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10 Things Deep-Sea Divers Know - Saturday, June 11, 2016

When the average person thinks of divers, they might think of someone recreationally darting around in the blue waters of some tropical locale. While these romanticized images make for great vacation daydream, theyíre far from what people who dive for a living do. In reality, the life of a commercial diver is simultaneously mundane and dangerous. For those looking to make a career out of diving, here are a few pieces of sage wisdom as told from one diverís first-hand experiences.

1. You Canít Resurface Too Quickly

Much like with astronauts or military jet pilots, a diver must be careful that the pressure of the water around them doesnít cause trouble with the gases inside their body. Failure to do so causes "the bends," or decompression sickness, which can be fatal to divers. To be safe, ascend to the surface no faster than the bubbles you exhale.

2. Claustrophobics Need Not Apply

If youíre uncomfortable with being in a tiny pressurized room for weeks or months at a time, this line of work may not be for you. For saturation diving, divers must live inside an underwater compression chamber for about a month. Even when your work is complete, youíll need an extra few days to readjust to surface pressure.

3. You Canít Scratch Itches In A Diving Suit

For those of us living above water, we have the luxury of being able to relieve any irritating sensations on our bodies during work hours. Deep sea divers have no such luxury. A diverís work consists of hours immersed in warm salt water inside a bulky metal frame. If somethingís bothering you, itís going to have to wait.

4. Your Voice Will Sound Hilariously High Pitched

Thanks to a mixture of helium and oxygen pumped into your undersea living quarters, every word you speak will sound as though itís coming from Alvin the Chipmunk.

5. Donít Forget to Brush Your Teeth

2,000 feet underwater (thatís deeper than the tallest New York skyscraper) is not someplace youíd want to have poor oral hygiene. Workers with fillings in their teeth may blow out, which can range from mildly inconvenient to excruciatingly painful depending on whether the tooth or gums are damaged.

6. Sharks Never Get Any Less Terrifying

Sometimes the stresses of work under the sea cause you to forget that youíre working where a variety of marine life lives. That is, until you see a shark materialize from the shadowy depths. Commercial divers aren't typically afraid of becoming fish food, but that doesnít make the sight and subsequent thoughts of Jaws surrounding you any less intimidating.

7. Thereís No Room For Creature Comforts in the Deep

Do you make a habit of having a drink and a nice meal on a Friday night with coworkers and friends after a long week at work? When youíre on a saturation dive, donít worry about not seeing your coworkers - youíll be locked in with about a dozen of them in a tiny chamber for a month, and the lack of privacy means tempers will boil over at some point.

8. Youíll Need to Hold It In

When youíre working in a diving suit between three and eight hours at a time, thereís no opportunity to take a break and answer the call of nature. Sometimes this isnít so bad when youíre working in a wetsuit, but if youíre in a drysuit, itís less comfortable. As for "bigger jobs" Ö Itís really best if you go before youíre out in the water in your commercial diving gear.

9. If Thereís An Emergency, Getting Out Takes Time

Letís say you suffer a stroke while in your underwater habitat. Unlike most lines of work, thereís no quick way to get to help. Depending on the depth youíre working at, it may be hours or even days before youíre fully decompressed and fit for the surface.

10. Itís a Dangerous Profession

Thereís a reason why saturation divers demand high salaries. The mortality rate for commercial divers is over 40 times that of the average American worker. Whether you lose a team member in an industrial accident or are tasked with recovering bodies from the seafloor, a saturation diver always works with the specter of death not far removed.


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