Tap Pryor graduated from Cornell University in 1954 when he joined the US Marine Corps, serving in Parris Island, Quantico, Pensacola, and MCAS Kaneohe, Hawaii. He was a Naval Aviator, carrier qualified in fixed wing and helicopters. He was discharged as Captain in 1957 and attended graduate school in marine biology at the University of Hawaii until 1961 when he founded the Ocean Institute, Sea Life Park and the Makai Undersea Test Range (now Makai Ocean Engineering). In 1965, he was appointed Senator, Hawaii State Senate and served as Chairman, Committee for Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation. In 1966 (at age 35) he was named by President Johnson as one of eleven Commissioners to the President's Commission of Marine Science, Marine Engineering and Marine Conservation. Ultimately called the "Stratton Commission", this group was responsible for the creation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Their report Our Nation and the Sea was published in January 1969.

With Gosta Fahlman, Pryor developed Aegir, an undersea habitat, which accommodated 6 persons and was successfully tested at 600' depth for two weeks at ambient pressure off Makapuu Pt in 1968. With Willis Foreman, Pryor developed Kumukahi, the first Plexiglas submersible also tested at the Makai Range in 1968/69. During that time the Oceanic Institute acquired Star II. Pryor and Foreman invented an inexpensive, diver-operated pontoon-platform for launching and recovering submersibles beneath the surface so that they could operate in all weather with only a vessel-of-opportunity towing the submersible and its launcher to and from the dive sites. Thanks to that, Star II subsequently logged more undersea work time than any submersible anywhere.

In 1968, Pryor was named Salesman of the Year for the State of Hawaii in recognition of his promotion of Hawaii and a place for marine science and engineering development. Following his work on the Stratton Commission, he developed and operated the Systemculture Seafood Plantation at Kahuku on Oahu, principally the production of table oysters, using his own patented on-land technique for culturing phytoplankton in 32 quarter-acre ponds to feed the oysters on stacked trays in raceways, recycling the water through the limestone substrate. In 1981, his product, the Hawaiian oyster, was named by the Cologne Food Fair as the Outstanding New Product introduced to Europe that year. The seafood plantation was lost to cyclone Eva in 1982.

Soon after, Pryor joined the Aquanautics Corporation, then a NYSE-listed company, as VP Research. Initially stationed at the Duke University Marine Laboratory, he formed a cooperative industry/academic team and obtained a multi-million dollar grant from the Defense Advanced Project Agency (DARPA) that led the conversion of Aquanautics from a diving equipment manufacturer to a high-tech specialist in extracting oxygen from fluids. Promoted to VP-Marketing, he relocated to headquarters in the Alcoa Building, San Francisco. In 1986, Pryor resigned from Aquanautics for personal reasons, moving to the Cook Islands in late-1989, he joined the Office of the Prime Minister as Director, Special Projects Division, and later as Media Director and Deputy Chief of Staff. In 1992, the Cook Islands Government jointed with the Bechtel Corporation to undertake an OPIC-funded $1.0 M (today’s dollars) of harvesting manganese nodules from 18,000’ of depth from the nation’s 1.0 M square mile EEZ. Pryor was co-leader of the three-year task with then-Bechtel engineer Harry Hattyar. Found to be only barely economic then, that project has recently been revived by Canada’s Endeavour Financial Corporation pending Cabinet approval.


© Center for Cetacean Research and Conservation, 2004-13. All photos © Nan Hauser.
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