The Secret Arts: Underwater Archeology - Atlas Obscura Experiences

The Secret Arts: Underwater Archeology

Members Only
1 hour
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What We’ll Do

Watchmaking. Paleography. Crystal Synthesis. Mud Ball Polishing.

One of Atlas Obscura's favorite online experiences, The Secret Arts, where we invite some of the world’s rarest experts and artisans to share the hidden knowledge of their singular craft, is back! Each edition of The Secret Arts features a different craftsperson. Unlike more instructional events, we'll explore some of the key lessons and discoveries our guests have made over the years, how you might try your hand at their unique skill yourself, and answer your questions live! Join us, and take a step into the unknown realm of The Secret Arts!

In this episode of the Secret Arts, we'll be joined by a panel of underwater archeologists from Diving with a Purpose, an international organization dedicated to the conservation and protection of African American maritime history and culture, with a special focus on African slave trade shipwrecks.

Instructors and divers Kramer Wimberley, Erik Denson, and Erly Thornton will join us to discuss some of DWP's most significant projects, such as the documentation of a lost Tuskegee Airmen P-39 aircraft in Lake Huron. They'll also share how their work extends from the conservation of history to the conservation of our ocean's ecosystems. Over the course of the evening, we'll discover how divers document and interpret wreck sites, preserving their history for generations to come.  

Headquartered in Biscayne National Park, the largest marine park in the National Parks System, Diving with a Purpose provides education and training programs to both youth and adults, turning ordinary divers into underwater archaeology advocates. Through DWP's programs, divers learn the skills needed to assist in the historical documentation, preservation and interpretation of artifacts and wreck sites. 

Where We’ll Be


About Your Host
Kramer Wimberley, Erik Denson, Erly Thornton
Kramer Wimberley, Erik Denson, Erly Thornton

Erik Denson is a Board Member and Lead Instructor for the Diving With a Purpose (DWP) Maritime Archaeology Program. He has been involved with DWP since its inception in 2004.

Erik is co-founder and President of DIVERSe Orlando, a National Association of Black Scuba Divers (NABS) affiliate. Erik has been a certified diver since 1992. He is a PADI Divemaster and a member of the NABS Hall of Fame. Erik is an American Academy of Underwater Sciences - NABS Foundation Scientific Diver and a volunteer diver for the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Park Service (NPS). Over the last 16 years, Erik has assisted in training over 300 divers to become advocate underwater archaeologists. Erik was recently selected as a Board Member for the History of Diving Museum.

Mr. Denson holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Howard University and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from Polytechnic University of New York now NYU. Mr. Denson is currently the Electrical Chief Engineer for NASA at the Kennedy Space Center and has been with NASA for over 30 years.

For more than a decade, Kramer Wimberley has been a lead dive instructor and Board Member of Diving with a Purpose (DWP). A certified Archaeology Survey Diver, Kramer was recently featured alongside Executive Producer, Samuel Jackson Jr. in the 2020 six-part documentary Enslaved.

Known as a beloved mentor, Kramer has devoted the past eight years as a volunteer to DWP's Youth Diving with a Purpose Program (YDWO). Kramer also leads DWP's coral program called CARES (Collective Approach to Restoring our Eco-System) which aims to preserve the treasures of our rich maritime ecosystems for future divers to enjoy. The CARES program also addresses global climate change through coral out-planting, identification, surveying, monitoring, and data collection. With the help of our partners at the Coral Restoration FOundation, DWP-CARES has farmed and out-planted several thousand fragments of coral in the Florida Keys and on the Island of St. Croix.

Kramer has spent 35 years of his life underwater. He started his career as a wreck diver and traveled to over 35 countries while developing his skills as a diver. With over 4000 dives completed, he shows absolutely no sign of slowing down; earning additional Scientific Diver and rEvo Rebreather certifications. Through all of his extensive diving knowledge, Kramer has discovered that his true passion is teaching people to join him in his element and helping them overcome their fears.

Diving since 1999, Erly Thornton is a Lead Instructor and member of the Board of Directors for Diving With a Purpose (DWP). Erly was one of the 3 founding divers first trained in Maritime Underwater Archeology by the late Brenda Lanzendorf, Chief Archeologist for Biscayne National Park. Erly, along with Erik Denson and Rod Singleton, trained the first groups of DWP divers, teaching many how to be instructors themselves and continued for a decade culminating with a successful training mission in Mozambique in 2014. Honored in 2009 at the National Park Service Awards in Washington, Department of the Interior, DWP received the first
of of its many accolades. Working in technology for 25 years, Erly is employed at Google where he manages an extraordinary group of Cloud Computing Technologists in the Southeast United States.

Erly is also an accomplished Saxophone Jazz Musician, producing several well-regarded projects and receiving Billboard Jazz Top 30 placement in 2012 with “In Transit”. He is currently working on his 3rd Jazz project and resides near the water in Miami, Florida where he can dive whenever the opportunity arises.

What Else You Should Know

Access to this online experience is free for Atlas Obscura Members. Unlock more wonder by becoming a member today!

Once registered, you can access the Zoom room for this experience through your confirmation email or Eventbrite account. Atlas Obscura online experiences are recommended for attendees age 13+.

This online experience will be recorded. A temporary link to the recording will be provided in a follow-up email to all ticket holders within 72 hours after the event. Access to this recording will be available for seven days.

We provide closed captioning for all of our online Member Experiences, as well as transcripts upon request. Please reach out to us at if you have any questions, requests, or access needs.

This event is one of Atlas Obscura’s Membership Experiences. At Atlas Obscura, our mission has always been to inspire wonder and curiosity about the incredible world we all share. Now, more than ever, there’s a need to stay connected—not only to our sense of wonder, but to each other.

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