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A deep dive with Lake Superior Aquaman

Superheroes have inspired generations for nearly a century, encouraging everyone to make the world a better place. For Duluth Minnesota resident, Jim Richardson, Aquaman has done just that. 

Since the dawn of civilization, the human populace has polluted the environment. Even though strides to progress in recycling, composting and all out renewability has taken place in recent history, waste still gets disregarded into habitats where it doesn’t belong.

Duluth, Minnesota sits comfortably on Lake Superior. Photo by Zack Benz

Earths surface is roughly 71 percent water, with 2.5 percent being fresh. Around one percent of that freshwater is easily accessible. Lake Superior, which sits on the boarder of Canada and the United States, is the third largest lake on earth by sheer volume but contains the largest surface area.

America’s greatest lake gets polluted by harmful bacteria, disregarded trash and harsh chemicals annually. Check out the EPA’s report on Lake Superior here.

Lake Superior Aquaman, also known as Texas native Jim Richardson, is a “writer-activist-videographer” based in Duluth, Minnesota, which sits at the southern tip of the Great Lake and has an amateur interest in free-diving.

“For several years I have produced videos in and around Lake Superior while dressed like Aquaman with a GoPro,” Richardson said. “I made videos for a few years before adopting the persona of Lake Superior Aquaman. The joke is that whereas Aquaman is the King of the seven seas, I am like a far less impressive cousin.”

Richardson said that he would’ve preferred the title “Lake Superior Namor” but he has such a less iconic look, so he swallowed his pride and started “rocking” Aquaman colors when he dives.

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Jim Richardson in his full Aquaman attire. Photo courtesy Jim Richardson

“I do stuff like clean broken glass off the lakebed and I’ve raised money for clean water issues,” Richardson said. “So if anything I fall under the definition of the ‘Real Life Superhero,’ although I never reached out to any organization.”

Real life superheroes are ordinary citizens who are inspired by their comic book counterparts. They dress in costumes and assist their perspective towns with heroic deeds, some minor and some major.

“I just patrol the lake in the Duluth area and document what I see and what shenanigans I’m getting up to,” Richardson said. “My activity has been a little lighter after a struggle with depression.”

After putting his depression to rest, Richardson felt that even though he was falling apart personally, his Lake Superior Aquaman persona was always fine.

“Kind of like the Batman-of-Zurr-N-Arrh, Bruce Wayne’s backup personality in the classic Grant Morrison story,” Richardson said “That is basically what happened to me. I announced my own death on the website perfectduluthday.com, where all my adventures have played out, saying, ‘Jim Richardson is dead: I am Lake Superior Aquaman.’”

Richardson struggled with depression after an emotionally turbulent relationship.

“My life fell apart after a doomed romance that crumbled into the lake like a corrupted Atlantis,” Richardson said. “I sought therapy — I literally needed PTSD therapy — and I found a good one and stuck with it, retraining my mind to avoid these kind of panic responses I developed from a love gone ratchet.”

Lake Superior Aquaman urged those suffering from anxiety and depression to seek help.

“My message to your surface-world readers is don’t wait — get therapy. Shop around until you find someone that works. Then keep going. You can do this.”

Lake Superior Aquaman

According to Richardson, he is not a very experienced free-diver.

“I’m really just an enthusiastic swimmer who, through sheer love of being underwater, has developed a four-minute breath hold, and I am comfortable at around thirty feet deep,” Richardson said.

Richardson stated that he only swims in the summer and even though Lake Superior is almost always cold, summer breezes can make the water warmer.

“I’ve developed a Lake Superior Sense where one look at the lake, I can tell you what the likely temperature and water clarity is,” Richardson said.

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Jim Richardson in his full Aquaman attire. Photo courtesy Jim Richardson

Richardson loves exploring the lake, finding old treasures from eras long past.

“There are 125-year-old ruins of Duluth’s industrial history down there if you know where to look, old sea-walls that the lake claimed for her own, and I love diving those,” Richardson said. “I also swam alongside a three-foot Muskie once for a long minute, a very bitey fish by reputation, but she just eyed my balefully.”

Richardson pointed out that Lake Superior doesn’t possess a colorful array of sea life like the ocean, but it does house a vastly diverse population non the less.

“The feeling of free-diving Lake Superior is one of utter freedom and tranquility,” Richardson said. “The lake and I are one, so it is spiritually very valuable to me. It is stupefyingly beautiful down there.”

Check Lake Superior Aquaman out on Facebook.


Editors note: a previous version of this story reported Richardson was a California native. The mistake has been corrected. This interview was conducted in 2019

Zack Benz

Zack Benz has been a fan of the Daily Planet since he was eight years old. The Daily Planet has always been a beacon of hope for him and it’s his life’s mission to make it shine in a similar light to so many around the world. Zack graduated with a degree in journalism and art from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2019.

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