John McIntyre presents a heartfelt tribute to his good friend Mike Haigh (1960-2023).
Mike Haigh was a larger-than-life character with an unrelenting passion for all things diving. The Bristol-based businessman was in the process of realising his dream of creating a diving archaeology course in the Caribbean called Wreck Hunters.
Sadly, Mike passed away unexpectedly in December 2023. Anyone who knew Mike could not fail to be charmed by his memorable, boisterous laughter, which could echo around a room. As a man of fastidious detail, his approach to the pioneering course in Utila was all about opening up a professional level of skills and techniques to amateur divers enrolling in what he liked to call ‘an underwater university’.
Mike’s love of wrecks is perhaps best summed up by his philosophy about diving these fallen treasures of the deep, ‘The mixture of life and death is mysterious, even religious; a sense of peace and mood that you feel on entering a cathedral'.
As a graduate in archaeology, it was inevitable he would eventually combine his inquisitive academic skills with his unbounded enthusiasm for scuba diving. He soon found allies in the world of marine archaeology who took him under their wing and introduced him to historically important projects in the Mediterranean, including the wreck of a 600 BC Etruscan trading ship, the Giglio in Italy; at the time the oldest shipwreck in the world.
In 1987 in Studland Bay, off the south Coast of the UK, Mike’s ground-breaking work on a medieval Spanish trading vessel led to the creation of the first photomosaic of the wreck, despite challenging visibility.
Later, as an Advanced Instructor, with qualifications from both BSAC and PADI, as well as a HSE (Health & Safety Executive) commercial diver, he teamed up with Austrian diver Gunter Kordovsky on Utila to dive the skeletal remains of an 18th century wreck known as ‘The Oliver’, which lies in 18m of warm blue tropical waters. Wreck Hunters was born.
When Mike, as Project Director, presented this all-encompassing course at the Go Diving Show in early 2022, interest in the project blossomed. He relished the future of Wreck Hunters as a project to enable divers with a love of all things historical underwater to advance their skills and even contribute to our understanding of the world’s hidden maritime past.
It was, as with all things Mike, a noble and generous contribution to the world of scuba diving.
Thank you, Mike. You will be sorely missed.