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Getting the Picture

Focusing on Humann’s 59 years of scuba diving and underwater photography

Hammerhead shark photo taken by Paul Humann

From The Ichabod - Spring 2020

“A huge school of hammerheads came straight toward me out of the blue. They went right over me and then just stayed there. So I wondered, how close would they let me come? I rose up out of the crevice and swam up in the open water right into the middle of the school and got a couple of unbelievable pictures.”

As a scuba diver and underwater photographer, Paul Humann, jd ’64, has a few stories that would probably scare most people. But the real story is how an attorney from Kansas ended up leaving everything behind for the water. From the Caribbean to the Galapagos, he’s photographed countless marine life, authored 12 books, made discoveries and led an award-winning career that’s puts both him and his work on the map.

The Love to Dive

When Humann attended Washburn University School of Law, he knew he needed to find another outlet for his love of the water. An avid swimmer throughout high school and college at Wichita State University, Humann paid for his law school tuition by coaching and teaching swimming at Washburn’s indoor pool. During his first summer break at Washburn Law, Humann joined a college friend on a dive trip to the Florida Keys and he was officially hooked. He went to the Caribbean to dive at every opportunity after that.

After law school graduation, he considered a move to practice law in Florida so he could continue his new passion. Trying to be practical, Humann decided to stay and practice in Wichita, Kansas, where all of his family and business contacts were.

Nevertheless, the water called to him, and in 1971, he decided the ocean was where he belonged. He left his law practice, moved to Grand Cayman and purchased and became captain of the first liveaboard dive boat in the Caribbean. Humann's liveaboard boat – named aptly the Cayman Diver – was 89 feet long and held 12 passengers, six in a large bunk room and six in three small cabins. He became a certified scuba diving instructor and took tourists on dive trips around the Caribbean. He also took up underwater photography as an additional way to earn money.

Write the Book you Want to Read

Paul Humann with some of the books he's published

During the eight years as a liveaboard captain and dive instructor, Humann often had guests ask about the different marine life they saw on dives. Wanting
to help his patrons and learn more for himself, Humann decided he would get a marine life identification book but found the type of book he was looking for didn’t exist.

“The only books out there were written by scientists, many whom hadn’t even gone diving because diving was very new to the general public at that time,” Humann said. “Most of the pictures they had in their books were dead fish laying on docks, which doesn’t help with fish identification very well. So, I decided I would take a photo of every marine animal I can, in a pleasing and identifiable fashion.”

So, as the saying goes “write the book you want to read,” Humann did just that. He paired up with his friend Ned Deloach to form their own publishing company – taking fish, coral and reef creature identification to a new level. Humann used his keen sense of negotiation to get a loan promising full repayment to the bank in five years. However, the dive industry was ready for a book like theirs, and they sold out and were able to repay the loan within six months.

To date, they have published 12 books covering marine life from around the world. He’s helped scientists identify specimens (some of which now reside in the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History collection) and he’s been recognized by the United States Coral Reef Task Force for his efforts to the scientific community.

Do What you Love

Although Humann has lost track of exactly how many dives he’s been on during his 59-year career, he estimates it’s between 15,000 and 20,000 dives – making it no wonder he’s been inducted into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame.

At 82 years young, he may have slowed down a bit, but he’s still doing what he loves. In fact, next spring he’s travelling to his favorite place to dive: Indonesia.

“I’m still diving and running around the world,” Humann said.

Humann's wrasse, a species of fish he discovered while diving

Diving and photographing in Indonesia, Paul Humann discovered this species of wrasse, which was later named Humann’s wrasse (Cirrhilabrus humanni).


The Ichabod Winter 2021 issue

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. Read the 2021 winter edition online and look for it in mailboxes in January.

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