Morgan City – Bryce Merrill, Rusty Wright, Jack Vilas III, Virgil Allen and Micah Allen were awarded the prestigious Nick Icorn Diving Heritage Award from the Historical Diving Society at the International Workboat and Underwater Intervention Show, November 30th in New Orleans for their work on the Oilfield Divers Monument in Morgan City.
The award, presented by Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser, is given to those that have promoted the importance of the history of diving to the public. The award is named in recognition of Nick Icorn. Nick Icorn has been called the “Keeper of the Flame” for preserving diving’s illustrious history. First awarded in 1992, this is the first time the award has been given to someone in Louisiana. The Historical Diving Society is an educational non-profit organization whose goal is to preserve, study, compile and archive information relating to the human underwater intervention and to promote public awareness of and participation in underwater activities.
Bryce Merrill, Jack Vilas III and Rusty Wright are retired divers having spent a collective 150 years in the industry. Virgil and Micah Allen, father and son, also have an interest in the diving industry, having created the International Petroleum Museum & Exposition, the Mr. Charlie, into a training facility for the oil and gas industry and interpretive museum for the general public. In 2021, the team began discussing the desire for a monument honoring the offshore diving industry. A grassroots effort, the Oilfield Divers Monument (a project of the International Petroleum Museum & Exposition), raised funds via individuals and some corporate funding. The design of the monument is a nod to the earliest days of offshore diving industry when divers improvised with the tools available at the time.
The monument, located at 725 Myrtle Street near the Morgan City Municipal Auditorium, was unveiled April 29, 2023. Over 500 attended the unveiling.
The monument was designed by Cindy and Terry Burleson of Burleson Bronze from Austin, Texas. It is a life size diver dressed in an early DESCO helmet, showcasing the transition from heavy gear to today’s equipment. The diver is surrounded by a burning torch, jet nozzle and hammer wrench with umbilical hoses on the deck.
The second mission of the Oilfield Divers Monument is to raise funds for an endowment of a scholarship for the South Louisiana Community College diving school. An unveiling of the granite monument documenting the story of the oilfield divers will be unveiled April 27, 2024 at the 1st ever Divers Rally in Morgan City.