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Feature Stories

Diving Into History

Brookville man explores the past in an unusual way

When most people think of adopting a hobby, putting on 50 pounds of equipment and going 130 feet below sea level, probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But for Brookville resident, Adam Grohman, there’s nothing he’d rather do.

Grohman’s avocation is diving, and for nine months out of the year, he is exploring territory unseen by many. He has been diving for 12 years in waters around the west and east coast and the Caribbean, and is a certified Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Dive Master.

“You descend into this alien environment that is so foreign to us. You’re not meant to be there. If God had wanted us to be there he would have given us gills. To be able to see underneath the ocean, to explore the ocean, it’s an amazing feeling,” Grohman said.

Grohman grew up in Pomona, New Jersey and recalls spending many days at the beach as a child.

“It always seemed to me that there was another world under the surface,” Grohman said.

It was when he was working at the University of San Diego that Grohman took his first dive.

“I remember during my first descent I looked up and all I saw were these little bubbles cascading out of my regulator. It makes you realize how small you are in the grand scheme of things,” Grohman said.

While Grohman was stationed in Cuba for active duty with the Coast Guard, he had the opportunity to dive around Guantanamo Bay. Grohman says that this was the catalyst for him to pair up diving with his love of history.

“The beauty of diving is that it allows me to fulfill two passions-exploring the deep, but more importantly, exploring history. A shipwreck is a time capsule. It’s an entity that you can explore and learn from. Ever since man created the first boat he has suffered from shipwrecks so when you’re diving on something in that very serene, quiet environment, you’re almost time traveling,” Grohman said.

Before any dive, Grohman spends months and sometimes years doing historical research, sifting through primary sources in libraries and research facilities to identify locations and causes of a wreck.

“I don’t want to just dive on a wreck. I want to learn about it and put the story together. And that’s as much as a thrill for me as diving,” Grohman said.

In 2004, Grohman co-founded the Underwater Historical Research Society, a non-profit organization that seeks to research, identify and educate. The group gives around a dozen lectures a year and hopes to get people excited about the history in the seas around them. They also work with other researchers to spread the knowledge of maritime history.

Grohman has written 13 nonfiction books on maritime tragedies and histories, several of them focusing on the waters around Long Island. He says that one of his biggest accomplishments is the research he’s written and the myths he’s been able to debunk.

“We’ve really clarified and solidified some definitive (facts) on local histories. There’s a lot of misinformation, and because we go back to primary sources, we start putting together true histories,” Grohman said. “When you write it down and catalog it, you’re extending the life of that story for another generation. The wrecks won’t be there forever, so if we don’t catalog and research it now, it might not be there later.”

His latest diving project is a search for the P47 Thunderbolt, a rare aircraft that went down in local waters during World War 2. But Grohman says that his dream find would be something a bit bigger.

“The classic answer would be treasure,” he says with a laugh. “But I think it would be fun to discover something that somebody thought never existed. I think the most famous shipwreck of all time would be Noah’s Ark. Can you imagine being the diver or archeologist that would discover something like that? But I don’t think we’ll find that in the New York waters anytime soon,” Grohman says with a smile.

When Grohman is above sea level, he’s busy being the Director of Community Standards and Civic Engagement and Coordinator of Veteran and Military Affairs at LIU Post, a father to his two young sons, and working on his next book. To learn more about his dives and the UHRS, visit uhrs.org.