Préserver l'histoire : Leslie Leaney

Torrance Parker remet à Leaney le prix HDS USA E.R. Cross.

LESLIE LEANEY EST RENOMMÉE for his dive history research and preservation. He has done this work through organizations such as the Cayman Islands’ International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame (where he has been the executive director for nearly 20 years), the Commercial Diving Hall of Fame, the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences, the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, the Historical Diving Society USA, and other educational organizations. Acquiring a circa 1850 copper and brass dive helmet handmade by the legendary Augustus Siebe stoked his interest in dive history more than four decades ago. Siebe is considered the father of diving and created the equipment that launched the trade internationally.

“There are about six or seven of these known to exist in the world,” he noted. “Mine is the only one that’s in its original condition.”

En plus de collectionner des équipements de plongée historiques et anciens, il a commencé à compiler une vaste bibliothèque de plongée. En 1992, Leaney s'est associé à Skip Dunham pour créer la Historical Diving Society USA (HDS USA). Au cours des trois décennies qui ont suivi sa création, l'association à but non lucratif HDS USA est passée de quelques dizaines de membres à environ 3 000 dans le monde entier. Il a également lancé le Historical Diving Magazine, aujourd'hui connu sous le nom de The Journal of Diving History.

Leaney has received numerous awards, including DEMA’s Reaching Out Award (2016), the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences NOGI Award for Education (2003), Beneath the Sea Diver of the Year Award (2013), the Wyland Foundation ICON Award (2010), and most recently the 2022 California Scuba Service Award for “turning his passion for diving’s history into a way for thousands to understand and discover theirs.” In addition to the contributions he’s made to our knowledge of dive history, Leaney has also had a highly successful career in the music industry.

À bien des égards, ses réussites dans les domaines de la plongée sous-marine et de la musique sont directement liées aux difficultés qu'il a rencontrées dans sa jeunesse. Né à Londres en 1947, il a connu des difficultés pendant son adolescence.

“I grew up in the East End of London,” he said. “I didn’t have a great education. I left school when I was 15 and worked three jobs — I worked days and nights because money was so scarce. I was out on the streets and in a motorcycle gang. The future didn’t look particularly bright.”


To escape those circumstances, he joined the Royal Air Force in 1967, but it wasn’t military service that changed his life’s trajectory. It was scuba diving, which he tried at age 22 when he was posted to Singapore.

“In Singapore there were a lot of things to do that you wouldn’t normally get to do where I came from,” Leaney recalled. “The first thing I did was join a scuba club. As soon as I went underwater, it was a different world. It changed my life. Diving was a leveler. Underwater, I was the equal of anyone and better than most. I was really good at it.”

He always had a fascination for the creatures that lived underwater, which started with the ponds near his childhood home. “There was a forest where some of the German bombers would dump their bombs during World War II when they couldn’t find their targets,” Leaney said. “A lot of bomb holes turned into ponds. I was mesmerized by seeing things splash on the surface. You couldn’t see what they were, but they’d splash — newts, salamanders, frogs.

“I was fascinated by what was under the water. It really changed my life when I first started diving and saw marine life face-to-face.”

While in Singapore, he became a scuba instructor and dive officer through the British Sub-Aqua Club, the U.K.’s national governing body of recreational diving. He was responsible for the curriculum and training of dozens of instructors and recreational divers.

Dans les années 1970, bien avant que les infrastructures de tourisme de plongée ne deviennent monnaie courante, Leaney a mené des dizaines d'expéditions de plongée aux îles Perhentian, dans la mer de Chine méridionale, dans l'océan Indien et aux Maldives, et a plongé en Australie et en Nouvelle-Zélande.

During these years, King Hussein of Jordan asked him to explore if a dive center could be established in the Red Sea port of Aqaba, Jordan. “That’s a bottle-of-wine story,” he said. He was transported aboard the king’s boat to explore the Red Sea every day. “It was a pristine location with pristine sites.”

Leaney has approached his life as one of daring adventures. “I took a lot of risks,” he said. “I believed I could. If you believe you can, you can because you’re already halfway there.”


En 1980, Leaney s'est installé en Californie, où il a commencé à travailler dans l'industrie musicale et a écumé les librairies locales pour collectionner des livres sur la plongée.

“My interest in music started when I was very young,” he said. “I was inoculated with a jukebox needle. I was around when the Beatles started. When I came to America, I wanted to get involved in it. I knew I didn’t have the talent to get into a band, but the drive to be associated with music was so special to me. I started supporting what I call the ‘baby band circuit.’ I liked the challenge. Could I get a band signed to a major label to which I had no connection? I went out seven nights a week with these bands, trying to bump them up to where a band like the Pretenders was. I was driven in both music and diving to succeed.”

Leaney travaille actuellement sur The Journal of Diving History’s 112th issue, which will go to subscribers in about 30 countries. “If you find something you like to do, you’ll never work a day in your life. I still live on the edge to some degree, but now I have safety nets, and DAN is a big one.” AD


En savoir plus sur Leslie Leaney dans cette vidéo préparée pour son prix DEMA Reaching Out en 2016.

Leslie Leaney

Leslie Leaney

Ville d'origine :
Santa Maria, Californie

L'âge : 74

Années de plongée : 53

Pourquoi je suis membre de DAN :
My friends have always had my back during my adventures. DAN has had that covered, along with my left, right, and front. I’ve always had DAN as a traveling companion.

Leaney est entouré de casques de plongée rares

Leaney est entouré de casques de plongée rares allant de 1850 environ aux années 1970, son casque Augustus Siebe étant placé devant.

Leaney avec Jacques-Yves Cousteau et Hans Hass

Leaney regarde après l'introduction Les pionniers de la plongée Jacques-Yves Cousteau et Hans Hass au salon DEMA 1997.

Leaney avec ses RIAA awards

Leaney montre quelques-unes de ses récompenses RIAA pour des ventes nationales de 34 millions d'albums.

L'acteur Lloyd Bridges dans Sea Hunt apparaît sur la couverture de Leaney's The Journal of Diving History.

L'acteur Lloyd Bridges dans le rôle de Mike Nelson dans Chasse en mer appeared on the cover of issue 68 of Leaney’s Le journal de l'histoire de la plongée.

He always had a fascination for the creatures that lived underwater …

© . - Q3 2022