In the quiet corners of a country once shadowed by communism, a young Vedran Dorusic’s fascination with the sea began. Despite growing up far from the coast, Dorusic’s entire summers were spent on an island along the sea, where his lifelong journey and passion with the sea began. Vedran always knew he was going to be a diver from his earliest memories, and he evolved from a curious onlooker to a pioneering force in underwater archaeology and ocean conservation.
Vedran Dorusic’s story is not one of immediate immersion. With diving equipment a costly rarity in his youth, his early experiences were humble, untrained forays with friends. It was at university where his true diving education began – with his first NAUI scuba course. This initiation marked the start of an unwavering allegiance to NAUI and a fork in the road of his career path. Vedran studied agriculture and after university he first started in tourism, switched over to working offshore in the oil and gas industry and then opening his own dive center. Choosing the unpredictability of the diving industry over the mundane, Dorusic embarked on an odyssey that would define his life.
The Turning Tide: A Shipwreck and a Career Shift
Dorusic’s dive center, nestled on the island of Pag in Croatia, struggled initially in an area unfamiliar with diving. However, Vedran had a friend who was in WWII and the town his friend was from was a place of fierce fighting during the war. Vedran’s friend was confident that he knew where a German ship had sunk. Although they did not have any special equipment other than a fish finder, they found the ship the first day, the German MFP 625, and it catapulted him into the media spotlight. The MFP 625 was a surface ship 50 meters long with three diesel engines and became Vedran’s first project. This discovery wasn’t just about uncovering history; it was about shaping his future.
Dorusic’s foray into archaeology was accidental yet fateful. After discovering and then losing a Roman ship anchor to thieves, he quickly learned the importance of preservation. This incident, coupled with the recovery of a second anchor dated to 100 BC and a subsequent collaboration with archaeologist Prof. Irena Radic Rossi, solidified his new path.
Professor Rossi invited Vedran on an archeology dig at a Roman harbor site from 100 BC – 400 AD. Vedran while working on the site discovered a Roman axe which was not expected to be found on a site of this age. Vedran was hooked and he caught the archeology bug. Archeology has become his passion, and he loves the fact that you have no idea what you are going to find when you go looking. When discussing archeology with Vedran that sense of excitement is palpable.
One of his most exhilarating discoveries was an impeccably preserved Greek ship from 400 BC, the northernmost Greek vessel ever unearthed in the Adriatic Sea. Upon this remarkable find, he immediately sought out his archaeologist friend, Prof. Irena Radic Rossi. Despite her being in the midst of teaching a class, Vedran shared GoPro footage he had captured of the ship. Prof. Rossi, upon reviewing the footage in front of her students, affirmed that it was, indeed, a Greek ship.
Vedran’s proximity to his dive center, a mere 1.1 nautical miles away, led to another extraordinary discovery. Initially, he stumbled upon a fragment of a ship’s anchor in an area popular for diving, with depths ranging from 12 to 30 meters. Continually exploring this location, Vedran, accompanied by friends, embarked on a dive with the intention of observing fish and lobsters at a depth of 30 meters. However, the day’s dive proved uneventful in terms of marine life sightings. Intrigued, Vedran ventured deeper, where he encountered an object that appeared distinctly out of place. Upon closer inspection, he realized it was a fully intact Roman ship. Overwhelmed with excitement, Vedran couldn’t help but yell, causing his friends to grow concerned, fearing he was in distress. This significant find led to a research initiative named the STRATON project, taking its name from the inscription found on the anchor initially discovered by Vedran.
Croatia’s strict policies once created a chasm between recreational diving and archaeology. Dorusic has played a pivotal role in warming government attitudes towards citizen scientists. His work highlights a crucial fact: most European archaeological finds are made by recreational divers like him.
A Seasonal Balancing Act
Running a dive center keeps Dorusic occupied during tourist season, but his off-season is dedicated to underwater archaeology. Collaborations with museums, the Ministry of Culture, and local communities are crucial to his success. He emphasizes the importance of local knowledge and engagement in unearthing and protecting these submerged treasures.
Project Sea Horse Story, a unique initiative by Dorusic, utilizes the allure of sea horses as influencers to drive conservation efforts. This project, alongside his archaeological endeavors, underscores his commitment to protecting and understanding our oceans.
Dorusic’s future is as deep and expansive as the seas he explores. His plans include establishing a museum annex on his island of Pag and using Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) to bring the mysteries of the deep closer to the public. His ultimate goal? To ignite a passion for diving and ocean stewardship in current and future generations.
Personal Touch: A Family Affair
Dorusic is married with two daughters and Dorusic’s love for the sea is a family affair. His 16-year-old daughter, a budding NAUI diver, is set to join him in his underwater explorations and she will be joining his current excavation project. His youngest daughter, not to be outdone, is also an avid open water diver and continuing to hone her diving skills. Dorusic is a NAUI Course Director, Public Safety Diving Instructor and a Technical Diving Instructor.
Vedran Dorusic’s story is a rich tapestry of ambition, discovery, and a relentless pursuit of knowledge. His journey from a curious child gazing at divers to a NAUI-certified, conservation-focused dive center owner and accidental archaeologist is nothing short of inspirational. It’s a narrative that resonates with every NAUI member – a testament to the boundless possibilities that lie beneath the waves.
Check out more information on Vedran here:
Dive Center: http://www.foka.hr/
Straton Project: https://www.discover-pag.com/hr/
Connect on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dorusic