24. Captain Vic Scoggin works to save the Cumberland River and to protect his boyhood Nashville neighborhood.

U.S. Navy Vet, Captain Vic Scoggin, owner and captain of The Eastern Surveyor Naval Research Vessel—the only such vessel on the Cumberland River—conducts ship inspections for his Eastern Surveyor on a frigid morning at Rock Harbor Marina, Nashville, February 2018.

In 1996, in an effort to raise awareness and save the Cumberland River from pollution, Scoggin swam the entire length of the Cumberland, “696 miles!” National media covered the extraordinary journey, including a special report by CBS’ Inside Edition. Some years later Scoggin bought a research vessel from the U.S. Navy and sailed the ship–with the help of his Navy SEAL brother–from Rhode Island to Nashville so he could better study the river.

Inspired by his earliest effort a group of Nashville philanthropists founded The Cumberland River Compact, one of America’s great eco-defense societies that now leads water protection throughout middle Tennessee. 

But Scoggin isn’t interested in all those big things, he says. He is just an ordinary guy who remembers what the river gave him as a child and he wants the river to still be here for other children.


From the journal:

Vic says he wants to save the rivers and the creeks. But really it’s his life he is saving–and your life too. For what he wants to save is the world the river once gave him as a child. Vic is saving childhood. This is what the Captain said:

“If you go back when you was a little kid… You’ve got to look back to when you was a little kid… When you got up everyday to go do something, you were doing that because… you were doing what you wanted to everyday. Nobody was making you, nobody was paying you. You were doing it because that’s what you love to do. You want to get out there and climb in those trees, pick up rocks, catch crawfish. I mean, when I go to my grandmother’s house, all i want to do–and my friend Mike Walton is there that I’ve had since I was one year old–and all we want to do is go over to Richland Creek, which is the next creek up right here, and catch crawfish.”

“Even further back than that, when I was born. We lived on that creek, Richland Creek. My grandfather owned a restaurant over in Belle Meade and we lived in the house back there by the creek.”

“So, I heard that water… I heard that water when I was born. My first thing I ever heard…I slept and was right by that creek till I was five or six years old. Nothing was as good as my escape going down the creek bank, swimming in the river, climbing through caves, climbing in trees. I would not be here if it had not been for that river. It saved my life. Everything about it saved my life.”

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