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January 2024    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 50, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Adventures of Gilliam and Garth

a remembrance of a great friend

from the January, 2024 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Bret Gilliam and Fred Garth were business partners from 1994 until 2004, when their publishing company was acquired by Petersen Publishing (Skin Diver, etc.). The two ran popular diving expeditions and were the first to take Draeger semi-closed rebreathers to places like Cocos Island, Palau, and the Silver Bank. In addition to business, they and their wives were close friends.

On October 8, Bret, a frequent contributor to Undercurrent, passed from complications of a stroke he suffered a year ago. Fred asked if we would publish his piece, a portrait of the Bret Gilliam we all admired, loved, and laughed with. So here is Fred's remembrance, with a connecting link to a few more stories he tells about their time together.

* * * * * *

I first met Bret Gilliam in 1989. Well, actually, I just heard about him. Not in a good way, to be honest. He was running - more like commanding, as he tended to do - the diving operation and hyperbaric chamber aboard the Ocean Spirit, the first and only cruise ship ever devoted entirely to scuba diving.

Bret was unarguably one of the planet's most accomplished divers. He filmed submarines for the Navy, ran thousands of dive trips in the Virgin Islands, became a world-class underwater photographer, held every instructor certificate ever invented, and won dozens of ocean-oriented awards in leadership, writing, and photography.

Bret was unarguably one of the planet's most accomplished divers

The cruise ship owners hired Bret to run their hyperbaric chamber and design a system that could fill 300 scuba tanks four times a day, a nearly insurmountable task. Employing his Jupiter-sized brain, Bret utilized long high-pressure hoses to fill the tanks without having to remove them from the eight 30-foot dive boats, which he also designed. No more schlepping heavy tanks. No worries. It was just one of the myriad accomplishments that sprung seamlessly from his hyperactive gray matter....

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