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SBMM Honors Two Commercial Diving Pioneers

Mayor Helene Schneider with Honorees Lad Handelman and Bob Kirby

On Friday, January 29th the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum honored two pioneers in the field of Commercial Diving, Lad Handelman and Bob Kirby. Lad started out as an abalone diver here in Santa Barbara, and went on to start two international diving companies, CalDive and Oceaneering. Bob teamed up with Bev Morgan to form Kirby Morgan Diving Systems, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015 and continues to be the world leader in the manufacture and sale of commercial diving helmets.

Both men received NOGI Awards from the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences, an honor James Cameron says is more difficult to win than an Oscar. Neither Lad nor Bob were able to attend the NOGI Award ceremonies, so the Maritime Museum invited 200 of their closest friends to celebrate their great achievements here in their home town. To learn more about these two pioneers visit the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. KKFX News video

She’s 160 years old today.

Lens exhibit

The Point Conception first order Fresnel lens has stood watch for nearly 160 years, guiding ships safely around the “Cape Horn of the Pacific.” The Point Conception lens was designed and built in Paris, France in 1854, using a refracted prism system designed by French physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel. The lens was first lit on February 1, 1856. Because of persistent heavy fog at higher elevation, a second lighthouse was built on the lower bluff, and the lens was moved in June, 1882. While the lens saw many vessels meet their ultimate fate in this “graveyard” of the Central Coast, the light also saved and provided safe passage to thousands of vessels over the years.

Girls playing with mud, but that’s okay.


SBMM engages in their second year of marine science classes aboard Stardust, a 65′ local sport fishing vessel in the Santa Barbara Harbor. For two weeks, from January 25 to February 5, about 400 children from elementary schools and after school programs participate, many of whom have never been on a boat or out on the ocean. They venture out on the vessel to view dolphins and seals, and troll for fish. Back at dockside, they separate the fish from kelp, play with mud samplings and examine plankton under a microscope. Their teachers have noted these experiences are life changing for the students. This year the program is hosted by SBMM at no cost through the generous support of our donors, local foundations, and our members. For more information contact Emily Falke, Director of Education at or 805 962-8404 ext. 111

Tattoo & Scrimshaw Opening Reception

tat show

Roger Chrisman was one of over 225 people enjoying our Tattoo & Scrimshaw Art Opening Reception last night. Exhibit is on display until August 31, 2016, so now you can learn about the history of tattoos, along with our other exhibits on the history of our Channel.

Diver gets Tattoo


World famous commercial diver Bob Kirby getting a MOM tattoo at SBMMs new Tattoo Parlor Interactive

New Exhibit: Tattoos and Scrimshaw


One of the great things about the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is we are constantly opening new exhibits. On January 14th we open Tattoos and Scrimshaw: the Art of the Sailor. While I am very excited about this new exhibit, it can also be sad when a current exhibit is taken down. That is the case with Divergent Focal Planes. I loved Robert Watt’s black and white images of our Santa Barbara Channel coastline. I also loved Dennis Schuett’s whimsical, colorful, digitally manipulated images, especially those of the Fresnel Lens clockworks and the point Conception Lighthouse, with our Deputy Director/Curator/Director of Education Emily Falke standing watch out in front of the lighthouse. Fortunately you can still purchase a few of these remarkable images in our Museum Store.

Hope to see you all here January 14th for the opening of Tattoos and Scrimshaw!

Greg Gorga, Executive Director, SBMM


Certificate of Recognition


Liora Goodman, the District Representative from State Senator Hanna-Beth Jackson’s office, dropped off a Certificate of Recognition for the Museum. It reads:

“In honor of the Museum’s outstanding contributions and invaluable service to preserve and celebrate the maritime heritage of the California Coast; upon recent expansions to the Museum’s facility and programs that will greatly benefit our community, particularly with the opening of the new Children’s Gallery; Congratulations on celebrating our 15th Anniversary.”

Give a Gift


SBMM Board members George Writer and Roger Chrisman will match every donation to the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum from now until December 31, 2015, up to $10,000, in celebration of our 15th Anniversary. Here is your opportunity! Thank you.

SBMM 15th Anniversary Celebration


Over 300 people came by to see what we have been up to for the last month of renovations and exhibit installations. A new deck, a new interactive children’s gallery and a good polishing of our beautiful lighthouse lens helped make the museum look new again.

Parade of Lights 2015

_MG_0719 Boats turning srgb sm

Here is one of the photos taken by Barbara Mallon from the Maritime Museum’s 4th floor balcony.