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Monday, April 25, 2005

deep sea dumbasses

One of the funniest things I ever saw was a diver that wasn't working. He was supposed to be guiding an undersea pipeline about 12" in diameter into a set of saddles going up one leg of an offshore platform. There were cables attached to it from winches and a crane through sets of pulleys rigged up to handle the task. The diver in this situation was supposed to be just guiding the operation from below, giving instructions to the dive controller on how tight each line had to be to get the pipeline into position and then he would bolt the pipe into the clamp in place underwater.

But, once he had the pipe guided in to the clamp he decided he had done enough and took a little nap of sorts underwater. He was working at about 30 feet below the surface and the water was incredibly clear that day and you could see him from the deck. He apparently didn't realize this because he just sat there on a horizontal brace of the rig giving out imaginary instructions to the dive controller. I was standing on the edge of the vessel tending his hose and had been watching his progress as he did his job, but, once I realized he wasn't doing anything I motioned the dive controller over to the edge of the deck and pointed to him. After about a minute of watching him do nothing but pretend to work he ended the dive and fired the dude, told him to catch the next boat hitting shoreside. The look of shock on his face was priceless when the controller told him he was being watched from the surface!

Another funny one was a newbie diver that nearly bit his own tongue half off because he didn't think. One of the diver tenders jobs was to make sure the divers breathing hose was clear and snag free at all times, you actually stood on the edge of the deck holding the hose and tried to gently feel the amount of slack in the hose at all times while the diver was in the water. It needed to be lightly taut at all times to ensure there was no slack or droop in the line that could cause his lifeline to get tangled or damaged in any way. Sounds easy but it's not, the hose asembly is fairly heavy and it takes quite a bit of experience to tell the difference between the divers pull and the pull of sea currents.

When you help dress your diver out with his diving hat and tools you have to feed enough slack over the edge to make sure he can make a clear jump into the water from the deck from as high as 20 ft sometimes in full gear. Once you ensured everything was clear you tapped the diver on the shoulder to give him the sign to jump. This one guy didn't wait for the high sign from his tender, there was no slack in the hose and he jumped overboard. The hose caught an obstruction on deck and he didn't hit the water, the hose jerked him up like a hangmans noose to his harness and the sudden stop made him slam into the hull of the vessel and nearly sever his tongue with his own teeth! They took him away in an emergency chopper, not a good way to make one of your first dives!

I recall one of my first jobs as a newbie tender, me and one diver were on a small barge working in very shallow water. Just me and him were the entire diving crew, that meant I had to care for his gear, the radio equipment, the air compressor (an old hand cranked diesel that was a bitch to start up) plus whatever tools he needed. I was barely seventeen I think and I was stuck with a lot of responsibility. I had to tend his hose and talk to him on the radio to relay instructions to the rigging crew to assist his job in the water, meanwhile making sure everything on deck keeping him alive was working properly and just generally johnny on the spot if shit went wrong. He had been going in and out the water all day, very shallow work and we fell into a routine getting a lot of work done. Since the diesel air compressor was so noisy we shut it off between every short dive when he came up for a break.

He took this one break and I forgot the compressor was off and I got him back into the water and after a few minutes he says on the radio, "hey my air is gettin' kinda short down here, don't you think you should start that compressor?" HOLY SHIT! I looked over and sure enough the compressor was off and the gauge on the air tank on deck showed nearly empty! I grabbed that crank handle for the diesel and cranked that damn thing for all I was worth, nearly having a stroke at 17 years old! The bastard thought it was funny, he knew the thing was off before he went in the water and just wanted to hear me panicking on the radio thinking I was killing him! The water was shallow enough there was really no danger of injury and he had a bottle of air on his backpack for emergencies. In the end it was funny but that little incident kept me on my toes for later years, what an experience!