Main Protocol Established on Project:
The main objective for this project was for Marine Mammal Scientists seldom called Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) to monitor the “exclusion zone” and make sure that the area was clear of marine mammals once the project was in operation - "The Humpback Whales at Sunset; a Mission for Marine Mammal Preservation." In order to have a safe and operational project, there was a main protocol that had to be followed both by the Marine Mammal Scientists and the Cal Dive commercial scuba diving team. What is white, thick, and rolls on the horizon? The answer is fog – visibility is very important when you are monitoring the area for marine mammals and also assisting the safety of the commercial divers in the bell. A few steps had to be taken to assure the proper shutdown of this event:
- For Dynamic Positioning or DP vessels, during daytime and nighttime conditions if fog inhibits our visibility of the 0.5 mile exclusion zone or inhibited us from doing normal night time IR scans, we needed to contact the Spectra client representative onboard and immediately notify him that our visibility was reduced.
- At that time the client rep will meet with operations and provide us a time line as that details what resolution they will come up with and approximately how long it will take to bring the bell in and go into a shutdown.
- Once we had that time line, I was assigned to give MJ a call, give me an assessment of the weather and the visibility.
- In result, MJ discussed the situation with the client and then she and the client rep reached an agreement on which action they took. The key factors that were discussed during that time was how bad the fog was, how long the vessel will be fogged in, how long it would take to pull the bell and equipment in, and how long they would have to finish a scheduled bell run.
- In rare cases, if dive operations were in progress, then they were halted and brought onboard until visibility was adequate to see a half mile. At the time of shutdown, the use of thrusters was minimized. If there were potential safety problems due to the shutdown, the captain decided what operations could safely be shut down.
I had two shutdown operations when it came to the reduced visibility that was caused by fog. The fog rolled in unexpectedly after dinner and Whitney and I were getting ready to head back outside. As soon we looked out the bridge window, we could not see anything! I did not have a visible view of the bow or any of the bridge wings – I automatically called MJ and explained to her the situation. After the correct procedures were followed, the end result was a shutdown. The superintendent on the Cal Dive team was relieved that his divers were back on the deck after we shutdown. I remember him telling me that he just came out of his cabin and could not walk to the dive shack without running into the railing a few times. It sounded like we shutdown just in the nick of time!
Since the construction of a pipeline was being built hundreds of meters under the ocean surface, a special crew known as commercial scuba divers had to be called upon to complete the task. What is a commercial scuba diver? Let us start with an example, what do pipelines, cables, and bridges have in common? They can all be found within our waterways and like other structures they need to be built, maintained and repaired. Commercial divers perform underwater activities related to construction, inspection, search, salvage, repair and photography. They work inland in rivers, lakes and canals or offshore in harbors and oceans. They may use specialized equipment such as diving helmets, underwater cutting torches, underwater welding equipment, wet-suits, dry-suits, hot water heated suits, diving bells, decompression chambers, full face masks and air compressors.
|Danny from the Cal Dive Team; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 09.2007|
Commercial diving is a mentally and physically demanding occupation. It is necessary that divers have a good understanding of the physiological and psychological effects of pressure, such as burst lung syndrome and decompression sickness. They must be strong and able to think well under pressure and in adverse weather conditions. Divers must also know how to interpret blueprint information and plan and execute a successful dive.
|Adam and Danny from the Cal Dive Team; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 09.2007|
There are diving rules to be followed: they must dive in teams, with someone monitoring from land or from a boat or submarine. Often, paramedics stand by in case of any emergencies. When working in dangerous or difficult areas, or when conducting a search for lost property or bodies, they plan the dive before they jump, use scuba-diving equipment, and restrict their searches to small areas -- only searching about 150 to 300 feet at a time. Using maps, they sweep the areas, while attached to a tether. They must be meticulous about their work, ensuring that all points on the map have been covered before calling an end to the search.
|Rocket aka Zac from the Cal Dive Team; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 10.2007|
On any given day commercial divers can be found installing or repairing pipelines in a local canal or taking pictures of structures using special photographic equipment. It may sound like fun, but sometimes divers are called upon to perform less than desirable tasks such as working in sewage treatment facilities, taking bottom samples, and inspecting and repairing plumbing systems. Divers are also called on for search and rescue missions and are responsible for locating bodies under the water or ice.
|Pat and Jimmy from the Cal Dive Team; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 09.2007|
Fatal Injuries due to Commercial Scuba Diving:
The dive bell that was a part of the project was raised and lowered out of the water several times a day – the dive bell had 2 commercial divers inside at all times. If there was a sighting in the exclusion zone, it was mandatory for the Marine Mammal Scientists or as crew recognized us as Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) to tell the dive superintendent immediately for the safety of his commercial divers. I have heard situations where commercial divers come in close contact with marine mammals under the surface – the result is sometimes fatal; usually it ends this way due to a broken leg from the contact with the whale’s fluke. If a commercial diver breaks his leg under the surface hundreds of feet below, then he must be treated right away or he will in consequence lose too much blood and die a fatal death. In an extreme rare case, the diver’s blood could attract shark frenzy and thus, become a vital statistic to a shark attack. As any commercial diver and scuba diver will tell you, once you are on the ocean’s surface for several minutes, it is required that you have a decompression stage – allows you to avoid decompression sickness.
Since I was onboard for Halloween, the Cal Dive team wanted to tell us girls a “scary story,” but their definition of a scary story was, in reality, a true event that took place in the commercial scuba diving world. The story was told of a 23 year old Australian who was a professional scallop diver and dove in shark infested waters. The diver was wearing a "shark pod" - acted as an electric shark repellent and activated by a on and off switch. The problem was that the diver dove prematurely without the “shark pod” stimulated. The death was determined as a violent shark attack, when ironically the “shark pod” surfaced, but the body was never found. The coroner highly suggested that due to this catastrophic event that all commercial and recreational divers working in waters where the presence of sharks was a high risk and it is encouraged to wear a shark repellent device.
Collection of the Best Commercial Diving Photographs:
Underwater Scenery to Observe while Diving:
*All Commercial Scuba Diving photographs are supplied by my good friends and colleagues on the Cal Dive Boston, Massachusetts project.