Divers Train up to 100 metres Below Surface at Remote Tasmanian Lake
‘A cold, dark lake in remote north-west Tasmania has become an unlikely destination for a global training operation. Lake Cethana is one of only a few places in the world that offers a commercial saturation diving course that trains students to work on offshore oil and gas rigs. The lake is up to 100 metres deep in places and students are given the skills to do underwater construction and maintenance.
The divers are lowered into the water in complete darkness, and even with hot water pumped into their suits their fingers start to go numb. “It’s very cold for a start, it’s about 4 degrees Celsius and you can’t see much when you get down,” diver Thomas Mallinson said. “I think it’s because all of the tannin in the water [it’s] very dark — that’s why we have torches and stuff like that. “You can only see what’s in your torchlight really.”
Mr Mallinson is a welder by trade and he is learning how to fix pipes underwater. It is one of the jobs students learn to do, but it is very different to working on land. “Welding underwater, you can’t really see the process as much, so it’s more by feel,” he said. When the cage divers are brought back to the surface, the men are moved quickly into a decompression chamber. The chamber is the same as those used at sea on oil and gas rigs, where divers spend up to a month going down to depths of 100 metres or more. The work is lucrative and can pay about $3,000 a day, but it has its downsides.
Decompressing from saturation diving can take almost a week, leaving the workers trapped in the small chamber. ‘Robots could never replace divers’ Diving instructor Alex Caie said the work being taught at Lake Cethana was specialist work that could not be done by machines. “Divers can think for themselves, they can see outside the scope of what an ROV (remote operated vehicle) is looking at,” he said. “An ROV might not be able to get into an installation to tighten up an object they see there that’s not correct an ROV, probably won’t see it where as a diver will see it … and think ‘we need to do this, lets get it done’.”
Melbourne diver Angus Knappstein is training on this course at depths of up to 50 metres. “We do generally a lot of wharf carpentry, so a lot of up keep and maintenance work,” he said. “So this will take me up a level in my diving so I can go offshore which again is maintenance work and fixing stuff underwater.” Ronald Zapata, a diver from Columbia, said he hoped to work on offshore oil and gas rigs. “I never get scared about going in the water, it’s something I’m comfortable doing,” he said. “For me it is alright, I feel great down there, peaceful.” ‘
Reproduced from an article written by Felicity Ogilvie for ABC News, Australia which you can view here.