About the Cambrian Foundation
The Origin Story:
Written by founder, Terrence Tysall
The Cambrian Foundation began when I was working at the Dolphin Research Center, on Grassy Key, FL. I was asked to watch a video, Radio Bikini. The program showed the 1946 atomic weapons testing at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands of the Central Pacific. It showed, not only dramatic footage illustrating the terrible power of nuclear weapons, but also the terrible effects on those participating in the test. The main purpose of the test was to learn of the effects of atomic weapons on large naval ships. The U.S. Navy assembled a large fleet of obsolete vessels to test America’s newest and most fearsome weapon. Watching the cataclysmic blasts rock the mighty ships was impressive footage indeed. Seeing many of the ships sink made me wonder what the ships must look like after over forty years underwater.
It was in the hope of diving these shipwrecks that I started to do a little research on the area and on the tests themselves. Instead of reams of data concerning the wrecks in the lagoon, I repeatedly ran across references to the plight of the islanders that had been removed from the atoll in order for the tests to take place. One particular National Geographic article chronicled the ordeal of the Bikini people now residing on the island of Kili, also in the Marshall Islands. Since the new island has no lagoon, the traditional way of life for the people was no longer available. No protected lagoon, no fishing. The biggest thing that struck me was a picture of an individual about the same age as myself just sitting on the beach with nothing to do but look out for the monthly provision barge to arrive. The United States had created a welfare state in the middle of the Pacific!
Why the Name, “Cambrian”?
The Cambrian Age occurred about 500 million years ago and lasted for about 80 million years, during which all life was confined to water. It is also the first geological age from which we have recovered a good fossil record.
The most familiar fossils of the Cambrian Period are the Trilobites, the bug-like ancestors of today’s crustaceans. It is this reason that an image of Trilobite fossils is used by the Foundation.
I thought to myself how demoralizing an existence like this would be for me, and I thought in a small way that I might be able to help. The old axiom “if life hands you lemons, make lemonade” came to mind. I figured since the people of Bikini wanted to get back to their atoll, they would need a viable income base upon their return, even more so since the population had increased dramatically since they were removed from the island in 1946. Since they now had in their front yard some of the most historically significant shipwrecks in the world, why not use these artifacts to attract divers to the area. Shipwreck preserves are common the world over, so why not at Bikini? I hoped that there were some individuals on the island that would like to be trained to access and then take over and run such an operation.
During the process of formulating a plan, I was referred to the attorney representing the Bikinians, and I mentioned the incredible amount of support that the dive industry was pledging to the project. He suggested that I should form a not-for-profit company in order to give all of the supporters of the project a tax deduction for any donations to the effort. I, of course, readily agreed! How Naive I Was!!
I first contacted two of my students Patrick and Robert Magill, truly the two unsung heroes of the Foundation. They have worked harder than almost any of us and all they have received in return is having their name mentioned in our newsletters and on our website. Since three persons are required to sit on the board of a Florida corporation, I asked two people that I respect, unconditionally. No board in the world has ever had two finer, more intelligent and honorable individuals than Theodore Austell, III and F. Doug Chapman. It was these two men that helped me bring the dream to life. I will never be able to repay them for all they have done!
I had no idea that two years would pass before all of the bureaucratic hurdles would be cleared in order for us to form a 501(c)(3) corporation, and then an additional four- year probationary period would be required to satisfy the government! It has certainly all been worth it, however. The Foundation has been privileged to be able to travel around the globe conducting all manner of research projects, educational seminars, preservation activities, and exploratory expeditions. I am confident that all we have accomplished to date is just a prelude to many more exciting years to come! It is through the help and interest of people like yourselves that we will continue to prosper and someday hand a better planet and a better Cambrian Foundation to the future generations!
What’s Happening Now?
The Cambrian Foundation is working to usher in a new era. Our mission, goals, and purpose all remain the same but we are actively working to bring the Foundation back to how active it once was. Advances in technology have allowed technical divers to journey to new depths as well as push further into caves and wrecks than ever before. We strive to stay at the forefront of what is happening and help conserve, protect, and educate about the aquatic world and all its wonders.
Board of Directors