After 68 years, Harry Hauck still won't take no for an answer. Not when
it comes to raising awareness of important problems, even if it means doing
During his career, Harry's "they said it couldn't be done" feats have
included a world-record relay swim across the English Channel with his
entire family (for which he trained in a bone-chilling 40 degree water
tank); the first and only non stop swim from St. Thomas , USVI, to Puerto
Rico; a 36-hour 325-mile swim around the island of Puerto Rico (at age
60) as part of an island-wide anti-drug campaign; and in 1993, a nonstop
24-hour ocean swim to highlight an AIDS awareness rally-at age 65!
Born in St. Louis, Mo., he first learned to swim when he was a geology
student at Wayne State College in Detroit, Michigan, and later became a
scuba instructor. During the Korean war, he served in the Navy as a frogman
(a person equipped for underwater reconnaissance) and underwater demolitions
Harry recounts how his aquatic career has brought him up close with
aggressive sharks, including a black-tip shark which mauled his left hand,
necessitating 35 stitches.
Another shark encounter took place during his first attempt to swim
nonstop between Puerto Rico and St. Thomas. "A school of 18-foot hammerheads
came at me-in pairs, and at dark," said Hauck. "When they're that big,
you can't take chances." Harry aborted the swim, and succeeded the following
In 1963, Harry was an all-American YMCA water polo player and went on
to coach 137 U.S. state and national champion swimmers, divers, and water
polo players. Arriving in Puerto Rico in 1964, he founded the island's
Olympic Water Polo team and became Puerto Rico's national coach for
Harry Hauck has worked relentlessly to keep Puerto Rico's
waters clear of debris, earning honors and respect among military and civilian
divers in the Caribbean.
|the Central American and Pan- American Games.
Although Harry's swimming tours de force have elevated him to national-hero
status in Puerto Rico (in 1988 he was inducted into the Puerto Rico Sports
Hall of Fame), he is less concerned with collecting awards than with collecting
trash. For over two decades, Harry's greatest concern has been the polluted
marine environment in Puerto Rico. In 1971, he initiated Fort Buchanan's
"Underwater Trashouts," events in which he led divers in underwater beach
cleanups around the island. These trashouts were extremely successful.
They established a role model for military/civilian cooperative projects
and inspired other diving groups and commercial firms to continue sponsoring
cleanups throughout Puerto Rico.
In 1992, Hauck received the Environmental Citizen of the Year Award
from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board, one of
the island's highest honors. In 1994, the NAUI Environmental Enrichment
Award became yet another addition to Harry's accolades.
But Harry "The Hauck," as his friends call him, is still not content.
After years of retrieving thousands of pounds of submerged bottles, beer
cans, soda bottles and plastic items, he remains a relentless warrior in
the battle of marine debris. In addition to organizing monthly cleanups,
he gives lectures to school children and adults, trying to change the local
community's long-held apathy about the environment: "It's difficult to
keep pace with the polluters. It's mind-boggling to realize that the garbage
we collected on our latest dive was deposited by the children of the polluters
whose trash we picked up in 1971."
Hauck has also been working to strengthen and enforce littering laws
and to instill a standard of civic responsibility throughout Puerto Rico.
"You can't quit," he says emphatically. " If you say, 'It's not my garbage,'
then you lose." And judging from his dynamic will power and catalog of
achievements, "lose" will never be found in Harry's dictionary.
From Alert Diver: The Magazine of Divers Alert Network