GILPATRIC, John Guy

USA (1896-1950)

Last updated: February 21, 2020 at 4:01 am

Freediving pioneer; one of the earliest American aviators and test pilots, learning to fly at age 16; established the United States altitude record of 1,422 m (4,665 ft) flying a Deperdussin monoplane while carrying a passenger in 1912; flight instructor with the Royal Canadian Air Cadets in Toronto before becoming a fighter pilot for the U.S. Army during WWI; photographer; worked as a publicity agent in Antibes (France) after the war; journalist, short-story writer and novelist including the highly-popular Saturday Evening Post series, Colin Glencannon; developed the underwater use of rubber goggles with glass lenses and other novel gear after he began freediving off the coast of Southern France in 1929; he and his group of friends were known as the Serious Sinkers; author of The Compleat Goggler in 1938, which is considered the first comprehensive guide to spearfishing including instructions on how to custom build freediving equipment that was non-existent at the time; directly influenced the careers of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Hans Hass, Philippe Tailliez and Frédéric Dumas in the 1930s when he personally encouraged them to become spearfishers; was drafted into the U.S. intelligence service during WWII; one of his novels, Action in the North Atlantic, was made into a movie in 1943; committed suicide with his wife Louise in 1950 after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Hans Hass observed Guy Gilpatric spearfishing for the first time in July 1937.

“He did not dive as one usually does, but sank away absolutely without a sound, so that no waves betrayed where he had vanished. Each time it would be astonishingly long before he reappeared, somewhere, at quite another spot, as noiselessly and unexpectedly as he had gone. And never a sign of being out of breath!”

“The man finally came ashore, and I made his acquaintance. He was an American by the name of Guy Gilpatric, and I discovered later, a well-known writer and correspondent for the Saturday Evening Post. He told me he had been pursuing his under-water hunting for some years; ordinarily he hunted with two friends from a small yacht.”

I wanted to use my goggles. The first attempt was a failure. I saw nothing at all. The goggles steamed over on the inside. Luckily I remembered that just before Guy Gilpatric went back into the water he had spat copiously into his goggles. I spat into mine, and that did the trick.”

Hans Hass (1952). Diving to Adventure. Harpoon and Camera under the Sea. Arrow Books, Tiptree, Essex.

Hans Hass (1952). Diving to Adventure. Harpoon and Camera under the Sea. Arrow Books, Tiptree, Essex.
Brad Matsen (2009). Jacques Cousteau. The Sea King. Pantheon Books, New York.
Richard Munson (1989). Cousteau. The Captain and his World. William Morrow and Company, New York.
Yves Paccalet (1997). Jacques-Yves Cousteau dans l’océan de la vie. Éditions JC Lattès, Paris.

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