The sport of skin-diving was born 16 years ago when the French naval officer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, a serious student of oceanic flora and fauna, developed a breathing apparatus. Since then hosts of submerged humans paddling for fish or underwater pictures have made it the most flourishing of new sports. And at the University of Florida a 43-year-old professor-turned-skin-diver has converted this sport into a new academic discipline. Dr. John Goggin is an underwater archaeologist, one of the first of a new breed of artifact historians engaged in the underwater exploration of rivers, lakes and coastal waters.
Because rivers were often used as dumps and sometimes as ceremonial burying grounds by Florida's earliest settlers, Goggin and his students, combing the beds of the Suwannee and Ichtucknee rivers, have made finds that are very hard indeed to come by on land: rare majolica plates used by Spanish conquistadors and the most complete collection of Seminole Indian pottery in existence. Still to be evaluated: a huge, mysterious cache of prehistoric human bones discovered in a 200-foot-deep spring near St. Petersburg. Goggin, who has only scratched the surface of his river beds, feels that "underwater archaeology may well make a unique contribution to knowledge."