26 years ago, a legend by the name of Vincent Calder, started working at the Two Oceans Aquarium, which was at that stage a construction site. Vincent started as an aquarist and employee No.1, but it was soon realised that he was multi-talented and would do very well getting the Aquarium’s Technical Department and Workshop off the ground. His technical abilities, unique skillset, and know-how were, and still remain to this day, invaluable.
Many of the systems and exhibits in the Aquarium were designed, built, fixed, or created by Vincent. When he and Claire Taylor started cutting the nooses off entangled seals in the V&A Waterfront in mid-2000, Vince's ingenuity kicked into high gear and he designed a special hook that has proven to be so effective that the seal rescuers are still using it to this day.
Technically, Vincent retired in July 2020, but due to the extraordinary circumstances of the year, he stayed on until the end of May 2021, remaining part of the Aquarium family during a very difficult time. It is with immensely heavy hearts that we now bid him farewell as he officially-officially retires.
Vincent has had such an incredible impact on the Aquarium over the years that it is difficult to fully comprehend, or to even find a starting point to talk about his extraordinary Aquarium life. From his technical skills and knowledge, to him being a wonderful, caring human being, a great teacher, a superb storyteller and someone that some of us will forever refer to as our “work dad.” He has been our “Our Man of the Sea” with a passion for rescuing entangled seals and the one person with the answers when the questions left many scratching their heads. He has also been an inventor, a fixer of many broken things, and mentor extraordinaire. His retirement will leave a big Vince-shaped hole in not only the Aquarium’s Technical Department, but also in the fibres that weave the Aquarium family together and run strongly throughout the building.
There aren’t sufficient words to thank Vince for the years that he has given to the Aquarium, and saying goodbye is not an option. So, we will just say: Thank you, Vince, for being an extraordinary human being and for caring so incredibly much about the Aquarium, the people and the animals. We will definitely have you on speed dial, but know that you can always just pop in at any time. Come have a coffee and chat. Visit as often as you like, and can, because not having you at the Aquarium is reality that we cannot imagine.
Some other messages received to celebrate Vince’s retirement:
Michael Farquhar - CEO of the Two OCeans Aquarium
When I joined the Aquarium in April 1997, Vince was the Workshop Manager and as I am a practical, hands-on person, I immediately started working with him in the workshop. He was so welcoming, encouraging and willing to share his expertise that I really enjoyed working with him, so much so that at one point I even spoke to the Curator at the time (Dr Pat Garratt) about me leaving Curatorial and moving to the Workshop. Pat, I think, already had other plans for me and he quickly put a stop to that.
We have been very fortunate to have Vince looking after this building and its inhabitants (staff and animals) for 27 years, he will be deeply missed.
Dr Pat Garratt – retired CEO and first Curator of the Two Oceans Aquarium
A Farewell to Vincent
It is a gut-feel. Sometimes we know. We don’t question how we know – we just know. We know that the person we have just met is good for us. And in this case, good for the Aquarium.
My gut-feel was perfectly accurate. To this day, Vincent is one of the best people I have ever met. So supportive, so sincere, so capable, so honest. As much as one could wish for in life.
We spent over 20 years of our lives together at the Two Oceans Aquarium. Twenty of the best years of our lives. Our adventures were numerous and, through them all, I knew that I could depend on Vincent totally.
We may have been on different rungs on the organisational ladder, but he was always such a good friend to me.
Vincent, thank you for all that you did for the Aquarium, and for me. I shall be grateful to you forever. And it should never be forgotten what you did for the Aquarium.
You are a Champion!
Tony McEwan - Director uShaka Sea World:
Vincie was one of the first staff that myself and Lex Fearnhead hired way back in 1994. Thank goodness we did because Vince really allowed things to happen. He is a very talented, experienced and skilful chap. All his skills were not only useful, but essential in getting the Two Oceans Aquarium off the ground as quickly and successfully as we did.
Not only is he a brilliant ski boat skipper and a very competent and experienced diver, he is considered and very safe, and kept us newbies and youngsters alive and uninjured.
His ‘handyman’ skills are legendry and exceptional. He understands most mechanical and electrical systems. He can fix almost anything. He can manufacture any unusual and unique aquarium fittings and other gear. If we needed something weird and in a hurry, Vince would quietly go off and arrive back with a part that worked and fixed the problem. He taught all of us a great deal.
We were all very privileged to work with him, and to have learnt from him. I am also honoured to call him a friend and we have shared many an adventure and consumed many beers together.
Every aquarium needs a Vincie on its staff. We would not have achieved what we did without him.
Thanks for everything and enjoy the next phase in life.
It has been a pleasure and honour to share so much with you.
Simon Chater - Curator, uShaka Sea World:
My wife Delveen and I arrived in Cape Town from Durban in mid-1995 full of trepidation as to what was awaiting us.
I had been offered a position on the Aquarium team and was very excited, but nervous as the only person I knew at that stage was Pat Garratt, the Curator who had hired me. The Two Oceans Aquarium was at that stage still in the early stages of construction.
Reporting for work on my first day I was introduced to Tony McEwan, the Operations Manager and Vince whose title I think was Senior Technician.
Tony was very friendly, but I was initially nervous and wary of Vince as he seemed very serious and didn’t talk very much.
It took a while to get to know him and be accepted by him.
I learnt a great deal from Vince. He was a great mentor and there was very little he did not know about all things technical.
He was hugely respected by everyone.
His reputation as a skilled technician, working previously at the old Sea Fisheries Research Institute, was evident as I got to know and work with him.
He stands apart from most technicians of his era as he has, an extraordinary knowledge of aquarium systems and tremendous knowledge and empathy for the animals which depend on these life support systems at Two Oceans.
Vince also taught me to enjoy and appreciate Windhoek Lite beer at the many braais we had in the seven years I was at Two Oceans.
I feel privileged to be considered a friend of Vince’s
Helen Lockhart - Communications and Sustainability Manager, Two Oceans Aquarium
Vincent is one of those people who quietly gets on the job and often doesn’t have much to say. But when you get to know him and spend time with him, you realise what an incredible story teller he is and what a wonderful sense of humour he has. Vincent has had many of us in tears with laughter as he has recounted stories – one of the most hilarious being how he transported an octopus from the Aquarium back to the ocean one Friday afternoon. You’ll need to find Vincent and ask him to tell you the story!
Vincent is a humble man who cares deeply about his colleagues and about the animals he has worked with and rescued over the years. He has also mentored many aquarists and technicians and spent hours teaching them how to use various tools and machinery.
It is hard to believe that he is retiring and that we won’t see this gentle, kind man every day, but we know that we’ll see him from time to time as this Aquarium is so much a part of who he is. This is now YOUR time Vince – enjoy!
Claire Taylor - Curator of Interprative Displays, Two Oceans Aquarium
I can't sum up the past 21 years. I've had the best time of my life with you at the Two Oceans Aquarium. You're my Hero!
Happy retirement ... till we go boating and diving and jellyfish hunting and sunfish rescuing and seal disentangling and seabird rescuing, then look for my keys and build something quick... how does tomorrow sound?
Enjoy your retirement Vince. You’ve earned it.