>Years Diving: 67
>Favorite Dive Destination: I've been able to dive all over the world, but Truk Lagoon and Micronesia really stand out.
>Why I'm a DAN® Member: They do a very good job. I've been with DAN starting with the ground floor.
>Pick any line in Dick Rutkowski's extensive biography, and stories abound. There are the six years he spent in government service at the frigid South and North Pole regions. He helped create NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center, where astronauts train for spacewalks in pool water 40 feet deep, and he trained the divers who watch over astronauts.
>"That's what I spent my life doing — working in diving and hyperbarics," Rutkowski said at his Hyperbarics International Inc. facility in Key Largo, Fla.
>Those facilities can be found in places where divers journey, including Grand Cayman, Bonaire, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand and many more. He calculates that he has visited more than 30 countries to set up diving programs or establish hyperbaric facilities. Hyperbarics International, in addition to its two Key Largo recompression chambers, built facilities in Costa Rica and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
>Upon honorable discharge from the Navy in 1959, he signed on for six years with the polar operations branch of the federal Environmental Science Services Administration — the forerunner of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — working at both the South Pole and North Pole. During a year as a meteorological technician and radio operator at the South Pole in 1961-62, Rutkowski logged, "The coldest day was 110 degrees below zero, and the warmest was 19 degrees below zero. The mean temperature for that year was 59 degrees below zero."
>A glacier in Antarctica is officially named after Rutkowski. It's true; look it up.
>When NOAA was created in 1970, Rutkowski served as deputy director under Morgan Wells, Ph.D., the revered director of NOAA's Diving Program and Experimental Diving Unit (EDU) for many years. "Morgan Wells was my mentor," he said.
>In Miami, Rutkowski was regional director of the NOAA dive office, where he oversaw dive training, accident treatment and the EDU. He also served as codirector of the agency's physician medical program for 33 years. Rutkowski was involved in several underwater habitat operations over a 15-year span and joined a 1973 mission as an aquanaut aboard the Hydro-Lab in the Bahamas.
>Not long after opening Hyperbarics International in Key Largo, he created the first nitrox certification course for recreational divers. Skeptics were plentiful, but before long national dive-certification agencies began following Rutkowski's lead and launched nitrox classes. "It took off," he said, smiling.
>In 2012 the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA) inducted him into its hall of fame. "He helped change the course of modern diving through his continued efforts to test and promote the use of mixed gases, such as nitrox and trimix. His work helped develop tech diving and clinical hyperbaric medicine as we know it today," the DEMA tribute says. "His contributions to hyperbaric medicine, as well as his work with mixed breathing gases, have made diving a much safer sport today."
>Rutkowski continues to teach seminars at his Hyperbarics International facility, now relocated to mile marker 98.8 in Key Largo. "I've been working nearly 70 years but still get a lot of requests," he said. "I guess I'm pretty well known around the world."
>Learn more about Dick Rutkowski's legacy in this video prepared for his induction into the DEMA Hall of Fame.