The NOGI Awards

By Hillary Hauser and Bonnie J. Cardone

The legendary father of scuba diving, Jacques Cousteau received one, as did two astronauts, Scott Carpenter and Kathryn Sullivan, a former dive store owner (Mel Fisher) who found the fabulous treasure of a Spanish wreck, the man who made a blockbuster movie about a supposedly unsinkable ship James Cameron, another man (Howard Hall) who makes award winning underwater documentaries in 3D, and the inventor of the Newtsuit, a revolutionary deep diving system Phil Nuytten PhD.

All in there are over 200 NOGI recipients, including founder of Ocean Geographic Society, Michael AW (NOGI Arts 2013) — these are all people who have made significant contributions to the dive industry in four different fields: Arts, Sciences, Environment, Sports & Education and Distinguished Service.

When one thinks of what NOGI stands for today – excellence in work related to the ocean – exploring it, studying it, photographing it, preserving it – it is ironic that NOGI stands for New Orleans Grand Isle, and the NOGI statuette that was first made was spawned from the awards given to the spear fisherman who got the biggest grouper, biggest barracuda, biggest shark, biggest fish in the New Orleans Grand Isle Scuba Diving Tournament – (a three day spearfishing orgy started by Jay Albeanese and Louis Cuccia in 1959). This contest pulled in scuba divers from all over the world, who got on boats and sped out to Louisiana’s offshore oil platforms to start spearing everything big. The event was an extravaganza that featured parachuting exhibitions, the inevitable posing for photos beside mammoth fishes bigger than their captors, and prizes ranged from sports cars and cash to trips to exotic places like Aruba. “Wednesday’s fishing proved that more and even bigger fish are still in the Gulf, and also brought forth certain species that had not been speared on the first day,” trumpeted the October 1959 edition of Skin Diver Magazine.

Of course, these were the early days of diving, before anyone had any idea of man’s impact on the ocean. In those early days, spearfishing was a natural part of going underwater. One year, Jacques Cousteau spent several days with these spearfishermen in Louisiana, both on and underwater. He is quoted as saying how fortunate the contestants were, “to have such an abundance of fish!”

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Ocean Geographic Explorer (OGX) is a diving adventure resource with a special focus on marine photography and ocean conservation. Our content is divided up into six primary categories: Travel, Sea Science,  Equipment, Photography &Video, Conservation, and Lifestyle. We endeavor be a portal for people with all levels of interest in the marine environment  to learn about and become part of a community of like-minded ocean lovers who enjoy sharing their knowledge of and experiences in our fascinating ocean world.

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