Cordell Expeditions: Oral History Project

photo of cordell expeditions team members
Cordell Expeditions Team Members reunite at Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary 20th anniversary. (Back row left to right: Bill Kruse, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, Elaine Dvorak, Harry Sherman, Sue Estey, Bob Schmieder, Dave Cassotta, Steve Williamson, Jerry Seawell. Front row left to right: Tom Santilena, Dan Howard - Sanctuary Superintendent, Don Dvorak, John Walton, Lew Stark, Paul Hara)

The Cordell Expeditions team have a unique history. They were the first ones to see Cordell Bank (that we know of!) with their own eyes. Their work in the 1970's and 80's was the backbone of why Cordell Bank was designated as a National Marine Sanctuary in 1989, with the surrounding seafloor and waters. The Sanctuary has been collecting oral histories of these divers to collect and remember their unique and challenging stories of exploring Cordell Bank. This page has short excerpts from the interviews, the full interviews can be listened to and downloaded from the Voices of the Fisheries Database here. The entire transcripts from the interviews can be downloaded here (348 page pdf).

Cordell Expeditions logo
Don and Elaine Dvorak and Sue Estey
Interview with Don and Elaine Dvorak and Sue Estey
"Cordell Bank, having the opportunity to dive there, help describe it, is the number one high point in my life, excluding family." -Don Dvorak 

Dr. Robert SchmiederInterview with Dr. Robert Schmieder, Founder of Cordell Expeditions
"Cordell Bank was for about ten obsessive driving interest to see this project through to the establishment of a National Marine Sanctuary." -Dr. Robert Schmieder 

The Sacto TeamInterview with "The Sacto Team," John Walton, Steve Williamson, Jerry Seawell, Dave Walls, Dave Cassotta
"We could fill volumes of our life experiences of what we've done, and we've all lived fairly adventurous lives. But for me Cordell Bank was the highlight of it all." -Dave Cassotta 

Bill Kruse and Tom SantilenaInterview with Bill Kruse and Tom Santilena
"To me it was really a leap of faith and I really wasn’t nervous about that...more going down, down, down, into the deep, deep deep blue water. Not knowing when you're gonna get there, if you’re gonna get there, and what you’re going to find once you do get there." -Tom Santilena