US technical-diving pioneer Tom Mount has died at the age of 82.
Born in March 1939, Mount started diving in the 1950s when he was 18 and would come to be widely regarded as a diving colossus, although he had a wide range of interests and also achieved prominence in other fields, particularly martial arts.
He served in the US Navy until 1963 and also with the US Army Corps of Engineers. During his varied early career he joined the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration as an aquanaut, saturation diver and supervisor; worked for a dive-tour travel company and ran his own dive-centre; became YMCA scuba programme training director; and was diving officer at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Sciences.
In 1965 he and Frank Martz set the joint world record for the deepest dive on compressed air with a descent to 110m (the previous record had been a mere 30m), until Hal Watts and AJ Muns exceeded this feat by 10m in 1967.
In 1968 Mount joined Watts and others as founder-members of the USA’s first cave-diver training agency, the National Association for Cave Diving (NACD). Mount wrote one of the first books about the pursuit, The Cave Diving Manual, and was lead author of Safe Cave Diving. The NACD developed the first organised cave- and cavern-diving courses.
So Mount was already a well-known figure in the US diving community when in 1990 he joined fellow-diver Dick Rutkowski to help run the body he had formed to introduce recreational divers to nitrox, the International Association of Nitrox Divers.
This soon became IANTD (International Association of Nitrox & Technical Divers) with Mount as president and CEO, embracing deep air/trimix, wreck-, cave- and mine-diving, and also became the first agency to teach the use of closed-circuit rebreathers. It was the first and for a time the only dedicated technical diver training agency.
Mount headed the organisation until 2005, remaining on the board of directors after that date.
A pioneer in the development of trimix dive tables and of CCRs for recreational diving, Mount wrote or co-wrote and produced numerous IANTD reference books and other publications, including Technical Diver Encyclopedia; Exploration and Mixed Gas Diving Encyclopedia (Tao of Survival Underwater); Tek Closed Circuit Rebreather; and The Greatest Adventure.
Among many accolades he became an SSI Platinum Pro 5000 Diver in 1993 and received a prestigious NOGO Award for sports education from the Academy of Underwater Arts & Sciences in 2000.
Art of survival
Beyond diving, Mount was a grand master in a variety of martial arts, an interest that began when he was nine (as had his interest in the underwater world) and led him to be inducted three times into the US Martial Arts Association Hall of Fame. He was a qualified boat captain, aircraft pilot, go-kart racer and holder of three doctorates in natural medicine.
It was his fascination with humans’ ability to overcome threats to life that led Mount to write so many books ultimately dedicated to the art of survival. One of the three key elements he defined in 1999 was this: “We all die thus; it is the quality of life, not quantity, that defines having lived.”