Ron McConnaughey

Location of Interview
Collection Name

Beneath the Surface of San Diego


The beautiful coastal city of San Diego in southern California has been the nucleus of underwater exploration, innovation and research throughout sport diving’s relatively short history. Boasted as the home of the first dive club in the world, the first oceanographic research institution to use diving for science, and many of the most influential diving pioneers, San Diego has a rich cultural heritage in sport diving antiquity. Large and significant portions of this history have gone undocumented, as many stories and observations remain accessible only in the memories of these pioneers themselves. However, recreational divers in San Diego represent a large stakeholder group with a highly respected and knowledgeable capacity for shaping local marine resource management choices, and divers rely on the health and protection of these coastlines as a driver for their passions, leisure and fascination. The purpose of the project overall is to tell the history of sport diving in San Diego from the perspectives of those at its forefront.  Oral histories were recorded with eight experienced local San Diego divers who began diving recreationally and went on to become influential contributors to revolutions in marine science, diving technology and ocean resource management.

Date of Interview
Principal Investigator

Ron McConaughey is a native of San Diego, born in 1941, and spent his entire life in the beach area, specifically Mission Beach. His first experience with underwater exploration began around 1949 when he wore a mask in the ocean for the first time. This sparked a lifelong interest in diving and underwater exploration. Around 1954, he took an introductory scuba course at the YMCA, which further fueled his passion. McConaughey's interest in scuba diving led him to read extensively on the subject, including works by Jacques Cousteau and the U.S. Navy diving manual. He also sought advice from friends knowledgeable about diving. Before starting at Scripps, he had only a few occasions to use an AquaLung, but he did use a hardhat. In his early years, McConaughey left high school to work on a tuna boat to pay for a car he had wrecked. This job required him to do some diving, which furthered his experience and interest in the field.

Scope and Content Note
This interview with Ron McConaughey, conducted by Ashleigh Palinkas on February 18, 2014, provides a detailed account of McConaughey's life and experiences with underwater exploration and diving. The interview covers his early life in San Diego, his first experiences with diving, and his self-education in the field. McConaughey discusses his first time wearing a mask in the ocean, his introductory scuba course at the YMCA, and his early diving experiences on a tuna boat. He also mentions his interest in the works of Jacques Cousteau and the U.S. Navy diving manual, which he read to learn more about diving. The interview also touches on McConaughey's work for Scripps, including his involvement in specimen collection for various research studies, particularly those related to abalone reproduction. In addition, the interview includes a segment with Mary Lou, who provides further insight into the challenges and intricacies of underwater exploration, including the deployment of heavy equipment and the training of divers. She also mentions some of the high-profile individuals McConaughey has worked with, including Walter Cronkite and a Bahraini princess.

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