This is a compilation of oral history interviews with core team members of Cordell Expeditions, the team of divers that pioneered exploration of Cordell Bank in the late 1970s and 1980s. These individuals' efforts were instrumental in the discovery of Cordell Bank's biological richness, its nomination and designation as a National Marine Sanctuary. The extraordinary biodiversity of this special place was recognized in 1989, when Congress designated Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Today sanctuary staff work to protect the Cordell Bank region through research, regulations, and education. Interviews were conducted with Cordell Expeditions 'core team' members (those that were significantly involved in the expedition from the beginning to end).
Harry Sherman was born in Napa, California, on September 13, 1932. He hailed from a notable lineage, with his paternal ancestors including Judge Uriah Taylor of Illinois and Dr. Harry H. Sherman of Virginia, while his maternal lineage traced back several generations to John Dysslin of New York. After his Napa College education, Harry relocated to San Francisco, where he enrolled at San Francisco State University. During his time there, he actively participated in the Choral group and obtained his B.A. degree. Subsequently, he embarked on a 35-year career with the U.S. Post Office in San Bruno. Beyond his professional endeavors, Harry was an exceptional individual with a profound commitment to various pursuits. He held an impressive 8th-degree black belt in Jujitsu and possessed a passion for scuba diving. As one of the founding members of Cordell Expeditions, a nonprofit organization dedicated to conducting research that contributed to the establishment of the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, he demonstrated his unwavering dedication to marine conservation. Harry's interests extended to a wide array of hobbies, including sculpture art, line dancing, and law enforcement.
Scope and Content Note
Harry Sherman shares his life journey and experiences in an interview for the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary's Oral History Project. He worked at the Napa State Hospital before attending college and faced physical limitations that prevented him from becoming a police officer. Throughout his life, Sherman held various jobs, including serving as a special police officer and working for the post office for 34 years. In 1968, Sherman developed an interest in diving and joined the San Francisco Hammerheads diving club. He embarked on diving trips to locations such as the Channel Islands, Lake Tahoe, the Bahamas, Baja California, and the Cayman Islands. He also took a scuba course at San Francisco State University and assisted a friend who was a scuba instructor there. Sherman's introduction to Cordell Bank came in 1978 when a member of the diving community gave a lecture about the bank's discovery. Intrigued by underwater photos and samples, Sherman began exploring Cordell Bank with the group. He recalls memorable incidents during their dives, including technical difficulties with boats and engines, as well as saving his dog from falling into cold water. While Sherman played a supporting role rather than a central figure in Cordell Bank diving expeditions, he describes his early dives at the bank as beautiful and surpassing the underwater scenery of other locations. He encountered schools of fish, explored various layers of marine life, and reached the pinnacle. Sherman expresses his enthusiasm for Cordell Bank's rich biodiversity, vibrant colors, and sightings of coral and lingcod. He also recounts encounters with humpback whales, blue whales, killer whales, and other marine creatures. Additionally, he discusses diving in the Orkney Islands and describes the scuttled German fleet there. Sherman reflects on the allure of Cordell Bank, noting that each dive offered something slightly different, such as unique rock formations and newly discovered holes. Media coverage, including appearances on Channel 7 news, and controversies surrounding their activities, are also mentioned. During the interview, Sherman mentions encountering few people during his dives, except for occasional fishermen near the pinnacles. He recalls a fishing trip where they quickly caught numerous fish. He also discusses conducting a survey at Point Lobos and the challenges of scientific work during diving expeditions. Although not a scientist, Sherman expresses his love for diving and emphasizes the importance of safety precautions and careful preparation. He recognizes the need for conservation efforts to protect Cordell Bank's unique and abundant marine life, while also advocating for the preservation of fishing in the area. Sherman shares his passion for diving, expressing a desire to continue exploring Cordell Bank and other locations, such as the Farallon Islands. He highlights the challenges of underwater photography and videography, and mentions entering a competition where one of his videos won second prize.
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