From the halls of medicine to the depths of
the RMS Titanic, from exploring the ocean under the
North Pole to authoring nine books, Dr. Joseph B.
MacInnis has an interesting story to tell. He is a
medical doctor, an explorer, a pioneer and a man who studies
leadership and teamwork in life-threatening environments from the
deep ocean to outer space.
Dr. Joseph MacInnis will receive the 2019
International Swimming Hall of Fame Gold Medallion Award—ISHOF’s
highest recognition—on Saturday, May 18, at the 55th Annual ISHOF Induction Ceremony
in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The Gold Medallion Award is presented each
year to a former competitive swimmer for his or her national or
international significant achievements in the field of science,
entertainment, art, business, education or government…and whose
life has served as an inspiration for youth.
Dr. MacInnis has led many expeditions under
the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans. He was the first person to
explore the ocean beneath the North Pole. Funded by the Canadian
government, he led many research expeditions under the Arctic Ocean
to develop the systems and techniques to make scientific surveys
beneath the polar ice cap. It was Dr. MacInnis and his teams that
built the first underwater polar station.
MacInnis has written nine books about
undersea science and engineering projects and the leadership needed
to make them succeed. Mercury astronaut Scott
Carpenter called him “the poet-laureate of the deep
ocean.” His latest book, “Deep Leadership,” was
recently published by Random House.
Meet Joe in person and hear his incredible
life story at the ISHOF Induction dinner.
Become an ISHOF Legacy Member and attend the ISHOF
Induction Dinner for FREE. Can’t attend the event?
Make a donation to ISHOF to support our
About Joe MacInnis
Dr. Joseph B. MacInnis grew up in Toronto,
Ontario, where his family moved after his father—a Royal Canadian Air
Force instructor—died in a plane crash when Joe was just a few months
old. MacInnis had a love of the water from an early age and
learned to scuba-dive off the coast of Florida in the mid-1950s. At
about that same time, he attended the University of Toronto, where he
was the captain of the swim team. MacInnis was a breaststroker and
held the Canadian record. He even made an attempt at the 1956
Canadian Olympic team.
He continued on at the University of Toronto
and earned his M.D. in 1962. He interned at the University of
Toronto, where he encountered a tunnel construction worker that would
help determine his future. The worker was suffering from
decompression sickness, and it helped MacInnis decide that his
post-graduate studies would be in diving medicine.
MacInnis continued studying diving medicine
at the University of Pennsylvania. Two years later, he was appointed
by the U.S. Navy and National Geographic as medical director of the
American Man-In-Sea program. It was MacInnis’ pioneering research on
the health and safety of deep-sea divers that took him to projects in
the North Sea, the North Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.
It was in 1969 that MacInnis met Pierre
Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada. Over the
years, the two men would eventually make approximately 50 dives
together. In 1970, Trudeau asked MacInnis to help write Canada’s
first national ocean policy. That same year, Dr. MacInnis founded the
James Allister MacInnis Foundation for underwater research in
education in Canada. He also began a series of research expeditions
to study techniques for working under the freezing waters of the
MacInnis led a team in 1972 that constructed
the first manned underwater station, “Sub-Igloo,” in the Arctic
Ocean. It was from “Sub-Igloo” that MacInnis spoke to the prime
minister in Canada from under the Arctic Ocean. The very next year,
Dr. MacInnis took part in a scientific exchange program with the
Soviet Union. He visited Moscow and Leningrad, and shared with them
his underwater polar research. In 1974, MacInnis became the first
scientist to dive beneath the North Pole.
By the mid 1970s, Dr. Joe MacInnis had been
on more than 100 expeditions and/or major dives around the world. In
1975, he took H.R.H. Prince Charles on a
dive at Resolute Bay, where they dove under the polar ice cap. The
following year, MacInnis was presented his nation’s highest honor,
the Order of Canada, for his pioneering research on undersea science
and engineering projects.
In 1975, Dr. MacInnis discovered a fragment
of the world’s most northernmost-known shipwreck, the HMS
Breadalbane, a British merchant ship that sank in 1853
under the ice of the Northwest Passage. A few years later, he headed
the first expedition to find the actual wreck of the Breadalbane.
After three years, it was discovered by Canadian Coast Guard
icebreaker, CCGS John A. Macdonald. The MacDonald
found the Breadalbane using side
sonar; her hull was intact and her masts still standing.
One of the highlights of MacInnis’ career
had to be in 1985, when he was an adviser to the team that discovered
the wreck of the RMS Titanic. Between a
six-year period from 1985 through 1991, MacInnis made dives in
submersibles, including his first visit to the Titanic
in 1987 aboard the French Nautile as well as a
descent of 16,400 feet into the King’s Trough in the eastern North
Atlantic aboard Mir 1.
In 1991, MacInnis was an advisor to the Titanic
discovery team and co-leader of a $5 million expedition to film Titanic
on the giant-screen IMAX format, in which he dove to Titanic’s
bridge deck. It was this expedition that inspired James Cameron’s Academy
Award-winning movie. In 2005, MacInnis participated in a
special with Cameron for the Discovery Channel. The expedition
involved the world’s largest research ship, 130 people, two $2
million subs and five mini-robots. The companion book to the special,
“Exploring the Titanic at the Speed of Light”
was released in the fall of that year.
In 2012, MacInnis accompanied National
Geographic and James Cameron once again as the expedition physician
and journalist for the seven-mile science dive into the Mariana
Trench in the western Pacific Ocean in the Deepsea
“In this beautiful, broken world of
collapsing ecosystems, failed states and toxic lies,” says Dr. Joe
MacInnis, “we need dynamic tools to navigate personal and
Dr. MacInnis has been studying leadership in
life-threatening environments, including the deep ocean, the
battlefield, government and corporations. He gives leadership
presentations in North America and Europe to companies that have
included IBM, Microsoft, General Motors, Rolex and Toyota.