Meet Today’s Featured Diver – 73 year old Dan Orr from Idaho

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Today’s featured diver is Dan Orr from Driggs, Idaho. Diving since the 1950’s Dan has certainly had the opportunity to dive anywhere and everywhere. A diver, an instructor, a course director and a Vietnam veteran, at the age of 73 Dan continues to be an inspiration to divers everywhere.

Dan Orr

When and where did you start diving?

I started experimenting with diving in the late 1950’s while living in Miami, Florida and spending time in the Florida Keys. I got certified in 1964 in Dayton, Ohio. 

Why did you start diving?

A family friend was Art McKee, the first treasure hunter in the Florida Keys. He used to tell us fantastic stories of treasure hunting (some of which I’m sure was true) and I wanted to find treasure myself. Then, my parents took me to see the 1955 movie, UNDERWATER! With Jane Russell, Richard Egan and Gilbert Roland. We saw it at the drive-in and I was hooked. Certification courses were not readily available so I had to wait till we moved to Ohio to get certified. My instructor was Ray Tussey (NAUI Instructor #7).

What made you choose to become a dive professional?

After active duty with the US Navy and a tour of duty in Viet Nam, I returned to college. While in college, I did volunteer work for a local YMCA instructor, Bill Kessen. One night, while waiting him to arrive for class, I received a call from his wife. He had had a heart attack and died. His wife asked me to become an instructor to help with scheduled classes and to help at his dive store, Kessen Underwater Specialties. I said, “Yes”. Once I started teaching, I found I loved it. 

Which is your favourite dive site and why?

That’s a tough question. I like just about every dive I’ve ever made. I loved diving in the Great Lakes. The wreck of the Arabia in Tobermory, Ontario is certainly one of my favorites. I thoroughly enjoyed some more recent trips to the Antarctic and the Arctic (Greenland). But I love the Philippines, Japan, Australia, the Caribbean. 

What has been the most memorable dive of your life and why?

Probably the first time I saw the wreck of the Arabia. I remember swimming up to her as she appeared out of the haze, an intact hull of a 19th century sailing ship sitting upright on the bottom with her bowsprit sticking straight out and both anchors still sitting in place since she sank in 1884. My pulse still races just thinking about it. Another was the wreck of the Prinz Eugen, an intact WWII German battleship sitting upside down in the lagoon on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Unbelievable!

If you would come back as a marine life form in your next life, what would that be?

A Great White Shark. I’ve made 22 trips to Guadalupe Island, Mexico and I love Great White Sharks. 

Who is your dream dive buddy?

Besides my wife, Betty, I’d have to say my favorite dive buddy was a guy named John Smith (and that is his real name). He live in Cayman and he and I used to dive together regularly. He was a great buddy but, unfortunately, he was killed in a plane crash a number of years ago. I have had the opportunity to dive with some really good buddies. Tom Ingram (President of DEMA), Leslie Leaney (Founder of the Historical Diving Society), Keith Sahm (previous Manager of Sunset House) and a guy named Ray Bullion. All are excellent buddies. . 

What dive locations are on your dream “bucket list” and why?

I’ve gone to most of my “bucket list” (I prefer to call it my “Life List”) locations. 

What is on your bedside table right now?

The Naked Warriors by Commander Doug Fane.

What is your favourite piece of diving equipment and why?

It would have to be my new DUI “Stars and Stripes” dry suit. Dick Long (founder of DUI) loaned it to me for a trip to Guadalupe Island, Mexico and he then sold it to me. I love that suit!

If you were to launch a campaign to raise awareness on a specific issue that affects divers, the oceans or marine life, what issue would you target and why?

Right at this moment, it would be the return to diving post-COVID. It has been a year or more since many people have gone diving and I am very concerned about critical skill (especially emergency skill) degradation. I am also currently doing webinars on various diving safety topics including safety concerns for the older diver. This is especially relevant considering the aging diving population.

Where will you be in 10 years and what will you be doing?

I hope I will still be diving. 

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