Last week, we bid farewell to a Two Oceans Aquarium legend, Iain Robertson, the long-time PADI scuba instructor here at the Aquarium, as he has retired. Many of us, and certainly many of you, have fond memories of taking our first breaths underwater under the cheerful care and instruction of Iain. A generation of scuba divers has you to thank Iain - we'll miss you!
Iain's relationship with the Aquarium began long ago, when Iain became a behind-the-scenes volunteer and diver soon after the Aquarium opened to the public for the first time, more than two decades ago. It wasn't long before Iain's Scuba School became a popular fixture here, with hundreds of people completing their PADI Open Water courses with Iain, and even more experiencing the underwater world for the first time thanks to Iain. Iain has been a professional PADI instructor for a long time, in fact, he's one of South Africa's longest active instructors, and we are certain that the underwater community will still be hearing from this legend.
Those of us who have had the pleasure of working with Iain know him as far more than simply a diving instructor. Iain has been the Santa Claus that has added laughter to the visits of thousands of children. He's been the smile and a joke that cheered up the day when passing him on a stressful morning. And, Iain has been an absolute ocean ambassador - pretty much every scuba diver in Cape Town knows this Scottish legend! Here's what our team has to say:
I was among the first Aquarium staff members to be trained by Iain way back in 1996. I had only been with the Aquarium for four months. As I knew very little about the ocean at that time, this was a huge and extremely exciting adventure for me. Iain is definitely THE best scuba instructor ever – I always felt safe with him and his sense of humour often had us chortling away underwater. If you indicated to Iain that you were cold, he would give you the sign of “Call Lifeline and tell someone who cares!” – but he really did care about his students and always helped them out with great kindness and patience. He was always a gentleman, giving us a hand as we made our way over slippery rocks to the dive site. His enthusiasm for every dive was contagious – no matter what the conditions he would come to the surface and exclaim “Wasn’t that great?” in his heavy Scots accent.
I once gave him a big fright though – we were on our way back from diving at North Paw when I suddenly felt decidedly sea sick and had to lean overboard to 'feed the fish'. Iain was stricken at the sight as he thought I was vomiting blood – fortunately, I had only had plums for breakfast!
I completed my PADI Advanced Open Water course with Iain in June of 2003. Iain is an amazingly patient dive instructor with a rather dry sense of humour or, at least, I hope it's humour. On the several occasions I joined him on boat dives and shore dives he would tell us that, in all the years diving in Cape Town waters, he had never encountered a great white shark, but if he did see one on the dive he would point it out to us while swimming in the opposite direction. On a more recent teachers dive in the I&J Ocean Exhibit he commented that, whilst diving in the exhibit, the parrotfish sometimes perches on his shoulder... Arrrr!
During various enrichment courses we have presented, Iain has also been amazing in assisting us in illustrating certain physics principles in the tank during by taking a sealed bottle to show how pressure with depth affects the volume in the bottle.
Thank you Iain. I will miss our random chats and wish you well on the next part of your journey.
Iain and I were behind-the-scenes volunteers in 1995. I remember cleaning tanks alongside him in the quarantine room. Later, he started running the dive programme, and that programme was part of my portfolio. I was responsible for buying the Adventure Dive refreshments and Iain was very particular about the flavour of the lollipops and juice I needed to buy. He knew what the divers wanted after a dive. After the refurbishment of the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Exhibit, I was fortunate to be the first "Adventure Diver" to join him in the exhibit, as he prepared the procedures for the restart of the dive programme for this exhibit. It was magical and as always, I felt completely at ease as I knew Iain was there and had my back.
Iain has the uncanny ability to remember every joke he has ever heard, and to retell it, or make use of a perfect pun, at the perfect time. I wish Iain all the best for the future and may the visbility always be just right for the perfect dive. Happy diving!
When I joined the Aquarium's marketing team, I'd never dived before - I'd barely set foot in the ocean. But when Yoshi's release was announced, I knew I was going to have to take my chance or I'd never be able to dive with such an iconic animal again. So, what began as simply a last-minute Discover Scuba Diving experience, has ended up with me being a qualified diver today, with hundreds of dives under my weighbelt. I have Iain to thank for that - he's easily one of the most empathetic people I know, and if it weren't for his calm reassurances and dad jokes, I'm not sure I'd be the cool, calm diver I am today. Thank you for being an incredible guide Iain, fin safe!
I completed my open water qualification with Iain, and I could not have asked for a better instructor. I freaked out while having to remove my mask under water, and when I surfaced, Iain said in the most calming voice, "As long as you have your regulator in your mouth, and keep breathing, you'll be fine". I haven't panicked under water since. It's always a joy passing him in the corridor and hearing his jolly greetings. He will be sorely missed.
I would like to thank Iain for being the first person to teach me to snorkel and giving me my first shark tooth from my first Predator Exhibit dive. He gave me the opportunity to literally open my eyes to the underwater world. He is an absolutely amazing diving instructor and trainer. I will miss him dearly, especially for our annual teacher dives.
Dear Iain, it was a pleasure working with you over the years, from booking your dives and to diving for the very first time as a DSD student in 2016. Deepest thanks for introducing me to the underwater realm - I haven't looked back since! Wishing you all the best adventures going forward.
Iain Robertson is one of the most graceful Scotsman I know. Underwater, he has always been calm and glided through the dives like a bird in the sky. On land his Scottish humour gives that kick of laughter and seeing in yearly as the Santa in the Santa suits adds the cherry to cake. It's been a pleasure having Iain around and he is an amazing scuba diving instructor...
I have a great memory of Iain when we dived at Long Beach in Simon's Town, eons ago.
We were underwater and we spotted a horse mussel. Iain got my attention and started imitating riding a horse underwater to explain to me what the name of this mussel was. I actually already knew, but always remember this image of Iain riding an imaginary horse underwater. Apart from that, I will miss my corridor/classroom chats with Iain and his dad jokes.
I will fondly remember Iain and his broad brogue, from his calm and competent guidance through Open Water 1 and Adventure dive courses through to many evenings of overheard lectures in the Upper Discovery Centre. Iain always used that as his teaching venue and I recall some evenings when he had a class while I was working late trying to finish a task. I would then become totally distracted, listening to his presentation, rather than focussing on work. The most amusing evening was when he was teaching an Italian student who had a limited command of English. I had to curb the urge to laugh out loud, listening to the two of them trying to communicate in some form of English which both of them could understand!
Like so many others, I will always fondly think of Iain as the man who taught me to breathe underwater. Doing a PADI Open Water Course with him back in 2012 was an absolute thrill, and scuba is a skill I have used regularly since then to enhance my travels. Needless to say he was a gentle, humorous and dedicated teacher. From a professional point of view, Iain was a valuable member of our extended team and a beloved ambassador - wherever he went, he held the Aquarium's name high. Thank you, Iain! You will be missed.