Russell Fitton's life aquaticSea Hunt – the television series that aired in the late 1950s starring Lloyd Bridges as a freelance diver – was the inspiration that propelled a young kid toward scuba diving.
About 27 years ago, Russell Fitton lived his childhood dream doing his first scuba dive to see a sunken ship at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Barbados.
“It was amazing how big a ship is under water,” said Dr. Fitton, a 1981 graduate of the Loyola University School of Dentistry.
Since then he’s been hooked on his hobby, taking many more trips to places like Tahiti, Costa Rica, Belize and Hawaii to dive.
For Dr. Fitton, scuba diving is a nice release from his busy dental practice. He says it’s extremely healthy to have an avocation like diving, which allows you to recharge for your practice and patients.
Being underwater is almost otherworldly.
“It’s just like being in outer space because you’re completely weightless,” said Dr. Fitton. “It’s as close to being in outer space as I’ll ever be.”
The delights of the world under the oceans are what draw Dr. Fitton to diving. In this world of panoramic vistas glistening with color, there are the inhabitants, large and small creatures unlike any on land, and remnants of history and grim reminders of war, such as downed fighter planes and shipwrecks.
“Just all the different species that exist under there – it is always changing and you never see the same thing twice,” Dr. Fitton said. “I never thought I’d get in water with 50 sharks swimming around. They don’t pay much attention to you. When you’re diving, you don’t look interesting to them.”
Besides sharks for diving companions, Dr. Fitton has dived with manta rays. Listed as one of the top five dives in the world and a favorite of Dr. Fitton is the manta ray night dive off the shores of Kona, HI. The divers shine lights up in the water to attract the plankton that the manta rays eat. One to 20 manta rays show up and their wingspans stretch between 5-15 feet, he said.
“It’s like a choreographed ballet,” described Dr. Fitton.
With all these exotic things to see under water, Dr. Fitton’s next “logical” step after 10 years of diving was to start photographing his world beneath the waves. He wanted to be able to show others what he was seeing.
“Being a dentist, it’s fun to share it with a lot of people,” said Dr. Fitton. “In my operatories, I have a slide show on my monitors. The patients love it.”
The next place Dr. Fitton wants to visit is Truk Lagoon in the South Pacific. Numerous sunken Japanese war ships are under the water, making it somewhat of a mecca for wreck diving.
“It’s like a Japanese Pearl Harbor. There are still tanks on the ships. It’s like looking at a part of history,” said Dr. Fitton.
If you’re interested in scuba diving, Dr. Fitton said you should take a proper certification course and avoid taking a two-hour course at a resort.
“It’s like the first time driving on an expressway: you need to know how the car works and then you become much more familiar with it.”
He added that you don’t stop learning after dental school; you’ve just begun your training. The same goes for diving: there is CE.
“The first time diving, the sheer adrenaline rush was unbelievable. I was doing something brand new,” described Dr. Fitton. “There’s no such thing as a boring dive.”
Ms. Azark is the editorial assistant for the Chicago Dental Society.