This job is the deadliest job in the world. More than soldiers or astronauts. Combat soldiers will back down. We never back down. We are trained better than soldiers. Astronauts’ only problem is drifting out in space. Zero gravity is their major issue. We train astronauts. We are commercial deepwater divers. We go to the depth, do the work, we go to the decompression chamber.
There is the thing. Working underwater is deadly. Most guys who have been diving for a long time don’t want to know the names of the new divers because they are most likely to die. One-time divers. We know that.
When you work as commercial diver you do deepwater work on the oil rig. Welding, repairs. You also pick up side jobs inland. Anything that is not ocean diving. I’ve done both jobs. Once, I was in deep shit. Literally. Had to do a repair inside a sewage treatment plant. I agreed to do the job. I signed up for it. I didn’t care if I am covered in poop or radiation. I had to do the job. I had to. I was trained to do it. That’s me.
The working ratio is 3:1. Anything you do for 1 hour on land equals 3 hours underwater. Whether it is striking a hummer of breathing. Breathing underwater is hard.
I loved it. “Send me deep! Send me deep! Send me deep! Send me deep!, I would beg. Please, send me deep!” You know why? Deeper you go more money you get. But mostly I wanted honor. I was young. My deepest dive was 311 feet. I spent four and a half hours in decompression but when I came out I was smiling.
Fuck decompression, you keep going. Never wanted to return. My happiness was underwater. It was me and my bubbles. It was romantic.
A few years ago, Richard Michael Jaworski, commercial deepwater haz-mat diver, got hit in the head by a forklift as he was preparing for a dive. Half of his face went missing. In the hospital he died three times but the doctors saved him. He had to undergo hundreds of facial reconstructive operations. They took a piece of his skull to replace his missing right cheekbone. He doesn’t look the same now.
Richard survived the accident. Thanks to science, he says, he doesn’t believe in God or miracles.
We met Rich in Key West Florida and became friends. He lives in a fishing boat out in 3D Boatyard, not far from where our boat was hauled out.
The day after we launch Fata Morgana we receive a part we have ordered a month ago. A part that costs hundreds of dollars. It is called a traveler and controls the boom and the main sail. Without it we cannot sail. Ivo is happy to finally get it. But, as he is about to install it, the thing slips and falls in the water, at the muddy bottom near the docks, some thirty feet below.
We experience a miniature death.
The water here is dirty, full of all sorts of rusty debris and it become thick with mud at only about ten-fifteen feet. Jumping after the traveler and finding it at the bottom is not an option for Ivo. We need a professional diver. We need Rich.
He arrives in his full diving gear, black as the wet feathers of cormorants. We begin hoping.
Very calm, he sits at the edge of the dock, smokes a cigarette, and tells us not to worry, he will get it for us for sure. There is a strange change in his eyes, something I haven’t noticed before. They are almost transparent and white. Like water or like ice.
He disappears in the water. We become silent. We hold our breath and stare in the direction where he vanished. Bubbles emerge. A huge one followed by millions of tiny ones swishing like champagne foam does. A minute passes, or just a few seconds. He reappears holding the traveler above his head, so that it is the first thing we see coming out of the water. A truly epic moment.