Saturation divers dive into depths as deep as 500 feet (152 meters) or more to maintain equipment used on offshore oil rigs and underwater pipelines. However, unlike commercial divers, who only do just a few hours at depth 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 -between $30,000 and 45,000 dollars per month, however, it’s a demanding job in a dark and cramped atmosphere.
This can be extremely dangerous. In 1983 four saturation divers as well as one of the crew members were killed in a horrific accident on a Norwegian-owned oil rig, known as Byford Dolphin.
The Byford Dolphin incident caused a wake-up-call for divers in the industry of commercial dive who responded by implementing more stringent safety procedures so that other divers was to suffer the same fate. Before we go into the details of what happened in detail, let us provide some basic information on decompression sickness , or “the bends.”
Why ‘The Bends’ Are Bad News
When diving first became popular in the 1940s. Divers have learned a lot how to swim safely to incredible depths, but sometimes in a difficult method. When a diver dives to the bottom, the weight of the water around them creates pressure to each cell of their body. The pressure also compresses the molecules of gaseous
The lungs absorb nitrogen and lungs, which causes the nitrogen gas to disintegrate into it’s bloodstream.The intake of nitrogen isn’t the problem. The problem arises when divers attempt to ascend to the surface too fast. Think of it as shaking a two-liter bottle of soda before opening the cap. The gases that were trapped under pressure immediately make bubbles. This is the way it works in the body of a diver when they suffer from decompression sickness , or “
” In the event that they move too fast from the pressure that is high in deep water, to the lower pressure at the surface nitrogen molecules that dissolved under pressure expand and then turn gaseous. “Nitrogen bubbles can appear in bloodstreams, and they can block the blood flow as well as your heart.” states Phillip Newsum an experienced commercial diver who is also the executive director for Association of Diving Contractors International. “That’s when you’re at chance of developing decompression.
How Saturation Divers Stay Under for So Long
They are the ones who dive, in, the further you remain submerged and the longer you stay underwater, the more nitrogen is dissolving within your bloodstream. The body of a diver eventually gets “saturated” with dissolved nitrogen this is the reason why saturation divers got their name. Saturation divers work at depths Up to 1,000 feet (304 meters). If they followed the same method used by 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 using dive bells that are pressurized, and later moved into specially-designed chambers for decompression.
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, enjoy movies and get food through slot machines with pressurized pressure. The issue is that it’s expensive for oil companies to pay for saturation divers only a couple of hours of work and a few days of relaxation.
In addition, once you’ve reached the saturation point the body is unable to absorb more nitrogen, regardless of how long remain submerged. 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 can travel to the depths of the bells of diving that are pressurized.
However, instead of going to a decompression chamber at the top, they sleep in an hyperbaric chamber which keeps them at the same pressure that the deep water does”
A Routine Procedure Gone Horribly Wrong
Whole crew 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 under water. the dive controllers are responsible for managing the bell that is diving that elevates and lowers cranes — and monitoring divers while they perform their work. Cooks are also employed to provide meals and meals to men locked in living chambers. Workers who are referred to as “tenders” have a very crucial support role. They assist in removing and reversing the “umbilical,” the thick line of tubes for air supply and communication wires that connect divers with the sea surface.
The tenders in the past were responsible for 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 performing a routine task 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 was just connecting the bell for diving to one of the rooms and securely deposited two divers into chamber one. The two other divers were already in chamber two.
That’s the moment that everything got horribly out of hand. Normally the bell for diving wouldn’t be separated from the living rooms until the doors to the chamber were shut. But, the bell broke off prior to the chamber doors being shut, causing what’s known in the field as “explosive decompressio “It’s the death penalty,” says Newsum. “You won’t survive.” The pressure in Byford Dolphin’s Byford Dolphin living chambers instantly increased to 9 atmospheres– the pressure that is felt when thousands of feet under water level — up to 1 atmosphere.
Hard Lessons Learned and Delayed Justice for the Families
Beginning in the 1960s the time when petroleum was first discovered near in the waters of Norway there was a boom of oil across the North Sea. Safety wasn’t always the first priority. According to one estimate there were at most at least 58 drowning deaths within the North Sea from the 1960s to the early 2000s.
“The Byford Dolphin was one of the worst oil field disasters in history,” states Newsum, “and it led to radical modifications throughout both the North Sea and in commercial diving safety worldwide.Today, Newsum says, every dive operation has to conduct a thorough risk assessment and Hazard analysis. Redundancies are in every process to avoid human error and faulty equipment.
Certain oil rigs are equipped with hyperbaric lifeboats, which can carry saturated divers out of a fire or hurricane without the need to return them to the surface pressure first. It took a long time to get the Norwegian government managing Byford Dolphin in 1983, Byford Dolphin when it died in 1983 to accept responsibility for the incident and pay restitution for the family members of five men who were killed. It was not that long after the year 2009 when the Norwegian government made a secret payment that were paid to relatives of the seven victims in the accident in 1983.