Kelly Tarlton enters Hall of Fame

MICHELLE ROBINSON
Last updated 05:00 09/11/2012
Kelly Tarlton's
Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World

FACELIFT: Kelly Tarlton's recently underwent a $5.5m upgrade which included changes to the famous Shark Tunnel.

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Marine explorer Kelly Tarlton was overnight officially inducted into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame.

He received the posthumous recognition at a ceremony in the Cayman Islands where his widow Rosemary Tarlton accepted the award. He joins the likes of environmentalist Jacques Cousteau who invented the aqua-lung.

Tarlton is best known in New Zealand for founding his namesake educational marine aquarium in Auckland.

He died seven weeks after it opened 27 years ago. It has since attracted almost 12 million visitors.

The see-through curved acrylic tunnels he pioneered have been emulated in aquariums around the world.

Tarlton's widow said the honour was "humbling".

"Diving was his passion in life and this is such a fitting tribute. It means a huge amount to our family."

The award came days after what would have been Tarlton's 75th birthday on Halloween.

Tarlton started out with a commercial diving company, exploring New Zealand's famous shipwrecks including the sailing ship Boyd at Whangaparaoa Harbour.

This led him to create the Museum of Shipwrecks in the Bay of Islands in the 1970s, and later Kelly Tarlton's underwater aquarium.

He would be surprised by the legacy his passion created, daughter Fiona said.

Initially a mountaineer, he turned to diving in pursuit of a safer hobby.

"At age 19 he climbed Mt Cook and Mt Aspiring and had a couple of near death experiences."

They involved falling down a mountain tied to four other people, and spending a week holed up in an ice cave with dysentery.

"That's when he saw Jacques Cousteau's movie Silent World and decided he would not go to South America to climb The Andes as planned, because it was too dangerous."

But the switch to diving was far from safe.

"You couldn't buy aqua lines or dive gear in New Zealand so he made them himself," his daughter said.

"It was one step he'd taken. But when you have a passion for what you do, it's amazing to see the results. It's not work."

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- Auckland Now

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