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Learn About Kelly Tarlton

The Marine Archaeologist
Kelly Tarlton

Who was Kelly Tarlton?

A record holder, pioneer and marine conservationist.

Kelly Tarlton is renowned for diving, archaeology, conservation and the building of Sea Life Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium out of unused sewage tanks. He worked throughout his career to design the innovative marine Aquarium that was four times larger than any other in the world. At 47 years old, and after working 18-hour days to realize his vision, he died only 7 weeks after the Aquarium's opening.

Kelly Tarlton received a post-humus induction into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame on 7th Nov 2012. He was recognized for his innovative approach to marine conservation, exemplified in the namesake marine aquarium he created, which has provided an educational platform for New Zealander’s and international tourists for 33 years.

Kelly’s award citation also paid homage to his pioneering of curved acrylic tunnels that enable visitors to view sea creatures and their habitats from beneath - a ground-breaking development that has been emulated internationally since its inception in 1984. Did you know that the curved acrylic tunnels were molded in an oven Kelly built!

Kelly also constructed the first buoyancy compensator suit in New Zealand, using waterproof canvas for the body and a piece of garden hose to connect the snorkel mouthpiece.

Kelly Tarlton also set the New Zealand free-diving depth record in Queen Charlotte Sound, reaching a whopping 24m. Kelly determined to better his record, would dive down to 34.7m!

We here at Sea Life Kelly Tarlton's are honoured to carry on the amazing legacy left by Kelly Tarlton.

Colourful Fish Species

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See the legacy a great man left behind at SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium.

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