The Underwater Adventure Seekers (UAS), a Washington D.C. based organization, was founded on February 25, 1959 by Dr. Albert José Jones after finding existing scuba diving clubs in the area were more than a little reluctant to admit and train potential Black divers. It was clear that a need existed to train Blacks to become divers. Strong swimmers and athletes such as Maurice Jackson, Donald Green, Sylvester Dory, Molester Foxworth, and Donald Thomas did not mind the potential rigors of scuba training. This group was trained and became the core club members.
The first club training consisted of, as it does now, pool and quarry training followed by numerous recreational dives. The Howard University pool served as the site for the first training. Armed with updated scuba technologies from U.S. Navy diver Chet Longworthy, Dr. Jones was able to conduct a successful training which allowed the club to learn that “good swimmers make good divers”.
In the late 1950’s neither of the current diving organizations, Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) or the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) existed. Consequently, the British Subaqua System formed the basis for UAS members training in a no-nonsense system resulting in independent and well-trained divers.
During the sixties the Atlantic Skin Diving Council (ASDC) of Washington D.C., responsible for monitoring scuba diving activity in the area, accepted UAS as a member organization resulting in distinguishable impacts on the organization specifically in improved skill levels and leadership capability. The Council learned quickly that all UAS members were well-trained. UAS and its members were able to gain recognition and demonstrate their valuable contributions as a result of Dr. Jones’ critical position in key Council offices such as vice president, spear fishing chairman, rodeo chairman, and chief training officer and certifier. Emerging as excellent divers, Lorenzo Milner and Jimmy Thorne graduated with honors from the Council’s first instructors course and later went on to hold office in the Council.
UAS – ASDC officers were instrumental in changing things other than views about Black divers. The rules for spear fishing and rodeo competition were also changed. As a result of UAS members being involved in setting policy for the Council, their participation in the Scuba Rodeo Competition is well documented by a UAS member placing first in the competition for five consecutive years during the late sixties and seventies.
UAS members benefited and were strongly influenced by the knowledge and experiences of Dr. Jones from his professional affiliations- i.e. PADI, CMAS and ASDC. Even though UAS is one of the first clubs in the United States to certify all of it divers under the PADI system, it still requires a standard of excellence in diving from its divers above those of any other nationally certifying organization. From it’s inception, UAS has required that its members recertify each year. This yearly recertification process is better known in the club as “Spring Training,” and it assures that all members are both mentally and physically capable of performing the myriad of skills necessary for safe diving. In addition there is a “Swim and Stay Fit” program preceding the “Sprint Training”.
Beginning in 1967 the annual summer trips provided diving experiences primarily outside of the United States which were ultimately aimed at broadening the diving opportunities of the members. Those trips have included Indonesia, Morocco, the Bahamas, The Caribbean, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Australia, Egypt, Thailand, Mexico, South America, Panama and Belize. Individual club members also dive throughout the world.
The public service record of UAS is also laudable. It includes: service as rescue divers for the President’s Cup Regatta, gratis scuba demonstrations at public events, on-call search and recovery diver operation, and the training and certification of over 1500 divers without compensation. The club also has an annual crab feast from which profits go toward a college scholarship at the University of the District of Columbia in Marine Science.
During its 30th Anniversary In 1989, UAS was honored by District of Columbia Representative, Walter Fauntroy, in a Congressional Record tribute. In recognition of services to the public, the District of Columbia’s Mayor, Marion Barry, declared February 25, 1989 “Underwater Adventure Seekers Day” in Washington, D.C. Finally, the D.C. City Council adopted a resolution acknowledging the contributions of UAS.
In 1988-89 both Ebony and Ebony Man carried articles on the Underwater Adventure Seekers followed by an article in Underwater USA. Encouraged by phone calls from all over the United States, Dr. Jones, UAS founder, approached the club about his life-long dream of organizing Black divers nationally. After more than six months of meetings, black divers from all over the United States were invited to Washington, D.C. to attend the first annual National Association of Black Scuba Divers (NABS) summit on Martin Luther King’s birthday, 1991 hosted by UAS.
The Underwater Adventure Seekers became the founding club of NABS. Attendees were asked to return home and start their own clubs. To date there are over fifty NABS clubs located all across the United States and in Nassau, Belize, Brazil, Turks and Caicos, Dominica, St. Thomas, Curaçao and the Maldives Islands.
Currently UAS has a membership of more than 100 active certified divers. This club has trained more Black divers than any other scuba diving organization in the world. The longevity of the Underwater Adventure Seekers can be attributed to the following:
- a stable professional organization
- a dedicated leadership and membership
- a capacity to conduct organized dive training
- an annual recertification program
- an on-going fitness program
- an organized dive schedule
- a commitment to scuba and dive professionalism
- a commitment to dive rules and safety