Diver who dive down to depths up to 500 feet (152 meters) or more in order to repair equipment used on offshore oil rigs as well as undersea pipelines. However, unlike commercial divers who perform just a few hours in the water before returning on the shore, divers who are saturated take up to 27 days at a time on a single project in a cramped high-pressure cylinder where they eat , sleep and eat during shifts. Pay is great for divers who are saturation -around $30,000 to 45,000 dollars per month, but it’s hard work in a dark and cramped space.
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This can be extremely dangerous. In 1983 four saturation divers as well as one member of the crew were killed in a horrific accident on a Norwegian-owned oil rig known as The Byford Dolphin. The Byford Dolphin tragedy was a wake-up call to divers in the industry of commercial dive that responded with more secure procedures so that other divers could suffer such a tragic fate. Before we discuss what transpired in detail, let us provide some basic information on decompression sickness , or “the bends.”
Why ‘The Bends’ Are Bad News
Divers first discovered diving in the 1940s. Divers have learned many things about how to swim safely to incredible depths, but sometimes by doing it the hard method. When a diver dives to the bottom, the weight of the water surrounding them exerts pressure to all cells in their body. The pressure can even compress molecules of gaseous
Intakes by the lungs inhalation, which causes nitrogen gas to dissolve in through the bloodstream.The intake of nitrogen isn’t what’s the issue. The problem arises when divers attempt to ascend to the surface at a too rapid rate. Imagine shaking a two-liter bottle of soda and then opening the cap. The gasses trapped under pressure immediately make bubbles. This is exactly what happens in the body of divers when they suffer from decompression illness or “
.” In the event that they rise too fast from the pressure that is high in deep water to the less pressure on the surface, nitrogen molecules that dissolved under pressure rapidly expand, and then become gaseous again. “Nitrogen bubbles develop in bloodstreams and can block the blood flow as well as your heart.” claims Phillip Newsum an experienced commercial diver who is also the executive director for
Association of Diving Contractors International
. “That’s when you’re at possibility of suffering from decompression
How Saturation Divers Stay Under for So Long
They are the ones who dive, in, the further you remain in the water the more nitrogen will be dispersed into your bloodstream. The body of a diver eventually is “saturated” with dissolved nitrogen and that’s how saturation divers got their name. Saturation divers work at depths
as high as 1,000 feet
(304 meters). If they followed the same approach as recreational divers to decompress safely and ascend slowly with long pauses it could take days for them to get to the surface. Saturation divers instead are transported to the surface by dive bells that are pressurized, and later transferred to specially designed chambers to decompress. For each 100ft (30 metres) that the saturation diver dives into, they must spend a entire day inside the decompression chamber in which they can relax on cots, relax, watch films and eat food via slot machines that are pressurized. The issue is that it’s expensive for oil companies to pay for saturation divers just a few hours of work and a few days of relaxation. It’s interesting to note that once you’ve reached the saturation point the body is unable to absorb more nitrogen, regardless of how long you remain underwater. Therefore, instead of decompressing following every dive, divers who are saturated simply remain in pressure. Up to 28 daysthe maximum allowed by industry standards -saturation divers are able to travel to the depths of these bells for diving with pressurized air. Instead of going to a decompression chamber at the top, they sleep in hyperbaric chambers that keep them at the same level of pressure that the deep water does”
A Routine Procedure Gone Horribly Wrong
for a saturation dive operation. Life support technicians make sure that the air mixture in the hyperbaric chamber is in line with the air that divers breathe in the water. Dive control is responsible for managing the
bell that is diving
that lifts and lowers cranes, and monitoring divers while they perform their work. They also have cooks who provide meals and meals to men locked inside the living chambers.Workers who are referred to as “tenders” have a very vital support function. They assist in removing and reversing the “umbilical,” the thick tube of air supply and communication wires that connect diver to surface. The tenders in the past held other duties that included docking the bell for diving to the pressurized living rooms. “The saturation divers are completely at the mercy of the tender and of their supervisors on the dive control team,” Newsum says. Newsum.
On Nov. 5, 1983
A seasoned tender known as William Crammond was in the middle of a routine process on board the Byford Dolphin semi-submersible oil rig which was in operation within the North Sea. The rig was outfitted with two living chambers that were pressurized that could accommodate two divers. Crammond has just connected his diving bell with the live rooms and securely deposited two divers into chamber one. Two divers were already in chamber two. That’s the moment when everything got horribly out of hand. Normally the diving bell would not be removed from the living rooms until the doors to the chamber were shut. But, the bell was removed prior to the chamber doors being closed, which is referred to as “explosive decompressio “It’s an execution sentence,” says Newsum. “You won’t survive.” The pressure of air inside byford dolphin’s Byford Dolphin living chambers instantly changed from
— the pressure that is felt when several hundred feet beneath water level — up to 1 atmosphere.
Hard Lessons Learned and Delayed Justice for the Families