for his television productions and create feature movies for National Geographicand other notable institutions, was always at the top of my “underwater heroes” list.  I’m sure that I’m not alone in such sentiments, as many of today’s top cinematographers and photographers, including longtime National Geographic contributor David Doubilet and celebrated IMAX filmmakers Howard and Michele Hall count Stan among their key mentors.  But even more than his many underwater imaging accomplishments, Stan was widely loved for his gentlemanly manner, engaging storytelling and fine sense of humor.  

In recent years, my son and I have reveled in the chance to relive some of Stan’s adventures vicariously, taking turns reading aloud to each other the highly entertaining collections of short stories in Stan’s booksSea Salt and More Salt.  I only met the man on a few occasions, but he left a lasting impression, and I feel privileged to have made his acquaintance.  Stan’s cheerful presence in our dive community will be sorely missed, but his rich legacy will live on for generations of divers to come. 



Mark Strickland is the friendly store manager at Bluewater Photo.  Be sure to give him a call if you have any questions. His life-long interest in the sea has included over 10,000 dives and careers as lifeguard, boat captain and scuba instructor. His passion for underwater photography has led him to many top dive locales, including Virgin Islands, Australia, and Thailand, where he spent 17 years as Cruise Director on a series of live-aboards. www.markstrickland.com


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