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Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Sea Salt

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Sea Salt is a compilation of memories and essays by underwater cinematographer extraordinaire, Stan Waterman. Stan Waterman is an icon in the scuba diving community. He is a pioneer in the field of underwater cinematography, best known for his pioneering 1971 documentary feature film entitled Blue Water, White Death. I have come to know him a bit this past year through the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences, and can vouch for his unbridled enthusiasm, infectious smile, sense of humor, and generosity. When the man enters a room, all eyes are upon him as the swashbuckler lights it up.

The book is a collection of memoirs first and then essays, many of which appeared over the years in other publications, predominantly dive magazines. Therefore, the first part of the book hangs together better than the second, because there is a sequence in the narrative that comprises Stan’s personal history. It is a life of adventure interspersed with glimpses of personal experiences and development that provided the motivations for his eventual migration to become an explorer, both personally and in his profession. The glimpses into the adolescent psychology that motivated a young man to forego the option of privilege for one of self-achievement are telling. I know doctors born with silver spoons who proved themselves in analogous fashion. To a greater or lesser extent, we are all products of our upbringing, and Stan Waterman is no different.

Having dived in many of the waters described by Waterman, I must admit to feeling a bit of kinship in the experiences, even though he usually arrived to these locations many years before me. The emotions of encountering a shark face-to-face, having a close call with a predator, or being exhilarated after a phenomenal dive are the cherished moments in diving. Dive boats, rocky mounds covered with bird excrement in the Galapagos, and magical moments underwater with manta rays are the common ground upon which the conversational ice is broken. Waterman has done as much as any man to successfully capture these moments in visual media, and now he has done much of the same on the written page, which is a rare double talent. Furthermore, having heard him speak in public, I would consider him a true triple threat.

More than anything, Sea Salt is one man’s tale of how a person can combine his or her profession with their passion, which after all, is the mantra of wilderness medicine. I admire the man for what he has accomplished, how he shares with others, and for the role model he has become for a population of senior adventurers that are grey eagles, silver dolphins, and white-maned lions.

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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.

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