"Dive, Dive, Dive!” with Mary Lynn Berzett
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?
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
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 seen.
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
contact Skinny Hallmark for further information, call
him at home, (205) 980-0008, call his cell phone, (205)
907-0824 or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His website is currently being redone and is unavailable.
He also has a DVD that he’ll be glad to send out.
TOMORROW: WHO SCUBA DIVES,
AND WHAT DO THEY LEARN