Beneath the Sea – An International Expo on Everything Aqua – Vision Times

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Who doesn’t love the water? Beautiful, mysterious, powerful and vital — it soothes and nourishes both body and soul. It also hides an incredible, vibrant world beneath the sea, that most of us never see except in photos. Ever wish to witness coral reefs teeming with life? explore long-lost shipwrecks? live on a boat? play underwater hockey? Beneath the Sea hosts an annual international exposition, located in Secaucus, New Jersey, that can encourage and enable the ocean enthusiast in anyone. 

Beneath the Sea is a non-profit organization that has been internationally recognized as a “source of education about the ocean environment.” Fueled by volunteer members, Beneath the Sea supports the recreational diving community and helps to protect the oceanic ecosystem through education and various events. Their 45th expo (March 23-24, 2024) featured over 150 vendors, presentations, awards, exhibits, and more. 

Historical Diving Society

Nano Gomez signed his autobiographical book Beyond Blue for fans at the Expo. (Image Ila Bonczek/Vision Times)

Nuno Gomez, a resident of Brooklyn, New York, was highlighted as the world-record holder for the deepest cave dive, which took place in 1996 off the coast of Africa. Gomez spent 12 hours under water, consuming 30 tanks of air, according to another member of the Historical Diving Society. This exhibitor displayed a museum-worthy collection made up of the members’ private treasures from all across America. 

Part of the fascinating display was some incredibly heavy, home-made diving equipment, which society member Greg Hunter calls “folk art.” Apparently, in the early days of diving, one would walk around the bottom of a pond while his buddies pumped air to him. He had to remain upright in the cumbersome equipment, or the water would rush right in.

Greg Hunter poses beside what he deems 1930’s “folk art” — an early diving helmet and pump. His wife is more discerning and doesn’t want such things in the house. (Image: Ila Bonczek/Vision Times)

Other items included early commercial diving gear, leaden diving “slippers” that look anything but comfortable, and commemorative diving knives. 


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Contrary to expectation, diving knives are not used for protection against sharks. As I learned from an experienced diver attending the Expo, sharks don’t want anything to do with divers. Their equipment, noise and lights make divers much less-likely victims of shark attacks than swimmers on the surface of the water, who look very similar to their natural prey — seals. 

But a diving knife is essential for cutting tangles of fishing line — a life-threatening menace in murky waters. 

Water safety

Members of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary pose beside their mobile “Coastie” boat, which made the rounds at the Expo. (Image: Ila Bonczek/Vision Times)

The US Coast Guard Auxiliary was at the Exposition to promote water safety.  This uniformed, non-military, volunteer component of the USCG is nearly 85 years old — first established as the US Coast Guard Reserve. Aside from offering water safety training, education, and safety inspections of recreational water vessels, the Auxiliary bolsters all USCG operations other than those necessitating “direct law enforcement of military actions.” 

Collectively, the Auxiliary members dedicate over 4.5 million service hours annually, aiding some 15,000 mariners in distress, and saving approximately 500 lives. 

Berkeley Township Underwater Search & Rescue was also present. As a member of the Search and Rescue Council of New Jersey, BTUSR works to improve public safety across the state. Their team boasts skills, techniques, and special equipment to “perform services in, on, under, and around water.  

Enticing Resorts and Exciting Expeditions

Cozumel Cape, off the Eastern Coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, offers excellent diving opportunities, according to resort representative Elizabeth Islas. (Image: Ila Bonczek/Vision Times)

Besides many vendors selling diving equipment, there were dozens of beautiful diving locations to choose from, with some exhibitors coming from as far away as Indonesia. Spas, resorts, scuba clubs and sea camps in tropical paradises were enough to tempt a non-diver to get certified! Expeditions, adventure packages and liveaboard boats were just as plentiful. 

Underwater sports

Athletic water lovers might be drawn toward another exciting activity — that of underwater sports. The Underwater Society of America, located in Fremont, CA, offered information on the ins and outs of all sorts of underwater sports. Games like hockey and rugby played on the bottom of a swimming pool are highly modified for the underwater environment, but resemble their terrestrial counterparts in essence. 

Donned in ear protectors, fins, mask, and snorkel, players must surface frequently for air. Underwater hockey is a non-contact sport which uses an 11 inch stick. Gloves are required to protect the hands from injury by the puck and the pool floor. Underwater ice hockey is an extreme sport that requires wetsuits, and surfacing every 30 seconds for air. The playing area is the underside of the frozen surface of a pond or pool, and a floating puck is used.

Joe Gomes is an underwater rugby player and a member of the Underwater Society of America. (Image: Ila Bonczek/Vision Times)

Underwater rugby is a contact sport that became popular in the Nordic countries after being invented in Germany in 1961. The ball is weighted with salt water to make it negatively buoyant. The goals look like wire waste baskets, and have padded rims. New Jersey has an underwater rugby team, called the NUWR Sea Lions, located in Newark. 

Other underwater sports include football, orienteering, and target shooting. Competitive underwater photography and video are scuba-based sports.

Arts and crafts

Sea-inspired jewelry and other crafts gave attendees ample opportunity to find a beautiful keepsake, while impressive photographs and videos of life under the sea awed and inspired. The most touching art on display was that of school children, who submitted their best work on environmental topics such as water pollution and respect for nature. 

Prize-winning submission for grades 9-12, by Ioana Vallimareseu, of Bucharest Romania. (Image: Ila Bonczek/Vision Times)

Awards and recognition

Howard and Michele Hall graced the cover of the 2024 Beneath the Sea Exposition Magazine, as the winners of the Legends of the Sea Award. Previously inducted into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame, the Halls have specialized in underwater natural history film production for over 40 years.

Beneath the Sea publication and assorted information from exhibitors. (Image: Ila Bonczek/Vision Times)

The couple has produced films for the BBC, PBS Nature, National Geographic, Terra Mater, and more. They are also recognized for award-winning IMAX films such as Island of the Sharks and Into the Deep

This year’s Divers of the Year include Becky Kagan Schott, Evan Kovacs and James Sears. 

Beneath the Sea also awarded three $1,000 scholarships and five training grants

The Women Divers Hall of Fame inducted seven new members and awarded several scholarships and training grants for young women. 

Mark Mays was named this year’s SuperHero for Beneath the Sea, as this long time member took the role of president and provided the behind-the-scenes experience necessary for a smooth and successful show. 

Ocean’s Whisper

In the whisper of the waves, secrets told,
The ocean’s heart, vast and deep and bold.
A world beneath, where mysteries unfold,
In each tide’s retreat, stories of old.


(Image: ustung via “cFlickr CC BY 2.0)


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