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Dunfee's Undersea Adventures

<bt>After over 50 years of hands-on experience in underwater exploration and work, Dan Dunfee has finally found a way to share his experiences and expertise with the Fairfax community.

"Ocean Quest," a new monthly scuba diving TV series can be seen on Fairfax, Virginia Public Access Channels 10 and 30.

Dunfee, the show producer and host, resides in Centreville's Virginia Run community. Dunfee, 69, is a rocket missile consultant, retired after 41 years at Atlantic Research Corp. of Gainesville.

"Scuba diving and weapons systems have been the two common threads in my life," said Dunfee. He was inspired to create the show after actively scuba diving for over 50 years and serving in the Navy and on various defense engineering projects.

Dunfee's relationship with scuba diving began early. As a self-described 17-year-old "river rat," he built a surface supplied shallow water diving rig for recreation and light salvage on the Ohio River, near his childhood home. Dunfee joined the Navy in 1951. When the Navy sent him to USN Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) school, he became an expert in underwater demolition, and qualified as a deep sea (hard hat) and scuba diver.

"This show is a labor of love," said Dunfee. A motivating factor in starting "Ocean Quest" was Dunfee's experience leading Washington-area dive groups in the 1950s. Along with two other divers, he was a principal force in forming 11 local scuba diving clubs.

Over the years, Dunfee's diving travels have taken him to "most of the free world, including South America, the Mediterranean, Asia, the U.S. and the Caribbean." His favorite place to dive was in the Truk lagoon, near Guam, where a Japanese fleet was sunk, causing destruction similar to that of Pearl Harbor.

With the show, Dunfee's videography interest and skills as an "old navy hand" will converge.

EACH "OCEAN QUEST" episode showcases a topic about scuba diving, including how to become scuba trained and certified, safety, physiology of diving, treatment of diving injuries, and interviews with elite divers. The show will also offer several "untold stories," including a show on the Italian 10th Flotilla.

"During WWI and II, a fairly small group of expert Italian divers amazingly were able to blow up 275,000 tons of combat boats and equipment. The story has many interesting twists" said Dunfee. "I've talked with the naval attaché at the Italian embassy, who has shown interest in assisting with the piece.

The series will feature music by a man commonly known as "The Barefoot Man," who has a band in the Caymans. Dunfee plans to collaborate with him on music and songs, many of which are diving parodies.

Though Dunfee said he didn't force them into it, his five children are also scuba addicts. His wife, Dorothy "Mickey" Dunfee took up diving in 1987.

"I didn't want to be left on the boat," said Mickey Dunfee, 69, a beautician at Holly's Hair Design in Fairfax. She and Dan will have been married 50 years this December.

"You feel so free when you scuba dive," she said. "My favorite place to dive is Key Largo, where you can see barracuda, manta rays and other beautiful underwater life."

"You don't have to be a great swimmer to enjoy diving," said Mickey Dunfee, who has enjoyed being able to experience sea creatures from a unique vantage point. "Manta Rays are spectacular. Underneath they feel like velvet, on top — like sandpaper."

"Dan's enormous energy will keep this show going," said old diving buddy John Wall, 55, of Oakton.

Wall is the director of training at The Dive Shop in Fairfax. Wall will be providing industry expertise on equipment, training and travel for Dunfee's series.