Gilbert Klingel 1908 – 1983

Chesapeake Bay naturalist, Gilbert Klingel, late 1920’s early 1930’s

Ever wonder what it would be like to lay on the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay for 100 hours and just observe the marine life and the way the tides and currents flow?

How about being shipwrecked on a sparsely populated remote island near the shores of Cuba after a violent storm at sea with little provisions and little knowledge of where you actually were?

What would it be like to teach yourself science and write three award winning books that are still in publication 80 years later?

Would you be able to build underwater submersibles for studying marine life and then turn that skill into building 30 – 75 foot boats with metal hulls, by hand  practically by yourself?

Could you head up an expedition with the National Geographic Society in Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay that would result in the first ever large scale recorded underwater color photography?

Gilbert Klingel did all of these things and also built a boat yard on Gwynn’s Island, Virginia, to fulfill his dreams as a self-taught naturalist and explorer.


Gilbert Klingel's boatyard
Gilbert Klingel’s Gwynn’s Island boatyard as seen from Milford Haven, Mathews County, Virginia.


Learn more about Gil Klingel in the new PBS documentary, “The Legacy of Gilbert Klingel: Man of Steel”.

For those who missed the July 2018 premiere of this film or the PBS Broadcasts on WCVE Richmond, WHTJ Charlottesville or WHRO Norfolk –TV15, there are still several ways to view the documentary. 

  • Locally, DVDs can be found at the Mathews Visitor Center, the Mathews Maritime Museum and the Gwynn’s Island Museum.  Klingel’s books can also be purchased at these three locations.
  • The DVD can be bought online or seen through DIGITAL STREAMING, a new feature on Director/Producer Dave Miller’s website.
  • See
    Just scroll down the screen to:  “NEW:  DIGITAL SCREENING OF CHESAPEAKE BAY FILMS” and click on the little arrow in the white box (Klingel Digital online) to order Digital online as well as DVDs.