Occasionally, events arise which create precedence over daily considerations or duties. Such was the case when underwater filmmaker and diving pioneer Chuck Nicklin passed away on December 7, 2022. Chuck Nicklin built for himself a life centered around diving and underwater cinematography, becoming a legend within both fields, so much so that many of the techniques and practices commonly in use today in movie-making were those pioneered by Nicklin throughout the latter half of the last century.
It is typical that many people become primarily recognized for their life’s work, becoming in essence an extension of a career, to a degree lost a bit behind the accomplishments amassed in one’s professional life. While some of that easily applies to Nicklin, what’s perhaps more impressive is how much he is remembered for being a genuinely kind-hearted, good-natured, caring, all-around nice guy. His personal character traits were not overshadowed by the bright Hollywood lights of a marquee.
President Franklin Roosevelt spoke of December 7, 1941, as “a date which will live in infamy,” while addressing the world after the attack on Pearl Harbor by forces of the Japanese empire. It is strangely ironic that, eighty-one years later, another loss would add to that date’s significance.
Regretfully, as a diving historian, I never was graced with the privilege to develop a personal relationship with Chuck Nicklin. Both years and miles prevented that fortune. However, when news of his passing began swirling throughout the underwater community, it became necessary to quickly hit the “stop, stop, allstop” button at the helm and, despite having nearly all the layout of issue 114 of The Journal of Diving History already established, industry news of this magnitude required a reworking to address it. Due to my position as President of the HDS USA, the responsibility to produce an article that would appropriately serve Chuck’s legacy, fell on my plate. However, without having had a professional relationship or friendship established with Nicklin, I felt woefully ill-equipped to produce something worthy of Nicklin’s stature in the industry.
As I was grappling with it, almost magically the cosmos aligned as I received word from respected dive historian Eric Hanauer who had interviewed Nicklin at length for an article he produced years ago and which appeared in the book, Diving Pioneers, by Bret Gilliam. Eric sent me the article in its entirety asking if it might be possible to re-publish it in honor of Nicklin. The entire piece is too lengthy to re-publish in the JoDH, but we will offer a portion of it here and place the entire interview article on the HDS USA website at www.hds.org
With grateful acknowledgment to Eric Hanauer for submitting this work and to HDS member Bret Gilliam, author of the 2007 book, Diving Pioneers, in which the interview appeared.