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The heritage of our underwater world: Key West Art & Historical Society offers Heritage Awareness Diving Seminar 

Key West Art & Historical Society has partnered with the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research to offer a Heritage Awareness Diving Seminar opportunity in Key West, Thursday, June 14 – Saturday, June 16, which will include both classroom and open water diving components.

HADS was launched about a decade ago to address a lack of cultural resources information in most SCUBA training courses. The three-day course will explain the advantages of conserving historic shipwrecks and other submerged cultural resources as they preserve information about our collective past as well as the vibrant ecosystems that grow around them. While targeted to diving leadership such as agency course directors, dive instructors, and heritage professionals, the program welcomes and has proven useful for professional and recreational divers, all of whom will gain a greater knowledge of how to proactively protect shipwrecks, artificial reefs, and other underwater cultural sites as part of the marine environment.

Two classroom sessions, Thursday, June 14 and Friday, June 15, both 6:00-9:00pm in the Helmerich Research & Learning Center at the Custom House Museum, will feature discussions on maritime archaeology, shipwrecks and underwater heritage tourism; conservation issues; submerged cultural resource laws; teaching outlines and classroom modules for training organizations, and more. Saturday’s open water training, from 1:00pm to 7:00pm, will take place on Joe’s Tug, a 75 foot steel hulled shrimping vessel lying in 65 feet sea water and on the USNS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, an ex-military missile-tracking ship in a depth range of 40 to 140 feet, which was purposely sunk off of Key West in 2009.

According to Della Scott-Ireton, Ph.D., RPA, Associate Director of the Florida Public Archaeology Network, University of West Florida, the HADS seminar is not only important for conveying the relationship between the cultural and natural underwater environments, it emphasizes the importance of historic shipwrecks as part of our common maritime heritage, interprets what can be learned from them as archaeological sites, and underscores why divers can and should participate in their conservation.

All HADS program participants will take away a deeper knowledge of shipwrecks as irreplaceable parts of our common heritage and as sites of biological diversity, along with their importance for research and heritage tourism. Participants will receive the HADS workbook and a CD with all PowerPoint presentations, which professionals may use in their own classes. Upon completion of the seminar, professionals can teach the new Heritage Awareness Diving Specialty Course (approved by PADI, NAUI, SDI, and UDT) as well as incorporate underwater historic preservation into other courses.

To further the program’s outreach, the Society and HADS has provided two local Reef Relief instructors with scholarships to the seminar so that they can use the program’s tools to better educate their students on the importance of marine conservation.

Program fee is $150 and includes seminar, dive tanks and weights. Class size is limited; proof of dive certification required for those who wish to participate in the diving component of the program. For information and registration, visit or contact Adele Williams at 305-295-6616, extension 115. Your museums.  Your community.  It takes an island.

Photo Caption:

Joe Grinnan, a former student intern with the Florida Public Archaeology Network, observes the broken mast of the Adelaide Baker, wrecked off Duck Key in 1889 and now an important artificial reef. This June 14-16, the Key West Art & Historical Society, in partnership with the Florida Public Archaeology Network, the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research, and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, is offering a Heritage Awareness Diving Seminar (HADS) for SCUBA professionals.