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March/April 2007


Into the Blue With Patricia Lin

By John  S. Gray, Jr.

When not addressing Chevron Corporation’s global environmental concerns and responsibilities, Patricia Lin spends as much time as possible scuba diving and taking pictures of the marine life beneath the ocean’s waves.  Underneath these blue waters, Patricia says she can find some of the most beautiful places in the entire world to visit and photograph. In places teeming with life, she may find herself swimming with manta rays and whale sharks and photographing coral heads bigger than cars, as well as hundreds of species of fish. 
A Houston native, Patricia earned undergraduate degrees in biology and English from Rice University before pursuing her law degree at the University of Texas in Austin. But it was not until early in her law career that she discovered the joy of scuba diving. In preparation for a trip to Australia, Patricia and her sister took scuba diving classes at Gigglin’ Marlin Divers here in Houston. Although she enjoyed her Australia diving, she did not become hooked until she dove off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico. Then she quickly fell in love not only with the peace and tranquility diving offers, but also with the satisfaction that comes from the adventure diving poses when challenging the ocean’s currents, waves, surges, temperature and visibility. 
Since discovering diving, Patricia has achieved a certification level of PADI Master Scuba Diver. As part of her training, she has been certified in night diving, underwater navigation, rescue diving and the use of Enriched Air Nitrox. Patricia has had the pleasure of diving in many of the world’s exotic locales. In addition to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, she has dived in the Tuamotu Atolls in French Polynesia and the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand. She has also dived on the world’s second longest barrier reef off the coast of Belize and along the walls of ocean trenches off the British West Indies. Her most recent trip, thanks to a prize she won in a photo contest, was a return visit to the Exuma Islands and Eleuthra in the Bahamas. While Patricia can’t choose a favorite place to dive, she says Cozumel does hold a special attraction because of its breathtaking underwater topography, the warmth of the locals and its proximity to Houston. 
Diving in both salt water and fresh water, Patricia has expanded her underwater horizons significantly in the past couple of years. She is one of a select group of volunteers allowed to dive in Spring Lake in San Marcos, Texas. Spring Lake is fed by the Edwards Aquifer and is the home of several endangered species, including the Fountain darter and the Texas Blind Salamander. It used to be known as Aquarena Springs, which once held a mermaid show featuring Ralph the swimming pig. When diving in Spring Lake, Patricia helps keep the spring clean and documents the conditions of the lake through her photographs. 
One of her favorite Houston area dives is Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Freeport. The Flower Gardens Sanctuary is a series of underwater communities that rise from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico atop underwater salt domes that reach to within 100 feet of the surface. They are located 70 to 115 miles off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana and are separated by miles of open ocean. The banks were named after the brightly colored sponges, plants, and other marine life local fishermen sometimes snagged and brought to the surface. These sponges cover the bottom landscape in a carpet of oranges and reds. Within this Sanctuary, Stetson Bank offers a unique diving experience at night with beautifully lit up, brittle starfish emerging like holiday fireworks by the natural phosphorescence of plankton and sponges. And because there are few places to hide, all of the sea life living on Stetson Bank is especially hardy and grows to huge proportions. For example, Patricia has seen, and photographed, angelfish the size of hubcaps and stingrays with ten-foot wingspans. Even the shrimp are huge, she says, which just goes to show that “everything is bigger in Texas.” 
When not working for Chevron or diving, Patricia actively participates in Houston’s legal community. She is a past president of the Asian-American Bar Association and a founder of the Asian-American Bar Foundation, on which she is currently serving her second year as the chair of its Board of Trustees. She sits on the Board of Trustees of the Houston Young Lawyer Foundation and is the chair of its grants committee. She also is a member of the HBA’s Gender Fairness Committee. On the lighter side, Patricia is a four-year cast member of the HBA’s Night Court, where she has played a mob hit-woman, showgirl, superhero, saloon girl and gold digger. In what is left of her free time, Patricia likes to cook for friends and family and run in 5k fun runs. She would like spend more time editing her underwater photographs, but there are only 24 hours in a day.
If you are interested in learning more about scuba diving opportunities, Patricia suggests contacting a local dive shop. Many of them have classes geared toward people curious about scuba diving, providing the opportunity to try on scuba gear and try breathing underwater in a swimming pool before having to commit the time and resources required for certification. But be warned, scuba diving is not for the cash-strapped, overly-committed person. Off-shore diving trips are not cheap and often last all day or for an entire weekend. However, for people looking for a unique and awe-inspiring way to spend their time, Patricia believes there is no better location than in the blue off the coasts of some of the most exotic places in the world.

John S. Gray, Jr. is a partner at Gardere Wynne Sewell, where he specializes in environmental law. He is a member of The Houston Lawyer editorial board.