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Voyage to Discovery is an outgrowth of a partnership between NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS), its Maritime Heritage Program, and MURRAIN ASSOCIATES, INC., a management consulting firm with a focus on strategic planning, project evaluation, community development, health services planning, assessment and management. Murrain Associates consists of three members of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers (NABS) who have shared experiences in marine biology, marine archaeology, slave ship exploration, history, law, journalism and marketing. The founder of Murrain Associates is Bill Murrain, a lawyer based in Atlanta, Georgia. An additional partner is Ken Stewart, NABS member and co-Founder of the Tennessee Aquatic Project, who helps coordinate youth education programs in association with Voyage to Discovery.
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Bill Murrain teaches a group of Atlanta school children about ocean conservation during the National Marine Sanctuary Aquarius 2010 Mission: If Reefs Could Talk.
Bill Murrain teaches a group of Atlanta school children about ocean conservation during the National Marine Sanctuary Aquarius 2010 Mission: If Reefs Could Talk. (Credit: NABS)

A lawyer specializing in health care and civil rights, Bill Murrain is an adjunct assistant professor at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. He was president of NABS from 1998 to 2002. In 2006, Murrain was director of the NABS Foundation and worked to create relationships with corporate sponsors and raise NABS’ profile in the dive industry.

Murrain has been involved with his local dive club for years, serving as president of the Atlanta Underwater Explorers from 1996-1998. He is a volunteer with Atlanta’s Georgia Aquarium, and a member of the Ocean Conservancy, and Friends of Mel Fisher Maritime Museum. A consultant with NOAA’s Maritime Heritage Program, Murrain earned a Nautical Archaeology Society Training certificate in 2009 as part of a program to create a cadre of skilled volunteers to assist NOAA with ongoing archaeological field work and historic research within the National Marine Sanctuary System. In addition to his scuba interests, Murrain also mentors young black men across the country.

Dr. José Jones cleans off the monument plaque for the Henrietta Marie.
Dr. José Jones cleans off the monument plaque for the Henrietta Marie. (Credit: NABS)

Dr. José Jones is professor emeritus of Marine and Environmental Sciences at the University of the District of Columbia, where he served previously as department chair, dean, vice president of academic affairs, and provost. He is founder of the Underwater Adventure Seekers, established in 1959, one of the oldest SCUBA diving clubs in the world, and co-founder and past president of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers, which was established in 1991 and has over 2,000 national and international members.

Jones holds a masters degree in Aquatic Biology from Howard University, a PhD in Marine Biology from Georgetown University, is a three-time National Science Foundation fellow and a Fulbright Scholar. He has logged over 6,000 dives worldwide and certified over 2000 divers from Africa to Australia totally at no charge. His awards include the DEMA Reaching Out Award, the DAN/Rolex International Diver of the Year Award, and the Sport Diver of the Year Award. He continues to promote scuba diving by visiting schools and colleges to speak with students about the sport of scuba diving and careers in oceanography and environmental sciences. Because of their similarities in experiences and training in the military, oceanographic research, exploration, underwater photography and videography, scuba diving, and education, Dr. Jones is often referred to as “The Black Jacques Cousteau.”

Bill Murrain and Michael Cottman prepare for a dive with other NABS members.
Michael Cottman

Michael H. Cottman, an award-winning journalist and author, is Senior Correspondent for BlackAmericaWeb.com, a division of REACH Media/Radio One, the nation's largest black-owned media company. In his role as commentator and analyst, Cottman covers President Barack Obama and the White House. Cottman has earned numerous awards including journalism’s highest honor, the Pulitzer Prize, which he shared with staff at Newsday in 1992. He is the author of three books, including “The Wreck of the Henrietta Marie: An African American's Spiritual Journey to Uncover a Sunken Slave Ship’s Past.”

In 1993, Cottman and a group of black scuba divers placed a monument on the site of the slave ship off the Florida coast to commemorate the African people who died aboard the Henrietta Marie and those lost during the Middle Passage. Cottman also assisted in the development of National Geographic’s highly-acclaimed “Real Pirates” multimedia exhibit, which highlights the life of pirates through the artifacts of the Whydah, a slave ship-turned pirate ship that sank off the coast of Cape Cod nearly 300 years ago.

Cottman is a sought-after speaker on topics including journalism, African-American history, contemporary social issues, race relations, underwater exploration, and the African slave trade.

Ken Stewart with his NABS Youth participants at the 2010 Youth Education Field Experience in Alpena, Michigan.
Ken Stewart with his NABS Youth participants at the 2010 Youth Education Field Experience in Alpena, Michigan. (Credit: NOAA)


Ken Stewart, of Nashville, Tennessee, is the co-founder of the Tennessee Aquatic Project, an organization that introduces inner city youth to the marine world through swimming, scuba diving, marine environmental awareness, and career opportunities. For years, Ken has gone into impoverished neighborhoods and recruited youth, encouraging them to explore new horizons through an open mind, hard work, and courage. He has mentored students in his programs through high school and into college, cheering their accomplishments and supporting them through their struggles.

In addition to his work with the Tennessee Aquatic Project, Stewart serves as NABS’ education chair and president of the Southeast Tennessee Association for Black Scuba Divers. Since 2004, Stewart has been the catalyst in organizing and sponsoring the NABS Youth Education Summit, a marine biology and educational camp for minority and at- risk youths. In recent years, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has hosted the week-long marine conservation event, as well as special field immersions for NABS youth.


NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries manages a system of 14 marine protected areas covering more than 150,000 square miles of ocean and Great Lakes waters. The Maritime Heritage program promotes appreciation and protection of the country’s maritime heritage resources including historic shipwrecks and prehistoric archaeological sites, archival documents, oral histories, and traditional seafaring and ecological knowledge of indigenous cultures.


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