|Posted by Anne Siren on September 21, 2012 at 2:35 PM|
This week, the community learned that Dr. Ray McAllister died peacefully in his sleep at home on Monday. The following story was written in 2003, but Dr. McAllister’s love of the inhabitants of the planet as well as those of the ocean can be told again. Dr. McAllister, a professor, ecologist, writer and diver, will be sorely missed by this and other communities.
Lighthouse Point - He’s been called Doc Ray, Dr. Mac, Hey You, and The Diving Dinosaur, but he doesn’t care what he’s called, as long as the right ears listen to his message. And that message is: SAVE THE REEF!
“Our reef is as important to our economy as the rain forest is to the rest of the world,” McAllister says. “Putting it In the language of politicians, the reef keeps Florida green, meaning green bucks. What draws people to Florida?”he asks. “Is it not beaches, boats and the underwater world of the reef? And then, slipping into the familiar role of professor, he informs. “7,000 years ago Florida had a surface barrier reef similar to Australia’s. Now submerged ours runs from Miami to Jupiter or further. Our reef is vital to our ecology. It knocks out significant power from the waves of a hurricane. It provides fisheries and a destination for the diving industry. And personally, it has given me countless hours of exploring pleasure.”
In fact, McAllister just celebrated his 80th birthday, aboard the Seahorse. He smiles with remembered pleasure as he describes his party. “12 diving friends and I dove off of the third reef (on Pompano Beach) where we spent about 40 minutes delighting in the beauty of the reef. When we came up, there was a cake and hugs from all the lady divers. Not bad for an old diving dinosaur, huh?”
Professor Emeritus of Ocean Engineering at Florida Atlantic University, McAllister has spent the ten years since his retirement fighting for his beloved reef, underwater, on the telephone and on the computer, “There’s been much frustration and a few accomplishments, “ he admits.
One of his admirers is Bruce White, President of MARC (Marine Archaeological Research and Conservation) who says, “The most impressive thing about Dr. Ray is that he personifies the right way to do things. He’s an inspiration to all of us at MARC. keeping us active in conservation of biological and cultural resources. “
McAllister never quits. He’s about to go to Amelia Island to present a paper to the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association. “ My paper is about lessons learned from the Hillsboro Inlet dredging disaster. The method used at Hillsboro was destructive to the live reef and it didn’t need to be like that. A floating tow line could have prevented the entire problem. Boca Raton had a similar disaster in 1988. MY goal is to help prevent still another such disaster. “
Continuing, “My efforts to help have gotten me tossed out of the Hillsboro Inlet District. But despite my fate, I have a sense of accomplishment anyway because the State is now looking at using identified gaps for future pipeline and cable routes which will avoid damage to the reef. I personally explored from the Palm Beach inlet to Hallandale, identifying the locations of those gaps. The findings were given to the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection of the State of Florida. The boat owner got a stipend for expenses. For me, it was a chance to save the reef which has given me 40 years of pleasure.”
Where did this love affair with the water world begin for this passionately dedicated man with too many credentials to list. This educator, author, columnist, lecturer and defender of the deep says, “I did my first dive into the Long Island Sound. I was 16 wearing a home made helmet and lucky I lived through it. In 1951, while teaching at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, I met my first real divers. I was hooked. Since then, there have been about 5,000 dives in the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, South Pacific and most recently in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. On the third dive of my life, I was down almost 165 feet and ran out of air. I was lucky to live and somehow unwilling to quit. Since then, I’ve hunted for buried treasure in the Keys, milked a whale in the Aleutian Islands and almost drowned jumping on the back of a whale in Bermuda. It’s been so exciting.”
And if all of this isn’t enough, McAllister is an active member of the Lighthouse Point Writers’ Group. “I’m working on three books,” he grins. “One is for children entitled The Caveman OG and His Exploits. The second book is a condensation of my published columns about the ocean into book form. The third effort is an autobiography for my grandchildren.”
Thank you, Ray McAllister! Your lust for preserving marine life will always benefit everyone in Florida.