Waves lapping up on the beach, a creek babbling through a forest, or a river rushing into a lake: these are perhaps some of the most calming sounds for us. You’ll likely hear water in some sonic form on relaxation soundtracks, or you may even seek it out with a trip to the ocean. Florida, perhaps? Or the Bahamas?
But add an oxygen tank, diving mask, and wet suit, and, well, we don’t know about you, but we’d suddenly feel a little claustrophobic. And once you read up on National Geographic’s Kenny Broad, you’ll suddenly realize just how dangerous water can be.
Broad wasn’t born a scientist. Although he began diving at age 11, he first found work in commercial diving and as a Hollywood stuntman. In fact, his grade 12 Math Analysis report card says, “Kenny never took this course seriously. I don’t know why he took it at all. He’s a charming boy. I wish him luck.” Broad’s final mark? D+.
His first university degree was also not in the sciences: he studied Literature at the College of Creative Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara (1989). However, Broad followed that with a Master of Arts degree in Marine Affairs at the University of Miami (1992), and a PhD in Anthropology from Columbia University (1999).
What motivated him to finally make research his life’s career was exploration. Just on the cusp of leaving his teen years behind, Broad met Wes Skiles, a diver and underwater photographer. “He really guided me as a mentor, as a friend, when I was 19 years old, into what the world of professional diving was like,” Broad says of Skiles in an online video.
Skiles was the photographer of the National Geographic 2010 cover story on the “blue holes” of the Bahamas, an underground system of caves that are largely unexplored, unimaginably beautiful, and considered among the most hazardous places to dive.
Diving is not without its dangers. In fact, when Broad’s son was in kindergarten, the answer to a school question made Broad realize just how important it was that he come home after each expedition.
Lincoln, his son, had been asked to associate various words, e.g., big (T-rex), small (mouse), hot (sun), cold (snow), and so forth. For sad, he answered, “if my dad died.”
To underpin the dangers of what Broad goes through, Skiles died in a diving-related accident just a few days before the blue holes story came out, and he would never know that he and Broad had been named 2011 National Geographic Explorer of the Year.
And yet despite all the dangers of cave diving, Broad thinks it’s the best job ever.
Join us on Wednesday, March 28th @ 7.30PM to learn about Broad’s exploration of the blue holes of the Bahamas, where he lead scientific expeditions to these dangerous but fascinating environments, making discoveries with implications for fields as diverse as microbiology, archaeology, and even astrophysics.