Interview of a Commercial Diver Part 1

The boat he dove from

Interview of a Diver

I am doing a series of several interviews with a man who is a commercial diver and commercial fisherman, who works off of the coast of southern California. The purpose of these interviews is to better inform the public as a whole, about what the divers do, what their restrictions are, and why there are those restriction. It is also to educate the general public as to who has the final say when it comes to making the laws, restrictions, and bans, and if they are educated enough to make these laws. We will also cover many other areas which will be revealed as we go along. It will be a question and answer type of format, and I will try to do my best to cover any possible questions that may be misunderstood, or not understood at all, by the public at large.

So, with no further ado, here we go.

  • What is your name, and how long have you been a commercial diver?

My name is Bruce Douglas, and I have been a commercial diver for about fifteen or twenty years.

  • Where have you done most of your diving?

Off of the Santa Rosa Island, which is located approximately 15 miles sw of Santa Barbara California, in the Channel Islands National Park.

  • How did you begin diving commercially?

One of my oldest surfing buddies taught me after I got out of the Navy. I looked him up and found out that he had a job opening on his boat as a tender, not a diver.

  • What is a tender?

A deck hand who watches the boat, the hoses of the divers underwater, the air compressor to make sure it continues to run, and pulls the divers back to the boat when it is time for them to come up?

  • How do you know when it is time for the diver to come up, and do the divers watch it for themselves or is that part of your job also?

As diving got more sophisticated it became the job of the diver himself, but not that long ago before gauges told them when, it was the job of the tender.

  • What happens if a diver does not come up when he is supposed to, say for example he does not pay close enough attention to his gauges?

The tender should jerk on the divers hose, and if he does not get a response, he then should pull the diver up himself.

  • If a diver for whatever reason spends too much time underwater at a depth of let's say 50 feet, what happens to him if he is just suddenly pulled straight up?

He gets the bends.

  • Could you explain just briefly what the bends are, and what happens to a person?

As you dive using compressed air, there are molecules of nitrogen in the air mixture. When you spend too much time underwater at whatever depth, when you are brought straight up, those molecules of nitrogen collect in your bloodstream, forming bubbles that can get stuck in your joints, which is very painful, but worse than that, they can collect in your heart, lungs, or brain which can form an embolism, and can kill you. The person must be rushed to a decompression chamber and allowed to decompress slowly in order for the nitrogen to dissolve.


the first boat I worked off of
the first boat I worked off of
  • OK, this information has given us some background on the dangers of what you do, besides the obvious ones we all know about, like sharks, but lets get on with how you went from just a deck hand, to a diver yourself. How did you learn to dive?

The man who brought me onto his boat to tend, also taught me how to dive.

  • Did it take long? and how many lessons did you have before you actually got into the water?

I was told what to do and how to do it, and the same day was thrown into the water five miles off the beach to untangle a net from the prop of another fishing boat that was stuck in the water with no means of moving. Nobody there was willing to get into the water to untangle it because they were afraid of sharks that had been seen earlier. My friend/boss told me that if I wanted to become a diver, this was my opportunity, and so I did it. It was by far the scariest thing I had ever done. I was in a wetsuit that did not fit me right, and the seas where rough. I was hyperventilating because of the fear factor, and because of a lack of information. I was so petrified that my hands were shaking so hard that when I cut the net free of the prop, I also cut my hand rather badly. I yelled back to my boss because of the blood in the water, and the sharks, and he pulled me back into his boat just as fast as I was known to pull him back, which was the best feeling ever. When I got back into the boat, he told me, "Congratulations, you just moved up from tender to diver. Good job!"

  • How much longer did you tend before you began diving for yourself on a regular basis?

About five to six months.

  • Alright, would it be ok with you to get together at another time, and discuss with you the specific places, and creatures that you dove for, and give us some examples of maybe some close calls, some of the problems that have arisen, and some other specific questions I have about the business end of this job?

That would be perfectly fine with me, and I will be looking forward to talking to you. It has been a long time since anyone has been interested in the business end of this job, and the problems we have had in the past and present regarding bans, co-ops, processing, and that sort of thing. I will be looking forward to getting this information out to the public. Thank you very much.

As we ended this interview, I sensed that there were possibly some political and social issues that Bruce was interested in talking about. I assured him that because this was to be a series of interviews, that we would be sure to talk about any or all of these issues, not to worry.

Be looking forward to the next interview in about a week or so, and enjoy.

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