Wanting to know if there were any divers in the room, Dr. Kenny Broad, diver and professor from the University of Miami, was pleasantly surprised to see a couple dozen hands or more near the front of the auditorium. Broad mentioned the flood of Cedar Rapids, and remarked about the beautiful restoration of the Paramount. “I hope it never happens to you again,” he said.
Broad, who was the first speaker in the National Geographic Live! Series, sponsored by The Gazette, gave a lively, interactive and often humorous story of his travels, expeditions and his life as a diver and environmental anthropologist. The event, “Extreme Cave Diving: Exploring the Bahamas Blue Holes,” at the Paramount Theater April 26.
He painted a picture of his life’s work through videos, slides and often anecdotal commentary. The hour felt like it was only 10 minutes long. Broad, who has been diving for over 30 years, uses his research and knowledge to help solve environmental issues related to climate change and water management.
Broad felt telling his story through photos and videos was the best way to convey his experiences and to allow the audience to have a sense of being there in the water caves.
“My office is under hundreds of feet of water,” he joked. Although he is a very experienced diver, it is a very specialized and oftentimes risky kind of diving.
His talk centered on human survival over thousands of years, and how he really enjoys exploring places least explored and understood. “Working with the local people is one of my favorite things,” he said. They can give you a perspective of the landscape that only natives can do, he added.
His deepest dive was about 400 feet, and in Bahama caves that are mostly dark and often through narrow passages. He showed several slides of caves with stalagmites and stalactites that shimmer like beautiful crystal. “It looks like you are on a completely different planet at times,” he said. His team also collects samples of small living creatures, fossils and bones; some they would later learn had never been discovered.
His humor throughout kept the audience laughing, especially when he described an incident where he encountered a “big, nasty” lobster who clipped off a piece of his guide line. He quickly grabbed the line and fixed it, but suggested that we all eat as much lobster as we can – and often.
A lively Q and A session followed the hour-long presentation, with great questions from divers and several young people in the audience.