Pioneering Activities

Not just sport

After the war was over, Luigi Ferraro was purged for having joined the Social Republic and therefore lost his status as an Armed Officer and a PE teacher. However, thanks to his skills, he found work as a diver in 1946 in a firm that dealt with maritime recoveries. His role was to inspect the relics of interest to the company in advance. The following year, he modified a rebreather so that he could employ it with air and with an open circuit, and he used it to dive to a depth of 70 metres to collect sponges. Consequently, he met Egidio Cressi and started working for his new diving firm. This would become his profession. In the years that followed, he proposed various initiatives in order to increase awareness of underwater activities, yet never for personal profit. Others developed his ideas, expanded them and turned them into thriving industries.

IMAGES

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The fabric decompression tables utilised by Ferraro during his diving for professional sponge’s collecting
The fabric decompression tables utilised by Ferraro during his diving for professional sponge’s collecting


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Underwater Tourism

Ferraro started underwater tourism in diving centres (which were still called "immersion centres") and in diving schools. In 1948, on behalf of the company Cressi and in collaboration with the Italian Touring Club, he organised a diving course in Marina di Campo, on Elba island. This was the first diving school in the world that was intended for the public. His wife Orietta and Edmondo Sorgetti, a colleague from the “Gamma” Group, helped him in his mission and the only rebreathers they could count on were their personal ones, which were left over from the war. The following summer, in 1949, Ferraro and his collaborators led the same course on the island of Ischia and the year after they even disembarked on the small archipelago of the Tremiti on the Adriatic Sea. The course on the Tremiti islands was different from the previous ones as it was the first time in history that a diving school was based on a cruise. It was so successful that the same course was repeated on the archipelago of Pontino: in Ponza, Zannone and Palmarola. In this way, a new promising field within the service sector emerged: underwater tourism. (2)
Nowadays, the underwater tourism industry employs thousands of people and involves companies of all sizes: these range from the small family-run business to large companies listed on the stock exchange, with turnovers of hundreds of millions of Euros. On an international scale, the whole sector involves large tourist flows, in locations such as the Red Sea, some islands of the Caribbean, the Maldives and Italy, in Sardinia, Liguria and Tuscany. A significant portion of these tourist flows are linked to diving activities, in some cases even outside the traditional holiday season.

IMAGES

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Celina Seghi acquaints hereself with a rebreather at the first diving school in 1948 on the island of Elba
Celina Seghi acquaints hereself with a rebreather at the first diving school in 1948 on the island of Elba


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Mondo subacqueo

The dissemination of underwater activities was mainly due to the U.S.S. and to its dynamic President, Ferraro: the social journal "Sport Subacqueo", released in 1948, was the first example of a brochure related to underwater issues. On the fourth and last page it bore the first advertising insert that was ever produced in connection with underwater issues. This advertising space was purchased by A.E.Cressi, the first manufacturer in the world to offer licensed "spearguns and underwater glasses", diver and scuba diver equipment, and "all accessories needed to fish with spearguns".
In 1950, “Mondo Subacqueo” was released: a compendium, a summa, an encyclopaedia, but it looked exactly like a genuine periodical magazine. "Mondo Subacqueo", a single publication of over one hundred pages, with a cover price of 500 Lire, was released a year before the magazine "The Skin Diver" (subsequently renamed "Skin Diver Magazine"), founded by Jim Auxier and Chuck Blakeslee in 1951 and nine years before "Mondo Sommerso" (the first edition was issued in September 1959), which was edited in Rome by the cinematographer Goffredo Lombardo, who also produced "Gattopardo" by Visconti.
The advertising pages in "Mondo Subacqueo" were representative of that pioneering age. Salvas - based in Rome at the time - was featured in it as a Public Limited Company dealing with Various Productions and Salvage Equipment and Pirelli, that was already offering "diving rebreathers and rubber wetsuits " for "nautical sports and underwater activities". A famous advertiser, Armando Testa, signed the page that Superga dedicated to its "fins for swimming". The magazine also featured Venturi (Recoveries at Great Depths), the company from Genoa where Ferraro made ends meet until 1947, Cressi, and the legendary Galeazzi from La Spezia that produced "equipment for underwater work carried out at any depth".
The single publication of "Mondo Subacqueo" looked fascinating from the very start. It included famous signatures such as: Bruno Roghi (writer of the article "Greetings by a worldly journalist"); Gianni Roghi, his son, who published the first correspondence from abroad dedicated to undersea sport; Lino Pellegrini who wrote about octopuses and Lyrics by Duilio Marcante "inspired by the memory of his friend Dario Gonzatti, who died in deep waters opposite the Portofino mountain". Salvator Gotta, a very famous writer, featured his "Viaticum for dreaming" in it. Then the signature of Hans Hass was featured at the end of an article describing the feelings of a diver equipped with a camera when he first met a manta ray in the Red Sea. Dr Gilbert Doukan, president of a French Club, wrote that undersea fishing started in France in 1936. The article was illustrated with photographs and captions that nowadays would be enough to send those represented straight to prison: "Dolphin hunting is popular among French sportsmen. Exciting sequence of the catch of a dolphin, harpooned in its element".
Moreover, it referred to the state-of-the-art Gennaro Accetta from Brasil, Werther Seeman from Venezuela, Dionigi Lavatelli from Libya and Paul Droz. from Zurich. Gianni Foroni as skilled optician, delved in the issue of underwater vision, Professor Michele Mitolo discussed sounds and perceptions. In its one hundred pages, "Mondo subacqueo” covered all the knowledge that relates to the year 1950.
Gigi Ferraro takes the lion's share in this issue. This is certainly not because he had a desire for stardom, but because he was acting in the role of president of the USS, Dario Gonzatti, and was the promoter of that editorial initiative. Therefore he wrote to eradicate the common belief that sharks are incredibly ferocious. He wrote to voice his opinion regarding the future of underwater activities. (2)
The number of titles available on news-stands today is an indication of the level of popularity reached by specialised publications both in Italy and in the main European countries.

IMAGES

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Mondo Subacqueo (Underwater World) cover
Mondo Subacqueo (Underwater World) cover
The compilation
The compilation


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Rainbow Pirates

At the very beginning of the 50s, the tireless Ferraro, who was still not satisfied after having set up schools and founded magazines, thought of something else in order to spread his enthusiasm in underwater activities.
Inspired by a film on the former American swimming champion Esther Williams, who dedicated her life to water choreography, he founded his own authentic aquatic show. The subject of the show focused on "Il Corsaro Nero" by E. Salgari, the scripts were by Torre, Sanguineti, Tessari and it featured original music and professional actors. Ferraro was in charge of the organisation and of technical management and trained 24 female champion swimmers specifically for the show. The show debuted in April 1953 at the Albaro swimming pools in Genoa and was very successful, to the extent that it was repeated in other Italian cities. The show managers were the Venturi brothers from Bologna, who even went as far as to build a swimming pool that could be dismantled, which was intended for use in cities where there were no suitable swimming pools.
Ferraro's objective of increasing the popularity of underwater activities could be considered fulfilled and this was enough for him. He was not interested in show business and least of all in being the manager, so he let the show carry on without his contribution.
Water choreography has become an Olympic sport and water shows have become rather popular. These can either be set in the many water parks spread throughout the world or in Las Vegas style grand settings.

IMAGES

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Two pictures of the aquatic choreography in the dismantled swimming pool
Two pictures of the aquatic choreography in the dismantled swimming pool


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