How Lucky I was

Conservationist John Rumney dies at 70

Many years ago, when I was an aspiring photographer craving natural history experiences, I came across John Rumney and Linda Rumney. They made possible my dream of documenting an amazing underwater experience. On two occasions I flew to the other side of the world to capture the beauty of the dwarf minke whales in the Great Barrier Reef. I not only found whales but human love and uniqueness that still navigates my mind and memories. On my second trip, I did end up staying with the Rumney’s at their home, and I was introduced to underwater photographer Juergen Freund. Its been years, and my conversations, and fun smiles with their daughter Jenna Rumney, family friend Erin Corish and everyone else during those sea voyages are still in my mind as cheerful memories.

Last weekend, a Queensland ecotourism pioneer died at age 70. It was John Rumney. Yes, the same John that made my dream possible. John was born in the United States, but life took him to Port Douglas (Australia) where he became not only a tourism operator and conservationist but a true inspiration to many.

John, who founded Undersea Explorer, an adventure dive and research vessel, made possible to scientists and photographers like myself, experience in first row one of the ocean´s most magnificent wonders.


In 2019, John was awarded the Australian Geographic Lifetime of Conservation Award. And of course, he was a conservationist that every aspiring photographer should know about.

It was a long time since we last saw each other, but his smile and energy still shape my love for ocean conservation today. I do have vivid memories of waiting during a diving safety stop in the Australian Barrier Reef. John had been my dive buddy, and we were just hanging there. Not sure how, but a minke whale dove next to us, and stayed in position checking us out at close range, before cruising away. For a long time, I thought about how lucky I was to have experienced such an encounter. I was wrong in how I perceived the experience. I would rephrase my sentence now: How lucky I was to have met John, and for that whale to see close range our eternal love and respect for the ocean. Rest in peace, John.