One of the world’s most hazardous jobs is known for its intense pressure
May 13, 2018 6:58 AM   Subscribe

The Weird, Dangerous, Isolated Life of the Saturation Diver looks at the biology, technology and culture of working at the bottom of the ocean.
posted by gen (17 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Very cool article! Now I wanna watch The Abyss and read Starfish again!
posted by snwod at 7:32 AM on May 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

Super cool article thanks. As an engineer, I appreciated the casual way the author inserted technical details and numbers.

"Remotely operated vehicles don’t have the touch, maneuverability, or judgment for the job."

Given the risk and expense of putting in saturation divers, this seems like a business opportunity for a skilled robotics company...
posted by Popular Ethics at 7:53 AM on May 13, 2018

Very cool article! Now I wanna watch The Abyss

And hit the stop button to end the film right after Ed Harris says he loves his wife in garbled text. Because THAT IS THE ENDING OF THE FILM. And we all agree on this, right.

Also, yes, very cool article.
posted by Fizz at 8:19 AM on May 13, 2018 [5 favorites]

Yikes, idk if $1,400 a day would be enough to get me into a tiny recycled fart tube with 5 other people under the sea for weeks at a time.

also the harder i try not to think about the byford dolphin the more i think about it
posted by poffin boffin at 8:32 AM on May 13, 2018

poffin boffin: I dread the day that I may accidentally see photos of that accident because of some shitposter trying to ruin a thread somewhere. It’s haunting.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:01 AM on May 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Not knowing what you were talking about (but having an idea) I just read the Wikipedia article.

posted by Big Al 8000 at 9:39 AM on May 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Now I want to play Subnautica again! One of the odd game mechanics in that game is you get various submarine vehicles that have depth limits. But you can always jump out and go free swimming at any depth. Only now you're unprotected from the frightening sea monsters. Do they have Ghost Leviathans around deep sea drilling operations?
posted by Nelson at 9:44 AM on May 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

Not knowing what you were talking about

it's linked further down in the article but not mentioned specifically by name, just referred to as "an explosive decompression accident".
posted by poffin boffin at 10:06 AM on May 13, 2018

So it's a welding gig that can turn into an episode of Hannibal if you close a door the wrong way, cool.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 10:08 AM on May 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

Everything else plus shit on command. Nope!
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:42 AM on May 13, 2018

Two of the guys at a firm I worked for had been hard-hat divers in the Gulf of Mexico (not even saturation divers), and both had multiple joints in pain all the time from having been bent; that is not why they stopped working in the field, though. One of them said that the biggest worry was about the guy in the support boat supplying the breathing mixture, because they adjusted valves on the gas panel without knowing what they were doing sometimes. The other was cutting a beam. He could not see that was the last beam holding up a structure which started to fall down onto him. That was it for him. Both said there are old divers, and there are bold divers... .
posted by jet_silver at 11:32 AM on May 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

It's crazy to me that humans can survive at these pressures... I mean, how would you make tea? The water will only boil at more than double the appropriate temperature. Plus you can't even heat it because the propane in your stove just stays liquid. Worst of all, soufflés sent in from the outside would instantly collapse! And soufflés made on the inside would explode if shared with the rest of the crew...
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 12:40 PM on May 13, 2018 [10 favorites]

And for another fun type of commercial diving, there's always sewage diving.
posted by ShooBoo at 1:19 PM on May 13, 2018

it's linked further down in the article but not mentioned specifically by name

Yeah, that was what I figured when I went to look up the Dolphin.

I was surprised at first to hear there are pictures online, since the incident is pre-internet but then I realized they are probably part of the public record due to government/regulatory investigations. And people can be gory rubberneckers, sometimes.

I’ll leave the pictures be. The description was more than enough.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 1:35 PM on May 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I wonder how popular Michael Crichton’s Sphere is among the saturation diving crowd...
posted by Big Al 8000 at 1:42 PM on May 13, 2018

Yeah $1400 per day seems a little low. Is that from converting their salary or are they contractors on a daily rate?

It’s not surprising that at least one diver was ex-police rescue, as that job can be psychologically scarring in a different way (they never get the opportunity to rescue anyone. The more accurate job title would be Corpse Retriever).
posted by um at 6:53 PM on May 14, 2018

I worked offshore diving, not as a saturation diver. Some of the guys I worked with went on into sat.

I was nearly killed more than once, and decided to find other things to do.

People would often ask me what the most dangerous animal was.

"The crane operator," I would always tell them. They'll kill you quicker than anything. A lot of times you'll be lifting and moving something underwater. Between the diver's lack of experience, the crane operator's lack of experience, things getting stuck in the mud or suddenly failing, something going awry is inevitable.
posted by atchafalaya at 8:54 AM on May 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

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