Manhattan resident Radley Ramsey was scuba diving off the shores of Honduras when he and a group of fellow divers came across a turtle swimming through the water.
“There were people taking pictures from underneath, and I’m hovering, and he came up and put his beak right here,” Ramsey said, putting his hand to his cheek. “He’s looking at me and I’m thinking, ‘Don’t you bite me.’”
Ramsey dubbed the turtle, which he has encountered more than once on his annual trips to Honduras, “Lonesome George.”
“Every time I go back, there’s Lonesome George,” he said.
Ramsey owns Frontier Scuba Center and offers courses to train and certify divers. After learning to love the water as a child in Florida, Ramsey brought his passion to the Manhattan area. He is in his 26th year of teaching the classes and does his best to adjust to diving in a landlocked state.
Ramsey approaches the sport of scuba academically. He takes his students through a book to teach them the concepts behind diving. He then helps them practice the skills in the pool before they eventually get to move on to open water, diving in Tuttle Creek Lake to receive certification.
The lake is quite a departure from when Ramsey first jumped into the ocean in southern Florida. His parents, Manhattan natives, moved there when Ramsey’s father was stationed near Miami with the U.S. Air Force. Ramsey said swimming was a favorite pastime of his and his siblings during those years.
“My mother would ask us, ‘What do you want to do?’ and we’d say, ‘We want to go to the ocean,’” he said. “And she told us we had to go through all the swimming lessons.”
Ramsey eventually moved to Manhattan and opened the scuba center. He teaches the 26 skills described by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, or PADI. He teaches around 27 classes every year, each lasting around three weeks and each with a maximum of eight students. He prefers four to five students, saying the smaller classes allow for more one-on-one time.
“It’s like learning to read,” he said. “You can’t be an English professor until you’ve learned to read.”
After his students have studied a PADI textbook and learned diving basics in the pool, he usually takes them to Tuttle Creek Lake. However, he also journeys to places such as Table Rock in Missouri, which offers greater underwater visibility and a bit of variety for his students.
“In Tuttle Creek, I’ll get about 30 to 35 feet with my depth finder,” Ramsey said. “Out there, I’ll get 350 feet.”
He does not always have to venture out of the state for a chance to dive, but Ramsey’s yearly trips to Roatan, Honduras have given him some of the most beautiful views.
Every summer Ramsey takes his two dive masters, Pat Cox and Carl Boyer, as well as some students, to Roatan for a better chance to dive off a boat, as opposed to the shore.
“I prefer boat diving, because you go out half a mile, and there’s the reef,” Ramsey said. “You have all kinds of fish, and they all get along.”