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A Giant Stride for Womankind: The WDHOF Celebrates its 20th Anniversary

Now celebrating its 20th Anniversary, the iconic “Women Divers Hall of Fame,” representing some 244 inspiring divers in 21 countries, has raised more than $500,000 that it awards in scholarships and grants to up and coming water women around the planet. Come get the lowdown from British diving content creator Vic Brown.

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By Victoria Brown
All photos courtesy of WDHOF

For 20 years, Women’s Diving Hall of Fame, WDHOF, has been championing women divers who make outstanding contributions to the dive industry through the exploration, understanding, safety, and enjoyment of our underwater world. The Hall has honored the expertise and experience of 244 inspiring women hailing from 21 countries all across the planet.  

The organization has evolved from humble beginnings into a force within the diving world, and has become one of the most impactful organizations in the industry. They have a reputation for promoting opportunities in diving through scholarships, training grants, mentorship opportunities, and access to a worldwide network of industry contacts. 

It All Started with a Good Idea

This year marks the 20-year anniversary of this iconic movement. The organization is celebrating the many years of philanthropic work and dedication, including reaching the milestone of $500,000 in fundraising since their incorporation. This money has helped to fund past scholarships, including the 63 scholarships and grants that the organization has pledged this year. They are not stopping there. The sisterhood has launched a new initiative they have creatively called 20 for 20, which will see 20 grants of $1000 awarded to women of all ages to complete their open water course in 2020. This is a truly international affair with inductees coming from across the globe, showing that the international reach of the WDHOF is growing. 

The six founders of the WFHOF.

The idea behind the organization was born in New Jersey in 1999 when Armand “Zig” Zigahn, President of Beneath the Sea Inc. (BTS), was planning a big celebration for the close of the millennium. As we moved into a new century he wanted to mark the occasion by celebrating the greatest women divers at the time with a one-time celebration. This was a tall task, as there were so many high-achieving women divers, so a committee was selected to draw up a shortlist. The original six included Dr. Hillary Viders, an award winning writer, speaker, and educator; Patty Mortara, co-founder of Women Underwater; Carol Rose, President of The Underwater Society of America (USOA); Jennifer King, President of the Women’s Scuba Association; Ray Tucker, Chief Financial Officer; and Zig Zigahn. They set to task, and The Women Divers Executive Committee was born. It was also known by those on the ground as Mission: Greatest Women Divers of the 20th Century.

The response was overwhelming: so many women were held in high regard by their peers, even at a time in the industry when there were comparatively fewer women in diving.

Advertisements were placed in dive magazines calling for people to send in nominations of women whom they felt were excelling in their chosen diving fields. The response was overwhelming: so many women were held in high regard by their peers, even at a time in the industry when there were comparatively fewer women in diving. It was then the job of the committee to track down all of the divers on the list, many of whom were nominated without contact details, and with some working so far underwater that they were nearly impossible to reach. 

After the lengthy hunt for each nominee, the committee had gathered their treasure: a photo and bio from each of the nominated divers, and a collection of 76 outstanding women who made the inaugural roster that would become the of WDHOF. It was a grand and momentous affair; Norma Wellington, a jewellery designer, created a gold pin with a temporary logo, and Patty Mortara designed the certificate for the award. Bios and accompanying photographs were arranged on the wall of the Meadowlands Expo Center throughout the WDHOF Member luncheon at Beneath the Sea Expo weekend, stoking a mini-media frenzy. 

The WDHOF at the BTS (Beneath the Sea) expo in 2018.

With the success and popularity of the campaign, the committee could see great value in the mission and decided that this was to be more than just a one-time celebration. They proceeded to formalize the organization, creating a new name and a logo inspired by Zighan, who had exclaimed about one of the committee, “That lady really looks like she means business, not like a girly girl… she looks strong enough to wrestle me to the ground.” And so the WDHOF Hall of Fame was born. 

In 2001, the WDHOF incorporated as a non-profit and quickly set about fundraising, with Kathy Weydig honoured as the first President-Treasurer of WDHOF. Five years later, Weydig was awarded founder status, recognizing her central role in these early years.  During the 2001 BTS show, another 36 women were inducted, and it was the first year the sisterhood added the DEMA Show to the calendar to welcome the inductees who couldn’t make the BTS show in New Jersey. They have featured at both shows ever since.  The philanthropic mission of the organization was decided upon shortly after its inception, with four scholarships offered in 2002, the year in which another 16 women were admitted into the Hall. 

Underwater photographer and “Duck Mistress” Cathy Church exploring the marine environment while allowing the ducks of the Derby some well-earned rest. 

The early success of the WDHOF can be attributed to their fundraising efforts, which have also fuelled their continued growth. Every March, during its 20-year history, the committee plans the WDHOF luncheon during the BTS expo; items are auctioned on behalf of WDHOF during the traditional BTS Fish & Famous Gala. In 2003, Weydig expanded upon these traditions and produced the highly lucrative Duck Derby fundraising event held at DEMA, which featured Cathy Church as the “Duck Mistress” and a celebrity guest host. Fast forward a decade, to the celebration of their ten year anniversary: Fundraising efforts were doubled, and a year-round program of events kicked off at the BTS show with a cruise on the Hudson River. 

Evie Dudas

That same year, Julianne Ziefle collated the sold-out WDHOF Diver’s Palate Cookbook, illustrated by Bonnie Toth, the “resident graphic genius.” Meanwhile, Darlene Iskra led another committee in the development and publication of the ten-year anniversary WDHOF commemorative book, wherein members collected the signatures of their peers, showing the ever growing strength and  momentum of what was becoming an established movement. This was cemented when Evelyn Dudas led the first dive trip that year to Bonaire, staying at Captain Don’s Habitat, a resort that regulates its impact on the environment. The trip was such a success that it has been repeated every subsequent year with groups going on to visit destinations including Mexico, Grand Cayman, and the Florida Keys (to visit Sally Bauer’s History of Diving Museum). The profits from these trips contribute to the funding of scholarships. 

A group of divers who attended one of WDHOF trips to Iceland.
Sally Bauer at the History of Diving Museum, Florida

By 2011, the ducks were all tuckered out, and the Derby became the Tropical Dreams and Paradise Sunsets party at trade show DEMA. Despite this risky move, it was another successful year. By 2015, the commemorative book was back again, only this time it was bigger and better. That year the WDHOF was over the moon to announce the scholarship program had to date awarded over $250,000, divided among well-deserving recipients.  Fifteen years in, it was clear that fundraising was going well, diver trips were oversubscribed, and the organization was making waves in international waters. Despite these victories, the WDHOF made it clear that “The Women Divers Hall of Fame’s greatest asset remains its members: women of all ages, nationalities, races, religions, and fields of expertise. We are sisters bound by our love of the sea and commitment to excellence.” 

“We are sisters bound by our love of the sea and commitment to excellence.” 

For example, during 2015, Chantelle Taylor-Newman, who had been introduced to WDHOF in the previous year while on a course with mentor Andrea Zaferes, immediately recognized the power of the organization and made the revolutionary move to take a booth at the London International Dive Show as an associate member in order to spread the good word of the WDHOF.  She went on to represent WDHOF at Dive Show Birmingham later that year and exhibited each year until 2018.  She fondly reminisced in an interview, “In 2015 I was invited to Beneath the Sea with Andrea to meet the Women Divers Hall of Fame members. This was the 15-year anniversary of WDHOF and my introduction to a unity of powerful women.”

Chantelle Taylor-Newman, The Diver Medic, is committed to “providing individuals with the confidence, knowledge and practical skills necessary to deal with any diving based medical emergency.”

The same year, she was inducted into the organization for her unprecedented work in increasing diving safety awareness worldwide. Today she is still the only instructor accredited to teach the DAN Europe Recreational DMT course that she created. After Taylor-Newman joined the WDHOF, she was put in charge of the Global Outreach Committee with a view to expand into Europe and further afield in order to raise the international profile. She felt the organization was too American-centric, commenting, “There are so many worthy divers outside of the USA, there is great value in helping the name become more recognized,” she said. Taylor-Newman also puts her money where her mouth is: She awards a grant for a Diver Medic Technician course each year, and has done so since 2016. 

A Truly International Affair

Some say Cristina Zenato can speak “Shark”.  Having worked for so long in understanding their behaviours, Cristina boasts a world first, a magic touch able to induce a state of relaxation in the Caribbean Reef shark so it appears to be napping in her lap. 

There were already a handful of inductees from around the world before Taylor-Newman’s induction, such as Jayne Jenkins (UK/Australia), Audrey Mestre (France), Marguerite St-Leger-Dowse (UK), Cristina Zenato (Italy), Vreni Roduner (Switzerland), Simone Melchior Cousteau (France) and Linda Pitkin (UK). However, in recent years there has been a noticeable increase in international members being inducted into WDHOF; for example, in 2018, technical dive journalist Sabine Kerkau was the first German to be admitted, alongside Belgian photographer Ellen Cuylaerts and Mexican non-profit founder, Dora Sandoval. 

The previous year, the induction included marine conservationist and ocean advocate, Sharon Kwok Pong, from Hong Kong, China. This flurry of activity has been accredited to the work of Taylor-Newman in her role as the Global Outreach committee head. This year Parisian-born Hélène de Tayrac-Senik—founder of the Paris Dive Show—made the grade, further building on the international expansion of this innovative brand. Taylor-Newman encourages nominations by highlighting that the “WDHOF is a great conduit to get places and be recognized by people, as long as they are aware of the organization…to be in the WDHOF it is a phenomenal achievement, and all the members are out here supporting each other and other people. That is the way in.  It’s about giving to the industry, not taking away.”

The organization also has an international reach in their fundraising efforts. As of 2020, WDHOF has awarded a total of over $500,000, to 421 individuals from all over the world.

The organization also has an international reach in their fundraising efforts. As of 2020, WDHOF has awarded a total of over $500,000, to 421 individuals from all over the world. This year, 63 individuals will draw from a pot of $79,000. The programs are so popular that some grants or scholarships are seeing up to 40 to 50 applicants, which helps to raise awareness of the organization. As Bonnie Toth noted, “Marine Science grants are always popular.” Although the scholarships are competitive, they are not unachievable; WDHOF creates a grant for every ten eligible applicants, making sure the funding follows where the demand is.  

A number of the sponsors are also members themselves. Margo Peyton founded Kids Sea Camp in 2000 and disperses four to five training grants per year, each valued at $500. And this year, with the 20 for 20 initiative, the board was able to boast that “No one else in the industry is doing anything else of this magnitude.” Recipients of the scholarships and grants submit a report with photos for the WDHOF newsletter, so members can see the positive outcomes for people taking this training and the amazing benefits of these funding streams.

WDHOF: An Agent of Change

Margo Peyton, Sea Kids Camp, facilitates children and families to adventure beyond their wildest dreams. 

These reports will of course be added to the large library of good news stories that the organization rightfully holds dear. In 2018, ten-year-old Lorelei Short found herself enamoured by ocean exploration after completing the PADI Bubblemaker experience.  Her dream of learning to dive was realized that year when she was awarded a learn-to-dive scholarship by Ocean Wishes Foundation & Kids Sea Camp, which enabled her to plunge into her open water course. She plans to complete her qualifying dives when the weather warms up. Her enthusiasm is infectious.  “This is an incredible experience and I want to thank you for making it possible by granting me the funds to participate. This is an experience that most people don’t have. It was amazing to go underwater and take those first breaths! This would not have happened if I had not received the grant; so, thank you so much,” she reported!

“It was amazing to go underwater and take those first breaths! This would not have happened if I had not received the grant; so, thank you so much.”

A year earlier, experienced diver Chelsea Bennice, Ph.D., was the winner of the Elizabeth Greenhalgh Memorial Scholarship in Journalism, Graphic Arts, and Photography sponsored by WDHOF Member Deb Greenhalgh Lubas. The funds allowed Bennice to take an underwater photography workshop to sharpen her skills, and since then she has used her photographs as a community outreach tool. Bennice has more than doubled her online following and increased engagement with her community, consequently drawing greater attention to her invaluable scientific research. 

More recently, Reanna Jeanes was the recipient of the 2019 Undergraduate Marine Conservation Scholarship, sponsored by Blue World & Oceanic Research Group and WDHOF Member Christine Bird. Jeanes’s research focused on whether macroalgal species out-compete coral colonies, making them susceptible and vulnerable to outside influences. She had this to say about her research: “In September 2017, Hurricane Irma scoured much of the macroalgae in the Florida Keys, presenting the unique opportunity to observe macroalgal succession on coral reefs. We surveyed ten reef sites quarterly in the year following Hurricane Irma, focusing on regions with varying abundances of initial Dictyota and Halimeda species.”

The same year, marine biologist and keen scientific diver Aurelia Reichardt was awarded the 2019 Recreational/Public Safety Diver Medical Education Grant (UK & Europe) sponsored by The Diver Medic (owned by Chantelle Taylor-Newman) and DAN Europe. She completed the DAN Recreational Dive Medical Technician (DMT) training, an advanced first aid course aimed at recreational divers. Looking back on her experience Reichardt commented, “As a result of the WDHOF scholarship, I was able to make professional connections with other divers as well as with Chantelle Newman, the Diver Medic and DAN Europe. I am keen to continue my Diver Medic education and look forward to participating in the DAN Diving Emergency Medical Responder (DEMR) course in the future.”

Band of Sisters

Explorer Jill Heinerth has helped women across the world break through the barriers they encounter in their careers.

The support offered by this dynamic organization is not always financial;a large part of its work is the peer-to-peer support and mentoring.  Canadian explorer-in-residence, Jill Heinerth, has been a member since the beginning, and she, along with Patty Mortana (founding member) produced a magazine called Women Underwater‘ which connected the pioneering women tech divers scattered around the globe. 

For Heinerth, the WDHOF has provided personal support, and offered an opportunity to be a part of a network for younger women in the industry. Heinerth focuses her mentoring efforts within her field of cave diving, and has helped women break through the ice ceilings they encounter in their careers. When interviewed, she asserted that “For many women, there have been gatekeepers, biases, and financial issues that stood in their way. I want to remove those issues and help them to achieve what I know they are capable of.” 

“For many women, there have been gatekeepers, biases, and financial issues that stood in their way. I want to remove those issues and help them to achieve what I know they are capable of.” 

Pioneer and American ichthyologist Eugenie Clark was known as ‘The Shark Lady’ for her dedication to shark behavioural studies. 

The collegial nature of the organization is palpable. In an example of admiration between members, Bonnie Toth was thrilled to meet marine biologist Eugenie Clark at one of the last BTS shows she attended. Toth had even brought along her old dog-eared copy of The Lady and the Sharks (1969), not missing the opportunity to get it signed; upon seeing the book, Clark exclaimed, “I can’t believe you still have this book!” Dottie Fraizer, the first scuba instructor in the USA—now ninety-eight years old—says she is still having a great time. Although she’s not teaching scuba for Los Angeles County anymore, she values being a part of this thriving community. Evelyn Dudas, also a member since the first induction, has been an active participant in the industry since 1962 and holds the title for the first woman to dive the ill-fated Andrea Doria wreck. She’s also responsible for the 1980s-era expansion of Dudas’ Diving Duds into a full-service dive facility for recreational and technical divers, all while raising her children on her own.  

Dottie Fraizer, USA’s first ever female Scuba instructor.

Dudas talks about how she was initially hesitant to be a part of a woman-only movement, recollecting, “I was not a big supporter of women’s movements. You did your job and you got credit for what you did… [but] I was impressed with the idea of the scholarship(s).” In spite of her hesitancy, Dudas’s induction in 2000 to the WDHOF turned out to be a positive experience and highlights the value of their philanthropic work. She has been an active member since its creation. Jill Heinerth seconds that sentiment, commenting, “I’m extremely proud of the outreach and support that WDHOF offers to our community. Scholarships, grants, and recognition can be life-changing for younger women. I hope that one day we won’t feel that there is a need to have an organization that specifically recognizes women, but right now it’s very important!” Her comments illustrate the progressive attitude of the members and the organization as a whole. These margins are too narrow to mention all of the women that have propelled the WDHOF forward over the years. It is evident this is a collective effort of like-minded and generous women who are experts in collaboration.  

To the Future and Beyond

“It is the ‘sisterhood’ that binds us together. Many of us are still diving. Many of us are not.”

President Mary Connelly and Chairman Bobbie Scholley have announced that the 20th anniversary awards will take place at the Beneath the Sea show. While the show was originally scheduled for this spring, it has been postponed until October 2020 due to COVID-19.  Although this is a hurdle of sorts, this network of inspiring women is well versed in overcoming adversity, and the members have a rich history of supporting each other and the underwater community. In their 20th year, there is a real sense that the Women’s Hall of Fame is an integral and permanent part of the dive industry landscape. The picture behind the scenes is as impressive as the standing of the brand. This is an organization that truly cares and that acts on that compassion. This sentiment comes through even in their internal communications, with a recent newsletter reading: “It is the ‘sisterhood’ that binds us together. Many of us are still diving. Many of us are not. But we do not want to lose touch or contact with a single one of you. You matter to us. Plus, we need to remember that, in the water or out, our ocean planet needs us to be the voice of responsibility and compassion.”  We look forward to watching how this dynamic and impactful organization goes about this mission, and hopefully many of us will contribute to their growth in whatever way we can. 

“In the water or out, our ocean planet needs us to be the voice of responsibility and compassion.” 

WDHOF at the NOGI Dinner during the 2018 DEMA SHOW in Las Vegas, Nevada.

If you would like to be involved with this historic organization, the best way to show support is to become an Associate.  Being an Associate allows you access to opportunities to socialize and network one-on-one with WDHOF officers, trustees, and members at dive shows, entry to seminars and special events, a stylish associate lapel pin, and listing in and admission to the online special of the newsletter.  

Above all, your dues go toward the outstanding contributions that allow WDHOF to grow the organization’s outreach and support the next generation of future divers. 

Additional Resources:


Avidly exploring the underworld since she was twelve, Victoria has been a professional diver for sixteen years and is now based back in the UK following many years touring the snowiest peaks and deepest green seas. From safety diving on media projects to creating content for the coolest brands in the diving industry, she has diving written all over her. 

Community

Brits Brew Beer Booty

What do you get when you combine British divers’ proclivity for shipwreck exploration with their strong affinity for beer? A tasty treasure hunt on the “Wallachia” that resulted in swilling 126-year old reconstituted British beer. GUE Scotland’s detective chief inspector Andy Pilley recounts the tale.

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by Andy Pilley
Images courtesy of
A. Pilley

Header Image: GUE Scotland’s brewmeisters enjoying their brew (L to R) Top: Owen Flowers, Andy Pilley, Wayne Heelbeck. Middle: Steve Symington, A. Pilley, O. Flowers, Bottom: W. Heelbeck, Sergej Maciuk, S. Symington

“Give my people plenty of beer, good beer, and cheap beer, and you will have no revolution among them.”

Queen Victoria

I never thought when I started diving 10 years ago, that one day I would be able to sit down for a pint of beer with the team from GUE Scotland recreated from a brew that has been hidden under the waves for 126 years. Let me explain.

The Wallachia was a single screw cargo steamer that was owned by William Burrell & Son of Glasgow, and employed on regular trips between Glasgow and the West Indies. On 29th September, 1895 she left Queen’s Dock, Glasgow at 10am bound for Trinidad and Demerara. On board was a valuable general cargo including whisky, gin, beer, acids, glassware, and earthenware plus building materials and footwear. By 1pm that afternoon she had settled on the seabed of the Clyde Estuary after colliding with another ship in a fog bank, she was forgotten until 1977 when a local sub-aqua club rediscovered the wreck site.

The wreck of the Wallachia lies on an even keel in approximately 34 metres of water on a sandy seabed. The wreck itself is largely intact and has six holds in total, three forward and three aft. In the rearmost hold there are thousands of bottles of beer, some still inscribed with the name of the maker, McEwans of Glasgow. This is where myself and the team from GUE Scotland enter the story.

The Wreck of the Wallachia 

The Wallachia is one of the more accessible sites on the west coast of Scotland, where we carry out most of our diving. Depending on weather and tidal conditions, visibility on the wreck can be +10m/33 ft on a very good day or less than 2m/6 ft if there has been a lot of rain due to the amount of particulate in the water. Other elements to consider are the tide as this can vary in its intensity, as well as surrounding boat traffic. The wreck lies in close proximity to a ferry route and care must be taken not to dive when the ferry is closeby. However despite the challenges, the wreck is very rewarding and offers a diver plenty of places to explore and items to look at. 

The main point of interest for most has been the rearmost hold, where the bottles of whisky and beer were stored. The majority of the whisky was removed in the 1980’s however a few bottles can be found on occasion, depending where you look. What remains are thousands of bottles of beer, still with the corks and contents intact. Over the course of 2018 & 2019, the team at GUE Scotland dived on the wreck and recovered a number of bottles from the hold. 

After a chance discussion with a friend at dinner one night, I was given contact details for a company called Brewlab, which is based in Sunderland in the north east of England. Brewlab specialise in the provision of specialist brewing training, as well as laboratory services such as quality assurance, product development, chemical/microbiology testing as well as long term research options. I made contact with Keith Thomas, the Director of Brewlab, to discuss whether he would be interested in analysing the beer and investigating whether it could be recreated. Needless to say the proposal piqued his interest and arrangements were made for the bottles to be shipped to his lab.

Unbeknownst to me, the recovery of historical beers is rare, due to various sources of degradation/contamination which can affect any residual microbial cells and chemical components left in the beer that were used as part of the brewing process. So these samples are a valuable source of information on past brewing and microbiology. Over the course of 2019/2020, Keith and I kept in regular contact over the progress of the investigations and the full analysis of the beer has recently been published.

A Brewing Interest

Between 1850 and 1950, the application of scientific principles to brewing was becoming increasingly prevalent and microbiology was playing an increasingly important role. A pertinent issue in brewing microbiology around 1900 was the application of pure Saccharomyces yeast cultures developed by Hansen at the Carlsberg laboratory in 1888. These were readily adopted by continental breweries as providing more controlled production and purer beers. Application to UK brewing was, however, less positively received, in part because of the belief that British beers possessed particular flavours arising from mixed yeast cultures and, specifically, the involvement of Brettanomyces species. This was especially believed to be essential for the character of ‘stock’ ales which were matured for extended periods.

While a number of breweries did try pure culture yeasts, UK brewing was resistant to change and, with the intervention of World War I, retained its indigenous yeast cultures. Since the 1940’s a more biotechnological approach to fermentation demonstrated the value of pure culture and was progressively applied to the larger breweries developing at that time. 

During the formative period of brewery microbiology after Pasteur, brewing yeast were identified as Saccharomyces species based on morphological features of shape, filamentous propensity and spore characteristics. Non brewing, ‘wild’ yeast was recognised and termed ‘Torula’ if non-sporulating. Of these Brettanomyces strains were identified as contributing important character to stock ales. It is also clear from brewing texts that bacteria were recognised as spoilage organisms in beer, as had been initially demonstrated by Pasteur in 1863. These species were mostly categorised as bacilli and typically portrayed as rods and associated with sarcina sickness – generally producing sourness. Some studies, nevertheless, identified lactic acid bacteria as indigenous components of standard beers.

Contemporary breweries are increasingly interested in using novel microbiology, either unconventional yeast strains or mixes of species and strains for sour and natural products. Identifying the specific strains and species of yeast and bacteria present in Victorian and Edwardian beers is directly relevant to this and has particular value if cultures of authentic microorganisms can be retrieved. Reports of retrieved historic brewery microbiology are limited but hold interesting promise for identifying novel microorganisms.

The specific parameters of the analysis are contained in a published research paper, Preliminary microbiological and chemical analysis of two historical stock ales from Victorian and Edwardian brewing.”

As I mentioned, the primary objective of the analysis was to confirm whether detail could be provided on the original brewing ingredients and the fermentation microbiology. The analysis confirmed the use of Brettanomyces/Dekkera bruxellensis and Debaryomyces hansenii, which are brewing and fermentation yeasts respectively. The presence of Debaryomyces is interesting as this genus has not been noted as a historic feature of historic brewing, but has been identified in spontaneous fermentations, for example in Belgian lambic beers. Although the strain was reported to the brewing industry in 1906, it has not featured as a major contributor to beer fermentations since.



The analysis has also provided relevant information of the beer character and has confirmed that the beer recovered from the Wallachia was a stout, close to style expectations of the time and had an alcohol content of c. 7.5%. The colour gravity was high, resulting in a much darker beer however a much lower level of bitterness. Again this was typical style of the time and differs from other modern stouts.

More interestingly is the presence of various types of bacteria, which will likely have been picked up during the brewing process. The table below lists these for reference. Needless to say, historic brewing was not a sterile process in comparison to modern methods!

Bacillus licheniformisPlant and soil bacterium
Finegoldia magnaCommensal skin bacterium
Fusobacterium sp.Possible pathogenic bacterium
Kocuria roseaPossible urinary tract pathogen
Mogibacterium pumilumPossible oral cavity bacterium
Shigella sonneiEnteric pathogen
Staphylococcus epidermidisCommensal skin bacterium
Stenotrophomonas maltophiliaSoil bacterium
Varibaculum cambriensePossible pathogenic bacterium

Table 1: The bacteria found in the Wallachia beer bottles

Due to the relatively stable conditions on the wreck, being in near darkness and at a relatively cold temperature (between 6º–14ºC/43º-57ºF depending on the time of year), the live yeast structures within the beer were protected from sources of stress and allowed them to survive over the past 126 years. Luckily, Keith was able to extract these samples and begin to recultivate the yeast, specifically the Debaryomyces, with the hope of being able to rebrew the beer.

Cheers Mates

Just before Christmas, I finally received word from Keith that he had completed a trial brew and seven bottles of the brew were on their way to me. A few excitement laden days later and a nondescript box arrived at my office with the beer inside. I called the guys on our Facebook group chat to show them the case and got each bottle packaged up and sent out to them. 

A few days later, once everyone had received their sample we got together again to try the samples. There was an air of excitement after the two years it had taken us to get to this point, the most anticipated pint ever! I’m no expert in the flavour profiles of beer so you will have to forgive me for my relatively basic analysis. In summary, I got flavours of coffee and chocolate and there was a relatively low level of carbonation, which made it very drinkable. The rest of the team got similar flavours, the only complaint being there wasn’t more to try!

There will of course be slight differences in flavour since we don’t normally add the bacteria listed above as ingredients. However, the recipe we have is as close as we can make it to the original stock version.

The next steps for the project are to carry out further investigation on the characteristics of the Debaryomyces yeast strain in order to determine their suitability for fermentation and potential use in future brewing production. We are making approaches to various commercial breweries in order to discuss future commercialisation of the recipe and produce the brew on large scale. With the story behind the original recipe, we’re hopeful that the provenance would be a key selling point to consumers. It is my hope that the recovery of these samples will open up new possibilities for different types of beers to be developed, and offer something different for beer enthusiasts to try.

I have also found out that there are other types of beer to be found on the wreck, specifically an IPA style. Once we’re allowed to begin diving again, I am hoping to return to the Wallachia and recover some of these bottles so we can carry out the same analysis and keep the project moving forward.

In the mean-time, cheers!

Additional Resources:

The Brewlab Podcast, Episode 2 (March 30, 2021): Lost Beers Recreated from Shipwreck Bottles

GUE Scotland vlog -Episode 1


Andy Pilley is a Chartered Surveyor, team member of GUE Scotland, passionate wreck & cave diver and Ghost Fishing UK team diver. Andy started diving with the Scottish Sub-Aqua club in 2011 and began diving with GUE in 2018. Andy dives on the east and west coasts of Scotland where there is a rich maritime history and an abundance of wrecks to be explored. He has a passion for project diving and is developing objectives for a number of sites with the GUE Scotland team. He hopes to assist on the Mars Project and with the WKPP in the future.

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