Ben’s Excellent Adventure
- What: Fundraiser to help Ben Sanders travel to the Dominican Republic to intern with internationally known dive expert John Chatterton
- When: Memorial Day, May 25
- Where: Elements dive shop, 5315 Atlanta Highway, Flowery Branch
- Fun stuff: In addition to selling barbecue plates, organizers plan to raffle diving equipment and 5 percent of shop sales that day go to Sanders. Organizers also are trying to set up children’s activities and a live band for the event.
Peaceful, quiet and blue, very blue. Floating around under water is like visiting another world with strange inhabitants.
Growing up in Chestnut Mountain, Ben Sanders was enthralled when he saw that world depicted on television programs.
"Diving was something I saw on TV. It was like Buck Rogers or something," he said. "I never thought it was something you could go out and do, I just thought it was something for TV."
After a divorce about two years ago, Sanders "realized I could do anything," and took up scuba diving as a hobby.
Now, he’s getting the chance to take that hobby to a new level. He’s been invited to intern in the Dominican Republic with John Chatterton, co-host for 57 episodes of the History Channel’s "Deep Sea Detectives."
While just getting his feet wet in diving, Sanders said he sent Chatterton an e-mail and the two struck up a sporadic correspondence about two years ago. On a whim last fall, Sanders said he offered himself as a "gopher or flunky" and Chatterton took him up on the offer.
Sanders is the second intern brought to the Dominican Republic to work for Chatterton’s company, Underwater Archaeology and Exploration LLC, a survey company that is searching for colonial-era shipwrecks on a contract with the Dominican government.
"The thing we liked about Ben was his determination. He really wants to come down here and wants to go to work. For us, perseverance and determination are valuable assets for any intern or employee," Chatterton said via e-mail. "Everyone we work with loves what we do. We all wake up in the morning excited about what we are doing that day. Every day is full of challenges, discoveries and adventures."
Sanders will spend the month of July working as an intern for the company.
"Interns are expected to do what needs to be done, from moving our equipment around, to diving, to working with computers," Chatterton said. "What we do, and the environment we work in, is somewhat different. As a result, we look for interns (to) be flexible and resourceful. We think we have a very interesting work environment, where interns will learn new and varied skills. For UA&E, this is not just an opportunity to give back to the dive community, but we think this is a way for us to find possible future employees."
Sanders’ diving instructor, Devin Waddell of Elements dive shop in Flowery Branch, admits he’s a little envious.
"It’s such an incredible opportunity. I’m kinda jealous," Waddell said.
Waddell is proud of his student’s accomplishment, and is organizing a Memorial Day event — they’re calling it Ben’s Excellent Adventure — to help Sanders pay for the trip. The event will feature barbecue plates, events for children, raffles of diving equipment and possibly a live band.
"I think it’s great," Waddell said of Sanders’ chance to work with Chatterton. "Ben will be diving with people who have more experience than we do. ... But they’ll look at him and say for two years, he knows what he’s doing and is right where he should be."
Waddell’s family has been in the dive shop business since the late 1960s; his first dive at age 8 was off Buford Dam. Together, he and Sanders have explored several shipwrecks — Chatterton’s speciality.
Chatterton is well-known in diving circles, having explored wrecks of the Lusitania, Britannic, Andrea Doria and a German submarine off the coast of New Jersey. His exploration of the Titanic was featured in the History Channel special "Titanic’s Final Moments — Missing Pieces" and the book "Titanic’s Last Secrets." Chatterton also has been a technical adviser for film and television.
"Shipwrecks are about exploration and comprehension, and that is the very heart of diving to me. Shipwrecks are very much tangible history, and trying to interpret them is absolutely fascinating and addictive," Chatterton said. "After all of my diving experiences, I am still absolutely thrilled by shipwrecks and the secrets they can reveal. To me, diving is art. Training divers and interacting with my diving peers is only another way to hone my skills, share my enthusiasm and enjoy what I do."
While a childhood dream got him into the water, Sanders said he discovered so many things about the pastime that keep him intrigued, including being close to nature.
"When you’re in the water, it’s quiet and peaceful," Sanders said. "A lot of people to the doctor for therapy. I go diving."