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Before I share anything further, there are a few things I’d like to clarify. I received an astonishingly large amount of comments and personal messages since posting. Several people pointed out to me that there are probably very few people with experiences like these. And of those people even fewer could say that they’ve recently left their job. Therefore, there are probably a lot of people out there who already know who I am, or that could figure it out easily. That being said, I still believe that everybody deserves to know.

First, I’m going to answer some of the common questions I’ve received. Yes, I’ve experienced a lot of terrifying things in the ocean. But, when you consider the amount of dives I’ve made, these experiences have truly been few and far between.

Basic information about our dive gear. While it does vary based on the job, we do have a standard we typically use. We are hard hat divers meaning we wear helmets, not scuba. It is surface supplied air. We have an air system on surface which runs through an umbilical down to the divers. The umbilical attaches to the helmet to supply the air. Woven in with the umbilical are our essentials. Without getting too technical there is a line to supply air, electricity for a light, communications, and essentially a depth gauge. Additionally, we wear a tank on our back as an emergency gas supply. It doesn’t contain much though. Just enough to get to the surface in an emergency. We don’t use rebreathers for the work we do. We do however occasionally use a full face mask instead of a helmet, or scuba if it is more practical. But it rarely is.

The Keepers of the Deep. I have never found information about them online. The only people I’ve heard discuss them were the members of my team. I’ve been told other teams have had run ins with them too though. But even the guys on my team are hesitant to speak about them.

I’ll answer more questions as they arise, but I’ll get back to why you’re really here. While working on an oil rig, we were utilizing an ROV (imagine a small remote control submarine) to do inspections. We’d been hired to inspect for structural damage or deficiencies after the rig had complained of abnormal vibrations. During operations the ROV’s are tended from a line that offers power, a strength member, and transfers video and sonar images back to topside. As the ROV descended into the darkness below we began to notice thin scratches along the structure. At first it was barely enough to rip the marine growth off of the metal, but as we got deeper the scratches turned to gouges. As we descended even deeper, we began to notice that the scratches appeared deliberate. We pulled the ROV up close to inspect. There, before us, were images. There were hieroglyphics carved into the metal. And they were fresh. The deeper we got, the older the carvings appeared. They were corroded, and partially covered in growth. Whatever was making these carvings was working its way up from the bottom. Then, the ROV stopped responding. It began shaking back and forth. We lost power to it. We tried to pull it up by its tending line but it seemed stuck. Then, we felt it. Tugging against the line, but it was coming from the ROV’s side. Something was pulling it deeper. Two more guys jumped onto the line and struggled to pull it back up. The line began creaking, and parted. We pulled up the remainder of the line, but that ROV was gone forever. The supervisor was then left with the task of figuring out how to report our findings to the oil company.

One incident took place about a year ago. During a salvage job we were in the process of installing the rigging gear. While facing the ship, with my back to the open ocean, I hadn’t noticed anything approaching. Suddenly something smashed into the tank on my back, hard. I was slammed into the ship, flattened against it by the force. I turned around, there was nothing. I would later learn that I had several bruised ribs from the impact. After reporting to the other diver and topside, we were told they were going to pull us. We got back onto the stage and started being lifted toward the surface. We kept our eyes peeled, scanning into the not too distant shadows. During a decompression stop we began seeing a shadowy figure circling around us. We continued to monitor it as it circled closer and closer. We began to see it more clearly. There was a massive shark circling us. Now I have never been afraid of sharks. But there’s something about being circled by a massive shark, in the middle of the ocean, dangling from a chain, that can instill a new phobia in the bravest men. Keep in mind we aren’t in an enclosed cage, just a platform to stand on. It felt like being served on a platter. It eventually circled close enough to see its features, but I didn’t recognize its species. It was bigger than a great white, and with entirely different coloration. It was mostly black with a few gray features. It continued eying us as we sat there helpless, praying to be left alone. By the time we completed our decompression requirements it was nearly close enough to touch. The stage lifted us up and out of the water, relieved that the shark had not decided to find out how we taste. On surface we deduced that the shark had lunged at my back, but had only managed to hit the Emergency Gas Supply cylinder.

We did another dive, this time in crystal clear waters. And there’s something nice about getting a job in waters where you can actually see your surroundings. The visibility was over 100 feet . We got to the bottom and began work. There were two missiles that had been ejected from a military aircraft and had not detonated. We were briefed on their location and told they were not armed and would not detonate provided they were handled appropriately. We located them much easier than we expected and began preparing to rig them up. Just as I laid my hands on the first missile, my dive buddy said “Oh shit!” My stomach dropped. I don’t care how many times you’ve worked with an ordnance. I sincerely believe you will always have that uncomfortable sensation in your gut, and nervousness in the back of your mind. I looked up and realized he wasn’t talking about the missile, he saw a wall of sand rising in the distance. Something, hopefully just the current, was kicking up the sand from the bottom of the ocean. The wall of sand was growing and was about 30 feet tall. Even worse, it was approaching us. Soon it was upon us. It’s hard to describe what bad visibility does in the water. It’s not a matter of not having enough light, it’s a matter of too much crap in the water blocking the light. Imagine fog, but imagine if you can that this fog is thicker than anything you’ve ever witnessed. I’m talking about fog so thick that you could have a flashlight pointed at your eyes from an inch away, but you are completely blind to it. That’s what bad visibility is in the water. The moment the sand hit us, we were engulfed in pure darkness. I placed my hand against my faceplate, but couldn’t even see it. After a few moments we began hearing a metallic scraping sound. Then, as swiftly as it arrived, the sand was gone. We had crystal clear waters again. Except that there was no sign of the missiles. I had been within arms reach when the wall of sand hit us, but now even feeling around under the sand revealed no trace of them.

The next incident occurred during a humanitarian job that we volunteered to perform. After a portion of bridge collapsed over 50 foot deep ocean waters, we volunteered to recover the vehicles, and hopefully the bodies. By the time we arrived on scene the collapse had taken place just over a week ago. We spent the first day surveying the area and developing a plan to lift the most we could in the week timeframe we had available. By the start of day two we were actively pulling vehicles off the bottom. It was a difficult job to say the least, but not because of the effort required. The state of disarray in the cars was heartbreaking. These weren’t military pilots or sailors lost at sea. These were families on vacation or people commuting to work. It was hard to say what was harder. The cars where we found an entire family. With the parents seat belts unbuckled and them in the backseat having been trying to unbuckle their children. Or the cars where the parents got out, leaving the children buckled in the backseat. I tried not to imagine the panic that had been going on inside the cars as they flooded from broken windshields or windows, as people frantically tried to escape. But I couldn’t forgive those that left their family to drown. Each day we moved on to a new section of cars. And on the fourth day we started noticing several of the cars had their doors open and nobody inside. We were happy to find easier work, especially under the assumption that the tragedy had been lessened by people escaping the wrecks. That is until I began rigging a minivan for removal. The family inside hadn’t been so lucky. As I ran slings through the van and prepared it be lifted. I noticed the other diver inspecting the rigging gear. He began undoing one of my shackles. I asked what he was doing, and the response was not what I’d hoped for. “I’m checking this truck for bodies” I felt the familiar sick in my gut sensation. Slowly, I crept over to the diver, and turned his body toward me. It resisted, but slowly turned its face toward me. It’s faceplate was fogged up, and I fought my better judgement. I leaned in close, and I wish to this day I hadn’t. It was dark, but I could all too clearly make out the features. Rotting flesh. The person wearing this helmet had long since passed away. I lost my confidence, starting to scream. My comms were blazing, divers and topside were frantically trying to get my attention. But I was focused on one thing only. I was scrambling backward, away from him. But I had fowled my umbilical around the rigging gear in my state of panic. The thing had again returned its focus to the minivan. As I frantically cleared myself from the slings, I noticed the telltale lack of bubbles coming from the helmet. It was opening the minivan door and reaching inside. As I swam away from the van, I watched it grab one of the passengers and drag them into the darkness.

This was when I began to realize I might not be cut out for working beneath the seas. I continued diving for longer than I knew I should. The entire time the thought lingering in the back of my mind. I need to get a safer career.

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