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Black and white image of  Martica and Bronson Hartley helmet diving early 1950's.

Bronson is smirking because he is taking the photo by remote.

In 1947 Bronson first laid eyes on model and Cuban firecracker Martica. In those days polite gentlemen did not just walk up to a sophisticated socialite and try and ‘hit’ on them. The only problem is that their only mutual friend wanted this exotic beauty for himself. After much persistent  pestering this mutual friend agreed to introduce them. Mistake! On the first date my father warned that they could not stay out too late because some seahorses at home were expected to give birth at any moment and he had to be there. Little Martha (Martica) thought,”Here is someone who has interests other than what most other men have.” Ploy or not, that worked and they were married within two years.

One of the first projects was to get a business up and running. They somehow acquired a vessel they named the ‘Ark’ and started tours into Harrington sound from Bridge House opposite the Bermuda Government Aquarium. Mother acted as crew for a while, lifting the heavy helmets on the shoulders of divers.Later they bought two surplus WWII liberty launch vessels and used one of them, Carioca Bermuda, to do tours in Harrington Sound.

Bronson, with the help of Bermudian shipwrights from St. Davids (Rattary), took off the canvas cabin off one of the liberty launches, built the hull up 2.5 feet, steaming and bending the planks himself, put a deck and cabin on it and sailed to Nassau, Bahamas in 1958.The tour was originally called Hartley’s Deep Sea Diving.  The ‘deep sea’ part was quickly dropped as we want this to sound exciting but not too dangerous. Business thrived with the help of Harry the Grouper. In 1982 he handed over the Nassau operation to my elder brother Christopher. Chris conducted the Hartley’s Undersea Walk with the help of a grouper who is still called Harry.(24kb shot) For many years Christopher held the record of a year and one day as the youngest helmet diver in the world. That record was usurped by his nephew, Benjamin Hartley, who had his first dive in Nassau, at age ten months.

Carioca was home to Chris and Greg, who would come back from school and have to wait for their home to dock after unloading all the happy divers. We got to invite all our class out diving to have birthday parties and life was good. There were embarrassing moments when Greg would be punished by having his tricycle not only taken away, but hauled up the mast and the line tied out of reach. Not only did I have to suffer the loss of my wheels, but also the shame that all in the marina could see that that hyperactive, loud, troublesome, scallywag finally had justice imposed upon him.

Though they had many adventures, even off to Europe and into north Africa, Martica and Bronson ended the marriage in 1961. The idea of him running one business in Bermuda and her running the one in Nassau was not her ideal set up to raise a family. In 1962 Bronson met Harriet (nee Brown), and another chapter began