John's Journal...

"Dive, Dive, Dive!” with Mary Lynn Berzett

Memorable Dives

Click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: “I’ve been diving since Moby Dick was a guppy,” says Dennis “Skinny” Hallmark of Birmingham, Alabama. At the age of 15, Hallmark made his first scuba dive with a friend in the quarry near his home, and in his words, “I was hooked.” Over the past 35 years, Hallmark has taught thousands of first-time scuba divers and diving instructors and owned dive shops in three Alabama cities in the 1980s. Certified by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI), Hallmark also teaches instructors how to teach firemen and police to perform rescue dives. The International Diving Educators’ Association (IDEA) of Jacksonville, Florida, honored Hallmark in 2002 as its Worldwide Instructor of the Year.

Night Hawk: Where do you dive?

Click to enlargeHallmark: I dive mostly in local areas, around Birmingham, such as Blue Water Park in Pelham, Alabama Madison Park in Madison, Alabama, and the Gadsden, Alabama quarry. I dive in Alabama rivers and lakes looking for Civil War artifacts. I also dive in the Gulf of Mexico near Panama City, Florida, and in the Caribbean. Next March I hope to dive in the Red Sea when I accompany my church to the Holy Land.

Night Hawk: What was your most-memorable or exciting dive?

Hallmark: Each time I dive I get excited because I always see something new. Diving with the manatees in Florida was enjoyable, and diving with the porpoises is one of the prettiest things I’ve ever Click to enlargeseen. I even get excited seeing sea horses. I guess my most-memorable dive would be the night dive I did off Little Cayman in the Caribbean. With night diving, you only see what the light shows you. That night, my light showed me a 7- to 8-foot-wide manta ray within inches of my light, sucking sea worms. In days of old, sea worms bored into the wooden hulls of pirate ships before the pirates learned to put copper sheeting on the bottom of their ships and eliminate leaking holes. In the Caribbean, sea worms are attracted to light. During this dive, as I moved my light over the brain coral, so named because it resembled the human brain, the worms followed the light. The coral polyp, which is translucent and about 1 to 1-1/2-inches in size, is the feeding finger of the coral. The worms are sucked into the polyp and disintegrated by a chemical emitted by the polyp. Each coral is made up of thousands of living polyps. On this dive, I fed a manta ray and a whole section of coral in about 20 minutes!

Click to enlargeTo contact Skinny Hallmark for further information, call him at home, (205) 980-0008, call his cell phone, (205) 907-0824 or contact him at His website is currently being redone and is unavailable. He also has a DVD that he’ll be glad to send out.


Check back each day this week for more about "Dive, Dive, Dive!” with Mary Lynn Berzett

Day 1: Memorable Dives
Day 2: Who Scuba Dives, and What Do They Learn
Day 3: Costs of Scuba-Diving Trips
Day 4: Hallmark’s Favorite Type of Diving
Day 5: Ages and Types of Folks Who Scuba Dive



Entry 314, Day 1