Written by Courtney McCathern Friday, 19 August 2011 00:00John Herman Loret (Nov. 8, 1928–Aug. 12, 2011) lived a life of adventure, scientific exploration, and continuous curiosity. Throughout his life he loved learning and making it exciting for his innumerable students.
His love of science began early. He falsified his birth date in order to enlist in the Coast Guard where he served for three years, ending in 1949. While on Arctic duty, his ship achieved “farthest north” and then was trapped in the ice for an extended period. During this experience the ship circumnavigated Baffin Island- the first time that had been done.
In the 1950s, while a graduate student at the University of Oslo, he was sent to the Canary Islands to collect marine specimens. Returning to shore after a dive, he found all his belongings had been stolen. He knew that Thor Heyerdahl (the Norwegian explorer) was on the island and approached him for assistance. Heyerdahl agreed—if John would take him diving the next day.
This rather unusual meeting bore fruit when Dr. Heyerdahl offered John the position of diver on the legendary 1955-56 Norwegian Archaeological Expedition to Easter Island. It was during this time that John realized he wanted to devote his life to exploration and scientific study.
Sergio Rapu, businessman/ archaelogist, and former governor of Easter Island, was and old friend of John’s going back many years. “As a child,” Rapu remembered, “I was there when John appeared on the island with Thor Hyerdahl in 1955. In the mid 1900s we renewed that friendship by setting up scientific expeditions to Easter Island. I, along with many others, will sorely miss him, but he will always be remembered.”
In 1958, after returning to his roots on Long Island, he organized a diving expedition several miles off the coast of Fire Island and rediscovered the wreck of the USS San Diego (World War I battleship which has become a popular dive destination.)
From 1961-64, as an associate scientist with Dr. Olaf Scholberg, aboard vessels with the Norwegian Institute of Water Research, a successful method to determine water quality was developed.
As a member of the CEDAM Archaeological Expedition in 1968 John dove the “Cenote Sagrada,” a sacred Mayan well at Chichen Itza, recovering several valuable artifacts.
John was one of the founding members of the New York State Outdoor Education Association in 1967 and later served as its president. The following year he became an associate professor at Queens College (CUNY) until 1989. While at the college he was instrumental in starting their Environmental Sciences program. From 1968 to the present he organized 20 interdisciplinary graduate study expeditions to the Caribbean, Yucatan, Chiapas, Guatemala, the Amazon, Patagonia, Iceland, China, the South Pacific, Europe and the Middle East; he also instructed hundreds of students toward their scuba diving certification. He has published over 30 journal articles and received numerous awards from various professional associations.
From 1993-1996 John H. Loret served as president of the Explorers Club. From 1989 until the present Dr. Loret served as the executive director of the Science Museum of Long Island. Robert Hemm was a close personal friend of Dr. Loret, involved with him in both the Explorer’s Club and the Science Museum of Long Island. Mr. Hemm said that, “over the past 15 or 20 years I enjoyed the friendship of Dr. Loret on many scientific expeditions. He will be greatly missed.”
During his time at the museum he developed countless programs to introduce children to the excitement and wonder of the sciences. Among them were oceanography, history of Long Island Sound, pioneering and orienteering, cooking, survival skills, environmental awareness, Manhasset Bay studies, to name a few.
Dr. Loret lectured for adult education groups on his exploration. He spoke to garden clubs, the A.A.U.W., classes of gifted children, and library programs.
He also successfully wrote and oversaw many grants such as the Howard Hughes Grant, 1992-1997, bringing science enrichment to the Westbury School District. In 2010, John began working on a grant with C.W. Post University to build a greenhouse on the grounds of the Museum.
Marcello Mendez, production manager for a TV station who always had his camera within reach on their many expeditions, said Loret was “The Explorers Club president, Science Museum of Long Island director and so many other titles. But for me he was someone that I choose to share part of my life. Someone with whom I can explore the world or drink a martini together. He was one of those essential people in life. He was a friend and I will always celebrate that.”
There will be a Memorial Service at 6 p.m. this Friday, Aug. 19, at the Science Museum of Long Island, 1526 Plandome Road, Manhasset, New York 11030-1038.
Dr. Loret is survived by his three children, Erik, Leah, and Mary, his three grandchildren Camille Loret, Suzann Loret, and Cody Kruk, and by his constant companion Sabina Miller. In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made to the John H. Loret Scholarship Fund at the Science Museum of Long Island.