What Did The Divers Ever Do For Us?
There are millions of divers in the world, and most of them are sport divers, meaning they dive for fun. This is unsurprising because diving is one of the most thrilling and adventurous sports you can pursue. There are, however, a very large amount of divers who do not dive for fun, they dive because it is their job. You may think I am only referring to dive instructors here, but I am actually referring to a massive range of subaquatic careers that run from the most idyllic of livelihoods through to the most intolerable of occupations. Divers play a huge part in keeping the modern sea, and its industry, in working order. They play a significant part in almost every marine sector and we should be grateful for the diligent work they perform.
Divers Form The Backbone Of The Marine Industry.
What I’ve produced in this article is a ten minute guide to some of the vocations that are available in the diving industry. Please bear in mind that this list is in no way exhaustive of the possible career paths, nor is it particularly detailed – I’m sure that if you’re interested in a field you’ll seek out more information than I’m providing here (if you would like to request an article on a particular diving career then please leave a request in the comment section at the bottom of this page and I’ll try to oblige).
Mention “commercial diving” to most people and they will probably think of oil rig diving. This is because it is one of the main employers of divers in the commercial sector. They are also usually the best paid, best trained divers and perform some of the most extreme dives. The most impressive of which is saturation diving. These men and women go down to very deep depths to construct or perform maintenance on oil lines and rig equipment. Because they are so deep for so long, their bodies saturate with nitrogen and require a massive length of time to desaturate. The way they get round this problem is by staying down on the dive site for around three weeks, living in a dive “bell” which is essentially a little underwater caravan which is fed air and electricity from the surface. Once their dive is over, they get into the bell and are very slowly decompressed over a period of up to a week. This takes its toll on the body, but it also pays a huge amount. They expect to make around three dives like this a year, the rest is a vacation.
There are other divers in the oil trade that use SCUBA to perform shallow tasks, these men and women are paid very well too, but the job is dirty, dangerous and costs a lot to be trained for.
Oil is Big Business, Which Means There Is Plenty Of Work, But It Isn’t Easy!
This is a follow on from the oil section because these divers perform very similar tasks to the oil divers – they weld, construct, repair and generally build the marine industry. They may also use saturation diving to achieve their goals (think of the guys and gals that lay oceanic telecommunication cables), but they might just be using normal scuba to sit at five metres for two hours in order to fix a propeller on a boat. The range of tasks that the commercial diving sector does is immense, you can almost just imagine all the trade and labour jobs that exist on land and then add scuba, with the exception of conservatory builders – they don’t have a counterpart in the sea!
Search and Recovery
This is a specific branch of commercial diving, though it’s a fairly big industry in itself. These divers are charged with the task of salvaging and cleaning up all manner of wrecks and sunken structures. They will be called to find and float small wrecks like cars and crashed two-seater planes right the way through to big ships and even oil rigs! They will locate, assess and decide whether it can be salvaged whole or if it needs to be brought up in sections. They arrange winches, floats and other methods of surfacing valuables. Their job is dangerous, but the pay offs can be huge.
“Um, I Think I Found A Car…”
Being a police diver doesn’t involve ensuring the fish are obedient and orderly, it is usually a progression on from the search and recovery field. Police divers are often working to a tight timeframe and an even more strict set of forensic rules because the environment they are working in might technically be a crime scene. The police divers are tasked with diving in often terrible conditions for hours searching for pieces of evidence or even people, which makes it a job for those with a strong stomach! The precision and thoroughness required is remarkable, but it has to be precise because they may be combing an entire lake for a small weapon or other piece of evidence.
As with all aspects of the military, the fighting side of things requires a strong engineering basis from which to cope with the tremendous logistical challenges they are faced with on a regular basis. This applies equally for the Navy (the military branch that requires the most divers) as they must maintain a fleet of vessels while on location, this requires divers who can repair floating craft (the other option is to put the ship in dry dock for repair, which is not always possible when the boat is on the offensive). The Navy divers also perform emergency salvage (think rapid response to sunken submarines, live warheads and other such situations).
Military Engineers Have To Deal With Bombs… Which Is A Bad Thing In My Book…
This is an area which many find attractive from a spectator standpoint, but is really a hideous job for the men and women employed to do it. This type of diving is done by trained (read: elite) soldiers who use diving for the stealth it offers. They will often use rebreathers to avoid producing bubbles and to allow them to stay under for hours. They may be required to swim a few miles at ten metres or so (imagine navigating that!) then plant bombs, sabotage vessels and other such subterfuge, then swim home again. I think I’ll keep my single tank and cozy dive site, and leave that kind of malarky to somebody else!
That Is The Kind Of Compass You Need When You Really Want To Ensure You Don’t Go Off Course!
These guys are just mad. They jump from low flying planes and helicopters, parachute (or just freefall) with SCUBA gear on, and then, once in the water, go and perform super-fast response to situations that require it e.g. NASA employ a few to respond extra fast to water landed spacecraft. Coolest. Job. Ever.
For an in depth look into the careers available in recreational diving please see my article: “A Guide to…Going Pro” which can also be found on this site, under my name.
How many dive magazines have you opened only to gasp at the breathtaking images of fish and divers in amazing settings. There is a very large industry of marine photographers for whom their entire job is to take breathtaking pictures. This is not as easy as it sounds though; first you need impeccable command of photography theory and equipment. You then need to be an awesome diver (stable, silent, fast and able to dive one-handed). On top of that you need the patience of a saint because the fish may not have gotten the memo you sent requesting that they school in the appropriate place, sometimes the photographers have to make four very long dives a day for weeks, usually balancing air, heat and nitrogen on their limits, purely to get that one perfect shot.
He’s Probably Waited For Two Hours For That Shot…
This is a very noble occupation, but not one for the diver who is only mildly interested in the field. If you wish to end up in the marine biology career path then its prudent to get a degree in the subject, and then sacrifice your personal life, your financial stability and every waking hour because newbie biologist divers work very hard, often living on a boat for months for very little money. This does improve with experience, but you’ll never be rich. What you will be however, is very proud of your ability to save and regrow coral, fish stocks and the general aquatic ecosystem. It is a job to be proud of, not to be wealthy from (with some exceptions).
I, personally, have taken one route down the diving career path and I will never regret it, though the massive amount of options for me to crossover to is a constant lure away from recreational diving and into other fields (how can the wage of the commercial divers not be a lure?). I hope this has opened your eyes to a few paths that you might not have known otherwise, and if you choose to take a step in a particular direction then I wish you the very best!
Are you a professional diver? Are you in one of the many diving jobs I didn’t mention e.g. dive center manager or even dive journalist??? Do you wish to change jobs from office to regulator? Please let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
Happy (paid) Bubbles!