by Clare Coppa
In the flotsam and jetsam of life, scuba diving is prime, says
John Mulder (shown above with his wife): Its just absolutely
one of the most incredible things you can do with your free time.
Active in eight ASTM committees, one wonders how he has any free
time to dive often with his wife, Leah Shermis, off the coast
of southern California near their home. My wife is my dive buddy.
Most of the time were exploring, says this degreed anthropologist
and former lab scientist. You see things that people who are
up on the land never ever get to see.
Such as the flowing red mantle of a Spanish Dancer, a rare nudibranch
Mulder sighted in the Red Sea. Or the Caribbean Reef shark that
nonchalantly passed by as he snapped the camera. Was he nervous?
No, he says, because half the time they dont want to be around
you. People are not generally on their menu. Sharks are opportunistic
but traditionally not man-eaters.
This is what we do because my wife is a nurse, and when youre
under mental pressure and on your feet all day, or when you travel
a lot like I do, this is a really nice alternative, because when
youre in the water together, youre definitely not thinking about
A technical services manager with James Hardie Building Products,
Fontana, Calif., Mulder travels regularly to participate in the
development of national standards and building-code issues related
to his companys fiber-cement products. Sometimes, his name draws
reference to agent Fox Mulder on the X-Files; at British Customs,
an officer quipped that Scully had been through earlier.
Mulder began diving in the 70s during six years with the Naval
Air Reserve. Shermis began in 95. We currently are certified
NAUI advanced and PADI NITROX, he explains. We dive anywhere
from 15 to 20 ft. down to 130 ft. routinely. The couples deepest
descent was 154 ft. [47 m] in the Blue Hole, a collapsed cavern
near Belize, Central America.
Its completely different than sitting behind a desk looking
at a computer screen all day, typing. You keep track of how deep
you are; how long youve been down; you check your dive computer
to make sure that youre not absorbing too much nitrogen, all
sorts of things that have to do with staying alive down there
and not running out of air and not going too deep.
There are things that you see underwater, if youre lucky, that
other divers will never ever get to see because they dont happen
very often, he concludes. Thats a huge bonus. Thats why youre
there. And thats no fish story.
Copyright 2000, ASTM