Swimming with sharks and sea snakes is not for the faint of heart but Jane Martin and Dr. Jim Kinnard thrive on these close encounters.

Swimming with sharks and sea snakes is not for the faint of heart but Jane Martin and Dr. Jim Kinnard thrive on these close encounters. After spending 15 years diving across the world, traveling the globe eight times, the two Lake locals have earned a distinction bestowed upon only a handful of people. They’ve become a member of the elite diving club called the Seven Seas.

Jim and Jane have dived in the Caribbean Sea, Western Atlantic, Eastern Pacific, Indian Ocean, Andaman Sea, Red Sea, South Pacific and the Arabian Sea. On board the Aggressor Fleet, these live aboard yachts take divers out for an experience of a lifetime. Their motto: Eat, sleep and dive.

In his teens, Jim remembers watching “Sea Hunt” on television after school. Thinking it would be cool, he saved his money and purchased a tank and regulator from a local hardware store.

“I used to hitchhike to Lake Okoboji about 18 miles away,” he said. “There were no regulations back then.”

Jane grew up at Lake of the Ozarks and always enjoyed being on the water. Also a “Sea Hunt” fan, it was on a trip to Hawaii about 24 years ago that she took scuba lessons with her son.

“He passed with flying colors and I was a miserable failure,” she jokes. In 2003 Jim found an instructor in Joplin that took Martin through basic certification. That’s when she started going on dives across the world.

“Jim introduced me to the concept of ‘live aboards,” she said. “He used to fan out brochures in his hand and I would close my eyes and pick one. It became a goal to someday do them all.”

The Seven Seas Club

There are less than 40 people who have made it into the Seven Seas Club. To become a member Jim and Jane dove in: Cuba, Belize, Cayman and Utila in the Caribbean; Turks and Caicos in the Northern Atlantic; Socorro Islands and the Sea of Cortez in Mexico; Galapagos and CoCo’s Island and Kona, Hawaii in the Eastern Pacific; Thailand in the Andaman Sea; the Maldives in the Indian Ocean; Fiji, Palau, Raja Ampat, Kimodo in the South Pacific; and Egypt in the Red Sea.

Making Memories

Jane recalls a trip to the Galapagos where the divemaster warned them about the sharks they would see along the way.

“I was sweating bullets inside my 7 millimeter wetsuit,” she said. “We were instructed that because of rough seas we would need to swim away from the pinnacles (formations) out into the deep so zodiacs (small boats) could pick us up. They didn’t mention that it would be though schools of hammerhead sharks. I stayed in the middle of the diver pack and made myself very small.”

Jim particularly enjoyed diving Truk Lagoon in Micronesia where Allies sunk 82 Japanese ships and airplanes during World War II. These ships were still loaded with airplanes, tanks and bombs.

Traveling the World

In addition to their trips with the Aggressor Fleet, they dove with the Mel Fisher Group in the Florida Keys on the treasure ships, Atocha and Margarita. Among their fondest memory is diving with Stan Waterman, a contributing photographer to National Geographic who dove with Jacques Cousteau, a famous undersea explorer.

The couple hopes to dive with their grandchildren, but that’s a few years away. In the mean time Jane is on the hunt to see a mola mola (sunfish). A trip to Crystal Divers in Bali was her best chance to find one but unfortunately she wasn’t able to spot the fish. There’s always next time…