Working Underwater: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


An illustrated history of the commercial diving industry paired with the histories of companies that have helped shape the industry.


The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry

by Mike Cox

A 50th anniversary commemorative publication of the Association of Diving Contractors International

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The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry

by Mike Cox

A 50th anniversary commemorative publication of

the Association of Diving Contractors International

A publication of Press and Publications,

Association of Diving Contractors International


A division of Lammert Incorporated

San Antonio, Texas









First Edition

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from the publisher. All inquiries should be addressed to HPNbooks, 11535 Galm Road, Suite 101, San Antonio, Texas, 78254. Phone (800) 749-9790,

ISBN: 978-1-944891-50-3

Library of Congress Card Catalog Number: 2018942132

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


Working Underwater: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry

author: Mike Cox

cover photographer: United States Navy

contributing writer for “Sharing the Heritage”: Joe Goodpasture


chairman and chief executive officer: Jean-Claude Tenday

publisher and chief creative officer: Bernard O’Connor

president and chief revenue officer: Ron Lammert

project manager: Mary Hanley

administration: Donna M. Mata

Melissa G. Quinn,

Lori K. Smith

Kristin T. Williamson

book sales: Joe Neely

production: Colin Hart

Evelyn Hart

Glenda Tarazon Krouse

Tim Lippard

Craig Mitchell

Christopher D. Sturdevant

An early day diver suiting up.




These companies have made major contribution to the book as part of our Legacy Program. We could not have made this book possible

without their leadership and participation.

Divers Institute of Technology

1341 North Northlake Way

Seattle, Washington 98103


J.F. Brennan Company, Inc.

Brennan Marine

818 Bainbridge Street

La Crosse, Wisconsin 54603


WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


Mainstream Commercial Divers, Inc.

322 C.C. Lowry Drive

Murray, Kentucky 42071


Underwater Construction Corporation

110 Plains Road

Essex, Connecticut 06426


Walker Diving Underwater Construction, LLC

75 Waterford Road,

Hammonton, New Jersey 08037




WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry




When the sails of the six Spanish ships rose over the horizon off the long, narrow sand barrier

that centuries later would come to be known as Padre Island, lookouts in the rigging made out a

bearded, semi-clad man waving frantically from the wreckage of a vessel partially submerged in the

pounding surf.

Of some 400 men, women and children who had been aboard three ships that had wrecked off

this remote shore during a storm that spring, this man was one of only a handful of survivors. Half

of those on the ships had drowned during the storm. Most of the rest had been slaughtered on the

sand by Karankawa Indians. But for whatever reason, Francisco Vasquez had remained behind. He

kept to the wreckage, for three months living mostly off raw fish and whatever of the ship’s stores

he had salvaged. Like the scurrying sand crabs that formed part of his diet, he came out only at

night to avoid discovery by the Indians.

Captain Garcia de Escalante Alvarado afforded the sunburned survivor clothing, food and the

comfort of shipboard life, but the captain had not come on a humanitarian mission. Another ship

had been dispatched earlier in a vain search for survivors, somehow not finding Vasquez. Now

Alvarado’s task was to recover as much of the gold, silver and other cargo as possible. In addition

to the precious metals, coins and jewelry, the ill-fated flota (flotilla) had been carrying resins, sugar,

wood, cowhides and cochinel (a red dye could be produced from them).

In the wake of one of Spain’s worst maritime disasters to that point in its history, the New World’s

first known use of divers in a salvage operation would soon begin in what are now Texas waters.

Four ships had set sail from Vera Cruz on April 9, 1555, and laid a course across the Gulf of

Mexico. Bound for Spain, they would stop at La Havana, Cuba, and then continue across the

Atlantic laden with treasure for their home country. The vessels had made it half-way to Cuba when

on April 29 they encountered a severe storm. Only one of the vessels reached Cuba. The other three,

the San Esteban, the Espiritu Santo, and the Santa Maria de Yciar, wrecked on the Gulf Coast.

The captain of the San Esteban left in a salvaged boat with some of his crew to sail for Vera Cruz

to summon help. The other survivors, thinking they were not that far from the coastal city of

Tampico, set out on foot. All but one of them, a priest named Fray Marcos de Mena, ended up

getting killed by Indians.

A rescue mission led by Captain Angel de Villafane left Vera Cruz on June 6 shortly after word

of the tragedy reached Spanish officials there. Whether Villafane located any human remains when

he arrived six weeks after the disaster is not mentioned in later accounts of the event, but after

finding no survivors, he began diving on the wreckage of the Espiritu Santo. One of his divers

recovered the trunk of a man the captain had known. While the body of its owner had been lost

to the sea and its creatures, the trunk held three silver disks, 100 silver coins, and fine clothing.

Alvarado had left Vera Cruz on July 15, beginning his salvage operation six days later on the

wreckage of the San Esteban. Anchoring his fleet safely beyond the surf, he sent crew members and

divers ashore in long boats to establish a base camp on the beach. To locate the hulks, the

Spaniards dragged a chain between two small vessels until it snagged on wreckage. On August 20,

Alvarado found the Santa Maria de Yciar, eventually recovering seven boxes of treasure she had on

board when she foundered. In the process, however, the captain lost one of his salvage vessels in

another storm.

Fortunately for the salvers, the storm-tossed ships had gone down in shallow water, only 20 feet

at the deepest point. Divers using weights for rapid descent and relying only on the air they could

hold in their lungs, their eyes burning from the salt water, recovered a substantial amount of the

lost treasure—but not all of it—in an operation that continued through September 12.

A map of the northern hemisphere from

Speculum Orbis Terrae by Cornelius de

Jode, 1593. The Age of Discovery and

conquest of the New World led to the first

use of free diving for commercial purposes

by Europeans in salvage operations in

the Americas.



Above: A silver two-real coin recovered from

the waters of the Gulf Coast.


Below: Pearl Diving by Johannes

Stradanus, c. 1596.



When the salvage expedition made it back

to Vera Cruz, Spanish auditors counted

35,805 pounds of recovered precious metals,

jewelry and coins. But roughly 60 percent of

the treasure the wrecked fleet had been

carrying remained missing, some 51,000

pounds worth millions in the 21st century.

The operation had cost the Spanish crown

one of the salvage vessels, lost in a storm on

August 30, but from the perspective of King

Charles V, the effort had been worth it.

The disastrous aftermath of that sixteenth

century expedition marked the first time

anywhere on the North American continent

that free diving had been employed for

economic reasons by Europeans. The story of

commercial diving involves a world-wide

progression of scientific discovery and

technological innovation on the part of a

diverse group of people, but going under

water purely for financial gain had its New

World beginning in the crashing surf off the

coast of Texas, some 50 miles south of

present-day Corpus Christi.



For untold thousands of years, man had

been diving under water first for food and then

for material gain, but in their long course of

evolution, homo sapiens had evolved as land

beings. Unlike the gilled creatures of the sea or

those confined to fresh water, a man’s lungs

could not derive oxygen from water. In time,

humans would begin to develop mechanical

means to stay under water for longer periods of

time and to descend ever deeper, but it all

started at some distant point in pre-history

when that first human sucked in a deep lungful

of air, instinctively held his nose and plunged

below the surface, opening stinging eyes to a

water-clouded vision of another world.

Archeologists investigating sites dating to

roughly 5500 BCE have found shells that only

could have been retrieved from deep water by

the hand of man. That those shells had belonged

to mollusks and other crustations point to the

initial impetus for diving as being a quest for an

essential part of staying alive—food.

But objects of beauty considered even more

desirable because of their scarcity also attracted

early men, giving them more motivation for

diving beneath the water surface.

At a 7,500-year-old burial site in Umm al

Quwain in the United Arab Emirates,

archeologists found the oldest archeological

pearl. Scientists say this is the earliest known

evidence of the long-standing pearl diving

industry along the Persian Gulf. The

Phoenicians in the 6th century BCE are

known to have traded for dive-harvested

Murex shells, from which a valuable purple

die could be derived. Digs in Egypt at sites

dating to 3200 BCE have revealed carved

mother of pearl. Again, only divers could have

brought those shells with their iridescent

interiors to the hands of artisans.

Ancient Greece, the culture that gave the

world everything from philosophy and

mathematics to the notion of the republican

form of government also saw the development

of commercial diving as an industry. The natural

resource stimulating this new industry was the

sponge, a cavity-filled, multi-cellular undersea

organism that once processed could be used for

hygienic or cosmetic proposes because it could

both hold water and other liquids such as oil or

perfume and when squeezed, release that liquid.

Due to high demand for this undersea

commodity, sponge diving became a

profitable undertaking. However, it was a

dangerous way to make a living. Wrote the

young but observant Greco-Roman poet

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


Oppian in the second century A.D: “No ordeal

is more terrible than that of the sponge divers

and no labor is more arduous for men.”

Tethered divers jumped into the water

clutching flat, heavy rocks so they could

quickly reach the bottom. Then, holding their

breaths for three to five minutes and generally

operating about 30 feet down, they harvested as

many sponges as they could and stuffed them

into nets. To compensate for the pain to their

ears from water pressure, divers poured oil into

their ear canals. They also filled their mouths

with oil, spitting it out once on the bottom.

Sponge diving even became an Olympic sport,

with competitors judged on their speed and the

amount of sponge they surfaced with.

A traveler visiting the Greek island of Symi

in 1837 recorded another benefit that could

accrue to the better sponge divers:

When a man of any property intends to

have his daughter married, he appoints a

certain day. Then all the young, unmarried

men [sponge divers all] repair to the seaside,

where they strip themselves in the presence of

the father and his daughter and begin diving.

He who goes deepest into the sea, and remains

longest under the water, obtains the lady.

Of course, he who went deepest and

remained longest often obtained early death

instead of fair maiden.

Free diving for sponges persisted into the

twentieth century, though with technological

development and the invention of synthetic

sponges, it had almost become a thing of the

past by then.





Early man knew that the sea and other deep

water, whether by accident of fate or the whim

of one of their deities, swallowed men and the

vessels they built. The sea and its creatures,

from giant sharks to minute worms, sooner or

later consumed flesh, wood, sail cloth and

rope, but glass, pottery, metal, precious metals

and gems merely sank to the bottom.

Herodotus, the Greek historian, left the

earliest known account of divers being used

in search of sunken treasure. Writing in the

fifth century BCE, he told of a Greek diver

named Schllias (or Skyllias)—“as a diver the

best of all men”—and his daughter, Cyane.

Both had been retained by Persian King

Xerxes to bring up treasure from Persian

galleys sunk by Grecian war vessels a halfcentury


Father and daughter (naturally having more

fatty cells women were less affected by cold

water) dove on the sunken ships and recovered

much of the valuables they had held. The king

had promised them a portion of what they

found by way of compensation, but being king,

he kept the booty and held them prisoner on

his galley for future diving jobs.

Diving for natural sponges in the

mid-twentieth century.



A sixteenth-century painting depiciting

Alexander the Great in a glass diving bell.



During a storm, Schllias and Cyane

jumped overboard and cut the anchor ropes

of the Persian armada. That underwater

action caused the chaos the pair had

expected. Once the captains had their vessels

under control, they began searching for the

two escaped divers. Meanwhile, father and

daughter had swum underwater and

undetected to safety at Artemisium. In doing

that, the two are believed to have used hollow

reeds as breathing tubes, an early instance of

what came to be called snorkeling.



No one is known to have noted when or

where it happened, but at some point prior to

the beginning of the common era 21 centuries

ago, someone observed that a solid container

such as a cauldron or barrel, would not fill

completely if pushed down into the water.

When that happens, an air pocket remains.

In 360 BCE, Aristotle noted in his

Problematum that to supply sponge divers “…

with a facility of respiration, a kettle is let

down to them, not filled with water, but with

air, which constantly assists the submerged

man; it is forcibly kept upright in its descent,

in order that it may be sent down at an equal

level all around, to prevent the air from

escaping and the water from entering….”

What the Greek philosopher described

came to be called a diving bell or caisson, the

more common term being diving bell.

Alexander the Great is said to have

descended in a glass diving bell as his soldiers

and seamen fought to take the island of Tyre

in 332 BCE. More recent scholarship,

however, suggests that the story is merely a

legend, appearing both in medieval Western

European texts and Islamic literature. True or

not, the diving bell was the first assisted form

of commercial diving.

By at least the second century of the

common era, a collective of Roman divers

called the Corpus Urinatorum did salvage

work at the port of Ostia on the mouth of the

River Tiber. They handled underwater aspects

of construction and maintenance of bridge

and harbor infrastructure as well as salvage

work. These divers operated under Lex

Rhodia, or the Rhodian Sea Laws. The laws

had been developed to settle disputes over

salvage rights. If these divers salvaged a wreck

lying deeper than 50 feet, they received a

third of the salvage rights. Wrecks deeper

than 90 feet netted a diver half the profit.

Modern marine archeologists have found

ancient shipwrecks which appear to have

been probed by these early free-divers

The first known use of a diving bell after

that came in 1531 CE when Italian divers

used a Campana Urinatoria (“bell for diving”)

to find two supposedly treasure-laden

pleasure galleys that had belonged to the

licentious Roman emperor Caligula. Invented

by Guglielmo de Lorena, an Italian physicist,

the device was a barrel-shaped “bell” that

went over the diver’s head and torso. With the

bell supported by a sturdy rope, the diver

could walk on the bottom for more than an

hour before he had to surface for fresh air.

Seven years later, in a different part of

Europe, two Greek divers built a larger diving

bell, one big enough to hold both inventors

seated on planks inside. The pair not only

were granted an audience with King Charles V

of Spain, a reported 10,000 citizens of Toledo

and environs showed up to see the device

demonstrated. As the crowd looked on, the

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


ell was lowered into the Tagus River. Before

entering the device, one of the divers carried a

candle. After the bell had been under water for

a time, it was raised and the two inventors

emerged in fine shape. And their candle was

still burning.

In the following century, Oppenheim artist

and inventor Franz Kessler (c. 1580-1650)

designed an improved diving bell in 1616. It

looked like a man-sized thimble with eyes,

the diver secured by a harness inside a

leather-covered barrel with glass view ports.

Von Guericke, in 1650, invented the first

truly efficient air pump. Not only would that

allow fresh air to be pumped down into diving

bells, it made possible scientific experimentation

on pressure and decompression.

Another early instance of commercial

diving came in 1658 when Albrecht von

Treileben salvaged the Vasa, a Swedish

warship sunk in Stockholm harbor 30 years

before. Using a diving bell, divers working for

von Treileben succeeded in raising nearly all

of the ship’s bronze guns.

An Englishman named Richard Norwood

(1590?-1675) is credited with the first use of a

diving bell in the New World. A mathematician

and surveyor (some accounts say he dabbled in

piracy as well), Norwood sailed to Bermuda in

1616 to survey the islands for the Somers Isles

Company. Hearing of supposedly treasure-laden

shipwrecks, he used a weighted, inverted wine

barrel in an unsuccessful search for bounty.

More successful if on a smaller scale, in 1655,

one Robert Willis used some form of diving bell

in New England to salvage lost property.

The flowering of scientific research and the

arts that came with the Renaissance saw

scholars developing new findings in physics

and inventors experimenting with devices to

assist man in underwater tasks, particularly

diving bells. George Sinclair, a professor at

Glasgow University in Scotland wrote in 1669

of his theories regarding diving bells. In 1689,

French physicist Denis Papin (1647-c. 1713)

posited that a force pump or bellows could be

used to provide fresh air to a diving bell.

In 1686, Maine-born William Phipps (1651-

1695) succeeded in getting financial backing

for a venture in search of sunken treasure in

what is now the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

He must have been pretty persuasive, because

all he had to go on was mere rumor and

speculation as to the location of a lost Spanish

galleon, the Nuestra Senora de la Concepion.

Nevertheless, he found the wreck in January

1687 off the coast of Santo Domingo and began

his salvage efforts the following month. Using a

square wooden diving bell re-enforced with

iron bands that had windows and a stool on

which divers could sit, Phipps used enslaved

natives to recover the sunken vessel’s valuable

cargo. He sailed for England that April with 30

tons of silver, a quantity of gold and jewels. In

modern dollars, that would be a $1 million

haul. On his return, he was greeted as a hero

and knighted. In addition, he netted onesixteenth

of the treasure’s value and got named

governor of Massachusetts.

The prospect of recovering sunken treasure

continued to drive innovation in diving. In

1689, Sir Edmond Halley—the English

astronomer who discovered the comet still

bearing his name—developed a wooden diving

bell with a window that could stay under water

far longer than previous bells. Halley’s bell was 3

W. Hooper’s rendering of Sir Edmond

Halley’s diving bell.



A replica of John Lethbridge’s diving

engine at La Cité de la Mer in

Cherbourg, France.

feet in diameter at the top, 5 feet in diameter at

the bottom and 5 feet high. With a volume of 64

cubic feet, it needed nearly 4,000 pounds of

lead sheathing to overcome its buoyancy.

Rather than using a pump to supply air to

his bell, he sent air down in weighted 36-

gallon barrels through which fresh air could

be taken in via a hose. Stale air, which he

referred to as “warm” air, was released

through a valve at the top of the bell.

“This I take to be an invention applicable to

various uses,” he wrote, “such as fishing for

pearls, diving for coral or sponges and the like,

in far greater depths than has hitherto been

thought possible; also for the fitting and

placing of the foundations of moles, bridges,

&c., in rocky bottoms, and for cleaning and

scrubbing of ships’ bottoms when foul, in

calm weather at sea.”

Halley was not interested in becoming a

professional diver, but he did personally test

his invention. He went down 60 feet and

remained submerged for more than an hour

and a half.

“…I found that I could do anything that

required to be done just under us,” Halley

wrote in describing his descent, “and that I

could, for a space as wide as the circuit of the

bell, lay the bottom of the sea so far dry, as not

to be over shoes thereon. And, by the glass

window, so much light was transmitted, that

when the sea was clear, and especially when

the sun shone, I could see perfectly well to

write or read….

However, the scientist observed that being

that deep hurt his ears “as if a quill had been

thrust into them.” Clearly, there were

additional factors in diving to be considered

other than the availability of oxygen.

While knights and nobles did the scientific

work, in 1715 an English commoner named

John Lethbridge (1678-1759) sought to

convert theory to money. As an alternative to

the diving bell, the Devonshire man had a

cooper build him a leather-sealed, wooden

cylinder with watertight portals through

which arms could protrude, making the

person inside look something like a walking

fat cigar. He called his lead-weighted

apparatus a diving engine. It was six feet long,

with a diameter of two and a half feet at the

top, 18 inches at the bottom. That gave it a

volume of about 30 gallons. Once inside,

while peering through a glass window, a diver

could descend to 60 feet (and to 72 feet “with

great difficulty”) and stay down using the air

trapped inside for about 30 minutes. Before

the diver ran out of air, the “engine” would be

pulled to the surface and the air inside

replenished with a bellows. In the advent of

an emergency, the device had detachable

weights so that it would pop to the surface if

they were released.

Though his “engine” was not an engine in the

modern sense of the word, it certainly proved to

be an economic engine. Using the wooden

submersible he invented, Lethbridge and his son

spent the next three decades doing salvage work

on shipwrecks. His contract to salvage the

sunken Slotter Hooge for the Dutch East India

Company provided that he would be paid 10

pounds sterling a month, plus expenses. Any

bonuses would be up to the “generosity of the

company directors.” While profit had for

centuries been the primary motive for risking

one’s life underwater, Lethbridge was arguably

the first commercial diver.

Sixty years after Lethbridge had his “diving

engine” built, in 1775 Edinburgh confectioner

Charles Spalding enhanced Halley’s diving bell

design, and the astronomer’s air supply

technique by developing a weight mechanism to

make it easier to lower and raise the container.

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


1788, when John Smeaton (1724-1792)

designed a diving bell made of cast iron

instead of wood. He also invented the first

hand-powered pump to force fresh air into

the bell through a hose. His device had other

innovations as well, including valves to keep

air from being sucked back up the supply

hose if the pumping stopped.

In 1779, Smeaton’s device was employed

in underwater repair work at the Hexham

Bridge in Northumberland, England.

Smeaton’s second major contribution to

commercial diving was designing the world’s

first cast iron diving bell. As was his wooden

prototype, the iron bell was supplied with air

by the pump he invented.

By 1800, the use of diving bells for

underwater work had become commonplace

in Europe and North America. Still, as British

diving historian Dr. Peter Bennett noted in his

paper “A History of Deep Commercial

Diving,” while diving bells offered “remotely

acceptable level of safety,” they were far from

perfect. Such devices were expensive and

required “considerable manpower to achieve

limited diving effort that could only be

undertaken in sheltered water.” The maritime

world needed a more efficient system for

underwater work.

Above: An 1860 rendering of Charles

Spalding’s diving bell. Spalding and a

relative would suffocate in a diving bell of

his design in 1783.

Left: With this imagined system, all a diver

had to do was slide down a pole into a

diving bell.


In addition, he added a system of ropes so those

in the bell could signal the support crew above.

Improved as it was by earlier standards,

Spalding and a relative suffocated in his bell in

1783 offshore from Dublin.

The first American innovation in the

development of commercial diving came in

Since the Bronze age, man had been

fashioning metal helmets to protect

combatants from sword blows, arrows and

spears. But with the development of highvelocity

firearms and artillery, the reliance on

steel helmets and suits of armor in warfare

had been made obsolete.

Not until 1771 did it occur to a Frenchman

named Freminet that a helmet might be used to

protect divers. In addition to designing a brass

helmet with glass-covered eye holes, he

developed a “breathing machine” that connected

by two hoses to the helmet. The device was

trailed behind a suited diver though he later

fitted it to be carried on a diver’s back. He used

his helmeted diving suit in the harbors of Le

Havre and Brest for more than a decade.

Helmets and diving suits (originally referred

to as diving dresses) developed together.



Above: A design for an early diving suit by

Karl Klingert from 1797. This device might

have worked as long as the diver did not

bend over or step ono anything sharp on the

sea floor.

Below: A sealed diving suit patented June

14, 1834.

The invention of the diving dress,” the

1904 edition of the Encyclopedia of Britannica

said, “like that of most useful appliances, was

gradual, and the work of many minds.”

In 1786, John and William Braithwaite

came up with a more efficient version of

Freminet’s helmet and a year later, a German

designer also developed a diving helmet. More

than four decades would pass before a more

efficient system of helmet, suit and air supply

evolved. As with many innovations, it came

about as an effort to solve some other problem.

Charles Anthony Dean and his younger

brother John, like so many Englishmen of

their time, made their living in the maritime

world—Charles as a sailor, John as a shipyard

worker who specialized in caulking the hulls

of wooden ships. Both saw firsthand that

drowning was not the only hazard connected

to plying the vast waters separating the

various holdings of the British Empire. Fire at

sea or dockside could burn a ship to the

waterline. Even if the fire were brought under

control in time to save the ship, thick,

superheated smoke could kill a man.

At some point in 1823 or 1824, Charles

had an idea. After witnessing a fire that broke

out in a stable, Charles thought what he called

a “smoke helmet” could benefit firefighters.

He fashioned a copper helmet with a small

glass window attached to a flexible collar and

suit. A leather hose through which air could

be pumped by a bellows was attached to the

back of the helmet. A final touch was a valve

for the release of stale air.

In 1824, he filed a patent for an “apparatus

to be worn by persons entering rooms or

other places filled with smoke or other

vapour, for the purpose of extinguishing fire

or extricating persons or property therein.”

William Barnard, the owner of the London

shipyard where Deane worked, paid him 417

pounds for what was called an “indenture of

assignment,” essentially preempting any further

right Deane had to his invention. Since no one

was interested in manufacturing it, Deane may

have gotten the best end of the deal.

In addition to their experience on or near

the water, the brothers had on occasion gone

beneath the surface in a diving bell. At some

point it occurred to one or the other of them

that the helmet Charles had conceived could

be used, in effect, as a miniature diving bell.

Charles and John paid London engineer

Augustus Siebe to build a helmet to their

specifications in 1827. Two years later, in 10

feet of water off the Isle of Wight, the brothers

salvaged the cargo of a beached ship owned by

the East India Company. That shallow dive is

considered the world’s first commercial dive

using a diving helmet and suit.

The Deane diving apparatus was far from

perfect. The helmet connected to a jacket, but

it was not a sealed system. In fact, water rose

to the bottom of the helmet, leaving only

enough room for the wearer to see and breath.

But if the diver leaned forward, the helmet

could flood with water. Obviously, if a diver

happened to fall, he likely would drown.

Another problem was that the bellows used

to pump air into the Deane brothers’ diving

apparatus could not produce enough pressure

to allow for a deeper dive. The brothers again

sought out Siebe to build them a stronger

pump. By 1832, they were able to go down as

far as 60 feet. Four years later, with an even

more efficient pump, they made it to 100 feet.

In addition to their seminal design work, in

1836 the brothers produced the world’s first

diving manual, Method of Using Deanne’s Patent

Diving Apparatus.

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


With the world’s first practical diving gear,

the brothers made numerous successful dives,

including salvage operations on two of

England’s best-known shipwrecks, the Royal

George and the Mary Rose.

A 100-gun, first-rate ship of the line, the

Royal George had capsized off Portsmouth in

1782 with roughly 900 crew and family

members drowned. At the time, it was the

largest warship in the world. Diving on the

wreckage from 1834 to 1836, Charles Deane

recovered 28 of the ship’s cannon.

Meanwhile, after fishing boats started getting

their nets tangled in something on the bottom

of the Solent, the straits north of the Isle of

Wight, the British Admiralty hired diver Henry

Abbinett to see if he could determine what had

been snaring the nets. In June 1836 he found

that it was the wreckage of a large ship resting

on its side partially imbedded into the sea floor.

Rather than proceeding with Abbinett, the

Navy turned to Charles Deane based on his

success in working the wreck of the Royal

George. In mid-month, Dean and his partner,

William Edwards, began diving on the wreck.

They brought up some of the ship’s timbers,

weapons and other artifacts to the surface.

Based on the maker’s stamp on one of the

recovered guns, the wreck was positively

identified as the Mary Rose that August. That

warship had gone down on July 19, 1545,

during the Battle of Solent with the loss of

some four hundred lives.

Even though the Mary Rose had been

beneath the sea for nearly three hundred years,

the diving effort was more a commercial

enterprise than historical project. The

fishermen and Deane and his partner made

money off the deal, though Abbinett was denied

a share in the profits.

In 1837, Siebe introduced what came to be

called the “closed” dress as opposed to the

earlier diving jacket, which was called an

“open” dress since it was not watertight.

Deane began diving on the Mary Rose again

in 1840. This time, in another commercial

diving first, he used explosives to expose

more of the wreckage and brought up more

relics that would be offered for sale.

Left: Charles and John Deane wrote the first

diving manual in 1836.

Right: An illustration of Charles Deane

working twenty-one feet underwater off the

London commercial dock.



Above: The HMS Royal George can be seen

on the far right in this painting by John

Cleveley the Elder, 1757. Diving dress

inventor Charles Deane was hired to

salvage the wreck of the Royal George in

1834, carrying out dives over the course of

two years. Dean would ultimately salvage

28 of the ship’s 100 cannons.

Below: An illustration of the Mary Rose, the

flagship of Henry VIII, by Anthony Roll.

Charles Deane was hired by the Royal Navy

to salvage the ship nearly three hundred

years after she sank at the Battle of Solent.

Just before Deane began his work on the

wreck that had proven to be the Mary Rose, the

Royal Navy resumed salvage operations on the

Royal George. Charles Pasley (1780-1861), a

colonel in the Royal Engineers, would use

explosives to break up the wreck and then

salvage as much as he could. At first, Pasley

employed civilian divers, but in 1840 he began

using some of his Royal Sappers. In the

process, he developed procedures and

techniques that would become mainstays of

commercial diving. He regulated the length of

dives and allowed for a brief rest period

between dives. In ordering his divers to work

in pairs, he is credited with the first known use

of the so-called “buddy system” in diving.

No matter Pasley’s innovative safety

measures, spending time underwater at depth

took a toll on the men. A doctor observed that

divers came up looking “pale, languid and

exhausted,” further noting: “They all agree that

they are much weakened and wasted by the

exertion, and as they express it, they are not the

men they were when they began the operation.”

One of his divers made the first recorded

emergency ascent when his air hose became

tangled and he had to cut the line.

Pasley continued his work on the Royal

George until 1843. By that time, 30 more

guns and everything from the ship surgeon’s

instruments to silk clothing had been

removed from the hulk. When the ship’s keel

was raised along with its bottom tenders, the

wreck was considered clear and no longer a

navigational hazard.

Salvage work on the two wrecks had

greatly advanced diving technology. “The long

continued experience gained in diving while

these operations were in progress suggested

improvements and alterations which had a

great effect in bringing the diving dress to its

present perfection as now manufactured,” the

1904 Encyclopedia of Britannica concluded.

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


Charles Deane died in 1848, but brother

John lived on for another 36 years. Still diving

at age 56, he was hired by the Royal Navy to

salvage sunken Russian ships in the Black Sea.

That work involved diving under ice.



Imitation may be the sincerest form of

flattery, but sometimes “stealing” is a more

accurate word than “imitation.”

In 1837, North Carolina-born William H.

Taylor put out a pamphlet called A New and

Alluring Source of Enterprise in the Treasures of

the Sea, and the Means of Gathering Them. In it,

he referred to the Deane diving apparatus,

which the Deanes had begun manufacturing

and selling the year before.

Later that year, Taylor applied for a U.S.

patent for a diving suit he claimed as his own

design. Taylor’s “Submarine Armour” was

described as a helmet and dress which would

protect a diver “from the pressure of the water

and from danger from fishes, etc., and at the

same time give him the free use of his limbs and

enable him to be supplied with air….” When a

newspaper intimated that Taylor’s invention

closely resembled the Deane diving suit, Taylor

protested that his gear was “...of entirely

different principle and construction, and has

never been known until used by me in New

York.” That had happened in the late summer of

1837, when Taylor invited a reporter to try out

his equipment in the Hudson River.

The journalist survived the experience and

wrote an article about it, but Taylor wanted

more ink. In October, Taylor demonstrated

his apparatus in a large wooden vat at Niblo’s

Garden, a popular venue in New York City.

Initially, Taylor intended to drum up financial

backing for a deep water pearl harvesting

venture and diving on treasure-filled

shipwrecks in South America. While Taylor is

rightfully credited as being the founding

father of American commercial diving, he also

was an early—and successful—practitioner of

what today is known as public relations.

By 1838, Taylor had become convinced

that it made more sense to seek investors so

he could begin marketing his invention in the

U.S. To do that, he organized the New York

Sub-Marine Armour Company.

“It would appear that human enterprise,

not contented with exploring the fields of

earth and air, is seeking for itself occupation in

diving beneath the waves of the ocean, and

recovering thence treasure that had been

regarded as forever lost,” the Baltimore

Above: W. H. Taylor founded the Submarine

Armour Co. in the spring of 1838.

Below: An illustration of a rebreather

systerm from 1860.



James Buchanan Eads.

American observed in the late spring of 1838.

The article went on to credit “a Captain

Taylor” with inventing “an air and water tight

dress denominated ‘Submarine Armour’

the means of visiting the foundations of the

vast deep.” That fall, Taylor won a gold medal

at the annual New York Mechanic’s Fair after

demonstrating his diving suit.

Taylor had a partner, George W. Taylor, a

New Jersey native who traded in Indian rubber.

(From which diving hose was made.) The two

men were not related, but beyond having the

same last name, they shared a common interest

in making money off diving. In late 1838,

along with others, the two Taylors went to

Florida to salvage wrecks. Not long after they

got there, William Taylor’s promising career

ended in his mysterious and unpublicized

death. By February 1839, George Taylor was

referring to himself simply as “Captain Taylor.”

In essence, George Taylor had become William

Taylor. He even claimed to have been from

North Carolina. From 1840 to 1845, using his

late partner’s diving gear, Taylor the second did

marine salvage work in the New York area and

the Great Lakes.

In December 1845, he invited someone

only identified in the press as “F.R.” to

descend with him and two other gentlemen in

a diving bell at the Washington Navy Yard.

The first sensation, after being immersed

beneath the surface of the water, was one of

extreme uneasiness in the whole region of

lympanon, with a sensation of oppression on the

chest, which increased constantly until we had

reached the bottom of the river,” F.R. wrote in a

letter published by newspapers in the northeast.

Not wishing his guests to suffer undue

discomfort, Taylor sent a note up (F.R. did not

say how) and soon one of his assistants, clad in

submarine armour, descended with a chilled

bottle of “very passable” champagne for the

diving bell occupants. The underwater party

lasted about 20 minutes. No matter the sedative

effect of the bubbly, F.R. again felt the same sense

of unease he had experienced on the descent.

The closer the bell got to the surface, the worse

he felt. “After the rim of the bell had passed the

surface of the water, and the cold air rushed in,”

he concluded, “the contrast of the atmosphere

was so great as to excite much pain.”



With its high volume of travel, the

Mississippi River claimed hundreds of

riverboats, often due to boiler explosions,

collisions with other vessels or being

breached by submerged objects. By the

1840s, with more than 1,200 steamboats

churning up and down the mighty river and

its navigable tributaries, a robust salvage

industry had developed. The principle

method used to retrieve cargo and equipment

from wrecks was the diving bell and divers

wearing in submarine armour.

James Buchanan Eads pioneered the

development of the Mississippi River salvage

business. He and his family came to St. Louis

when he was 13. They arrived in 1833 on a

steamboat which caught fire at the wharf,

claiming eight lives. In 1842, then 22, Eads

convinced St. Louis shipbuilder William Nelson

to construct a salvage vessel to his specifications.

Eads had no money to pay for such a vessel, but

Nelson agreed to cover the cost in consideration

of half-interest in the river salvage business Eads

proposed. The steam-powered vessel Nelson

built was named the Submarine. Despite its

name, it did not operate underwater. But it

carried divers who did. Eads would in time

operate three other vessels on the river, the

Submarine 2, 3 and 4. Eventually, relying

primarily on diving bells, he expanded his

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


usiness beyond salvage work to include the

underwater aspects of bridge construction and

building navigational structures.

While Eads was the first to do salvage work

on the Mississippi, others followed. In March

1846, operating from a refitted former slave

ship named the Spitfire, Captain George

Taylor was in New Orleans to salvage the

steamboat Doctor Franklin, which sank off the

wharf after it collided with another riverboat.

The divers attract the notice of the

curious,” the New Orleans Daily Delta reported,

“especially the one who wears the Submarine

Armor, which probably was never seen worn

before in this city.”

The newspaper went on to explain the

simple business model of the salvors: Taylor

and his crew would receive 50 percent “on the

amount of everything brought up from the

sunken boat.” The value of the Doctor Franklin’s

cargo was estimated as $170,000, a staggering

amount of money at the time. Already, the

newspaper continued, the Spitfire crew had

recovered $5,000-$6,000 in goods.

But earning their money was not easy. “The

men have to perform a most difficult labor;

first from the coldness of the water, and next

from the mud which settles upon the wreck,

at the rate of about two inches thick, over the

deck, in every twenty-four hours.”

One recovery vessel that worked the

river full time was the St. Louis-based Sub

Occulator, which the Natchez Weekly Courier

described as “looking like a foundry with a

hardware store on top of it.” In the fall of

1847 the Sub Occulator tied up at Natchez to

lay in supplies before heading downstream to

dive on the wreck of the steamboat Tennessee.

“We are informed that [the Sub Occulator]

has made a very neat little fortune since it

commenced operation under the great highway

of western commerce,” the newspaper noted.

“Many fortunes have been made on the

Mississippi, but the Sub Occulator is the first

agent that has drawn its wealth from

Mississippi mud. May it go on, and go down,

and draw up, until the industry of all on board

has been amply rewarded.”

The Mississippi salvage business flourished

during the golden age of riverboats, but

continued with the emergence of barge traffic.



When the Mexican War broke out in the

spring of 1846, George Taylor saw economic

opportunity and soon made his way to Texas

aboard the schooner Spitfire. The New Orleans

Picayune noted that he had arrived in

Galveston on May 21 with “all his sub-marine

diving apparatus.” The article did not mention

it, but his vessel also carried large Indian

rubber bladders of his invention, flotation

devices he called “camels.” These could be

positioned by divers and then inflated to

refloat stranded vessels from sandbars. In

addition, he could offer underwater

demolition skills to clear waterways.

He proceeded from Galveston to Brazos

Santiago on the southern tip of the state to

join the flotilla of smaller vessels supporting

Commodore David Conner’s blockade of

eastern Mexico’s ports. In October, when

Conner’s successor, Commodore Matthew

Perry, engaged Mexican forces on the Tabasco

River, Taylor stood by to use his camels to lift

any U.S. vessels that might become mired in

the shallow river. Whether he actually did

that is not known, but he did use explosives

in removing piles driven into the river to

block U.S. vessels.

Having sold the U.S. Navy two diving suits

and served as a civilian contractor in the early

stages of the Mexican War, Taylor had a

An illustration of an Army free driver,

Frank Pierce, assisting with the search for

a portion of railroad track during the

Civil War.




The burning of the United States steam

frigate Missouri, at Gibraltar Aug. 26th

1843. William Taylor was hired by the U.S.

government to salvage the vessel.


potentially far more lucrative project in mind

halfway across the world. He wanted to get a

contract from the Navy to salvage the U.S.

steam frigate Missouri, which had sunk off

Gibraltar in 1843. He did receive a modest

federal contract to perform an initial survey at

the wreck site, but Congress proved slow to

move on the full salvage effort.

Meanwhile, Taylor focused on a potentially

richer prize, the sunken British man-of-war

HMS Hussar. The ship had gone down on

November 23, 1780, in 26 fathoms at Hell Gate

off New York during the Revolutionary War. The

ship carried $2 to $4 million in gold, payment

intended for British troops then battling to

prevent independence of the American colonies.

Unfortunately for Taylor, he never realized

either of these goals. (In fact, no one ever fully

salvaged the Hussar.) “Captain” Taylor became

ill in the spring of 1850 and never improved.

He died at 43 in Washington, D.C. on April

28, 1850. Local newspapers noted his death

and listed his numerous accomplishments,

but for a man who had succeeded in getting

so much publicity in life, his passing was not

widely reported. A savvy businessman and

promoter, though little-known today, he and

the partner he might have had a hand in

getting rid of, had been key figures in the

development of the commercial diving

industry in the U.S.

Another noted American commercial diver

was James Aldrich Whipple. Born July 22,

1826, he grew up in Boston, Massachusetts.

The son of a machinist, he demonstrated an

early interest in engineering and soon had an

apprenticeship with a steam engine firm. At

some point, he saw a demonstration of

Taylor’s submarine armour and decided to

develop his own helmet. His design featured

an escape valve for stale air, which did away

with the need for two hoses. That

improvement made it easier both for the diver

and his tenders above.

Using his hard-helmet diving gear, pumps

he also invented, a diving bell and other

equipment, his main source of income was in

underwater salvage operations. With the term

“commercial diver” still in the future, he

called himself a “practical diver.” Whipple

traveled the world in the 1850s to dive on

sunken vessels. In 1851, the owner of the

West Point Foundry presented Whipple a

gold watch for raising the engines of the

steamer Pioneer, which had sunk in the

Hudson River. Diving on a wreck off the

Venezuelan coast in 60 feet of water, he

brought up $2 to $3 million in specie. In

1861, while traveling to a salvage job he

became ill and never recovered.



While Taylor and Whipple seemed willing to

go just about anywhere they stood a chance of

making money, commercial diving pioneer John

B. Green focused primarily on the Great Lakes.

Born in Canada near Montreal in 1826,

before he turned 10 his family moved to

Ogdensburg, New York to farm along the Saint

Lawrence River. In that major waterway, young

Green learned to swim. He could swim for

miles and stay afloat for hours at a time. If he

went beneath the surface, however, it was only

when he jumped in the river. When he was

fourteen, his family moved again, this time to

Oswego, New York. “In that locality,” Green

later wrote, “I had ample opportunity to

indulge my propensity for swimming by often

bathing in the deep waters of Lake Ontario.”

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


In the spring of 1841, as Green walked

along the dock in Oswego, he saw two men

jump into the water and disappear beneath

the surface. When they came up a minute or

so later, he asked what they were doing. They

said they were trying to recover a stolen clock

and two boxes of soap that had been thrown

into the river. Green decided to join the effort

and ended up finding one of the soap boxes

and the clock.

“Elated by this success,” he later wrote, “I

at once conceived the idea of following diving

for lost property as a vocation.”

Until well into the twentieth century, that’s

what diving would be: A vocation. Not until

the idealistic days of the 1950s, when a warweary

public suddenly had time and money

on their hands did people look at diving as a

recreational sport. But for men like Green,

diving would be a hard and dangerous job,

not something undertaken for fun.

As a young man Green for a time operated

a freight scow on the Erie Canal, but he also

did free diving for salvage. Occasionally he

helped recover the bodies of drowning

victims and once rescued a young woman

who had fallen from a steamboat gangplank.

For that, the girl’s father gave him $500, a lot

of money in the mid-19th century.

The 1852 Lake Erie wreck of the City of

Oswego, on which Green and possibly his wife

and child were passengers (the record is

confusing but likely they died in the

accident), shaped the rest of his career. While

participating in the hunt for the Oswego’s lost

cargo, Green heard of a salvage operation

underway at the site of another shipwreck

about 10 miles from the scene of the Oswego’s

demise. Going there, after demonstrating his

free diving abilities he convinced the captain

of the salvage vessel to let him try out one of

the diving suits they were using. The salvors

liked his style and he joined the crew. After

that, he spent most of the rest of his life as a

commercial diver.

In an era when underwater exploration

generated the same sort of public interest that

would later accrue to space exploration,

Green got a lot of publicity. “John Green

alone, in all the world, possesses the secret

power to ‘go down to the depths of the

seas’...he is confident that he can reach the

depths of any of the Lakes at their greatest

soundings, explore vessels and attach to them

the necessary fixtures for raising,” said the

Cleveland Herald. Eventually he capitalized

on his name identification by writing (or

more likely using a ghost writer) and

publishing a book chronicling his adventures

as a commercial diver.

One of Green’s most significant contributions

to the development of commercial diving were

his observations of the unpleasant side effects of

spending time at depth. His worst experience—

nearly fatal—came following a long day of

diving on the sunken steamship Atlantic, which

had gone down in Lake Erie with a large loss of

life on August 20, 1852. He had dived on the

wreck twice before, but still sought the ship’s

safe, which contained more than $30,000.

Using a modified version of Taylor’s

“diving armor,” Green began diving on the

wreck in August 1855. The vessel lay about

150 feet down. Light did not penetrate to that

depth, so he had to grope around on the ship

in darkness. On the fifth or sixth day, he

finally found the safe, touching its cool metal

through a deckhouse window. He returned to

the surface for a buoy and line to mark the

location. Each dive that morning lasted for 20

to 30 minutes. After lunch, he went back

down again, this time with the equipment he

needed to cut into the cabin where the safe

sat. This operation took about 40 minutes.

An illustration of the collision of the

Atlantic and the Ogdensburg on Lake

Erie in 1852, from Gleason’s Pictorial. It

was on his dive of the wreckage of the

Atlantic that diver John B. Green suffered

a near-fatal case of paralysis caused by

decompression sickness.



A 1939 advertisement for Merritt-Chapman

& Scott, one of the largest salvage

companies in the world in its day. The

company’s distinctive “black horse” flag can

be seen at the bottom of the ad. Founded as

a salvage company, its operations expanded

into construction projects, including

Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge, the longest

suspension bridge between anchorages in the

Western Hemisphere. The company ceased

operations in the early 1970s.

Back on the surface, he sat on the deck of

his diving vessel to rest before making a

fourth dive to attach a cable hook to the safe.

But within moments, “a sharp pain shot like

lightening through my lower extremities, and

the next instant it went through my whole

system, so prostrating me that I could not

move a limb or even a muscle.” Co-workers

got him ashore, where he lingered near death

for two weeks. When it seemed evident that

he would survive, he was taken to Buffalo,

where he remained for ten days before

reaching home in Boston. There, “five tedious

months” went by before he could walk again,

and only with the aid of crutches.

There have been many conjectures in

regard to the cause of my paralysis,” he wrote.

“Some attribute it to my meal; others to the

pressure of the water.”

In the summer of 1856, Green organized a

fourth expedition to recover the safe. Given

that he still had not fully recovered, he hired

two divers to do the job under his

supervision. When neither of them could get

all the way down to the wreck, Green donned

the diving suit and succeeded in reaching the

hulk. Once again finding the cabin where he

knew the safe to be, he discovered that it was

gone. Someone else had recovered it.

Though bitterly disappointed at having lost

a treasure he had been the one to find, Green

sought to capitalize on his diving in less

hazardous ways. Too afflicted to work

underwater, he published his book and soon

went on the lecture circuit. Though he still

intended to at least oversee salvage operations,

booze, money troubles, and the dissolution of

his marriage pulled him downward as surely

as lead diving weights. In October 1868, he

ended his life with a fatal dose of poison.

During the era that author Jerry Kuntz

called “diving’s heroic age,” Green had not

been the only man whose willingness to risk

his life underwater in the hope of financial

gain had advanced the progress of commercial

diving, but he had been one of its most

colorful and tragic figures.

By the early 1860s, the vented diving

helmet, with air hose and protective suit had

virtually replaced the diving bell or caisson, as

it was less commonly known. Diving

companies developed in most major ports,

their primary income coming from ship

owners needing to have hulls cleaned or

repaired. They also recovered lost anchors

and items that fell overboard.

The New York firm of Merritt-Chapman &

Scott had its beginning in 1860 as Coast

Wrecking Company and soon reorganized

under Israel Merritt as Merritt’s Wrecking

Organization. In 1897, it merged with Chapman

Derrick and Wrecking Company to form Merritt

and Chapman Derrick Wrecking Company. The

company merged again in 1922 with T.A. Scott

Company to form Merritt-Chapman and Scott

Corporation. Before long, it had grown into the

largest and best-regarded salvage company in

the world. Known as the “Black Horse of the

Sea,” the company expanded beyond salvage

work to maritime construction.

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry



The common perception is that the

development of self-contained underwater

breathing apparatus (SCUBA) came during

World War II. Scuba diving did play a part in

the war, and exploded in use after the conflict

ended, but it was not a new concept. The big

difference was that what had been envisioned

for years finally proved workable. At least at

shallow depths, divers could operate freely

without having to worry about getting their

surface-connected air hose tangled or severed.

William H. James, yet another Englishman

who advanced the diving industry, is credited

with developing the first scuba equipment in

1825. In his design, a diver wore a helmet, but

the air he breathed came from a tank of

compressed air fastened on his waist. James

claimed a diver could stay underwater an hour

with his invention, but whether his equipment

was ever produced and used is not clear. In

1839, two Canadian inventors, James Eliot and

Alexander McAvity were granted a patent for

an “oxygen reservoir for divers.” Their design

featured a device a diver carried on his back

that contained either “condensed” oxygen or

“common atmospheric air proportionate to the

depth of water and adequate to the time he is

intended to remain below.”

In the United States, engineer Charles

Condert invented a system where air could be

contained inside a copper pipe worn around a

diver’s body. The diver also wore a hood

covering the top half of his body. While

Condert had the right concept—a portable air

supply and head covering—he drowned while

trying out his invention.

“Though the natural constitution of man

entirely unfits him for remaining in water with

safety for more than two minutes at a time, the

desire of obtaining valuable objects lying at the

bottom of the sea has led him to devise

numerous expedients,” the New American

Cyclopaedia noted in its 1859 edition.

French mining engineer Benoit Rouguayrot

designed in 1860 a cylindrical air tank

attached to a demand regulator. He developed

the equipment for miners to don in the event

of a sudden mine shaft flood, but if it could

work underwater below ground, it could

work in open bodies of water as well.

In 1864, Rouguayrot partnered with French

naval officer Auguste Denayrouze to tweak his

invention for use by divers whose primary air

supply came from an air hose above water. A

diver could detach himself from the air hose for

a short time, but the tank could only hold

about 30 minutes worth of air. Still, the

equipment marked a significant advance in

diving and by 1865 it was in mass-production.

Five years later, diving with the use of

scuba equipment made its first appearance in

fiction in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the

Sea when novelist Jules Verne describes a dive

in which Captain Nemo, the master of the

submarine Nautilus, saves a pearl diver from a

shark attack.

Above: A French inventor’s conception of an

underwater breathing apparatus. Clearly,

he did not envision diving in cold water.

Below:A design of a diving helmet from the

early 1900s.




Alphonse Esquiros, a French writer, wrote a book called English Seamen and Divers in 1868.

Rather than have someone tell him what it was like to be a diver, he tried it himself. His

account captured what diving was like only three decades after the development of the first

commercially available diving gear:

The helmet which covered my face and head was provided on the back...with two hollow

metallic studs; one of these was protected against the intrusion of the water by a strong valve,

and was intended to give vent to the air vitiated by breathing; the other, called the pipe-holder,

was to be fixed to the air-tube.”

That, he explained, was a long India-rubber “pipe.” Esquiros watched as one of the sailors

connected one end of the hose with a pump and then attached the other to his helmet.

“I could then well understand how the whole theory of this art is based,” he continued, “as

might be expected, on the physical constitution of man. The diving apparatus only doubles

and lengthens his respiratory organs; the air-pump is for him nothing but his external lungs,

and the air-tube is only a floating windpipe.”

Once the helmet’s three glass view ports had been screwed on and Esquiros began breathing

the pumped air, his hosts directed him to a ladder extending down the side of the ship. Slowly,

the writer began climbing down into the water. He did not stay down long and was happy to

get back to the surface.

Reflecting on the experience, Esquiros wrote:

I knew now, by experience, all the essential details of the art of diving, and, as the result, I could

not help admiring the courage, and wondering at the acquired nature of these men, who were not

merely capable of remaining a few minutes underwater, but were able to continue there for several

hours, and to execute all kinds of different work.

Yves Le Prieur.

Henry A. Fleuss, a British merchant

mariner, developed a self-contained diving

apparatus that used compressed oxygen

(instead of compressed air). The device

included a rebreather by which carbon dioxide

was made breathable again by being passed

through a rope soaked in potash. The

apparatus Fleuss developed allowed a bottom

time of up to three hours and was used in 1880

by noted English diver Alexander Lambert.

Wearing Fleuss’ equipment, the diver went into

a flooded tunnel sixty feet down and sealed a

hatchway located a thousand feet into the

tunnel. Fleuss’ invention is considered the first

workable scuba equipment and the model for

closed-circuit scuba, which is still used today.

In 1933, a French naval captain, Yves Le

Prieur, built on the latest version of the

nineteenth century Rouquayrol-Denayrouse

equipment by attaching a specially designed

demand value to a high-pressure air tank. With

no regulator, a diver got fresh air by opening a

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


valve. Exhaled air escaped from under the

diver’s face mask. Two years later, though a

diver could not remain underwater long with it,

the device was put into use by the French Navy.

Though most diving still involved the use

of pressurized suits, in 1933 Louis de Corlieu

received a patent for a set of spoon-shaped fins

that swimmers or divers could use to enhance

their underwater propulsion. Corlieu’s

invention led to the further development of

fins that fit on a swimmer’s feet, giving him

even faster movement beneath the surface.

Meanwhile, another French naval officer,

along with an engineer from a natural

gas company, developed a regulator that

revolutionized scuba diving. The officer was

Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1910-1997). The

engineer was Emile Gagnan. Working together,

they repurposed a car engine regulator so that

it automatically provided compressed air to a

diver anytime he took the slightest breath.

Prior to their invention, divers using scuba

equipment received compressed air constantly.

The two men affixed their new valve to a

rubber hose with a mouthpiece that was attached

to two compressed air tanks. In the deep winter

of 1943, Cousteau dove into the Marne River

near Paris to test the new device, which worked.

After some modification, the two men received a

patent for what they call an Aqua Lung.

The regulator developed by Gagnan and

Cousteau marked a pivotal moment in the


Newspaper reporters found that interviews with commercial divers made good copy.

Farmers and ranchers in Wise County in far North Texas must have marveled in reading in their April 20, 1883, issue of the Wise

County Messenger a story headlined “Under The Sea.” Reprinted from an unnamed Philadelphia newspaper, the piece was based on an

interview with Captain Anthony Williams, a commercial diver with two decades of experience.

“Can you breathe as freely in your diving dress as you can out of it?” the unnamed reporter asked.

“Yes, indeed,” Williams said. “When ten or twelve fathoms under [60 to 72 feet] water my breathing is as wholly devoid of effort

as it is when I am walking about on dry land.”

Williams then went on to explain how diving equipment worked, communication with his surface tenders and other aspects of

commercial diving. Admitting he did get an ear ache from time to time, otherwise, he said, “the sensations [under water] are delightful,

and I feel just as well, happy and contented at the bottom of the sea as I can under any circumstances.”

He did, however, sometimes get annoyed with his tenders above.

“While engaged in raising the sunken schooner Dauntless, in Kingston, Jamaica, on the 18th of August, 1880, I became so

disgusted at the stupidity of the men above in answering my signals that I took a book which I found in the captain’s cabin, and,

sitting down read it for nearly an hour.”

The Galveston News, the morning newspaper in what was then Texas’s largest port, reprinted on Sept. 5, 1885 an interview with a

diver known as Funeral Bob first published in the New York Sun. Despite his nickname, Robert B. Russell the diver was alive and doing

quite well at his trade.

“People always associate diving with wrecks, dead bodies or treasure,” he said, “but that’s a small part of our work, and not a

particularly fine line of it either.”

Described as New York’s “No. 1 diver,” Russell said, “The fine work of a diver’s occupation is that in which he has to ply some trade

like carpentering or pipe-laying under water. You see, a diver should be skilled at many trades to be a success.”

Russell said he and his colleagues in the business only worked four hours a day, earning $6 a day. However, if a diver furnished

his own equipment—boat, pump, hose, lines and dress—the price ranged from $35 to $50 a day, depending on the job.

Three years later, a Chicago newspaper published another interview with Capt. Williams, “the famous English diver.”

Williams said he began his underwater career above the surface, supervising the raising of a sunken wreck off the coast of Cornwall.

“I had working for me a diver who seemed a very lazy, careless sort of fellow,” the captain began. “I was paying him by the day, and

once, after being under water for a long time, he came up and reported very little progress in his work. I was angry and expressed

myself strongly. He retorted with: ‘Try it yourself if you think you can do any better.’”

To the diver’s surprise, Williams took him up on the offer. Once he realized his boss hadn’t been joking, the diver removed his suit

and Williams put it on. “I discharged him when I came up and I have been doing my own work ever since.”



Above: An advertisement for Cousteau and

Gagnan’s Aqua Lung.

Below: Commercial divers and their exploits

captured the public’s imagination. Stage and

film actress Sarah Bernhardt can be seen in

these diving-themed photographs from the

late 1800s.


history of diving. It was reliable and low-cost.

Following World War II, the Aqua Lung

went into commercial production. Other

innovations followed, but in regard to scuba

diving, the work of Gagnan and Cousteau

allowed diving to become mainstream.



While salvage diving had already become

the mainstay of the commercial diving

industry, in the last decade of the nineteenth

century something old became something

new in the U.S.

Since the 1820s, it had been known that

sponges could be found off the Florida Keys.

By the late 1840s, some of the organisms were

being harvested with the use of long poles.

When turtle fishermen from Key West

discovered sponge beds along the western

coast of Florida near where the Anclote River

enters the Gulf of Mexico, spongers began

working that area. John Cheyney, a

businessman in the new community of

Tarpon Springs, opened a sponge-packing

house there in 1890 and the North American

sponge industry migrated from the Bahamas

and Cuba to Tarpon Springs.

By the turn of the century, the town was

the largest sponge port in the U.S. and

starting in 1905, some five hundred Greek

sponge divers immigrated to Florida. Though

their ancient predecessors had collected

sponges by free diving, the Greeks embraced

new technology and began diving in hard

helmets and pump-fed diving suits. The

business fluctuated due to environmental and

economic issues, but Tarpon Springs sponges

are still exported all over the world. Not until

well into the twentieth century did tourism

surpass sponge harvesting as the community’s

primary industry.

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry



George W. Fuller had been making his living as a diver for a good while when he came up

with yet another way to turn a profit in underwater work.

In talking with acquaintances about the sort of things he could accomplish with his diving

apparatus, Fuller asserted that he could even catch, dress and cook a fish under water. Not only that,

he boasted, he could bring it to the surface without even getting it wet, hot and ready to eat.

Of course, no one believed he could do it. In fact, one gentlemen cheerfully wagered $100 that

Fuller could not pull off such a stunt. Taking the bet, Fuller set the date of his demonstration for

the following week. He did that because he knew he had a little below-the-surface work to do first.

The diver took his boat and a couple of his employees to a point far out into the harbor where

he was fairly sure it wouldn’t be too hard to find fish. Fuller lowered a weighted barrel and then

donned his diving suit. On the bottom of the bay, Fuller secured the barrel with ropes and then

stood up inside it. As he stood there, air coming from his escape valve began rising to the top,

steadily pushing down the water. Soon he was able to remove his helmet and before long the whole

barrel was filled with air. Next, with hammer and nails, he attached a board to the side of the barrel

that would serve as a shelf.

The next week, with his crew, the man who had made the bet and assorted hangers on, Fuller

took his boat to the approximate spot where he had tethered the barrel. Then, taking with him

a lantern, a small stew pan, salt, pepper and a fishing hook, he descended to his “fish house.”

He soon spotted a fish, harpooned it with a sail needle attached to a line, and pulled it inside

his barrel. There he gutted the fish, washed it, added salt and pepper and parboiled it over the

flame from his lantern. When the fish was done, he placed the skillet inside the water-proof

lamp container, stepped out of his barrel and pulled the line signaling his men to pull him up.

“I had been gone only a few minutes, and the people thought as a matter of course that I

had come up to say that I could not catch the fish, never dreaming that I had caught it, dressed

it and cooked it already. They were very much surprised when...I showed them the fish

steaming hot and well-cooked.” One of those surprised people was also out $100.

(The story, reprinted from the Boston Globe, appeared in the Bryan [Texas] Eagle on January 9, 1890.)

One of the earliest uses of commercial

diving was sponge harvesting. The industry

grew in Florida in the late 1800s.



Above: A sponge diver in Tarpon

Springs, Florida.

Below: An illustration from the 1850s of

Lodner D. Phillips’ design for an

atmospheric diving suit made of cast steel

and iron.



Atmospheric diving suits are one-man,

human-shape submersibles. For decades, the

principle issue in the way of making such

suits practical was the need for joints that

could both allow for natural body movements

(so the diver could get work done) and at the

same time be strong enough to support the

necessary internal pressure.

Alphonse and Theodore Carmagnolle, two

French inventors from Marseilles, designed

the first atmospheric diving suit in 1878

and received a patent on it in 1882. Made

of metal, the suit consisted of 22 concentric

ball-and-socket joints kept watertight by a

linen wrap. Each arm had six joints, each

leg four joins and there were two joints

for the body of the suit. With all that metal,

the contraption weighed 862 pounds. The

suit is displayed in the Musee de la Marine

(Marine Museum) in Paris. To the modern

eye, it looks like something out of a science

fiction movie. Indeed, science fiction buffs

point to it as the first robotic-looking device

made by man.

In Germany, in 1913 the Kiel-based firm of

Neufeldt and Kuhnke built two cast iron suits

that the German Navy bought. Five years

later, with Great Britain and Germany locked

in a viscious world war, inventor Joseph Salim

Peress (1896-1978) began experimenting

with a stainless steel diving suit in 1918. Four

years later, he patented a spherical joint that

used fluid to equalize pressure.

In 1930, the patent figured in Peress’s

development of the Tritonia diving suit. He

had started working on such a suit in the

1920s and by 1929 had found that using

magnesium instead of steel made suits much

less heavy and therefore considerably more

practical. To solve the joint problem, he used a

trapped cushion of oil to keep them easy for a

diver to move. In September 1930, Jim

Jarrett—Peress’s head diver—used the new

suit to descend to 404 feet in Loch Ness. He

didn’t find the legendary Loch Ness monster,

but he did find that the suit worked perfectly.

Not only did the atmospheric suit keep him

safe from the physiological woes of deep

diving, he was able to move with no problems.

Today, Peress is credited with having invented

the first usable atmospheric diving suit.

During the 1960s, Peress developed a more

modern version of the suit,. When it began to

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


e used in 1972 was referred to as a JIM suit

in honor of diver Jim Jarrett. The term “JIM

suit” became a generic term in the industry.

Even though Peress used magnesium, the suit

still weighed 1,100 pounds. Four years later,

it set a record for the longest working dive,

one minute less than six hours at 905 feet.

Atmospheric diving suits are still being

used. Despite ongoing improvements, they

still do not offer the mobility that other gear

affords, but for deep work, in keeping a diver

at atmospheric pressure, they do prevent the

majority of physiological issues that make

deep diving dangerous.



Commercial diving would not exist if it

had not been for the physiological discoveries

and medical breakthroughs that made it

relatively safe for those who venture deep


Diving had evolved over the centuries, but

not until the early twentieth century did

significant advances occur in understanding

the causes and treatment for the lifethreatening

body reactions related to matters

of physics and physiology—the crushing

pressure of deep water and the issues related

to oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide.

Well understood much earlier was that

diving was a dangerous way to make a living.

The first significant finding in regard to the

effect pressure had on divers came thanks to a

poisonous snake. In 1667, Sir Robert Boyle,

an English physicist, observed a gas bubble in

the eye of a viper he had compressed and

decompressed with a pump. He wrote: “I have

seen a very apparent bubble moving from side

to side in the aqueous humor of the eye of a

viper at the time when this animal seemed

violently distressed in the receiver from which

the air had been exhausted.”

Five years before, in 1662, Boyle had

posited what came to be called Boyle’s Law,

the modern expression of which is: “The

absolute pressure exerted by a given mass of

an ideal gas is inversely proportional to the

volume it occupies if the temperature and

amount of gas remain unchanged within a

closed system.”

Based on Boyle’s research, in 1681 Abbe

Jean de Hautefeuille wrote a treatise called

The Art of Breathing Underwater.” The

scientifically minded French priest correctly

declared: “It is not possible for man to breathe

air at normal atmospheric pressure when he is

himself underwater at depth.”

In the turn of the twenty-first-century

movie Men of Honor, in which Robert De Niro

A diver in a Tritonia ADS and a diver in

traditional gear preparing to dive on the

wreckage of the RMS Lusitania, 1935.



Sir Robert Boyle.

plays a tough Navy diving instructor, he

makes Boyle’s Law a bit easier to understand.

Beyond that, it puts it into perspective:

“Boyle’s Law describes the behavior of

gases under varying amounts of atmospheric

pressure. It states that if a diver holds his

breath at one hundred feet, continues holding

while rising to ten feet, then the gases in his

lungs increase four times. Now why is this

important to a diver? Forget to exhale on the

way up, and your lungs explode.”

The expansion of gases in a diver’s lungs

under the conditions set forth in De Niro’s

line is actually by a factor of three, not four.

But the effect would be the same.

In the early days, no private association or

government agency existed to keep statistics

on diving deaths, but fatalities were not

uncommon. And adverse physical reaction for

divers was very common.

Worrisome symptoms connected to diving

were noted and described by physicians as

early as the 1840s. When his air pipe burst on

October 11, 1842, Royal Navy diver John

Williams had been eighty feet down. Reaching

the surface in a minute and a half, he was only

semi-conscious. “His face then was a mass of

lividity,” a doctor reported, “his neck was

exceedingly swollen, bloated and suffused

with livid coloured blood.”

To bring him back around, the doctor

administered a turpentine enema and applied

leaches to one of his arms to remove 20

ounces of blood. Despite his initial pressurerelated

injuries and the witch doctor-like

treatment, the diver apparently enjoyed a

complete recovery.

In 1854, a diver working in the U.S. was

not so lucky when his air hose burst at depth.

When the surface crew received no response

to their tug on the diver’s signal line, they

pulled him up immediately. When they

opened his helmet, “to their horror [they]

found him quite dead; although he had been

down but one minute.” What they beheld was

not a pretty sight: “Blood was oozing from the

eyes, nose and mouth...we found the head

very badly swollen, the face and neck so filled

with blood as to resemble liver, while the

remainder of the body was as white as

unclouded marble.”

As innovations in equipment enabled divers

to go deeper and stay down longer, many began

suffering with breathing difficulties, dizziness

and disorientation, pain in the joints and

paralysis. While the symptoms could be noted

and described, no one understood their cause

other than the obvious connection to diving.

The same maladies experienced by divers

also occurred on land. Tunnel builders,

miners and others who worked in an

environment under pressure experienced

difficulties. At least twelve workers died in St.

Louis during construction of the Eads Bridge

in 1871 from what is now known as

decompression sickness, or DCS. Workers

also died as the Brooklyn Bridge went up.

A year later, a researcher correctly concluded

that DCS could be prevented by slower

compression (descents) and slower

decompression (ascents). He suggested that

underwater workers be limited to four-hour

shifts and that recompression treatment could

help severe cases. In 1873, Andrew Smith

coined the term “caisson disease” in describing

the health problems associated with the

Brooklyn Bridge project, which like the Eads

Bridge had employed divers using compressed

air. About the same time, since one of the

symptoms of DCS is joint pain causing sufferers

to bend forward, the condition came to be more

commonly referred to as “the bends.”

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


In 1878, Paul Bert, a French physiologist,

further advanced the understanding of the

scientific factors involving the effect pressure

had on the body. In his 1,000-page seminal

study, La Pression Barometrique (The Barometric

Pressure), Bert set forth the impact of both

high and low air pressure on the human body.

The adverse effects associated with

underwater work, he wrote, were attributable

to the formation of nitrogen gas bubbles. Bert

also offered what would become the standard

way for divers to cope with pressure issues—

coming back up gradually and using a

decompression chamber to relieve symptoms.

During the construction of the Hudson

River Tunnel in 1889-1890, Ernest William

Moir developed an airlock chamber for

treatment of divers suffering from DCS. A

decade later, Leonard Hill—with backing

from the Siebe Gorman Co.—experimented

with frogs to develop theories regarding

compression and decompression. By 1904,

the diving equipment company had

developed a decompression chamber.

The work done in Britain was by Scottish

physiologist John S. Haldane, who the Royal

Navy hired to do research on decompression

sickness. Along with Arthur E. Boycott and

Guybon C. Damant, Haldane published a

paper on the prevention of what they called

“compressed-air illness.” As Bert had found

earlier, the principle way to guard against the

bends was for divers to practice staged

ascensions. Based on this work, the Royal

Navy developed a set of tables listing the rate

of ascension for divers based on how deep

they go and how long they stay under.

By 1912, the U.S. Navy also was using

diving tables based on the British research.

In a long article on risky if profitable

professions, the Houston Post observed on

November 19, 1905: “[N]ow recognized as a

profession, [diving] is followed by a class of

people who devote their lives to the work,

going to all parts of the country and working

in sunken wrecks, examining the bottoms of

ships, searching for lost things in the deep

waters, and doing anything else that requires

work below the surface of the sea.”

While diving tables, decompression

chambers, stricter safety standards and

improved equipment have gone a long way

toward making commercial diving safer, even

today life-threatening health issues remain to

be resolved.

The most significant threat to divers today

is High Pressure Neurological Syndrome.

“Since this is a direct, physical effect of

pressure, then perhaps we really have now

reached the depth limits of ambient pressure

diving,” Dr. Bennet wrote. “The pressures we

are now reaching are so great that our

Above: Paul Bert.

Below: John Scott Haldane.



Above: A diver preparing to repair a lock

gate at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.


Below: A man on a ship in a diving outfit, c.

the 1910s.


complex protein molecules, in particular

those of our central nervous system, are being

physically distorted and their critical

properties subsequently changed.”

Bennett then expressed the problem in

plainer terms: “Excursions into deeper depths

can ultimately end in permanent

denaturization of protein molecules from

which there will be no retreat or therapeutic

procedure. Denaturatization of protein is

what happens when you hard-boil an egg.

And as someone once said, you cannot unboil

an egg.”

More recently, Dr. David Sawatzky, in an

article published January 17, 2012, in Dive

Magazine said, “HPNS is a fascinating problem

and one that current deep technical divers

will definitively have to try and find some way

to deal with.”



The military use of divers is separate from

the story of commercial diving with one

significant exception: Technological advances

made during both world wars would improve

the safety and efficiency of a new generation

of divers who ventured beneath the surface to

get a job done, not to destroy and kill.

In 1917, the U.S. Bureau of Construction

and Repair introduced for the Navy the Mark

V diving helmet. Capping a diving dress and

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


A two-lock recompression tank (above) and

a three-lock recompression tank (right) at

the U.S. Naval Submarine Base New

London in Groton, Connecticut. Until 1994

New London was home to the Escape

Training Tower which was used to train

submarine crews in escape techniques and

to train naval special operations teams.


with air hose and communication line

attached, the Mark V would be the mainstay

for underwater work for decades. When the

second world war broke out, the Mark V, with

a few modifications from the 1917 model, was

still the U.S. Navy’s standard diving helmet.

While most of the Navy’s diving work was

accomplished by men wearing these helmets,

the war also saw the first military use of scuba

equipment, face masks and swim fins.



Right: Divers at work on the wreck of the

USS Maine, Havana, Cuba, 1898.

Below: A diver recovering shells after an

explosion set off by German saboteurs on

July 30, 1916, on Black Tom Island in New

York Harbor near Liberty Island.


Opposite: William Badders, Master Diver,

U.S.N., being helped into his underwater

suit just before taking an experimental dive

in the tank at Washington Navy Yard, 1938.


WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry




Above: A replica of a Mark V diving helmet.


Right: Many a commercial diver learned the

trade as a Navy diver. This underwater

sailor is undergoing training at Camp

Endicott, Rhode Island, during World

War II.

Prior to the war, the commercial aspect of

diving had centered largely on salvage, the

repair and maintenance of vessels or building

and maintaining underwater infrastructure,

such as wharves and piers. There was

work, but not much. It’s been estimated

that before 1941 the U.S. had only 250

trained divers.

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


During the war, the focus on diving

obviously was related to the prosecution of

hostilities or maritime and salvage or rescue.

But with peace came a whole new career field

for commercial divers, many of them former

Navy frogmen.

In 1946, Everett W. Edmund with partner

Pat Madison started a retail business they

called M&E Marine in Camden, New Jersey.

The created a division they call MAR-VEL

Underwater Equipment and their store became

the first retail outlet to focus only on the diving

industry, both commercial and recreational.

Their primary source of inventory was surplus

U.S. Navy equipment, from Mark V helmets to

diving suits and other equipment associated

with surface supply diving to scuba tanks (still

called “Lungs”), facemasks and swim fins.

At first, they worried how in the world

they were going to sell all the used diving gear

they acquired at auction, but in a vigorous

post-war economy, business flourished. In

offering scuba gear for sale at their store or by

Above: A U.S. Navy sailor using a Momsen

Lung rebreather. In October 1944 the U.S

submarine Tang was sunk by one of its own

torpedoes east of Meizhou Island in the

Taiwan Strait, coming to rest in 180 feet of

water. Thirteen sailors escaped from the

vessel’s forward escape trunk, some of them

using Momsen lungs. Of those thirteen

sailors, five survived to be rescued. It is the

only known use of the Momsen lung.

Left: Vice Admiral Charles Momsen.

Momsen invented of the rebreather which

bears his name when he was a lieutenant in

the U.S. Navy.



Oil rigs off the coast of Galveston, Texas.

catalog, they found their largest number of

customers were men who dived at night in

water traps for sunken golf balls to resell.


For the W. Horace Williams Co. it must

have seemed like just another job. A steampowered

construction barge had sunk

adjacent to a wooden drilling platform

operated by Superior Oil in the Creole field

about a mile off the Louisiana shore. The oil

company wanted the barge raised and turned

to the Williams Co. to get the job done. After

all, that company had built the bridge leading

to the rig.

The New Orleans-based construction

company hired two helmet divers to get the

barge up and they got it done. That 1938 job

is believed to have been the first time an oil

company ever used divers in connection with

an offshore drilling operation in the Gulf of

Mexico. It was not, however, the first time

divers had worked around an oil rig.

More than 30 years earlier, a California

wildcatter had built a wharf near Santa

Barbara that extended into the Pacific and

then drilled a well in the seabed. Many more

wells soon followed, all close to shore. In the

first decade of the twentieth century, one

Albert Christie is believed to be the first diver

to do oil-related work off a wharf. Christie’s

half-brother, Rigden Crawford, did an

underwater geological survey in an area

between Santa Barbara and Ventura. This was

in 1929 and according to Christopher Swann

in his exhaustive history of oil field diving,

“probably the first time a diver had

investigated the seabed for oil anywhere in

the world.”

By the time that survey job took place, oil

companies had begun to suspect that large

deposits of crude lay in salt dome formations

under the mud and sand in the shallow Gulf

of Mexico. But despite ample demand for

petroleum in the midst of war, due to the

threat of marauding German U-boats that

brazenly operated off the Gulf coast during

the early years of World War II, not until after

the war did oil companies look seriously

toward the Gulf as a place to drill.

In 1947, the Houston-based Kerr-Magee

Co. oversaw construction by Brown and Root

of a tennis-court size drilling platform 43

miles southwest of Morgan City, Louisiana,

but only 10.5 miles from shore. The rig went

up in 18 feet of water, the deepest-ever

offshore operation to that point in the history

of the oil industry. The well came in on

November 17 that year. Producing 960 barrels

a day, it was not a spectacular well, but the era

of offshore oil exploration and drilling had

begun. And for the commercial diving

industry, the completion of that modest

offshore well marked the emergence of a huge

new business opportunity. The linking of the

two industries would lead to the development

of technologies that would advance both

petroleum production and commercial diving

at a high-octane pace. Indeed, commercial

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


diving helped revolutionize the oil industry,

and vice versa.

“Today, nearly all work done under water,

whether with divers or robots, is carried out

using equipment and techniques developed to

meet the requirements of the offshore oil

industry,” Swann wrote in the preface of his

definitive book, The History of Oilfield Diving:

An Industrial Adventure. “To a considerable

extent, the history of oilfield diving is the

history of modern diving as a whole.”

During the 1960s, as energy demand

continued to rise, several diving companies

grew into international corporations as oil

and gas drilling moved into ever deeper water.

While some production occurred in the midto-late

1960s, the energy crisis of 1973, which

quadrupled the price of crude oil, led to

extensive exploration and drilling in one of

the roughest bodies of water in the world.

Given the depth involved, the North Sea play

brought rapid advances in saturation diving,

which only dated back to 1964.

With Americans waiting in line to buy gas

before service station supplies ran out until

the next refill, Comex (founded in France by

Henri Delauze in 1961) had 33 diving

systems and 300 divers along with a technical

staff of 400. The company’s annual earnings

were more than $20 million.

As the figurative stacks of cash accruing to

the oil industry and commercial diving grew

higher and higher, commercial divers and the

wells they supported went deeper and deeper.

In 1973, Comex had divers working at 600

feet in the North Sea; two years later the same

firm salvaged an abandoned wellhead 1,092

feet down off Labrador. By 1988, a joint

operation with Comex, British Petroleum, the

French Navy, and other corporate entities

carried out a 1,752 foot dive.

The price of crude oil fluctuates like the

daily ebb and flow of the tide, only with far

less predictability. When the price of a barrel

of crude goes up, more drill bits go down, on

land and sea. The only constant is that wells

have steadily gone deeper over the years. And

when those wells are in water, so do

commercial divers.


The oldest type of diving equipment, the

bell, remains a mainstay in commercial

diving. Obviously, ever increasing technology

has made diving bells safer and far more

efficient than an upside-down weighted

wooden barrel attached to a rope.

There are two categories of bells, wet and

closed. Wet bells are cable-suspended

chambers open at the bottom. They are used

as a way to get divers down and provide them

a base of operation. The air inside is kept at

ambient pressure, so there are no extreme

pressure differences. The closed diving bell is

a sealed chamber. It can be used for what is

called mixed gas “bounce” diving, a short dive

in which decompression can be accomplished

Above: An offshore oil well drilling rig with

supply boat, Kerr-McGee Oil Industries

Inc., Cameron, Louisiana, c. the 1940s.



Below: An American Louisiana Pipe Line

Company drilling rig, 1955.





in the bell, and saturation diving.

Commercial diving today relies more on

closed bells.



Shell Oil Co., in the early 1960s,

developed a device called “Mobot” that had a

gyrocompass, sonar and a TV camera.

Connected to a vessel, it could be

maneuvered under water with thrusters.

Moderately successful, the Mobot and other

similar ROVs initially were only intended as

underwater eyes, not a robotic diver.

But submersible equipment that could do

more than merely look around was the next

obvious step in the evolution of commercial

diving. That had also begun to happen in the

1960s, with military funding driving

technological development. The pace picked up

in the following decade, with both Royal Navy

and U.S. Navy contractors developing devices

that could recover lost objects from very deep

water or to handle deep-sea rescues.

The oil and gas industry, building on the

military technology, began developing

submersible ROVs. With offshore drilling

increasingly taking place in deep water, such

tools became even more important in that

they could operate at depths beyond the reach

Above: A diver in full dress at Cone Lake,

April 16, 1912.

Right: This postcard from 1920 is simply

titled “The Diver.”

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


of human divers. Progress slowed with the big

slump in oil and gas prices that came in the

mid-1980s, but regained momentum as oil

reached record highs.

Technological developments have proceeded

apace since then, with ROVs being used to do

deep-sea surveying and to inspect pipelines and

drilling platforms. Beyond merely being used for

observation, ROVs can assist in underwater

construction, maintenance and repair.



Deep sea diving burst into popular culture

with the publication in 1869 in France of a

serial novel called Vingt mille lieues sous les

mers: Tour du monde sous-marin. A year later

the work of science fiction involving Captain

Nemo and his submarine the Nautilus came

out as a hardback book. Soon the work was

translated into English and Twenty Thousand

Leagues Under the Sea went on to become a

classic of the genre.

In the book, Verne devotes a long scene to

diving. Based on the technology of the day, he

fairly accurately described the future of diving.

“You know as well as I do, Professor, that

man can live under water, providing he carries

with him a sufficient supply of breathable air.

In submarine works, the workman, clad in an

impervious dress, with his head in a metal

helmet, receives air from above by means of

forcing pumps and regulators.”

“That is a diving apparatus,” said I.

“Just so, but under these conditions the

man is not at liberty; he is attached to the

pump which sends him air through an Indiarubber

tube, and if we were obliged to be thus

held to the Nautilus, we could not go far.”

“And the means of getting free?” I asked.

“It is to use the Rouquayrol apparatus,

invented by two of your own countrymen,

which I have brought to perfection for my

own use, and which will allow you to risk

yourself under these new physiological

Above: ROVs and AUVs are some of the

newer tools to be embraced by the

commercial diving industry.


Left: A student-built ROV. Programs like

Marine Advanced Technology Education

offer education and internship opportunities

to students interested in pursuing careers in

the commercial diving industry.



Buster Keaton in the 1924 film

The Navigator.

conditions without any organ whatever

suffering. It consists of a reservoir of thick

iron plates, in which I store the air under a

pressure of fifty atmospheres. This reservoir is

fixed on the back by means of braces, like a

soldier’s knapsack. Its upper part forms a box

in which the air is kept by means of a bellows,

and therefore cannot escape unless at its

normal tension. In the Rouquayrol apparatus

such as we use, two India rubber pipes leave

this box and join a sort of tent which holds

the nose and mouth; one is to introduce fresh

air, the other to let out the foul, and the

tongue closes one or the other according to

the wants of the respirator. But I, in

encountering great pressures at the bottom of

the sea, was obliged to shut my head, like that

of a diver in a ball of copper; and it is to this

ball of copper that the two pipes, the

inspirator and the expirator, open.”

“Perfectly, Captain Nemo; but the air that

you carry with you must soon be used; when

it only contains fifteen per cent. of oxygen it is

no longer fit to breathe.”

“Right! But I told you, M. Aronnax, that the

pumps of the Nautilus allow me to store the air

under considerable pressure, and on those

conditions the reservoir of the apparatus can

furnish breathable air for nine or ten hours.”

The first time a helmeted diver appeared

on the big screen came with the release in

1911 of a silent black and white short called

The Diver. Subsequently remastered, the film

is available today on Youtube.

Five years later during World War I, with

German U-Boats changing naval warfare, an

American movie company produced a silent

film adaptation of Verne’s novel in 1916.

Commercial divers took part in the movie

both as camermen and actors.

With much more realistic props, sound,

color and big name actors like Kirk Douglas

and James Mason, in 1954 Walt Disney

released his movie studio’s take on 20,000

Leagues Under the Sea. Not only did the movie

raise awareness of the undersea world for

millions of Baby Boomers, not to mention

popularizing the mechanical means to enter

that world, it brought business to commercial

divers used in its filming.

While 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

pumped fresh air into the world’s interest in

diving, it was a 1950s television show that

went a long way toward popularizing

commercial diving. Diver recruitment clearly

got an extra blast of oxygen in January 1958

when a television show called Sea Hunt first

aired. In the half-hour, black-and-white series,

actor Lloyd Bridges played Mike Nelson, a

former Navy frogman who became a freelance

diver after leaving the military. In other words,

he made his living as a commercial diver.

The action-packed show, in which Nelson

did everything from hunt treasure to disarming

a lost nuclear missile, did for recreational and

commercial diving what Walt Disney’s Davy

Crockett did for the coon skin hat industry.

Other books and films have focused on

diving and its commercial aspects, but 20,000

Leagues Under the Sea and Sea Hunt were the

figurative hooks on each end of the anchor

when it came to popularizing both

avocational and vocational diving.

Men of Honor, a film that debuted in 2000,

is still considered the best-ever diving movie.

Starring Robert De Niro and Cuba Gooding,

Jr., the movie is based on the true story of Carl

Brashear, played by Gooding, who was

trained at the Navy’s diving school in

Bayonne, New Jersey. Successfully

surmounting racism and discrimination,

Brashear went on to become the first African

American master diver in the U.S. Navy.

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry





Like any profession where at least some

level of risk is always present, most

commercial divers would say their career

amounted to performing arduous if routine

tasks in an underwater work place.

But despite centuries of accumulated

knowledge and constantly improving

technology, working under water continues to

be challenging and sometimes dangerous.

Few veteran divers have not survived one or

two close calls.

Longtime diver Mike Hughes, founder of

Oceaneering International, Inc., tells of an

incident that occurred when he was diving off

a submersible drilling platform in the Gulf.

Seventeen stainless steel drill cases, worth

roughly $10,000 each, had accidentally rolled

overboard. The bottom consisted of deep

mud he described as being like Jell-O. After

getting 14 of the long pipes hooked to a chain

so that they could be pulled to the surface,

Hughes started trying to get to the 15th pipe.

In the process, the mud closed in around him

about a dozen feet below the bottom, even

though it wasn’t much of one. He barely made

it out, and after getting back to the drilling

barge, he made the decision that the last two

pipes were going to stay where they lay.

Beyond close calls like that, which

improved safety standards have certainly

helped to reduce though not eliminate,

commercial diving sometimes involves movielike

scenarios. Just a few examples:

• In 1966, a U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber

armed with four nuclear bombs collided

with a KC-135 tanker during mid-air

refueling and crashed near Palomares,

Spain. Three of the devices fell on land, but

the fourth went into the Mediterranean Sea,

settling on the bottom 2,850 feet down.

Ocean Systems, which later was acquired

by Oceaneering, successfully recovered the

bomb after a two-and-a-half month search.

• In 1982, Oceaneering received a contract to

dive on the sunken ocean liner Andrea Doria,

which had gone down in 240 feet of water

off Massachusetts in 1956. The man who

hired the firm, department store heir Peter

Gimbel, wanted the ship’s first-class safe

recovered. Oceaneering got the job done,

but the safe did not have nearly as much of

value in it as Gimbel had counted on.

• In 1999, Oceaneering used an ROV to recover

the Liberty Bell 7, the Mercury space capsule

that sank after astronaut Gus Grissom’s

otherwise successful suborbital fight on July

21, 1961. The capsule was brought up from

16,100 feet, the deepest large-object salvage

operation undertaken to date.

The story of U.S. Navy Master Diver Carl

Brashear was told in the 2000 movie Men

of Honor. Brashear became the first

African-American U.S. Navy Master

Diver in 1970, four years after losing part

of his left leg during a salvage operation

to recover a nuclear bomb off the coast

of Spain.






Left: Astronaut Virgil I. Grissom climbing

into the Liberty Bell 7 space capsule on

July 21, 1961. The capsule was lost during

recovery operations and came to rest at a

depth of 16,100 feet.


Right: The Liberty Bell 7 after its recovery

by Oceaneering International in 1999.


Ongoing technological improvements,

the continued expansion of offshore oil

production and a generally strong national

economy made commercial diving an

increasingly attractive career choice for those

who preferred a rigorous outdoor vocation as

opposed to being behind a desk.

Today, commercial diving is a multi-billion

dollar a year world-wide industry, but in the

U.S. the number of men and women who do

underwater work is surprisingly small

considering income generated.

The U.S. Department of Labor defines

commercial diving as:

Work below surface of water, using scuba

gear to inspect, repair, remove, or install

equipment and structures. May use a variety of

power and hand tools, such as drills,

sledgehammers, torches, and welding

equipment. May conduct tests or experiments,

rig explosives, or photograph structures or

marine life.

Excluding those who dive as fishing

workers or law enforcement officers, the

federal agency reported only 3,370 individuals

working in the U.S. as commercial divers. Not

surprisingly, the states with the largest number

of commercial diving jobs are adjacent to

water. The top five states, in number of divers,

are Louisiana, Florida, Texas, Washington and

Michigan, followed by Virginia, Alaska, New

Jersey, Alabama and Missouri.

In terms of metropolitan areas, ground zero

for the largest concentration of commercial

divers in the nation is greater New Orleans-

Houma, Louisiana, axis followed by the

Houston area.



WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


The ever-expanding technology that

eventually enabled man to work and play under

water with relative safety has not stopped. On

land and sea, the use of robotics is growing.

In the spring of 2016, a humanoid robotic

named OceanOne made news around the

world when it recovered a grapefruit-sized

vase from the sunken wreckage of the La

Lune, a vessel not seen by man in nearly

350 years. The flagship of France’s Louis XIV,

the warship went down in 328 feet of

water 20 miles south of the coastal city of

Toulon in 1664.

Though originally designed to explore

deep ocean reefs, with OceanOne’s artificial

intelligence abilities, the dive off the coast of

France made it clear that the underwater

robot and its successors are the future of

deep-sea commercial diving.

Oussama Khatib, a computer science

professor at Stanford University in Palo

Alto, California, piloted the humanoid robot

from a vessel on the surface. Using joysticks

to control the robot’s movement, he saw

everything through the robot’s two “eyes,”

a set of cameras in an orange head that

gives the device a distinctively human

appearance, at least from its “shoulders” up.

Even the robot’s two arms are reminiscent

of human appendages and they certainly are

in function.

Each hand has, as an article in Digital News

explained, force sensors “that transmit haptic

feedback to the robot’s pilot. Because of this,

the driver can feel exactly what OceanOne

feels, helping determine if it’s grabbing

something dense or delicate.”

A planned modification of the robot will

include tactile sensors in each finger.

The human can provide the robot with

intuition, expertise and cognitive abilities,”

the professor told the Stanford News. “The

robot can do things in areas too dangerous for

a human, while the human is still there.”

In expanding on that, Khatib set forth

the obvious for anyone who knows anything

about commercial diving: In diving

beneath the surface, despite technological

advances, humans must still deal with air

supply issues and the dangers of decompression


The intent is to have a human diving

virtually—to put the human out of harm’s

way,” the professor said. “Having a machine

with human characteristics, that can project

the human diver at depth is going to be

amazing. OceanOne will be your avatar.”

In Khatib’s view, the future lies in a

combination of old-fashioned human skill

and a sturdy, man-like diving robot that can

work for longer and at great depths. Man will

still have a place in commercial and all other

aspects of diving, but he can accomplish

much of what needs to be done without ever

getting in the water.

“[Scientists] see a future where ROVs and

AUVs in their present form will cease

to exist and are replaced by transformative

e-robotics that can roam, hover, reside, and

perform all underwater tasks,” notes an article

in Ocean News & Technology Magazine

(February 2017).

Commercial divers in training preparing to

embark upon careers beneath the waves.





WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


As the industry embraces technological

advances, there is still a need for new

generations of trained commercial divers.





Modern commercial diving educational

programs combine classroom instruction

with hands-on training in the field.



Gregory R. Trauthwein, associate publisher

and editor of Marine Technology Reporter

Magazine put it even more plainly in the

January-February 2017 issue of his magazine:

The age of robotics is here and now.

Advances in robotics are quickly removing

people from some of the dirtiest and more

dangerous jobs, inserting vehicles, sensors

and systems where no man has gone, or

would like to go....This reliance on

automation extends to the subsea sector, as

vehicles of every shape, size and price point

gain capability and confidence among a

growing legion of users.”

Ryan Harris, an underwater archeologist

with Parks Canada, studies the past with the

aid of modern technology. In 2014 Parks

Canada located the HMS Erebus and two

years later the hulk of the HMS Terror—two

English vessels lost in the Arctic Ocean in

1845 while in search of the Northwest

Passage—through the use of remote-operated

vehicles and other state-of-the-art undersea

technology. But despite the tremendous

and ongoing high-tech advancements in

underwater work, he says there is still a place

for divers in the equation.

What he said in the January-February

2017 issue of Marine Technology News had to

do with his specialty of underwater

archeology, but it applies to all aspects of

commercial diving:

“To my mind, there will always be an

important role for hands-on underwater

archaeology,” he said. “Certainly, I’m able to

get much more information from a site when I

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


can get up close and have a tactile

experience....While AUVs and ROVs are

amazing tools, there are some things that

machines do well and certainly do better

than human beings, but definitely not

everything. It’s the appropriate marriage of

human and technology that will get the

job done.”

A tank that is used to teach underwater

welding skills to students enrolled n

National University Polytechnic Institute’s

commercial diving program.





WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry





Sound travels very well underwater, but above the surface, being heard is not always as easy. By

the 1960s, it had become evident to industry leaders that commercial divers needed an

organization to communicate in their behalf.

As Swann wrote in his landmark History of Oil Field Diving, “...diving contractors in the Gulf of

Mexico began to realize that unless they set up an association to police themselves, the government

in the form of the Coast Guard or some other body was going to do it for them. Given the

competitive pressure of the business and the strongly independent nature of diving entrepreneurs,

it was no easy task.”

Mike Hughes, the founder of Oceaneering International, was one of the key players in the

organization of ADC.

The first discussions about forming a contractor’s association started when it appeared that the

union was organizing a major push to unionize divers in the Gulf.” he later wrote. “The contractors

thought it made sense to have a place to meet and discuss the threat of unionization and do what

we could as a group to avoid conditions which would encourage divers to depend on a union.

Frankly, we were more than a little irate that divers might believe some union organizers from up

north could do more for them than we would.”

Another major factor in the genesis of ADC was a desire on the part of contractors to have an

organization that could work to standardize diver safety issues.

There were some differences in how each contractor viewed some safety questions,” Hughes

continued. “Some told the customers a [decompression] chamber would be required in a certain

depth and others were willing to work without one. Some contractors stretched the decompression

schedules more than others. These differences caused some concern on the part of the divers.”

Hughes and others in the industry knew the importance of standardized procedures, but

believed if they could find a way to work things out among themselves it would be far preferable

to dealing with a union on those issues. Unions were at the height of their power in the 1960s, but

that did not mean they were universally popular, especially in the South and Southwest.

The only problem was that we were a fiercely competitive and secretive group of contractors,

many of whom had experienced various differences of opinions,” he remembered. “In more than a

few cases, the issue was temporarily resolved with fists. Unfortunately, this seldom produced a

permanent settlement.”

At the time, the major players in the business were Taylor Divers, Dick Evans, Inc., Ocean

Systems, World Wide Divers, and Santa Fe. Several smaller companies also had a respectable piece

of the market.

The first meeting as I recall was called by Ken Wallace of Taylor Diving,” Hughes went on. “We

met for dinner at Chris’s Steak House out on Broadway in New Orleans. We had some great steaks

and strong martinis which resulted in not many decisions, but at least no one hit anyone else that

night. It was not a bad beginning for this group.”

But then, Hughes and the other interested parties got some legal advice that an association

might not be the best way to go. Such an organization, a lawyer said, might give the union a way

to take on the whole industry at once rather than requiring them to organize each company

individually. Accordingly, they dropped the idea of forming a contractor’s association.

However, developing safety standards remained an important need. In fact, it became more urgent.

As Hughes explained, “The Marine Technology Society was emerging as the principal oceanrelated

industry organization. Many of us became active in MTS and used the MTS meetings as a

place to come together and talk about the diving industry.”

Subject to constant innovation and everincreasing

demands by industry,

commercial divers have been given a

voice—The Association of Diving

Contractors International.






A long, long time ago, (kind of sounds like a nursery story my mother used to read me, doesn’t it?) back in the early 1960s, the ADCI

started with a bunch of entrepreneurial men, like:

Danny Wilson, Subsea Divers

Dick Evans, Dick Evans Divers

Buck Frolich, Frolich Marine Divers

John Gallettia, J&J Divers

Mike Hughes, World Wide Divers

Bob McGuire, McDermott Divers

Jack Smith, S&H Divers

Ken Wallace, Taylor Diving & Salvage

And myself

These men and others in commercial diving were involved in construction, salvage, drill rig support, inspection, pipeline, inshore,

nuclear power plants, dams, and other underwater work. They were hard-working men who wanted to make commercial diving a safe

occupation. Each had their own vision of how and where they wanted their companies to be in the future. These men would work together

at the meetings but would cross the street if they met each other outside the meetings. We started with a long table but thereafter went to

round tables.

They were afraid the offshore industry would say something about them fixing prices and or other shady business dealings. But the only

competition we had was over competing for the best divers. At that time the only real forum that was available for the diving industry was

the MTS Society.

But its meetings were small and mainly directed towards R&D activities, and none of our customers really attended these meetings.

So, the ADC decided to establish the International Diving Symposium, which was held in the diving capital of the world, Morgan

City, Louisiana.

We solicited our vendors (twisted their arms) to take part in the symposium, as well as encouraged our customers and members to

present technical papers. The Association’s motto at that time was: Communications, Education and Safety.

Workers’ Compensation insurance was about forty-eight percent of gross payroll, so that alone was enough enticement for members to

increase their profits without raising prices. That is if they could get those rates lowered…most of the coverage came from Lloyds of London.

The offshore industry was moving into deeper waters and was afraid that the diving industry wouldn’t be able to provide diving services

at those depths. More bottom time would be required with less in-water decompression.

Two very important aspects that changed commercial diving at this point of time was, in my view, were:

First was the U.S. Navy. We recruited or I should say raided the Navy for master divers, technicians, operations supervisors, equipment

supervisors. We had divers, but needed the deeper diving technology.

I should also mention that Navy master divers were somewhat like the pied piper; they had a following of men who trusted them and

followed them into the commercial diving arena. Jack Lahm was the first Navy master diver our company hired. (Jack passed away several

years ago, but won’t be forgotten.) With his team we moved into open-bottom bell diving.

We later started using closed-bottom bells because the decompression was on deck and wouldn’t hold up the offshore industry’s

equipment. Although the cost was much higher, our customers went along with the increased prices because the operations were more

efficient and safer. Longer bottom times were again requested which meant that we had to move into helium diving, and then eventually,

saturation diving.

Dr. Bill Gillen, who had done considerable

hyperbaric research in the Navy, and was

chairman of the MTS’ “Man’s Underwater

Activities Committee” asked Hughes if he

thought that developing standard diving

safety rules would be a good project for the

committee. Hughes said he believed it would

be and agreed to head a group tasked with

giving it a try.

“John Galletti was a member of our MTS

committee and, in 1968, attended a meeting of

the USIA where diving safety standards were

being seriously discussed,” Hughes recalled.

“When we learned that an effort was under

way to write standards without much industry

involvement, we decided it was time to act.”

That September, Hughes sent a letter to his

fellow contractors requesting that they attend

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


Again the U.S. Navy played a large role in assisting the commercial industry movement into these activities. We hired some notable Navy

personnel and there were dozens more who assisted other member companies as well. Bud Mills contributed a lot in making commercial diving

safer. He had been a medical corpsman, had lots of paperwork experience, excellent accident investigation skills—he’d been there, done that.

Bob Merriman, is the divers’ diver who deserves this award more than I do, and I hope that he receives it in the near future.

Some of the Navy personnel, although highly trained and very professional in performing their duties, we thought would better serve

us by moving them into different positions based on their personalities, such as diving sales skills. Who best could explain in technical

terms to our clients how diving in the GOM had changed? Therefore, we moved Frank Mantell and Bobby Vendetto…into diving sales.

Those two fellows brought us more sales at times than we could handle.

Then, one day along came the “Flying Eyeball,” Dru Michel. Dru was with Taylor Diving & Salvage and introduced it into the offshore

industry. Some others thought that it was a good idea, like Jack Smith at S&H Diving. Others thought that it would cause them to lose

diving days, but eventually Dru and others assisted in convincing me to purchasing some RCV 225s and later obtaining some RCV 150s.

But where would I obtain the support personnel to operate and maintain those vehicles?

I inquired around with our Navy divers about the Navy’s activities with ROVs. I was informed that yes the Navy did have and use them

but it was mainly black box type operations. Again the U.S. Navy to the rescue.

When I asked for names of personnel I could contact for possible hiring I was told that they knew of a fellow only by his nickname.

After weeks of searching. I finally located the person whose nickname was Duke. I set up an interview with him in California. At the

meeting he gave me his resume, but a lot of good it did because it was marked classified on most of the answers.

When I asked Duke what he did in the Navy he said it was classified. After much discussion I finally hired him, Duke Miller. Duke

headed up our ROV’s worldwide. I was going to call him by his real name but no one here would know whom I was talking about.

ROVs assisted in making commercial diving safer and less expensive along with moving diving into deeper depths faster than anyone expected.

Earlier I mention there were two aspects that really changed the commercial diving industry safety record, and gave it the respect it

deserved. The second item was this:

Well, now go back in time again into the late ’60s. The ADC board members performed all the activities for the association, gave lectures,

speeches, presentations, etc to promote the organization. But when a board member performed one of these tasks, his company usually

benefited by obtaining the contract and or that job.

This didn’t set well with all the board members even though they all had equal opportunity in performing those functions. The ADC

started a search for someone to manage its operations.

One day, Ken Wallace, who was with TD&S, which was part of Brown & Root, went to the Association of Building Contractors, a

building contractors’ association that represented thousands of statewide companies, meeting in New Orleans. There he was impressed

with their spokesperson and brought him to the next board meeting.

At that meeting we hired our first executive director, Jeff Hingle. Jeff was with us for 3 to 5 years. He now is, and has been for the past

twenty-plus years, the sheriff of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.

Now the ADC’s executive director could lead the association under the direction of the board of directors. He would act as a third-party, nonbiased

person in representing the ADC. The board was very happy. Of course other notable executive directors such as: Bob McArtle, Ross Saxton,

and Phil Newsum followed over the past 46 years in maintaining the high standards that were established in the early years of the association.

With and through the entrepreneurial leadership of the board of directors, today the ADC is clearly the only nationally recognized

association that speaks for the commercial diving industry.

- Tom Angel

ADCI Commercial Diving Hall of Fame

a meeting to organize a non-profit industry

association that would be based in Louisiana.

Most of the contractors had their own inhouse

safety standards, but that had begun to

present problems.

“Some of our customers were even starting

to use our differences in policy as a

negotiating tool,” Hughes said. ‘Company A

will do such and such (basically cut some

corner on safety)—why won’t you?’ As little

contact as we had with each other, we could

not easily learn whether this was true or not.”

The contractors agreed to form the

Association of Diving Contractors and

Hughes was elected its first president with

Tom Angel as secretary-treasurer.

About the same time the ADC got up and

running, the commercial diving industry




When I first became aware of the positive effects of the Association of Diving Contractors (ADC) I was a diving supervisor/diver with a

few years experience in deep bounce and saturation diving, mostly working overseas.

The first underwater convention I attended was in the late 1970s. I was working for Ocean Systems and had just completed a sixweek

rotation on a exploration drill ship in Venezuela. My flight landed in New Orleans just as the underwater event was getting

underway. What an eye opener the event was—all the latest equipment, all the latest research, and the people who were behind all the

new technology, plus every bar in the French Quarter was full of divers. They were easy to spot since most were physically fit and wearing

a waterproof watch.

The equipment on display and technical papers were eye and brain candy to me. I just couldn’t get enough. This was where the shakers

and movers of our industry gathered to talk about new procedures, equipment, research, and, of course, the camaraderie.

I still have my copy of Decompression Sickness and its Therapy, organized by the Association of Diving Contractors and the Institute for

Environmental Medicine. (University of Pennsylvania, April 1978, C. J. Lambertsen, editor.)

I attended quite a few of these annual shows through the years but it wasn’t until a few years later that I was introduced to the inner

workings of the ADCI while I was working for Andre Galerne (IUC). He had just been elected president of the ADCI and was fully engaged

in the process of resetting and the association to include the inland divers, international members and the creation of Underwater Magazine.

We had quite a few conversations about its purpose and direction of the ADC. He had a vision for the association.

More years pass and I am appointed to the ADCI board of directors representing two major diving companies—Stolt and then Cal Dive

International. Here is where the reality hit me (remember I am a card-carrying member) that every member of the board is sitting at the

meetings with one goal—to ensure the standards and level of safety meet or exceed best industry standards, as well as regulatory standards.

The meetings are interesting. After all, this is the heartbeat of commercial diving operational sanity. Some members have different views

but, at the end of the day, the voting on each issue was completed via a majority consensus. A couple of years later I was honored to be

elected to be chairman of the board and president of ADCI. This job lasted for six one-year terms.

As one can imagine, this was not an easy job; you learn as each moment passes. During the first meeting I perspired like I was in a

sauna. I learned to keep my mouth closed until others had spoken; I tried to keep my opinion till last. I studied and implemented “Robert’s

Rules of Order” in a relaxed manner to allow a free exchange of ideas and opinions as everyone was entitled to express his opinion. I found

myself at times acting as a referee rather than chairman. Fifteen-minute breaks helped to re-focus the agenda.

We created an aggressive agenda to re-write the consensus standards for the twenty-first century, and a new evergreen standard now

called the International Consensus Standards for Commercial Diving and Underwater Operations, 6.0 Edition. This was a major task

because we started from scratch to completely review every issue and wrote the standards to meet and exceed best industry practices. This

realized the new Occupational Safety and

Health Administration (OSHA was created in

December 1970) likely would try to come up

with safety rules that would be federally

imposed. Industry leaders wanted to develop

their own standard operating procedures and

then if necessary, spar with OSHA over their

adequacy and acceptability.

The OSHA threat did not go away just

because we formed ADC and continued to

work on the MTS safety standards,” Hughes

said. “The day came when we were notified

that...formal open hearings on diving

safety standards would be held in

Washington. I was elected to go to

Washington and speak. I worked hard at

putting together a passionate argument that

ADC knew more about commercial diving

than the government bureaucrats ever would.

We wanted to convince OSHA to let us finish

our standards and then have them accepted.”

Hughes flew to Washington and went to

the building where the hearings were

underway. There was a large auditorium with

a podium on the main floor between the front

seats and a raised stage.

“I took a seat in the back of the auditorium

and looked the situation over,” he said. “The government

officials who were there to hear testimony

were seated up on the stage behind a long

table which stretched across the stage. There

were at least fifteen of them, but they all seemed

to be coming and going, talking to each other, or

even sleeping. What they were not doing was listening

to the people who were testifying.”

Even worse, the podium was turned so it

faced the audience in the auditorium, not the

OSHA officials on the stage.

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


took nearly three years and many hours on the part of the executive committee to finish. I cringe to think of the corrections and many

typos we discovered.

We also reviewed the by-laws of the association and added teeth to the membership, where if a member of the association acts in a manner

disregarding the consensus standards the board can review and either terminate or suspend the membership of the company. Why, you ask?

Well, if one company acts foolishly and unsafe by ignoring the consensus standards it affects the credibility of every member of the association.

We also initiated a mandatory reporting of accidents and fatalities, as well as membership audits of personnel document and equipment

inspection, maintenance, and testing.

The new standards have:

• A minimum bailout bottle capacity for all depths.

• Emergency Diver Evacuation Standards requiring a means of diver evacuation from saturation systems.

• PVHO maintenance guide.

• Contaminated water diving guide.

Diving on DP vessels.

• Translated into Spanish and Chinese.

Various new committees were formed:

• Saturation Diving Safety Committee.

• Civil Engineering Diving Committee.

• Medical Physician Committee.

How did this help the association? The membership was one hundred percent behind this and the response from our regulatory agencies

was very positive. Working relationships were signed with the U.S. Coast Guard, OSHA and ANSI (American National Standards Institute),

and ACDE (Association of Commercial Diving Educators).

Yes, the Association of Diving Contractors International has been a very positive experience for the industry and of course me. It was

an honor to be a part of the association.

The future is very bright for the ADCI. The ongoing question is, “What are we doing well and what can we do to make it better to

uphold our values of safety, education, and communication?”

Finally, we cannot forget Phil Newsum who has been the focal point of the success the association since he first became executive

director…he gets things done. Thank you Phil.

- Bill Crowley

Past President, ADCI

The Divex display from the 1991 ADCI




The show floor at an ADCI convention is

the chance for the ADCI’s 600 members to

display their latest technical innovations,

products, and services.


The person testifying couldn’t even see the

people on the stage,” Hughes said. “The only

people in the audience were people like me who

were there to testify. Basically we were talking to

each other and the government was ignoring us.

The more I watched the madder I got.”

Diving safety standards were only one of

numerous issues before the panel that day.

The man who spoke before me was a

representative of the Michigan Highway

Contractors Association,” Hughes said. “My

turn finally came and they called me up to the

front of the auditorium. As I walked up, not

one single person on the stage was even

looking at me, much less acting like they

intended to listen.”

Hughes put his speech down on the

podium and gripped his hands on either side.

The speaker’s stand was made of heavy oak,

about three feet square and five feet high.

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry



Regardless of the places I have worked, or the positions that I have held, I have been

fortunate enough to have spent my entire diving career working for ADCI member companies.

The ADCI Consensus Standards for Commercial Diving and Underwater Operations are not

only recognized as best industry practice here in the U.S., but in many other parts of the world.

These standards, combined with the wealth of experience that our diverse membership

provides, have been vital resources to our organization; providing us with the guidance

necessary to conduct diving operations as safely as possible.

Having also served on the ADCI board of directors for nearly a decade, I can attest to the

fact that our membership is passionate, knowledgeable, and committed; constantly evolving

and working to be at the forefront of best practices for our industry.

Without a doubt, having been elected as the ADCI’s president for 2017 is one of the

greatest honors of my commercial diving career. I am consistently surrounded by good people

working to achieve one goal—building upon the success of the past fifty years in order to keep

divers safe.

- Bryan Nicholls

President, ADCI

“I dragged it around until it faced the

stage,” Hughes continued. “The microphone

on the podium made a heck of a racket as the

podium grated on the floor.”

The noise got the attention of the panel and

even woke up two men who had been asleep.

“I realize you gentlemen have had a long

day, but I’ve come a long way to say

something which is very important to me and

my fellow contractors,” Hughes said. “I’d

appreciate it if you could at least give me your

attention for a few minutes.”

At that, he recalled, the others waiting in

the auditorium burst into applause.

His talk, he said, probably didn’t have

much to do with the eventual outcome of

the OSHA regulations, but it did feel to

him like ADC had at least gotten a hearing

in Washington.

“A lot of us worked hard for several more

years to hammer out a reasonable

understanding about diving safety standards,”

he continued. “It was truly an effort of most of

the contractors, large and small. That effort

also showed us we could work together and

weren’t such bad guys after all. ADC has come

a long way since then, but it probably won’t

encounter anything as challenging as getting

that first group of guys together.”

As Dive Training Magazine explained, “The

basic ADC Commercial Diver certification is

Entry Level Tender/Diver. To earn more

advanced certifications, a diver must log

experience in the field (called “field days”)

and underwater (referred to as “working

dives”). Divers are required to receive

on-the-job training to be eligible for

more advanced commercial diver certification

unless they received the required formal

training through an accredited commercial

diving school, military dive school, or

the equivalent.”

Today the ADCI—now based in

Houston—has more than 600 member

companies, furnishing services and support

for the conduct of safe underwater operations

from 41 nations throughout the world.

Encompassing offshore and inland sectors of

diving, ADCI is comprised of segments from

the business, educational and medical

communities. ADCI cooperates and participates

with state and federal regulatory agencies and

works closely with all stakeholders to develop

standards that are consistent and attainable,

while meeting the highest standards of safety

for underwater operations.

ADCI now has four membership

classifications. General membership is for



ADCI sets industry standards for

educationa nd safety that have made a

lasting, positive impact upon the commercial

diving industry.



those members who conduct commercial

diving as a substantial part of their business.

Associate members support general members

through the training of personnel engaged in

commercial diving services, and/or through

the manufacturing/supporting of goods and

services. Supporting members are “for profits”

or “not for profits” that support the mission

and purpose of the ADCI. This includes

government regulatory authorities, oversight

agencies and military authorities among

others. Affiliate membership includes any

organization that supports the purposes of the

ADCI that is invited by the board of directors.

The mission of the ADCI is:

• To promote the highest level of safety in

the practice of commercial diving and

underwater operations.

• To promote proper and adequate training

and education for industry personnel.

• To foster open communication within the

underwater industry.

• To hold all members accountable

in adherence to the Consensus

Standards for Commercial Diving and

Underwater Operations.

Recognized as the premiere association

that issues safe diving guidelines through

its International Consensus Standards for

Commercial Diving and Underwater

Operations, ADCI is also the primary entity

for the issuance of certifications for diving

personnel in the United States. and many

regions globally.

ADCI has formal partnerships with the U.S.

Coast Guard, the American Salvage

Association, the U.S. Navy’s Naval Sea Systems

Command (Supervisor of Salvage and Diving),

as well as with several navies in the Latin

America and Asia Pacific sectors. The U.S.

Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and

Health Administration (OSHA) “recognizes

ADCI standards as the best established

industry practice.”

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry



At my first ADC meeting in 1974 little did I think I’d observe this

50th Anniversary of the organization. The success of ADC (now

ADCI) has only been achieved through the efforts of many

committed persons and member companies; all working to enhance

and continually improve safety throughout the international

commercial diving profession while simultaneously cooperating and

educating the implementing government agencies under whose laws

we must operate. I am proud to have served in many roles over the

years and to have been given an opportunity to contribute.

- Ross Saxon, Ph.D. LCDR USN (Ret)

Former Executive Director, ADCI

ADCI Commercial Diving Hall of Fame

Congratulations to the ADCI on its fifty-year anniversary! And

many thanks to the ADCI for its dedication and service to the

commercial diving industry. The ADCI has done more to promote and

implement commercial diving safety than any other entity. From

drafting the first National Safety Consensus Standard to the present

International Safety Consensus Standard, to commercial diver

certification, to the present audit initiative, and so many, many more

activities, that not only promoted diver safety, but also protected its

member firms from overregulation by government and outside

entities. All industry stakeholders owe a debt of gratitude to the ADCI,

and must continue to support this organization in our ultimate goal of

getting our divers and dive support crews home safely!

Again, Congratulations to the ADCI for 50 great years!

- Jon Hazelbaker

Commercial Diving Consultant

Hammerhead Marine Services, LLC

ADCI Commercial Diving Hall of Fame

Congratulations to ADCI, and particularly the great André

Galerne, for creating a modern, cohesive, internationally respected,

organization from a group of strongly independent individuals who

operated a “My Way or the Highway” system of a mongrel industry

(non)co-operation back in the 1940s-1970s. A true fifty-year

American success story!

- Leslie Leaney

Co-founder, Historical Diving Society USA

Founder, The Journal of Diving History

Founding Trustee, Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

ADCI Commercial Diving Hall of Fame

The ADCI, including all the Diving Professionals and other

Passionate Men and Women, who unselfishly contributed,

voluntarily, with their time and hard work to make the Association

a definitive voice for the Commercial Diving Industry, have been an

enormous part of my profession and my career, spanning over forty

years to date. Thank you and happy fiftieth anniversary!

- Mike Brown

Onyx Services, Inc.

Past President, ADCI

I want to congratulate the many people, both staff and

volunteers, who have made the ADCI what it is today—fifty years,

truly a remarkable milestone! From very humble beginnings, the

organization has grown to represent our industry throughout the

world and, most importantly, to help ensure the safety of the guy on

the end of the hose!

- Craig Fortenbery

Founder, Mainstream Commercial Divers, Inc.

Past President, ADCI

For over thirty years the ADCI has been a reliable ally to Dryden

Diving. We could not have reached the level of professionalism we

have today without them. Thanks to their guidance our crews are

among the most professional in the industry.

- Donald Dryden

President, Dryden Diving Company, Inc.

I have witnessed in my twenty-five years with the ADCI its

progress from requiring not much more from its diving contractors

than its desire to operate safely, and having no diver certification, to

an association with universally accepted standards for contractors

and training centers, plus universal certifications for divers.

Congratulations, ADCI!

- Barbara Treadway

Manager, Administrative Services, ADCI

East Coast Chapter Chairman




Since 2005, ADCI has inducted selected nominees into the Commercial Diving Hall of Fame. These individuals are nominated from all walks

of life and represent men and women who throughout their lifetime have made a recognized and lasting contribution to commercial diving.

The genesis of the program goes back a year before, when in 2004, the board of directors decided to establish the Hall of Fame with the

first group of inductees being those who had previously been awarded either the John B. Galletti Memorial Award (established in 1978) or

the Tom Devine Memorial Award (established in 1995).

That initial group included 33 persons and one additional dedicated Hall of Fame selectee to represent 2004. This group had 25 prior

John B. Galletti Memorial Award winners and 8 prior Tom Devine Memorial Award honorees.

With the passage of time the number of Hall of Fame nominees has slowed. This may be due to a lack of understanding of what the

Hall of Fame is intended to represent or simply because as the commercial diving community continues to grow the contributions of

individual persons become less evident. It also may be that some of the individuals deserving recognition are from small nations where the

commercial diving community is not as well recognized as in other parts of the globe. Even so, many people from the industry’s global

community have dedicated their lives to improving commercial diving in one way or another. These may be men and women who have

been commercial divers, developers of equipment, contributors to the medical sciences used to keep divers safe, safety professionals who

recognize and alert the community to on-the-job hazards, individuals who establish companies to employ commercial divers or others who

produce improved tools for underwater use.

- Adapted from ADCI website.

List of Prior Awardees

(Note: Posthumous awards are noted by the letter “P”)

John B. Galleti Memorial Award

Capt. George Bond (P) 1978

Cdr. Jackie Warner (P) 1979

Dr. Chris Lambertsen 1980

Hugh (Dan) Wilson 1981

Bev Morgan 1982

D. Michael Hughes 1983

Dick Evens (P) 1984

George W. Samson (P) 1985

Jim Joiner 1986

Henri Delauze 1987

Phil Nuytten 1988

Murray Black (P) 1989

Lad Handelman 1990

Dr. Joseph McInnis 1991

Herbert G. Newbury (P) 1992

John T. Johnson 1993

Jack D. Smith, Jr. 1994

Andre Galerne 1995

Ellis R. Cross (P) 1996

Joe Savoie (P) 1997

Steve Helburn 1998

Bill Dore 1999

Bob Kirby 2000

Ross Saxon 2001

Conway Whitey Grubbs (P) 2002

R. H. (Dutchy) Holland 2003

Tom Devine Memorial Award

Ms. Bernice McKenzie 1995

Juan R. Crofton 1996

Mike McGovern 1997

Fred Aichele 1999

Rick Jager 2000

John Hazelbaker 2001

Jim Caldwell 2002

Hall of Fame Award

Bob Barth 2005

Rodney Cruze 2006

Dick Long 2006

Torrence Parker 2006

Jack Reedy 2006

Walter (Whitey) Stephens 2007

Wilber (Jerry) O’Neill 2007

Dr. Jeff Zhang 2008

Dr. Robert Workman (P) 2008

John Manlove (P) 2008

Norman Ketcham 2008

Lazaro Del Castillo 2008

Dr. Joseph Serio 2009

Leonard Greenstone 2009

Robert W. Honaker 2009

Bud Mills 2010

Bob Ratcliff 2010

Ben Miller 2011

Tom Angel 2011

Joe Sanford (P) 2011

Paul Leblanc 2012

Drew Michel 2012

Lawrence Goldberg 2013

Bob Merriman 2013

Richard Geyer 2013

Van T. Bell (P) 2014

George Cundiff 2014

Dr. Keith Van Meter, M.D. 2014

Dr. John Beran 2015

Denny Swartz 2015

S. Joe Vidrine 2015

Mike Von Alvensleben 2016

George Wiswell 2016

Leslie Leaney 2017

Owen Boyles 2017

Mike Ward 2018

Craig Fortenbery 2018

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry



Delgado, James P. Misadventures of a Civil War Submarine: Iron, Guns and Pearls. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2012.

Green, John B. Diving, With and Without Armor: Containing the Submarine Exploits of J.B. Green, the Celebrated Submarine Diver. Buffalo:

Faxon's Steam Powered Press, 1859.

Hughes, D. Michael. Oceaneer: From the Bottom of the Sea to the Boardroom. NP, 2015.

Kuntz, Jerry. The Heroic Age of Diving: America's Underwater Pioneers and the Great Wrecks of Lake Erie. Albany: State University of New York

Press, 2016.

Marx, Robert F. The History of Underwater Exploration. New York: Dover Publications, 1978, 1990.

Swann, Christopher. The History of Oilfield Diving: An Individual Adventure. Santa Barbara, California: Oceanaut Press, 2007.




WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry





Profiles of businesses, organizations,

and families that have contributed to

Collins Engineers, Inc.

the development and continued growth of

the commercial diving industry

Underwater Construction Corporation..............................................64

J.F. Brennan Company, Inc. ............................................................70

Logan Diving & Salvage ................................................................74

Eason Diving & Marine Contractors, Inc. ........................................78

Mainstream Commercial Divers, Inc. ..............................................80

Commercial Diving & Marine Services, Inc. ......................................82

Divers Institute of Technology ........................................................84

W.J. Castle P.E. & Associates, P.C. ..................................................86

DRS Marine Inc. ..........................................................................88

Global Diving & Salvage, Inc. ........................................................90

Marine Diving Technology Class of 1973—

Santa Barbara City College.......................................................92

American Marine Corporation ........................................................94

Teichman Group of Companies ........................................................96

STS Chile

(STS Marine Engineering and Constructing Limited) ......................98

Walker Diving Underwater Construction LLC ..................................100

Marion Hill Associates Diving and Marine Services Group.................102

ONYX Services, Inc. ....................................................................104

U.S. Underwater Services, LLC .....................................................105

Subsalve USA.............................................................................106

Hammerhead Marine Services, LLC

Commercial Diving Services, Inc. .............................................107

Dryden Diving Company, Inc. .......................................................108

Chesapeake Bay Diving, Inc..........................................................109

Resolve Marine Group .................................................................110

Association of Diving Contractors International...............................111

Enviroscience, Inc.

Historical Diving Society USA

Lakes & Rivers

Contractors, Inc.

National University

Polytechnic Institute

The Ocean Corporation

Randive, Inc.






Approaching fifty years of industry

innovation and job creation

Above: Co-Founder, John Chiangi, Sr.,

in 1972 preparing to test radiological dive

equipment to be used at the Yankee Rowe

Nuclear Plant.

Below: UCC divers completing the first

successful radiological dives at the Yankee

Rowe Nuclear Plant in January of 1973.

Underwater Construction Corporation (UCC)

was founded in 1969 by John Chiangi, Sr.

and Stuart Leech. Both men had previously

worked for a Connecticut-based company

called Marine Contracting, Inc. where they

gained their respective knowledge in commercial

diving. It was here in the 1960s

that they performed the first commercial

saturation dives at Smith Mountain Dam in

Virginia. Although very little commercial

diving had been performed at power plants

in the past, this method of diving service

was rapidly growing in the industry. The

founders took this experience and shaped

their vision to expand UCC’s diving services

into the fossil, nuclear, and hydro-electric

power markets.

One of the company’s first significant

milestones occurred in the early 1970s when

UCC pioneered radiological diving, and

made the first of these dives at the Yankee

Rowe Nuclear Plant in Rowe, Massachusetts.

This inventive approach, although new,

caught on quickly and, by the early 1980s,

the company’s radiological diving was

being performed in several nuclear plants

throughout the domestic United States. UCC’s

unique ability to offer such a specialized

service helped the company expand its

marine diving applications at an accelerated

pace. Throughout the 1980s, UCC had

numerous service contracts with customers

in the power industry, as well as with owners

of several water dependent facilities.

In 1986 the founders decided it was time

to leave the company when it was acquired

by a publicly owned asbestos abatement company

named The Brand Companies. Under

public ownership, Chiangi’s son, John, Jr.,

took over as president of the company. At

this time, UCC was still relatively small with

annual revenues of less than 5 million and

roughly thirty employees. However, UCC’s

new parent company pushed for rapid growth

regardless of the means. By the late 1980s,

UCC, through its parent company, began

acquiring and starting-up separate companies,

most of which were unrelated to diving.

During the next several years, UCC struggled

with its identity and navigated through

name and ownership changes when The

Brand Companies was finally acquired.

Despite these hurdles, UCC continued to

grow in both the specialized radiological

diving and marine diving services. In fact,

1987 would be the year the company

completed its first international project at a

nuclear plant in Taiwan. As a result, the

company went on to successfully complete

several nuclear plant projects throughout

Taiwan from the late 1980s and into the

early 2000s.

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


The year 1989 proved to be a monumental

year for UCC when its parent company

acquired Lakeshore Marine, located in

St. Joseph, Michigan. This allowed the company

to expand its operations west to the

Great Lakes region and service a host of new

customers. Additionally, it enabled UCC to

more effectively service existing clients, like

one noteworthy customer located on Lake

Michigan, which UCC signed a contract with

in 1987, and happens to be UCC’s longest

running contract to date. The company’s

primary Midwest office eventually relocated

to Stevensville, Michigan, where it remains

today. Over the past twenty-eight years the

hard work and effort of the Midwest division

now accounts for roughly thirty percent of

the company’s combined annual revenues.

Also in 1989, while still under the pressures

of its parent company, UCC took on

two of the largest projects the company had

ever performed up until that time. The first

was a massive re-rack project at a nuclear

plant in California. This was a two-year

project that alone accounted for roughly one

half of the company’s annual revenues. The

second was a challenging marine construction

project for Metro-North Commuter Railroad

in Connecticut that involved the extensive

rehabilitation of four railroad bridges over

a two-year period. Both projects were a

great success and helped the company gain

substantial recognition in the nuclear and

marine diving industry.

In the early 1990s, another significant

milestone achievement for UCC came from

the company’s extensive R&D with underwater

welding, which was a highly-specialized

service that nuclear power plants around the

world could benefit from. UCC had already

caught the attention of a worldwide reactor

service company, which hired them to perform

their first international underwater

welding project at the Cofrentes nuclear site

in Spain. This endeavor created a viable new

market and a multitude of new welding projects

for UCC to be involved in. In 1991, UCC

received approval from Japanese authorities to

weld in Japan, thus creating additional new

opportunities for the company. To enhance

this endeavor, a state-of-the-art hyperbaric

facility was established in Essex, Connecticut,

where it is still used today to perform R&D,

and underwater welding training and certifications

used on safety-related components

around the world.

In 1994, after eight years as president,

John, Jr., parted with the company his

father founded some twenty-five years before.

Rather than replace him, the parent company

chose to leave the business in the capable

hands of the existing management group, all

of whom had worked for the company for

many years. In that same year, UCC began

a relationship with one of its long-time

competitors in the re-racking market that

Above: UCC diver/welder entering

the water at a nuclear plant where

modifications were performed on

reactor components.

Below: View of the internal portion of

a reactor vessel inside a nuclear plant.

The purple glow is the highly-irradiated

fuel that will be removed prior to diving.

Even with the fuel removed, advanced

methods are necessary to protect the diver

from radiation exposure. This is one of

several areas within a nuclear facility that

UCC conducts highly-specialized diving.



Left: The three new owners along with

representatives from the Connecticut

Development Authority (CDA) and Webster

Bank shortly after acquiring the company in

December of 1996. From left to right; UCC

Vice President/Secretary Michael Pellini;

UCC President/CEO John Lawton; CDA

Representative; Vice President/Treasurer

William Feeley and Webster

Bank representative.

Right: UCC completing extensive dam

rehabilitation on the Tennessee River in

1999. The work involved repairs to the

downstream apron of the dam over a period

of several months.

proved to be a significant move that continues

to benefit the company to this day. The offices

in Connecticut and Michigan continued to

grow as the company attained more annual

contracts and took on such large projects as

the Keokuk Dam on the Mississippi River

in Iowa as well as chemical feed line installations

and mollusk remediation throughout

Lake Michigan.

For the next several years the underwater

welding program was intensifying and providing

UCC many new opportunities both

domestically as well as internationally. By

1995, UCC had completed its first safetyrelated

welds at a Nuclear Plant in North

Carolina and its first dryer cut-up at a

nuclear site in Japan. These were two significant

advancements in UCC’s welding and

reactor services program that brought the

company additional and well deserved recognition

in the nuclear industry.

In 1996, UCC was awarded a long-term

contract in Ludington, Michigan, which helped

the company grow to roughly $10 million

in annual revenues. Then, after a decade of

public ownership, the company was privately

acquired by three standout employees who

were part of the management group entrusted

to run the company in 1994. All three had

worked many years for the company as

divers and, eventually, in management. The

new leadership team was comprised of

John Lawton, who served as president while

Michael Pellini and William Feeley served

as the company’s two vice presidents. The

acquisition was successful due in part to the

assistance it received from Connecticut state

agencies like the Department of Economic

and Community Development (DECD) and

the Connecticut Development Authority

(CDA). These two agencies, in combination

with Webster Bank, helped the three new

owners accomplish the transaction and

reclaim the company’s original name, which

is synonymous with commercial diving.

Also in 1996, UCC made an important

decision to open a new office in Soddy Daisy,

Tennessee, to service the vast network of

power producing facilities along the

Tennessee Valley River System. By early 1997

the office was staffed and fully operational.

This expansion into Tennessee helped the

company in its pursuit of future growth in

the Southeast region. Some twenty years later,

through the talented leadership and support

staff, the Tennessee office now accounts for

roughly twenty-five percent of the company’s

annual revenues.

The impact of the aggressive new ownership

was apparent almost immediately, and by

the end of 1997, UCC had annual revenues of

approximately $11 million and seventy-five

employees. The new management group was

mostly comprised of veteran employees who

had worked as divers for the company for

many years; “They are a diverse and talented

group of individuals that William Feeley and

I have worked with for many years, both

diving and in management. The fact that

they all still work at the company in major

roles is a true testament to their dedication.

We could have never achieved our success

without this group and the people that

support them,” comments Pellini.

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


By 1998 the company was well into developing

its nuclear underwater coatings program.

This involved state-of-the-art methods

and products that could withstand high levels

of radiation as well as be applied underwater

in nuclear plants on various underwater

components without the need for dewatering.

Moreover, the company was heavily involved

with large-scale modification projects at

nuclear plants with one of them requiring

upwards of fifty-six divers, many of whom

were highly skilled underwater welders.

In 1998, UCC was awarded a first-of-itskind

project at a world-famous theme park

in Orlando, Florida. This project involved

the extensive rehabilitation of the largest

salt water aquarium in the world. It was a

technically challenging project that had

more than twenty divers working for several

months while the attraction stayed open to

the public. At this same time, UCC was

continuing to forge strong relationships with

some of the world’s largest companies in the

nuclear industry in preparation for the future.

Business slowed slightly in the early 2000s

as some nuclear contracts came to an end.

However, the company rebounded in 2003,

when it acquired work for all three of its

regional offices. One of the projects undertaken

by UCC was a highly technical and challenging

assignment in Japan for one of the largest

manufacturers of nuclear reactors in the world.

More than thirty divers worked at the site

for several months and the outcome of the

project proved a tremendous success, bringing

forward more opportunities in Japan.

By the end of 2004, UCC had record

growth, which roughly tripled its annual

revenues since the three new owners acquired

it in 1996. The Connecticut corporate office

was responsible for roughly two thirds of

the company’s revenues that year due to a

large influx of nuclear plant services.

Additionally, the other two offices, Michigan

and Tennessee, were continuing to grow in

their respective regions, which represented

the remaining one-third. UCC continued to

prosper over the next few years with projects

involving its specialized underwater coatings,

reactor services and welding, marine services

and general diving.

In 2008, UCC had an incredible year;

when the company had its second-best

revenue year in history. UCC had a considerable

amount of both radiological and marine

diving services during the year. The Michigan

office had two large projects: one at a nuclear

site in Florida and the other for a utility

customer on Lake Michigan. The Michigan

office achieved its highest revenues to date.

In addition, the Connecticut and Tennessee

offices had successful years with their large

client base, which continued to grow steadily.

UCC marked the completion of the company’s

fortieth year of service and its sixth straight

year of sustainable growth.

Above: UCC completing turnkey repairs on

multiple mooring cells at an Ohio River

fossil plant in 2012.

Below: UCC diver preparing to complete a

dive on Lake Michigan. In the background is

the company’s eighty-foot Jack-up Barge

that supports multiple diving operations.



Left: Equipment being mobilized to

Ludington, Michigan, where UCC personnel

annually install, maintain and remove the

largest barrier net in North America.

UCC has been responsible for this 2.4 mile

net since 1996.

Right: UCC diver/welder completing

underwater test welds in preparation to

travel abroad to a nuclear plant where

reactor modifications were performed.

Work remained consistent for the next few

years and, by 2011, UCC’s Michigan office

expanded its marine diving operations further

west to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In addition,

the acquisition of Seaview Diving of Seymour,

Wisconsin in 2014, provided this office

the ability to expand into Green Bay and

the surrounding areas. UCC continued its

acquisitions and in 2015 made two additional

purchases to expand its Midwest division.

The first was Sea-Brex Diving located just

a short distance from UCC’s existing office

in Stevensville. The second was Great Lakes

Diving located in Rockford, Michigan. Now

with three acquisitions, all within two years,

the Michigan office needed a larger location.

In the summer of 2015, UCC moved across

the street into its new 50,000-square-foot

facility. At this same time, the Connecticut

division was making a relentless push to enter

the decommissioning market in the United

Kingdom. Success came when the company

was awarded a contract at a nuclear site

in England. This, in turn, led UCC to open

its first international subsidiary, Underwater

Construction Corporation, UK, LTD. In 2016,

UCC pioneered the first radiological dives

in the country, further establishing itself as

an elite diving authority.

In 2014, Lawton retired from the company

after serving as its president for the previous

eighteen years. The two remaining owners,

Pellini and Feeley remained as co-chairmen

and promoted the company’s Chief Financial

Officer Raymond Palumbo, to the position of

President and CEO. Ironically, after being so

intrigued with UCC, Palumbo came to the

company eighteen years prior in 1996 from

the very same bank (Webster Bank) that

assisted the three owners with the purchase.

In 2014 and 2015 the company’s international

reputation was further enhanced when

UCC was awarded multiple reactor projects

with a worldwide reactor service company

at a nuclear plant in Mexico. These projects

involved highly technical applications, extensive

tooling design and mock-ups to complete

steam dryer repairs on several reactor units.

Today, UCC is recognized as one of the

largest in-land diving companies of its kind,

both in the United States and internationally.

UCC’s corporate headquarters, along with its

three regional offices and international

subsidiary, provide marine diving and radiological

diving to many of the largest utility

owners in the power generation industry. In

addition, UCC provides a variety of services

to numerous clients and diverse industries,

including port authorities, private waterfront

owners, government and municipal owners,

the DOE, manufacturing owners, general

contractors, and many more. The company’s

vast expertise in radiological diving has

afforded UCC the incredible opportunity to

work with some of the largest companies in

the power generation industry. To its credit,

UCC has performed highly specialized radiological

diving throughout the domestic

United States and worldwide in more than

twenty-two countries including, Japan, South

Korea, China, Taiwan, Brazil, Spain, Sweden,

Switzerland, and England, to name a few.

The company is proud to employ more

than 200 commercial divers and support

staff. Their marine diving operations support

customers throughout New England, the

Mid-Atlantic, the Midwest, the Tennessee

Valley and southern area regions, as well

as numerous locations across the domestic

United States. All the company’s international

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


services are performed from its corporate

office located in Essex, Connecticut, where

roughly one-half of its workforce is located.

UCC has been an active member in many

organizations, including the Long Island

Marine Community for many years and is

a proud member of the Connecticut Maritime

Coalition. The company takes an active and

responsible role in supporting several charitable

programs both nationally recognized as

well as in its own communities.

“It’s no doubt that our competitive edge

is our dedicated people,” comments Pellini.

“We have highly talented people in the

company that have been with us for more

than twenty years. This includes some of the

best underwater welders in the world, as well

as divers who are well trained on nuclear

components. We also have some of the

best marine staff, who are performing some

very challenging marine-related work on

Lake Michigan, the Tennessee River and

throughout New England, from mooring cell

repairs to dam rehabilitation.” Pellini also

adds, “Although the business has grown

four times under the current ownership

that took over twenty years ago, it all comes

down to our people.”

UCC has the expertise, resources, and

flexibility to perform large turnkey projects or

support small local tasks on a call-out basis.

The company strives to provide innovative,

high-quality, cost-effective services that are

consistent with its commitment to the

safety of the employees and customers. UCC

meets or exceeds the requirements of the

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

(OSHA) and the Association of Diving

Contractors International (ADCI). All divers

are certified as commercial divers and maintain

current first aid and CPR certifications.

The goal is to bring only the highest degree of

professionalism to every job. The company

is an equal opportunity employer and has

been a proud member of the ADCI for more

than twenty years.

“We see a very bright future for Underwater

Construction Corporation,” says Pellini. “We’re

coming off our third year of record growth

and enjoyed our best year ever in 2016.

We already have a considerable amount of

new work for the next year or two and

anticipate doing even better as we continue

to grow even further. We are anticipating

growth in the specific areas that we understand

well and will continue to foster strong

relationships with our customers.”

The company would like to acknowledge

its senior managers: Keith McClintock, Philip

McDermott, Darrell Moody, and James Nichols,

as well as their dedicated and hardworking

operations managers, project managers,

supervisors, divers and support staff and,

finally, to the assistance it received some

twenty years ago from the two Connecticut

agencies and Webster Bank. This has helped

the company create and maintain jobs in

Connecticut as well as in other states

where UCC has regional office locations.

UCC looks to continue its successful growth

as it nears close to its fiftieth-year anniversary.

For more information on UCC’s mission

and services, please visit

Above: Five of UCC’s veteran employees

receiving their Mark IV dive helmet for

twenty years of outstanding service in 2016.

To date, UCC has recognized forty

employees for twenty years of service.

Clockwise from left to right; Donald Hunt,

Phillip Such, William Lee, Jon Shelton,

and Mark Pawlus.

Below: Today’s senior management

staff from left to right; Southern

Regional Manager Darrell Moody;

Co-Chairman/Treasurer William Feeley;

Midwest Regional Manager Keith

McClintock; Co-Chairman/Secretary

Michael Pellini; Director of Finance

James Nichols; Nuclear and Northeast

Regional Manager Philip McDermott and

President/CEO Raymond Palumbo.





Above: A an early picture of a diver suiting

up on a Brennan bridge construction

project, c. 1937.

Below Left: Sealing a cofferdam, c. 1938

Below Right: Missouri River articulated

block mat installation, c. 1994. Left to

right: Craig Bartheld, Darryl Balu, and

Mike Boser.

J.F. Brennan Company (Brennan) is a

marine construction, environmental services,

and harbor management company headquartered

in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Over the last

century, Brennan has worked along the

inland waterways on challenging above- and

below-water construction projects. Since the

beginning, diving has always been an essential

part of serving the needs of clients who own

and operate water-based infrastructure.

Brennan was founded as Brennan Brothers

Construction in 1919 when brothers, James

and Eugene Brennan, left the family farm

and began to build bridges in northeast Iowa.

As they grew, they took on larger projects,

many of which were located on rivers and

streams. The brothers eventually hired Walt

Boltz, who had dive experience and could

carry out an underwater inspection or help

seal a cofferdam. Using rudimentary equipment,

this individual would depend heavily

on topside crews to help position him

correctly, supply air, and retrieve him from

the bottom of the river.

By the mid-1950s the construction of an

improved U.S. highway system had provided

many opportunities for the brothers to

expand into southwestern Wisconsin and

southeastern Minnesota. Larger projects

required floating marine plants, so they began

building barges to support their equipment.

In 1959 the brothers split and James

formed J.F. Brennan Company in La Crosse,

Wisconsin. Work continued on bridge structures,

but as the next generation began to take

leadership roles, they started focusing on

work for the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Army

Corps of Engineers. James’ son, Ralph, and

son-in-law, Roger Binsfeld, continued to build

a substantial fleet of barges and workboats to

serve both public and private owners of riverbased

infrastructure. Brennan quickly morphed

into a marine contractor who pursued

work along the Upper Mississippi River from

St. Louis, Missouri to St. Paul, Minnesota.

In 1971, Roger decided it was time to have

a full-time diver on staff. He heard that a

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


young crew member named Ray Kronfrost

had taken a scuba class the previous winter.

Roger asked Ray to assist with a few dive

inspections. Before long, Ray was assisting

with salvage work. In 1976, Ray went to commercial

dive school and returned to work as

Brennan’s only diver for over a decade.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Brennan

became one of the largest marine contractors

in the Upper Mississippi River. As needed,

freelance divers were hired to support the

growing needs of the topside construction

crews. In 1993, Tony Binsfeld, the third

generation of ownership, saw an opportunity

to expand beyond the Mississippi River and

provide services to utility companies that

owned hydroelectric dams. He hired a

seasoned superintendent, Earl Boser, who

brought five individuals with him, including

two certified divers; his son, Michael Boser,

and Darrell Belleau. This crew made up the

newly formed Industrial Division, which

specialized in both above and below-water

concrete repairs and scour remediation. Earl

had high expectations for his divers and

was adamant about working hard and doing

things the right way. His younger son, Neil

Boser, began diving soon afterward to keep up

with growing demand and later become a lead

superintendent. In 1996, Tony hired David

Cullum who, for the next twenty-two years,

grew the division and served a large number

of industrial clients throughout the country.

This division specialized in preplaced

aggregate concrete, a tried and true method of

underwater concrete placement that is

especially resistant to the yearly freeze-thaw

cycles found in the Midwest.

By 1999 the demand for diving for lock

and dam and railroad projects was so great

that Brennan created an official dive program

separate from the Industrial Division. Craig

Bartheld, an experienced Brennan crew

member, attended dive school and earned his

commercial diving certificate. His role was to

assist the growing marine construction

operations with all of their diving needs.

Under Craig’s leadership, the Dive

Department grew to as many as twelve divers

who traveled throughout the country and

worked for a variety of owners of water-based

infrastructure. His crew included a multitude

of individuals who would become the

foundation on which future dive operations

were built.

The story of the Brennan Dive Group cannot

be told without including Pro-Dive

Incorporated. Pro-Dive was founded in 1975

Above: Ray Kronfrost standing in front of

the Winona, Minnesota, Railroad Bridge

Crossing in 1978

Below: Gary Dondlinger and Mike Boser at

a timber cribbing repair job in 1995.



Above: Jon Burchill performing an

underwater bridge repair for the Minnesota

DOT in Minneapolis, Minnesota, c. 2015.

Below: Jacob Rodgers assisting Ross Brocies

in Sabula, Illinois, c. 2014.

by Randy Jacobs and his two partners, who

focused on the inland towing industry by

patching leaking barges and clearing fouled

wheels. They grew slowly through the 1980s

and 1990s, pioneering new technologies

such as lightweight diving helmets and

band masks with bailout bottles. Located in

Ottawa, Illinois, they worked mostly along

the Illinois River and Upper Mississippi River

in support of the rehabilitation projects on

various lock and dams.

In the early 1990s, the ADC increased its

presence in the Midwest. Randy embraced the

opportunity to learn new methods and share

ideas with other divers who worked along

the inland waterways. Randy and Pro-Dive

became one of the founding members of the

Midwest Chapter of the ADC, with Randy

serving in a number of positions, including

the chapter representative on the ADC Board

of Directors.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Pro-

Dive built a loyal customer base as the

industry and Pro-Dive changed to accommodate

new regulations. Pro-Dive crews carried

out contaminated and potable water projects,

water-based structure inspections, hull

inspections, pipeline inspections, concrete

repairs, and several other inland diving

activities. During this time, Pro-Dive teamed

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


with Brennan on numerous opportunities to

complete large-scale and technically advanced

dive projects. The two companies were culturally

aligned and, when working together, the

crews were indistinguishable. The Pro-Dive

crews integrated completely with fellow

Brennan divers and topside crews.

In 2014, J.F. Brennan Company acquired

Pro-Dive and, under Randy’s leadership, a

stand-alone Dive Group was formed. All

diving was consolidated under Randy, numbering

nearly twenty divers initially. The

combination of the two firms opened the

door for rapid growth into several market

areas such as dam construction, marine construction,

railroad services, environmental

services, and harbor management services.

As of 2018, the Brennan Dive Group numbers

over fifty ADCI Certified Commercial

Divers. Backed by some of the largest assets

and most experienced construction crews

along the inland waterways, the scope and

ability of the Brennan Dive Group has

expanded to include deep water diving,

underwater construction and repair, environmental

remediation, penetration dives, vessel

repair and more. Safety is at the center of each

and every project at Brennan as evident by its

world-class safety program and exemplary

safety statistics. Continued investment in the

latest technologies and a company culture

that promotes innovation will ensure the

Brennan Dive Group remains on the cutting

edge of underwater capabilities. As Brennan

enters its fourth generation of leadership, the

Dive Group is an integral part of Brennan’s

ability to better serve its clients and meet their

high expectations.

To learn more about J.F. Brennan, check

their website at

Above: Eric Hanson climbing out of the

river at Lock and Dam 16 on the Upper

Mississippi River, c. 2016.

Below Left: Blake Rocque and Tony Labarge

heading out to a dive job.

Below Right: Brothers Klayton and Tanner

Brietbach assisting with a dive chamber in

Hot Springs, Arkansas, c. 2017.




Top, right: Joe Logan on left.

Below: Scott Anderson, Oakland,


Bottom, right: Scott Anderson at the

Defiant wreck.

Logan Diving & Salvage has been deeply

involved with the Commercial Deep Sea

Diving and Marine Construction communities

of the Americas for over seventy years.

The firm was started in 1947 by Campbell

“Cam” Logan who was a U.S. Navy diver during

World War II and received his training on

board the USS Normandy, which sank in New

York Harbor after she caught fire. Cam went

on to become the Chief Navy Diving Officer at

Mayport, Florida, after the war and spent his

USN time supporting ships husbandry and

aircraft recovery operations. Campbell separated

from the USN in 1947 and started

Logan Diving & Salvage.

Marine vessel salvage jobs from hurricanes,

accidents and mishaps were always

available to the company from the beginning.

However, heavy marine salvage was

sporadic and unscheduled, prompting

Logan Diving & Salvage to branch out

and offer marine construction diving support

services for bridges, dams, power plants,

electric cables, communication cables, oil,

gas, and water pipelines as well as services

for heavy industries such as pulp/paper

and hydroelectric power. Additionally,

underwater welding and burning has been

and continues to be a major part of day to

day operations.

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


During the 1950s, oil and gas production

and interstate pipelines became one of the main

areas of the business revenue with the explosion

of production volume and discoveries in the

U.S. Gulf States. Pipelines were being installed

across lakes and rivers from Houston, Texas, and

Houma, Louisiana—North and East to Chicago,

Detroit, New York, and the entire east coast.

These pipelines, some of which are still in operation

today provide the fuel oil, diesel, natural

gas and gasoline that run our country. All long

term Logan Diving & Salvage divers to this day

are experts at subaqueous pipeline installation,

repair, cathodic protection, and inspection.

Cam’s brother, Joe, a professional engineer,

came on board to help with the business in

the 1950s. Cam and Joe maintained steady

work installing, maintaining and inspecting

the new subaqueous pipelines river and lake

crossings. Cam and Joe split up the work with

Cam working the pipelines, and Joe working

the bridges and cables.

Other individuals who helped build the

company in its early days include Jack Mixer,

who came on board as project manager in the

early 1970s after a tour with the US Army in

Vietnam and eventually became company

president. Jack was married to Jane Mixer formerly,

Jane Logan, Cam’s daughter.

Susan Armel, served over forty years as

office manager and bookkeeper. Susan always

had a smile for all and a can-do positive attitude

that was infectious. Susan had many

clients far and wide, both foreign and domestic,

wondering if she was single once they

heard her beautiful southern drawl. Many

Logan project managers were questioned at

length at remote job sites about the mysterious

beauty in Florida with the enchanting

southern accent that answered the phones.

LDS expanded into the Caribbean, Central

America, South America, Cuba, and even had

projects in the Persian Gulf. Expansion was

mainly by referral and word of mouth in the

early days. As projects were completed successfully,

more clients enquired and vetted the

company. The result was virtually nonstop

contracts and potential opportunities moving

forward with the surge in oil production and

energy demands, coupled with civil infrastructure

projects of a growing nation.

Departing from its usual business and

going Hollywood, Logan Diving & Salvage

provided the divers and diving support for

the popular movie, The Creature from the

Black Lagoon in 1954. This was a fun

“Outside our Wheelhouse” project that the

divers enjoyed while trying to woo the

glamorous Hollywood actresses.

Logan Diving & Salvage went on to

become the number one leading commercial

diving support provider in the

Southeastern United States, while also

regularly working all of the states east of

the Mississippi River as well as a handful

of states west of the river.

Among the many services provided

today by Logan Diving & Salvage are diving

construction, inspection, and repair services

in support of subaqueous oil and gas

pipelines, fiber optic cables, dock and pier

construction, bridge construction, dam

inspection and repair, underwater welding

and burning, vessel salvage, marine oil spill

response, industrial diving, emergency

response, trans-oceanic subaqueous cable

landings, ships husbandry, and pile driving.

Scott Anderson joined the company in the

early 1980s after a tour of duty with the U.S. Air

Force. Scott received his deep sea diver training

at Coastal School of Deep Sea Diving in Oakland,

California, prior to moving to Florida in 1984.

With a 200-foot Air Ticket from Coastal, Scott

started as a diver, progressing to dive supervisor,

project manager and eventually becoming vice

president through 2008. Logging over 3500

commercial dives, inland, coastal, and offshore

Top: Scott Anderson, Acosta Bridge,

Florida, 1989.

Above: Chris Davis wet welding.



Above: Chris Davis and Joe Busuttil, Royal

Navy Submarine.

Top, right: Brandon Fuhrman Offshore

Jacksonville, Florida.

by the age of fifty-five. Scott is well suited to provide

an experienced, safe and productive environment

for new and current employees. Scott

has negotiated, managed, administered, and executed

large marine construction and industrial

diving projects in the USA, USVI, Puerto Rico,

Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Honduras,

Panama, Bahamas, Curacao, Cuba, and Belize.

Chris Davis joined LDS in the early 2000s

after serving in Iraq with the U.S. Army. Chris

received his commercial diver training at

Divers Academy, International. Chris started

out as a diver and progressed to dive supervisor,

diving superintendent, and project manager.

Chris has worked with LDS over the

years and managed projects in the Gulf of

Mexico, USA, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.

Chris continues to play an integral role in all

phases of field operations for the company

with an emphasis and specialty in Marine

Substructures and Subaqueous pipelines.

Sarah Anderson joined the company in

2008 as office manager and bookkeeper. Sarah

graduated from the University of Central

Florida in 1999 and now oversees all day to

day office duties and staff as well as helping

with project logistics and the Puerto Rico operation’s

admin side. Sarah handles all regulatory

compliance and also works closely with the

Association of Diving Contractors International

to ensure adherence to ADCI Consensus

Standards. Scott and Sarah purchased the business

from the original owners in 2008 and continue

to operate the corporation today.

Joe Busuttil first joined LDS in 2002 after

ten years of mixed gas diving experience in

the Gulf of Mexico. Joe started out as diver

and quickly progressed to dive supervisor. Joe

is now a fulltime estimator and project manager.

He plays an integral role in all phases of

daily operations from marine construction to

ships husbandry.

Sharon Carey came on board in 2010 as an

administrative and staff manager. Sharon handles

day to day admin and ensures ADCI/EM

385 diver requirement compliance in addition

to project planning.

Logan Diving & Salvage domestically has

been involved with many major heavy construction

bridge projects in Florida and

Georgia, including the Bridge of Lions in Saint

Augustine; I-95 Fuller Warren Bridge; Main

Street Bridge; Wonderwood Bridge, and Beach

Boulevard Bridges in Jacksonville, Florida.

Logan Diving & Salvage and the USCG

negotiated a Basic Order Agreement (BOA) in

1990 to cover casualty vessels and marine oil

spill response in the USCG 7th District from

Jacksonville, Florida to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

This BOA is in effect today with dive teams

ready to deploy and be operational within

twenty-four hours of activation.

The firm’s recent subaqueous fiber optic

cable projects include the Undersea Warfare

Training Range (USWTR) Cables for the

United States Navy offshore Jacksonville;

Alcatel Fiber Optic Cable landings in

Jacksonville and Fort Lauderdale, Florida;

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


and Alcatel Fiber Optics in Cable landing

Condado Beach, Puerto Rico.

Ships Husbandry on large ocean-going vessels

is a significant portion of the work carried

out over the years and today from Jacksonville

to Panama and all ports in between. Logan

Diving & Salvage is certified as an In Water

Survey Specialist with the American Bureau of

Shipping (ABS), Det Norske Veritas

Germanischer Lloyds (DNV-GL), and Lloyds

Register (LR). Class surveyors rely on Logan

Diving & Salvage to inspect and document

existing vessel conditions for dry dock extensions,

vessel certifications, and purchases.

Other services include underwater welding,

in water hull repair, coatings, cathodic protection

and running gear maintenance.

Logan Diving & Salvage has performed

many projects in Central America with the

majority in Honduras since the early 1980s

during times of severe civil unrest and

peace from Chouleteca to Roatan. Panama

diving operations have been carried out from

Colon to the Canal to Fort Sherman/US

ARMY. Most recently a project was completed

in Belize City.

Caribbean operational response has included

multiple projects in the Dominican

Republic in Santo Domingo, Puerto Haina,

and Boca Chica. Haitian diving and salvage

operations have been successfully carried out

in Port Au Prince and Saint-Marc. Cuban projects

have been limited to GITMO in the recent

past. Bahamian operations have been carried

out in Abaco, West End, Freeport, Treasure

Island, and on the Grand Bahama Bank.

Jamaican operations are still in play

today with crews working regularly in

Kingston and Port Royal in support of shipping

and civil infrastructure.

Providing special operations to a variety of

clients, on one such project, Logan Diving &

Salvage was contracted to help move the

Shuttle Explorer to Houston Space Center via

barge assisting with boat service and delivery

docking. Logan Diving & Salvage is also

involved with the current private space programs

and reusable rocket recovery.

Logan Diving & Salvage is headquartered

in Jacksonville, Florida, and also operates a

Caribbean Division out of Catano, Puerto

Rico. Logan Diving & Salvage maintains a

full-time residence and equipment warehouse

in San Juan, Puerto Rico. As a registered

Puerto Rican Corporate Entity, LDS is well

positioned to respond to the Caribbean from

its San Juan facilities.

Scott ran the Puerto Rico office from the

late 1980s to 2011. Shifting time between

the states and the island as needed. Revenue

and volume of work increased steadily.

Working in San Juan, Mayaguez, Guayanilla,

Guayama, Arecibo, Rincon, Fajardo, and

Humacao to name a few, Logan Diving &

Salvage has been blessed with a large network

of friends and associates in Puerto Rico and

the Caribbean maritime communities.

Continuing to this day to support the maritime

shipping and port infrastructure interest

in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, USVI, Haiti,

Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic from

the Puerto Rico Office.

The company currently has approximately

twenty-five employees, over seventy-five percent

of whom are honorably discharged veterans

of the U.S. Armed Forces.

LDS has doubled its office and warehouse

space in Jacksonville to 20,000 square feet in

the last five years and maintains ten high

speed-low drag dive work boats, and dive

trailers ready to mobilize at a moment’s notice.

The company has enjoyed constant growth of

plus twenty percent annually since 2008.

Logan Diving & Salvage supports our

veterans and a number of community and

charitable activities, including East Pointe

Church, Fellowship of Christian Athletes,

Rivertown Church Haiti Outreach, Haven for

Hope, Dreams Come True, Vietnam Veterans,

and the VFW.

To learn more about Logan Diving &

Salvage and its services, check their website


Logan Diving & Salvage was contracted to

help move the Shuttle Explorer to Houston

Space Center.







Tom Eason.

Tom Eason’s exposure to commercial diving

began in high school and college when

he worked at a local marina and on offshore

fishing boats in Charleston, South Carolina.

After graduating from college in 1976, Eason

founded Eason Diving Company as a sole

proprietorship and began diving on recreational

and workboats to clean the hulls,

change propellers, and other routine underwater

maintenance and repairs. The business

quickly grew into working for local shipyards,

repairing and maintaining their drydocks

and railways, as well as performing ship

husbandry services for the large U.S. Navy

fleet home ported in Charleston. As a selftaught

commercial diver, Eason attended the

Ocean Corporation in Houston for formal

underwater burning and welding training.

In 1980 the company was incorporated as

Eason Diving & Marine Contractors, Inc. with

Eason as its president. The company’s offices

and workshops were built adjacent to the U.S.

Naval Base in Charleston, where they remain

in use today.

In the early 1980s, Eason Diving expanded

geographically and began providing diving

services to an increasingly diverse clientele

including power plants, engineering firms,

marine construction companies, the railroad,

and governmental agencies including state

DOT’s, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S.

Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection

Agency, U.S. Department of Energy, and

NOAA. With the closing of the Charleston

Naval Base in the mid-1990s, the company

greatly increased its services to the hydroelectric

and nuclear power generation industries

heavily concentrated in the Southeast United

States, where it continues to work for the

same clients today. Extensive diving work

on the fuel handling systems and working

in spent fuel pools of nuclear power plants

became a specialty, with procedures developed

to protect the diver from radioactivity. In

1991, Eason attended the first Underwater

Bridge Substructures Course held for divers

at New Mexico State University and the

firm inspected over a thousand DOT and

railroad bridges.

In 1994 the tank barge, Morris J. Berman,

grounded near San Juan, Puerto Rico spilling

800,000 gallons of crude oil onto the economically

and environmentally sensitive shoreline

areas. Eason Diving was tasked with the underwater

cleanup of the submerged oil that sank in

these areas. Eason Diving, utilizing twelve

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


divers with Eason as the

site Dive Supervisor,

worked sixty-one days

nonstop to successfully

and safely complete the oil

recovery work. Eason

coauthored the Federal

On-Scene Coordinator

(FOSC) report and presented

the oil recovery

section by divers at the

1995 International Oil

Spill Conference held in

Long Beach, California.

Performing the Berman

and numerous other

vessel casualty cleanups, Eason Diving

became the preferred contractor to the

USCG and U.S. EPA in responding to oil and

hazardous material spills requiring diving in

contaminated water.

In 2001, as a result of the USCG encountering

questionable commercial diving

activities during salvage and pollution

response operations, Eason was asked to

assist the District 7 Marine Safety Division

in developing guidelines for conducting

compliant and safe diving operations. These

guidelines, in the form of a “Commercial

Divers’ Checklist” were ultimately incorporated

into the Coast Guard Diving Policies and

Procedures Manual.

From the beginning as a one man operation

to eventually employing fifteen full-time

divers, with double that during peak work

periods, the company was fortunate to

employ many dedicated and skilled personnel

over the years. Eason Diving’s work practices

exceeded the OSHA Commercial Diving

Standard and as a long-time member

of the Association of Diving Contactors

International, complied with their more rigorous

Consensus Standards with the company

always ensuring that equipment and personnel

certifications were kept current.

“Most importantly, I owned and operated

a very safe commercial diving company for

forty years, never having had an employee

encounter a life threatening injury,” Eason

says. “This became a goal I was obsessed

with and spared no cost in obtaining the

proper equipment to make every diving

job as safe as possible.” Eason insisted that

no job be undertaken unless the company

could adequately address every potential

hazard and alleviate concern for diver safety.

A remote operated vehicle (ROV) and current

flow meters were purchased to deploy prior

to diver entry in situations of potential differential

pressure, and custom dive boats with

entry doors were built providing safer diver

ingress and egress.

In the late 1990s, Eason made multiple

trips to Russia and a trip to Azerbaijan as a

volunteer for an American nonprofit organization

assisting emerging local diving companies

in operating their businesses after the

collapse of the Soviet Union.

During his career, Eason served on

many local commissions including the

Charleston Commissioners of Pilotage,

the South Carolina Maritime Security

Commission, and the USCG Federal Area

Maritime Security Committee. He also served

on the Association of Diving Contractors,

International Board of Directors as the

elected Vice Chair and Chair of the East

Coast Chapter for ten years.

In 2014, Moran Environmental Recovery,

LLC (MER) acquired Eason Diving & Marine

Contractors, Inc. and merged it into subsequently

acquired Mainstream Commercial

Divers (MCDI) in 2017. At that time, Eason

retired from day-to-day operations but

remains involved in the diving industry as an

advocate for diver safety.






Craig Fortenbery.

Mainstream Commercial Divers, Inc., headquartered

in Murray, Kentucky was founded in

1988 by Craig Fortenbery. While in college,

Craig lived at the University’s biology station

on the Tennessee River and performed the diving

work for several professors’ environmental

studies. One of his primary professors introduced

him to the owner of a small commercial

diving firm and Craig began working for the

firm as he put himself through college.

Finding he enjoyed the challenges inherent

with this type of work, he received additional

commercial training and worked for other

companies and on government contracts as a

diver until founding Mainstream.

Since its formation, Mainstream has grown

to become one of the nation’s largest inland

commercial diving contractors providing

diving and technical services nationwide in

environments ranging from shallow water,

utilizing air as the breathing medium, to

deeper projects using mixed gas.

Mainstream provides full-service underwater

construction, repair, and inspection work

as well as technical services including hydrographic

surveying, engineering and design

services, environmental surveys and biological

assessments (especially related to endangered

freshwater mussels) as well as confined space

entry services. The company has worked on

in-water structures of all types, successfully

completing many difficult projects across the

country. The company is committed to providing

underwater construction and inspection

services of the highest quality while maintaining

an impeccable safety record.

MCDI has personnel with extensive training

and experience in underwater inspection and

construction techniques and has successfully

performed underwater inspection, construction,

and maintenance projects on numerous

dams, large and small bridges, pipelines, water

intake and outfall systems, stilling basins,

mooring cells and mooring dolphins, docks,

water storage tanks, wastewater treatment facilities,

marine ways, and commercial vessels and

barges. MCDI crews routinely work at heavy

construction sites, major industrial sites, power

plants, and governmental sites. A major factor

in MCDI’s reputation as one of the premier

inland commercial diving companies is its

divers, all of whom, in addition to their commercial

dive school training, are certified commercial

divers through the Association of

Diving Contractors International (ADCI.)

The MCDI facility in Kentucky is comprised

of three custom-built buildings making

up approximately 20,000 square feet of office,

shop, and equipment warehouse space on a

three and a half-acre site. The facility has a

7,000-gallon, 15-foot-deep, dive training/test

tank for underwater welding and cutting

training and for practice performing complicated

underwater tasks. The facility also has a

large classroom, which is used for training as

well as project planning meetings.

Due to the large number of underwater

construction, inspection, and repair projects

performed by MCDI, the company has an

extensive inventory of specialty equipment to

support daily operations including mixed gas

diving equipment, decompression chambers,

all types of underwater tooling for construction

and inspection projects, truck-able

barges, crane, vessels, etc.

MCDI is a member of the Association of

Diving Contractors International (ADCI),

whose goals are to promote safety, education

and communication within the diving

industry. In addition to certifying commercial

divers, the ADCI publishes the most

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


comprehensive set of safety standards for commercial

diving operations, the International

Consensus Standards for Commercial Diving

and Underwater Operations. The ACDI diver

certification program and the ADCI Consensus

Standards are recognized by the U.S. Coast

Guard and OSHA. MCDI meets or exceeds all

OSHA, USCG, and the ADCI Consensus

Standard requirements.

Craig, founder of MCDI, is highly regarded

in the industry and is a long time board

member and the immediate past president

of the Association of Diving Contractors

International. Craig wrote the current MCDI

diving safe practices manual and, as an ADCI

Board member, Executive Committee member,

and Consensus Standards Review Committee

member, was actively involved in writing the

newest edition of the ADCI Consensus

Standards (Version 6.2). Craig states, “I feel

that one of my most valuable and fulfilling contributions

to this industry has been my active

involvement with the ADCI, working with its

many talented members as we have developed

and implemented the most comprehensive set

of diving safety standards in existence.”

MCDI’s dive operations manager and diving

supervisors are responsible for the implementation

and adherence of MCDI’s safety

program at each individual jobsite but all

employees have the right and obligation to

stop a job if an unsafe condition exists. Craig

is most proud of Mainstream’s exemplary safety

record through the company’s many years

of operation.

MCDI utilizes only commercially certified

divers—not recreationally trained SCUBA

divers—and all required extensive equipment

and personnel certifications, training and testing

are kept current. Additionally, Mainstream

has its own in-house training programs that

foster continued education and knowledge for

their divers for the unique situations they may

encounter in the inland diving environment.

In October 2015, Mainstream Commercial

Divers, Inc. was acquired by Moran

Environmental Recovery (MER). MER is a

diversified environmental company that previously

(in 2014) had acquired Eason Diving and

Marine Contractors located in Charleston,

South Carolina. Prior to these acquisitions,

Mainstream and Eason had performed numerous

jobs together and had a strong relationship

and comparable approach to safety and quality

in the workplace. In January 2017, Mainstream

Commercial Divers, Inc., and Eason Diving &

Marine Contractors, Inc., merged to become

one company with both the Murray and

Charleston locations working under the

Mainstream Commercial Divers, Inc. name as

part of the MER family of companies. Since

Mainstream and Eason crews have worked

together on many large projects over the years,

making the transition to becoming one company

was a natural fit.

Looking to the future, the merger of Eason

Diving & Marine Contractors and Mainstream

Commercial Divers will provide the resources

for the company to provide even better services

to its customers in the years to come.







Commercial Diving & Marine Services, Inc.

has provided quality diving services for over

forty years and its name and reputation are well

known throughout the inland diving industry.

Wayne Brusate explains he started diving

in 1971 as a sport diver. Occasionally, someone

would ask him to recover their wallet

or fishing gear in the St. Clair River. This

soon expanded into recovering larger things

like outboard motors and small boats and

then automobiles.

Around 1975, Wayne started working for

his uncle, Keith Malcolm, at Malcolm Marine

in St. Clair, Michigan, as a deckhand/diver.

The company did all sorts of marine work

from seawall construction, tug and barge work,

to Great Lakes salvage jobs. “I learned a lot

in those years,” Wayne says. “Salvage jobs

were tough and when working ‘no cure, no

pay’ it could cost you more to complete the

salvage than what you were going to be paid.”

By 1977, Wayne felt he was ready to go out

on his own and founded Commercial Diving

& Marine Services, Inc., based in Marysville,

Michigan. Wayne looked after the diving part

of the business while his wife, Donna, ran

a daycare, managed the bookkeeping and

answered the business phone at home.

Wayne recalls that it was difficult building

a client base, and to fill in the gaps, he often

worked for marine contractors doing pile

driving and underwater work as needed.

He credits Charlie Cosgro, a heavy gear diver,

with teaching him how to work safely in

tough, zero visibility conditions.

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


“Work was not steady during the early

years of the business,” Wayne recalls. “When

we had a job, I would contact some of my

fellow divers and put a crew together.

Greg Lashbrook, Arnie Chickonoski and

Tom Clingenpeel were very skilled both

underwater and topside. As work increased,

we added additional personnel, including

Kathy Johnson and Colette Witherspoon,

two very experienced divers.” Wayne notes

that while Kathy and Colette may not have

been as physically strong as some of the male

divers, they were pretty smart. “This proved

to be just as effective as brawn and they

had no problems going through eighteen and

twenty-four inch pipes, which most of the

guys could not do,” Wayne adds.

Many of Wayne’s divers came right out of

Dive School and one of them, Roger Randall,

ended up marrying Wayne and Donna’s

daughter, Laura. Roger went on to start his

own dredging business. Both daughters,

Laura and Anna, are divers and the grandchildren

also enjoy the water.

Commercial Diving & Marine Services,

Inc. has grown steadily over the years and

its dive crews have performed numerous

salvage operations, sonar surveys, zebra

mussel removal and maintenance of various

industrial and municipal facilities throughout

the Great Lakes region.

The list of unique services provided by

Commercial Diving & Marine Services, Inc.,

includes confined space diving in deep

vertical shafts containing high methane

levels. This highly specialized crew has been

called in to perform critical repairs from

California to Florida.

For details about these services, consult

the firm’s website at

As a member of the Association of Diving

Contractors International since 1993, Commercial

Diving and Marine Services, Inc., holds to the

highest commercial diving safety and operational

standards in the country.

Commercial Diving & Marine Services, Inc.,

is a union company and all divers and tenders

are proud members of Pile Drivers Local 687 in

Detroit, Michigan. Keith Mear and Ted Binnall,

each with more than twenty years with the company

are the lead dive supervisors.

Wayne has always been active in the local

search and rescue community. He joined

the local sheriff dive team in 1971 and

remains very active. He joined a volunteer

fire department in 1985 and retired from

fire service in 2006.

Today, Wayne works primarily on the

administration side of the business, bidding

the work and troubleshooting difficult jobs.

Looking back on the company’s success,

Wayne says he learned early in his career

that dedicated employees, top of the line

equipment and a desire to be the best would

build the company’s reputation and clientele.

Opposite, top: Working in the

St. Clair River.

Opposite, bottom: Salvage team.

Top: Lake Huron pipeline work.

Above: Decontamination of diver.






Divers Institute of Technology (DIT) in

Seattle is pleased to congratulate ADCI as

we both celebrate fifty years serving the commercial

diving industry. Since its inception,

DIT has trained thousands of professional

divers for elite commercial diving companies

worldwide. DIT’s comprehensive seven-month

program trains divers in initial skills and

certification requirements for both U.S. and

international commercial diving.

DIT’s educational philosophy is to provide

high-quality education that is sound in

concept; implemented by an experienced,

competent, and dedicated faculty; and

designed to serve those seeking a solid

foundation in the skills and knowledge

required for the commercial diving industry.

DIT emphasizes hands-on training that is

relevant to employers’ needs and focuses on

areas which offer long-term employment.

The school was founded in 1968 by

John Manlove after a twenty-year U.S. Navy

diving career that included training

personnel for advanced qualifications. John

was joined by co-founder Leiter Hockett,

who was later succeeded by Navy Veteran

Dyer ‘Jack’ Bisplinghoff as co-owner and

president. Navy Veteran Charles ‘Chuck’

Litzo joined the early leadership team and

helped students acquire financial aid to

attend DIT.

Graduate, instructor and later owner,

John Ritter recalls, “The school was like a

family. The original facilities were a converted

refrigeration barge salvaged by John Manlove.

Rather than pay John for the work, the

owners gave him the barge. He had an idea,

and a school was born.” Some students

cleaned the barge and kept the pumps

running in exchange for free lodging in the

crow’s nest.

DIT was a family investment. Manlove’s

wife, Marlene, wrote the first DIT brochure

and helped establish the

business and John, Jr., was

an instructor. The Manloves’

six children spent weekends

literally scraping candle wax

off the floors ofThe Barge.”

“On Fridays, after classes

ended, John would hold

‘church’ in his office to hear the BS from the

week,” recalls daughter, Lizabeth Manlove

Horton. “He always served ‘mountain oysters’

to the most unsuspecting newbie. I’m sure

booze shots were also involved.”

“At times Dad would get a call that a

student had gotten into a scrape of some

sort and he’d go straighten it out,” remembers

daughter, Cindy Manlove Moran. “Dad touched

a lot of lives. His no-nonsense way was

rough, but fair. He didn’t mince his words.

He was called ‘Big John’ because of his

stature and also because of his character

and presence.”

“He was a giant of a man with a huge

heart, loved the ocean and was so very proud

of his vision,” Horton says.

DIT was first accredited in 1973 (NATTS),

maintaining continuous accreditation in good

standing ever since, including a transfer to

ACCSC in the 1990s.

When the original location’s floating barge

sank into the ship canal connecting Lake

Union and Puget Sound, DIT relocated to

Eleventh Avenue in Ballard. Five portable

trailers served as classrooms and administrative

offices. Dive stations were four floating

barges with the deep dive vessel, the sixtyfive

foot, M/V Response.

Manlove retired in 1986, selling the school

to retired First Class Navy Diver Ritter, who

then ran DIT for thirteen years; however,

Manlove was soon back assisting at the

school. He conducted diver training at DIT

until the day he died—January 3, 2006.

The school changed hands again in 1999

when Jamestown Marine Services (JMS), led

by retired Navy Commander Bruce Banks

and retired Navy Engineering Duty Officer

Captain Jack Ringelberg, purchased DIT.

JMS was well-poised to assume school

leadership and expand into the international

diving community. The two principles provided

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


extensive expertise in marine engineering,

diving instruction and underwater operations.

Commander Banks was a Navy Special

Operations Officer who held command of

two salvage vessels, served as the executive

officer of the Navy Experimental Diving

Unit (NEDU), and as commanding officer

of the Naval Diving and Salvage Training

Center (NDSTC). Captain Ringelberg specialized

in Naval Architecture and was commanding

officer at NEDU. In 2000, they

appointed retired Navy Commander and

former saturation diver, John Paul Johnston

as DIT’s executive director.

DIT expanded into the international

standards arena in 1999, collaborating with

the Workers’ Compensation Board of British

Columbia. Navy Master Diver Richard

“Ragman” Radecki, Banks, and others continued

writing, developing and implementing

new commercial diver training standards

under the auspices of the Canadian Standards

Association. In 2003, DIT became the first

U.S. diver training establishment accredited by

Diver Certification Board of Canada (DCBC).

ADCI Executive Director Phil Newsum was

the first DCBC certified diver in the U.S.

School facilities have been continually

upgraded and expanded since 1999. In 2011,

DIT moved to its current Seattle campus at

1341 North Northlake Way, now housing

four floating barges as dive training stations,

a designated welding and metals shop with

two underwater welding tanks, and the

M/V Response.

DIT is staffed by an experienced instructor

team: many are graduates who returned to

teach after diving careers offshore, inland and

internationally; approximately fifty percent

are veterans. Average tenure among current

instructors is five years; several have taught

more than ten years.

DIT prides itself on the quality of graduates

entering the diving industry upon graduation.

Significant numbers of DIT graduates

have gone on to highly successful professional

commercial, recreational, and regulatory

diving careers, including industry leaders of

several notable commercial diving companies.

Divers Institute of Technology has proudly

supplied skilled divers to the marine industry

for half a century and plans to follow that

same path into the future with growth in new

areas of marine technologies.




P.E. &



W.J. Castle, P.E. & Associates, P.C. was

founded by William J. Castle, P.E., S.E. in

1983. W.J. Castle & Associates is a consulting

engineering company specializing in bridge,

marine, and structural engineering, including

underwater inspection and evaluation. W.J.

Castle is a certified VOSB (Veteran-Owned

Small Business) and SBE (Small Business

Enterprise) engineering firm located in

Hainesport, New Jersey. He is a licensed professional

engineer in New Jersey, Pennsylvania,

New York, Maryland, Florida, Virginia, West

Virginia, and Delaware.

A native of Pennsylvania, Castle received

a two-year degree in Civil Engineering

Technology from Penn State University. After

gaining considerable experience in bridge

design from working at PennDOT and other

consulting engineering firms, Castle became

the Bridge Engineer at Burlington County,

New Jersey in 1974. Eventually, he decided to

start his own company and stay in Burlington

County, New Jersey.

“I had always wanted to own my own

business, so I thought I would give it a shot,”

Castle explains. “I opened a one-man shop

in my house and gave myself three months

to see if I could come up with enough work to

keep going.”

In the early 1980s, there were very few

professional engineer-divers in the whole

country, so Castle developed an underwater

inspection program to work with contractors

and engineers. He credits Jim Caldwell of the

Caldwell Marine with helping him with commercial

diving and developing that field of

engineering in his company.

“I was able to gain a lot of experience and

underwater diving soon became our trademark,”

Castle says. “These abilities also helped

attract other types of engineering work.”

Over a period of several years and different

locations, the company eventually moved to

its current location in Hainesport, New Jersey

with a staff of fifteen. In 2006, Castle purchased

three acres in Hainesport, designed his

building, and constructed the current 10,000-

square-foot headquarters.

W.J. Castle & Associates has a diverse list of

services including: design, rehabilitation, and

inspection of various marine structures, hydrographic

survey, sonar imaging, submarine cable

location and repair, and NDT testing, etc.

However, underwater inspection remains one

of the core services offered. All divers are certified

ADC commercial divers and are members

of ADC. Much of the diving equipment has

been custom designed based upon the extensive

experience obtained through the years and

built to Castle’s specifications with great attention

given to mobility and efficiency required

for underwater inspection.

A few years ago, W.J. Castle invested in

sonar technology as a way to stay up-to-date

with the latest technology. Kongsberg-Mesotech

Scanning Sonar and JW Fisher Side Scan Sonar

imaging have been instrumental in both the

inspection and construction fields enabling W.J.

Castle to perform top notch work.

As business increased, Castle saw an opportunity

to expand. He and his wife, Janet, decided

to start a construction company, with Janet

as owner and president. Hydro-Marine

Construction Co., Inc., specializing in marine

construction, was founded in 1997. A certified

Woman Business Enterprise (WBE) in multiple

states, Hydro-Marine is Union affiliated and is

staffed with highly trained, certified commercial

divers who are dedicated to the highest quality

underwater diving contracting. In 1999, Castle

developed a third company, Simplified Bridge

Systems, Inc. (SBS), which specializes in the

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


custom design and fabrication of small to medium

span bridges. These three companies, now

referred to as “The Castle Group”, offer a

diverse field of services in both engineering and

construction. As a result of this unique organization,

Castle’s engineers have extensive experience

in not only underwater inspection and

design, but actual construction providing the

most comprehensive inspection, design and

construction services that are practical, functional,

cost efficient, and designed to work in

the complexity of the real world.

The Castle Group’s clientele has included

both private organizations such as marinas,

condominium associations, oil companies,

major contractors and the public sector.

Castle’s Professional Engineers are highly qualified

as both commercial divers and structural

engineers providing a “unique blend” of technical

and practical abilities. This “blend” of

knowledge provides a more efficient and accurate

underwater inspection, which results in a

complete structural evaluation.

Innovation to engineering problems has been

a key component to Castle’s continued success

in the ever competing field of engineering.

W.J. Castle, P.E. & Associates, P.C. is located

at 1345 Route 38, Hainesport, New Jersey,

and has a satellite office in Philadelphia.

Centrally located, W.J. Castle can easily travel

to Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania for

any inspection or construction project.

The Castle Group has grown in recent years

and now employs over 20 people, including

13 engineering staff and 18 union divers as

needed. The Castle Group has worked in

Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania

and Virginia and other surrounding states.

The firm’s growth was given a big boost

four years ago when it was selected to shore

up and strengthen a failing foundation at the

Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Castle came up with an innovative engineering

concept to solve the problem and when

additional problems were discovered with the

foundation, the $3 million project became a

$4.5 million project.

The key to keeping the company equitable

is diversification. The Castle Group is not

content to sticking with one type of client or

one type of service. The economy fluctuates

and as one source dries up, another may open

if you are ready and willing to go after it.

Looking to the future, Castle hopes to see

the companies grow by thirty to fifty percent,

which would take it to around $10 million in

annual revenues. Castle feels he and his wife

have been successful because they have tried

to look ahead and not take anything for granted.

“Nothing lasts forever and you have to

keep moving, keep up with the trends, diversify

and move into new fields,” he says.

William has been involved with both the

Pennsylvania State University Advisory

Council and Development Fund and has set

up scholarships at both Penn State and

Burlington County College. Castle has been a

member of Association of Diving Contractors

for several years and served three years as

director of the association’s East Coast

Chapter. He is active in a number of professional

engineering associations and involved

in local church and civic endeavors. He

was a member of the ASCE Committee that

developed standards for the underwater

inspection on piers and other marine structures

in 2001. He also helped develop a twoweek

and one-week underwater inspection

course at Penn State University and NJIT.

Castle is approved by numerous states to

give certified talks that provide PDH for

Professional Engineers.

Janet is a member of the ADC, Women’s

Business Enterprise National Council, and

Utility Transportation Contractors Association.

In addition to being a certified commercial

diver, Janet is actually involved with church

activities and has taken missonary trips to

Nicaragua. She is also active in regional organization

and CEO meetings, which has helped

the Castle Group to improve its overall organization

and become more efficient.





Top: Owner Richard Williams.

Bottom: Vice President and Dive Supervisor

Jeff Williams.

DRS Marine Inc., a commercial diving company

located in the San Francisco Bay Area,

has provided a wide range of maritime services

for more than three decades. DRS Marine can

handle any task in the marine or diving industry

24/7, 365 days a year, from wharf pile

repair, ship husbandry, dams and powerhouses

to underwater welding and diffuser outfall

pipelines by utilizing surface-supplied air diving

or mix-gas diving techniques to 260 feet.

The company was founded in 1985 by

Richard Williams and several partners,

including Don Mays, Dom Ferreria, and Buck

Kamphausen. Williams, who serves as president,

grew up on a high sierra ranch in

California and attended Oklahoma State

University, where he studied Chemistry and

Geology. He went on to complete dive school

in 1978 and worked several marine jobs

throughout the industry before starting his

own company.

“We struggled during the first year and

decided we needed more organization,”

Williams explains. “We incorporated the firm,

worked up a professional business plan,

elected a president, and began building the

company. We concentrated on serving our customers…the

word-of-mouth about our service

and capabilities is really what got us going.”

DRS continues its philosophy of treating every

client’s request with 110 percent effort and

results, no matter the size of the project.

The company’s thirty-three years of

success is directly attributable to teamwork,

safety, and pride of craftsmanship. “At DRS,

the goal is to complete each job safely, on

time, and with excellent quality,” says

Williams. The company is driven by a team of

marine craftsman, many of them long-term

with over fifteen years of service, who bring a

wide variety of skills, knowledge, and experience

to each project.

In 1995, DRS added ROV (remotely operated

vehicle) technology to their portfolio to

provide underwater inspection services for

various projects. The company expanded

again in 1997 when Williams bought out

Sweetwater Construction, a marine pile driving

firm. Services added include sheet pile

cofferdams, wharf pile driving, abandon mine

closures, marshland restoration and levee

maintenance projects.

Williams estimates that three-quarters

of the company’s projects represent repeat

business, an indication of the trust and confidence

customers place in DRS Marine. Most

of the company’s business originates from

California, Nevada, Arizona, Washington,

Hawaii, and has recently expanded into

South Carolina.

Here are a few of the projects successfully

completed by DRS Marine:

• On a Central Valley Dam in California,

DRS did a complete removal of a thirty-ton

bulkhead and its hydraulic system in 150

feet of water, finishing several days ahead

of schedule. DRS returned the following

year and cycled the refurbished bulkhead

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


in/out for lower tunnel repairs. Work was

accomplished utilizing mixed-gas diving

technique to a depth of 260 feet.

• Pile driving activities include constructing

a new 350-foot pier at Lake Tahoe, Nevada

for the United States Forest Service. The

largest crane barge ever on the lake was

put together for this operation. Crew completed

the project during the winter of

2013 in three feet of snow.

• For the construction of Calaveras Dam,

DRS removed the original outlet screen for

the dam and executed a full bottom survey

for layout of the entire project. A 300-

cubic yard concrete foundation was placed

on CIDH piles, which support the new fish

screen outlet structure. Dredging, concrete

placement, formwork layout, drill support,

crane work, heavy steel and demolition

were all completed successfully.

DRS owns its headquarters in Vallejo,

California, encompassing two large warehouses,

administrative offices, and storage yard

with diving, fabrication and heavy construction

equipment, all located on a two-and-ahalf-acre

tract. A facility in Oakley, California,

harbors tug boats, crane barges, and pile

driving equipment.

“Company growth the last five years has

skyrocketed,” says Williams. “We’re finding

that a lot more of our clients want turnkey

jobs and we are able to give them that. We can

provide it all so they don’t need to involve

several different companies for one project.”

DRS Marine will continue to groom long-term

employees to become successors for the company

to maintain its legacy of service.

DRS Marine is a member of ADCI and contributes

annually to the Civil Air Patrol and

Vallejo Police sponsored Christmas Shopping

for Children.

For more information about DRS Marine

Inc., visit the website at

“I want to give thanks to my wife Patty for

all the help and support she gave along the

way. I also wish to give the greatest appreciation

to all the men/women that protect this

country and make it possible for all of

us to live and prosper in this great nation,

including my father, Walter Williams (WWII);

my brother, Howard Williams (Cold War);

and brother, Clifford Williams, Bronze Star

recipient, (Iraq War).”

God Bless America.

Bottom: Vice President and Dive Supervisor

Mark Land.



Above: Bolting the company sign down.


Below: Salvage and wreck operations

involve complex planning and adherence

to strict environmental and insurance

requirements. Every call is unique and the

Global team is quick to respond with a

thorough plan.

Global Diving & Salvage, Inc. is a leading

provider of marine construction and infrastructure

services and an internationally

recognized casualty responder.

Global was founded nearly forty years ago

and the importance of responding quickly to

any challenge is embedded in the company’s

DNA. Once the small group of professional

divers decided to form Global in 1979, events

moved very quickly. The company’s first

president, Greg Harem, was met at a bar at

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport shortly

after touching down from a dive job in

Texas by a group that included John Graham,

Thom Davis, Mark Niccoli, Joe Antonucci and

Norm McCullum. Harem was sworn in over

drinks before he even got to baggage claim.

Tim Beaver soon joined the ranks as well.

The company was founded with the

purpose of providing day-to-day diving,

ship husbandry, marine construction, small

vessel salvage, and spill response services in

the Puget Sound region. The company’s

philosophy was simple: provide tough, smart,

and professional services for the maritime

community, deliver outstanding customer

service, and focus on employee safety.

In the early days, a Global crew would

clean up small oil spills in their Harbor

Island neighborhood, responding in sandals,

shorts, and T-shirts. After the jobs, Jackie

Lewis (office manager AKA “The Queen”)

would walk over with a roll of paper towels

and root beer floats.

The jobs soon got much bigger and the

company grew quickly as it established a

reputation for having crews available any

time of day or night. “We never wanted to tell

a customer that we couldn’t do something

or give them any reason to look elsewhere,”

explains Graham. “When other companies

did that, their customers came looking to

us and we never let them down.”

Global soon earned a reputation as the

company to call on for any marine construction,

emergency response or salvage job.

Today, Global is one of the few full-service

underwater marine contractors that provides

project management, in-house engineering,

marine and upland environmental services,

as well as the full spectrum of commercial

diving services. This is done through Global’s

five core services—marine construction,

marine casualty response, energy support

services, marine and environmental services,

and Global technical services.

Global has been involved in several

high-profile projects over the years. On

December 22, 1988, off the coast of Grays

Harbor, Washington, the towline connecting

the tug Ocean Service to the Nestucca

snapped. While trying to recapture the

drifting barge in severe weather, the port

rudder of the Ocean Service punctured a

cargo tank resulting in a release of 227,000

gallons of fuel into the bay. The spill required

a massive response and Global hired approximately

thirty workers from nearby tribes

to assist.

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


Global was also one of the first subcontractors

brought in to assist when the

Exxon Valdez caused one of the largest oil

spills in U.S. history. Global crew members

were on site in Valdez, Alaska, for the next

year-and-a-half, working on lightering the

vessel and supporting the oil spill cleanup.

In 2000, Vice President of Marine

Construction Mike Langen and CEO/President

Devon Grennan, laid the groundwork for a

new company initiative—Safety, Quality of

Service, and Growth (SQG). This shifted

some of the company’s structure from

remaining founders Graham and Beaver and

involved a larger group to have a voice in the

future direction of the company.

After Hurricane Ivan in 2004, Global’s

focus on safety and quality ushered in an

entirely new category of dive work. The

hurricane left several downed platforms in

the Gulf of Mexico—most needing saturation

divers to remove the downed platforms

and control and kill the trapped live wells.

Global navigated a major growth effort

between 2000 and 2009, including the

acquisition of Inshore Divers of Rio Vista,

California in 2004 and Offshore Divers of

Anchorage, Alaska in 2009.

Today, Global is headquartered in Seattle,

Washington, and operates an Alaska office

in Anchorage, a northern California office

in Vallejo, a southern California office in

Signal Hill, and a Texas office in Houston,

along with several remote offices that

facilitate immediate response operations

throughout the country. Currently, the

company has approximately 250 fulltime


Global’s leadership team includes CEO/

President Devon Grennan; Vice President of

Operations Dan Pierson; Vice President of

Marine Construction, Engineering and

Technology Mike Langen; Vice President of

Casualty Response David Devilbiss; Vice

President of Finance and Administration

Trinity Ng-Yeung; and Vice President of

Quality Assurance Jennifer Jensen.

Global employees are deeply involved in

many community organizations, including

Seattle Children’s Hospital. Over the past ten

years, Global employees and partners have

helped raise more than $300,000 to support

the hospital’s mission.

In addition, Global has been a supporter

of Puget Sound Maritime (PSM) for more

than a decade. PSM’s mission is to create

appreciation of the Puget Sound region’s

maritime past to better understand the present.

Global Diving & Salvage, Inc., is an active

participant in the Association of Diving

Contractors International (ADCI). Dan Pierson

currently serves on the association’s board

of directors.

The company’s continued growth and

success has been built by execution of its

guiding core values of honesty, teamwork,

and professional pride. “As proud as we are of

our history, and where we have been, we have

many chapters still left that we are writing,”

says Grennan. “And everyone at Global gets

to contribute to the story. We’re honored

to work with such a committed group of

people who exhibit the same principles.”

Below: Global has more than thirtyfive

years of underwater construction

experience. The company addresses needs

of customers in both public and private

sectors; creating custom solutions for

complex problems.










Marine Technology Program Instructors:

Bob Christensen, Jim Parker, and

Ramsey Parks.

Friendships forged and lessons learned

forty-five years ago still bind the 1973 graduates

of the Marine Diving program at Santa

Barbara City College. Twenty-six of the original

forty-four classmates in the Class of 1973

entered the workforce immediately after graduation.

As many as fifteen are still active in the

industry and a number have developed their

own companies, ranging from a tourist

submarine business in the Asia Pacific to a

civil engineering diving firm in San Francisco.

Graduates of the Class of 1973 have

managed the deepest dive ever recorded in

the Gulf of Mexico, developed underwater

welding and nondestructive testing technology,

and participated in the top-secret mission

to recover a Russian nuclear submarine.

“Our class was unique because of the close

bonds created together at the MT Noble Street

shop playing volleyball, building Jorgie’s Reef

on the beach near SBCC, learning to operate

Otto’s boats out of Santa Barbara Harbor, and

making dives in the ADS IV bell system offshore,”

says Tom Belcher. Another graduate,

Gary Kane, notes that, “Our instructors were

legends in the industry and became a major

influence on all of us.”

Three of the instructors best remembered

by the Class of 1973 are Bob Christensen, Jim

Parker, and Ramsey Parks. They conducted

classes for the two-year program that included

everything from physical oceanography to

fundamentals of marine engines and compressors,

and from underwater construction to

marine law and economics.

“We couldn’t ask for any better and they

certainly trained us on how to act, figure out,

and defend ourselves and to develop our

abilities and skill sets into what we were to

become,” comments Belcher.

“We were trained professionally by our great

teachers and we owe them big time,” adds Pete

Metson. “They provided us with the opportunity

to have a successful career, make a lot of

money, and work with a lot of great people.”

Among the graduates who went on to successful

careers in the industry are Gary Kane,

John McClure, Pete Metson, Tom Belcher,

Tom Ulrich, Ray Chamberlain, William “Billy”

Robinson, and Greg Bryant.

Ulrich grew up in Santa Barbara and

had his scuba certification by the age of

fourteen. His early career took him to many

locations including the Gulf of Mexico, the

North Sea, Mexico, Japan, the Pacific Basin,

and his current home in Alaska. He has made

it through the ranks to become Alaska

Regional Manager and Vice President with

American Marine International.

Chamberlain has spent forty years offshore

working in diving internationally, ROVs, and

as a client’s representative. Chamberlain

believes that the marine technology program

at SBCC gave its graduates the skills and confidence

to pursue their ambitions. “I have

fond memories and lots of gratitude for our

instructors,” he says.

Metson went to work for SubSea

International soon after graduation and wasted

little time in rising up the corporate ladder,

eventually becoming the number two man.

Metson was involved in building the first

permanent North Sea fixed platform jacket

installations in the BP Forties Field. He

obtained his MBA from Tulane and completed

his dive career by helping build SSI into a

mega-firm that is now a major part of SubSea

Seven, one of the largest underwater contractors

in the world.

Kane left Santa Barbara and spent the

next ten years establishing himself in the

industry, working with Metson, Belcher,

Ulrich, Robinson, Chamberlain, and others

in the North Sea. After returning to the Gulf

of Mexico, he continued working offshore

where he supervised a working saturation

dive to 1,073 feet, a record still today. Moving

on in his career, he opened his own consultancy

company in 1996, which he sold in

2015. An active writer, he has written over a

dozen articles for Underwater Magazine.

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


McClure started his diving career as a Navy

diver in the rivers of Vietnam. After discharge,

he graduated from the new SBCC Marine

Technology Program. McClure’s commercial

dive experience includes thousands of hours

underwater, involving a full spectrum of projects

deep to shallow, from simple to complex,

using many modes of diving. He worked for

Union Carbide for fourteen years, becoming

project manager, and is currently Vice

President/COO of Pacific Subsea Saipan, Inc.,

engaged in tour submarine operations in Asia.

Belcher’s varied career has involved him

in dive projects throughout the world. He

founded Underwater Resources in 1982

and spent thirty-five years performing

shallow/deep air, gas diving services to 230

feet, ROV and sonar inspections, and heavy

civil construction. Belcher developed techniques,

equipment and methodology to

conduct tethered dive penetrations within

flooded tunnels/pipelines up to 3,000 feet

to perform internal inspections and repairs.

Robinson worked in the Gulf of Mexico

and the North Sea, conducting air, gas, and

sat diving. He is a talented leader of people

and became operations manager for geophysical

survey projects. Robinson is experienced

in all facets of shallow and deep-water diving.

Bryant worked throughout Southeast

Asia and became the diving superintendent

of a 1,000-foot saturation system in the

Philippines. He received a BSME degree from

Cal Poly and became an assistant professor in

the Marine Technology program. He then

became a Professional Engineer and partnered

with McClure in Pacific Offshore Contractors

before becoming robotics system manager for

NASA’s space station. Bryant has also worked

for Walt Disney and Universal Studios and

was involved in the motion picture, The Abyss.

Bryant remains active as a commercial diver

and engineer.

Two of the Class of 1973 were lost while

working. Richard Walker died at 500 feet in

the North Sea and another classmate, Ron

Smith, was killed during an accidental detonation

of explosives. “The memories of Dick

and Ron and the circumstances of their deaths

still to this day play a part in my professional

decisions,” says Kane

Those from the Class of 1973 who went

on to careers in the industry include: Tom

Belcher, Gib Blevins, Greg Bryant, Ray

Chamberlain, John Colgate, Ken Corsen, Walt

Croson, Andy Culwell, Burt Davis, Hal

Epstein, Gary Fisher, Bob Hargis, Wade

Harris, Pat Helmstetter, Gary Kane, Joe Krivi,

Leslie Lynch, Gary Margadant, John McClure,

Pete Metson, Craig Roberts, Billy Robinson,

Bill Rudolph, Ron Smith, Jack Spinney, Jim

‘Diego’ Terres, Tom Ulrich, Richard Walker,

and Russ Westfall.

“Our Class of ’73 was on the cutting edge

of changes in deep diving technology, and we

were among the pioneer divers and technicians

who responded to the industry need to

expand limits and work deeper,” comments

McClure. “We have remained connected over

the years both professionally and socially.

Sharing common goals and life experiences

with classmates is the adhesive that bonds us

together today.”

Top: Marine Tech Field Lab, Bell

Diving Class.

Below: Left to right: John McClure, Tom

Ulrich, Billy Robinson, Gary Kane, Ray

Chamberlain, Pete Metson, Greg Bryant

and Tom Belcher.






Since its beginnings as a start-up commercial

diving business called American Divers

Inc., in 1973, American Marine Corporation,

has grown to become one of the more respected

firms in the Commercial Diving industry.

American Marine Corporation (AMC)

provides commercial diving, specialty marine

contracting and vessel support services to

clients in both the public and private

sectors. AMC has been responsible for prime

construction projects ranging from new pier

and breakwater construction to harbor dredging

and ocean outfall installation and repair.

The company operates workboats, derrick

barges, flat barges, cranes, dive vessels, and

crew boats. The firm’s three operating regions

are Hawaii and the outer Pacific Islands, the

west coast of the United States, and Alaska.

The company is based out of Honolulu,

Hawaii, the original location. From these

offices, operations extend nationally, and at

times internationally.

AMC began nearly forty-five years ago

when a partnership was formed within a small

dive shop adjacent to Honolulu Harbor.

Pat Wolter, was born and raised in France

and by 1973 had started American Divers

Inc., the first formal diving company in Hawaii

to provide general commercial diving services,

with a focus on dive support for marine

construction companies. Robert Shahnazarian

had come to Hawaii from New Jersey on a

University of Hawaii swimming scholarship

and it was a natural first step for him

to be involved in waterfront activities. Scott

Vuillemot, starting from a young age, had been

involved in offshore federal funded infrastructure

projects in the Islands and had spent time

on the West Coast in formal commercial dive

school training. These three young men were

the core of the initial expansion of American

Divers Inc., which incorporated in 1975.

The focus of this expansion was the installation

of coastal ocean outfall projects as funded

by federal law. In 1972 the law became

known as the Clean Water Act. This law established

the basic structure for regulating pollutant

discharges into the waters of the United

States and gave the EPA the authority to implement

pollution control programs such as

setting wastewater standards for industry. In

Hawaii, there were three primary ocean outfalls

to be constructed as well as significant

repair projects to existing systems. Good work

for this young group of motivated divers.

The pivotal year for the young company

was 1979. The Hawaii outfall projects were

drying up, but similar new opportunities were

opening up in the Caribbean in Puerto Rico.

Larger marine construction companies had

been pleased with the work of American

Divers, Inc., and offered them work on the

Bayamon Ocean Outfall serving San Juan

Puerto Rico. This significant project called for

support boats so Pat and Scott made the first

of many trips to New Orleans, searching for

reliable support vessels. They decided on two

boats; a small tug and crew boat. These vessels

added another business line to the company

and American Workboats was formed in 1979.

Puerto Rico provided American Workboats

and American Divers, Inc., with good and

steady work for over four years. While Pat ran

the established Hawaii operation, Bob and Scott

ran the two companies in Puerto Rico, providing

solid dive and vessel support services on

three large outfall projects, in the Caribbean.

Subsequent to the completion of these

major projects in the Caribbean, the work

dried up to a point where a decision was made

to relocate the division on the West Coast.

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


This primary regional location of American

Divers Inc., and American Workboats grew

steadily between 1983 and 1987, fueled by

several large projects in Southern California,

including construction of the Diablo Canyon

nuclear power plant and the San Rafael ocean

outfall project. The West Coast proved itself as

a good market for these maturing businesses.

Tragedy struck the company in 1987 when

Pat’s helicopter crashed as he was landing on a

grounded barge to consider wreck removal

options off of the Big Island of Hawaii. Pat was

killed, and in short order, everything changed

for the company. That evening, Scott flew back

to Hawaii to take over management of that

division, after being away for eight years.

Pat’s death convinced Bob and Scott to seriously

discuss and plan the future of the company

as well as to write a new business plan. The

first step in this plan was the establishment of

an administrative arm to help the company

manage and track growth, and provide customer

service and support. Another decision,

was to create an environmental arm to prosecute

and support coastal spills and waterfront

environmental needs. Pacific Environmental

Corporation (PENCO) was formed.

The following decade was a time for development

for the companies, including an opportunity

for permanent expansion in Alaska. In

1993 a decision was made to enter the market

through the acquisition of equipment and personnel

of a failing marine group in the region.

By 1998, with the company growing rapidly,

Bob and Scott decided it was time to formalize

a new structure for the company’s

future. The companies were realigned to serve

three basic markets in the three regions and

American Marine Services Group (AMSG) was

developed as a reference to the overall organization.

American Divers, Inc., was renamed

to become American Marine Corporation.

“A major part of our growth philosophy is

to plan and control the various facets of the

businesses, from the administration to personnel

and equipment,” Scott explains.

“Things along the road don’t always work out

the way a plan is originally conceived, but

perseverance and good business practices go a

long way toward reaching your goals.”

Today, AMSG focuses on specialty marine

construction projects, commercial diving, tug

and work vessel support, crew boat operations,

and vessel inspection and repair services.

The environmental arm under PENCO has

developed into a nationally recognized group

of professionals. Although the AMSG offices

are in the Pacific region, the company performs

work routinely on the Gulf and East

Coasts, North Slope Alaska, Central America,

and internationally. Offices in Honolulu,

Anchorage, and Los Angeles are staffed with

local personnel who have spent the majority

of their careers in those regions offering a

solid basis of local knowledge.

American Marine Services Group and

its operating companies; American Marne

Corporation, Pacific Environmental Corporation

and American Workboats currently are moving

in the direction of the second generation with

the intent of providing “Excellence in

Operations” for another fifty years.

To learn more about American Marine

Corporation, check the website at Pacific Environmental

Corporation may be located at



Above: Teichman Group Founder, Rudy

Teichman, on a salvage project.

Below: Diving operations.


The Teichman Group of Companies operates

one of the most extensive emergency

response networks in the world and is

committed to serving the needs of the shipping

and energy industries with the highest

standards of safety and quality.

Pre-positioned throughout the United

States, its territories, Singapore, Europe, and

South America, the Teichman Group owns

and maintains a comprehensive inventory

of state-of-the-art commercial diving, fast

response firefighting systems, inert gas and

nitrogen generators, high capacity dewatering

pumps, ship-to-ship lightering systems,

anti-pollution systems, three-dimensional

sonar, remotely operated vehicle systems,

and myriad of other response equipment.

Equipment is packaged so it can be rapidly

transported by air, land, or sea. The specialized

portable assets are complemented by

floating and portable heavy lift and salvage

support vessels ready to meet both routine

and emergency response challenges.

The company was established in 1957

when Rudy Teichman, an experienced

machinist, established T&T Marine Ways,

Inc., a small shipyard at the end of Teichman

Point in Galveston, Texas. At first, the business

consisted of a dock for working on

small vessels, a machine shop, and a small

dredge. Later, a marine railway was built to

perform dry repairs on small vessels. In 1960,

Rudy bought a wooden tug named Josephine,

that he rebuilt to provide towing services

to the area.

The shipyard was destroyed when Hurricane

Carla hit Galveston in 1961, but Rudy started

over and by 1964, was expanding, hiring

more employees, and building bigger and

better facilities.

Recognizing the need for a salvage and

diving company along the Texas coast,

Rudy started T&T Marine Salvage, Inc., to

raise sunken boats and barges. In 1976,

Rudy bought a steam crane with a capacity

of seventy-five tons for heavy lift work.

Today, T&T owns and operates a wide

assortment of equipment, providing a variety

of services including heavy lift, response,

salvage, and marine firefighting.

The Teichman Group’s dedicated commercial

diving company, T&T Subsea, provides

high quality marine salvage support, ship

husbandry and under hull cleaning, class

approved hull and propeller repairs, vessel

and facility inspections, marine construction,

and contaminated water diving, among other

underwater services worldwide.

T&T Subsea continues to retain a competitive

advantage by providing safe and high

quality services, while faithfully adhering to

T&T founder’s core values of honesty, integrity,

and hard work. On every project, T&T Subsea

provides comprehensive reports, including

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


photographs and video documentation that

fully satisfy classification society and regulatory

requirements. Additionally, T&T implements

a comprehensive quality-assurance program

that includes client feedback throughout the

project. This valuable customer feedback

ensures the company is continuously improving

processes and procedures.

Rudy’s son, Kevin, learned the business

and operational aspects of the salvage industry

from the ground up, under his father’s

mentorship. Following Rudy’s passing in

2012, Kevin stepped forward to lead and

expand the Teichman Group into what is

now, an international corporation with

bases of operation around the world. As

Managing Director, Kevin, has implemented a

strategic plan that includes expanding offices

in Europe, South America and Asia. His

efforts have been attributed with enhancing

marine safety, emergency response, and

environmental protection efforts worldwide.

In addition to the salvage and diving

businesses, Kevin also helps manage two oil

spill response cooperatives, Clean Gulf

Associates and Clean Channels Cooperative,

including managing all emergency response

equipment and personnel. The Teichman

Group of Companies now maintains one

of the nation’s largest inventory of portable

salvage and oil spill response equipment.

In addition, T&T has developed a comprehensive

non-floating oil detection and

recovery capability to meet national U.S.

Coast Guard classification requirements.

Under Kevin’s leadership, the Teichman

Group’s fleet of boats, and salvage and oil

spill response equipment inventory continues

to grow. The company now has the capacity

to recover more than two million barrels of

oil per day with more than 300,000 feet

of containment boom. Given the Teichman

Group’s capacity and capabilities, the company

is contracted by over 100 oil and gas

producers with over sixty percent of the

tank ship industry selecting T&T to be

named as their salvor of choice on their

vessel response plans.

The Teichman Group has responded to

hundreds of marine casualty incidents and oil

spills, from saving sinking offshore oil rigs

to refloating the Battleship Texas that saw

battle in both World Wars. Additionally, T&T

has successfully completed marine salvage

operations from the Equator to the Arctic.

The company is based in Galveston, Texas,

with bases of operation throughout the

U.S., Singapore, Peru, Germany, Netherlands,

and Guam.

For more information about the Teichman

Group of Companies, check the website at

Above: Offshore salvage operations.

Below: Lightering a grounded ship.









STS Chile is the largest and

most experienced subsea engineering

and services company in

Chile and a leader in Latin

America. STS designs and builds

maritime and underwater works

through sophisticated engineering

and the best construction methods

that offer safety and ensures

the highest quality possible.

Founded in 1960 by Claudio

Castro Jonas with the passion of

the pioneers opening and developing

the future of the underwater

world, STS provides integral

maintenance of ports and underwater pier

structures; repair of underwater oil and gas

pipelines; underwater engineering design and

construction of underwater lines. In addition,

the company is involved in rescues and salvages;

supports construction and installation

stages of oil platforms and underwater lines;

constructs submerged structures; and provides

general maintenance of SPM.

In recent years, STS Chile has conducted a

re-engineering process based on the highest

international standards, developing and

incorporating management control and quality

assurance as well as the business assurance

concept according to ISO 9001 standards.

STS is the first maritime company in Chile to

be certified with the new 2015 version by the

prestigious and demanding Lloyd’s Register

QA. The company is also certified with integrated

management system ISO 14001:2015

and OHSA 18001, all accredited in the

United Kingdom.

To date, STS is the first company in Latin

America to be audited and certified by

ADC International for 2016, under the standards

of underwater operations according to

International Consensus Standards version 6.2

auditing initiative.

These high standard certifications confirm

STS’s goal of offering clients the best quality

and safe engineering and underwater construction


STS encourages a safety oriented philosophy

and is proud of a record of over two

million underwater man hours without

accidents. The company incorporates the

Health Safety Environmental and Community

(HSEC) system as its guide.

STS has the largest infrastructure of professional

diving systems and equipment in Chile

and Latin America. An internationally certified

staff develops continuous maintenance and

update processes for more than 500 tons of

equipment. This allows the development of

parallel projects in Chile and overseas with the

highest standards of ISO 9001:2015 QAQC.

STS is the first company in Chile to

become a general member of Association of

Diving Contractors International (ADCI) to

participate in conferences, seminars, and

international expositions to promote technological

advances on safety in commercial diving

through the best industry practices and

international standards. CEO Castro is also

founder of the Chilean Association of Diving

Contractors and Chairman of the Chilean

Chapter of ADCI.

Safety is a primary concern of STS and has

recorded more than two million underwater

immersions without accident during its fiftyseven

years of existence. During this period,

STS has executed more than eighty percent of

the maintenance and installation of oil and

gas terminals throughout Chile. This allows

STS to offer more technical and economic

advantages for providing highly efficient and

economically viable underwater service

promptly in Latin America and beyond.

The company currently employs fifty-seven

people in management, engineering, design,

administration and maintenance. These

employees are based in two main offices:

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


Marine Engineering in Vina del Mar and

Subsea Operations and administrative staff in

the Port of Quintero. The company contracts

with surface-supplied air divers and supervisors,

mixed gas, ROV personnel and bell saturation

dive supervisors, depending on the size

and scope of the projects being executed.

The company has produced continuous

growth of more than ten percent annually

for the past ten years. Customers include

international engineering companies, mining,

ports, oil and gas, power plants and desalination

plants. Project sizes and revenue are up

to ten million USD, but has developed bigger

multimillion dollar marine projects in joint

ventures or partnerships.

STS contributes directly to its local communities

in Quintero by sponsoring elder

homes and programs for disabled children.

The company funds a scholarship for academic

excellence in one of the most prestigious

schools in Chile. STS also donates funds

for ADCI scholarships. Because of its HSEC

philosophy, STS is involved with every local

community in which it performs projects.

The business plan for STS Chile includes

becoming the leader in engineering design

and construction of Marine Works for

Desalination Plants in the American South

Pacific and internationalization to grow its

Latin American market during the next five

years in subsea engineering and saturation,

deep dive projects and to grow its marine

engineering projects abroad.








Top: Diver in a forty-eight inch water main

in New Jersey (2009).

Bottom: Founder Glenn Walker working on

a diving helmet (1970).

Walker Diving Underwater Construction,

LLC, based in Hammonton, New Jersey, has

been a well-known name in commercial

diving in the Northeast for sixty years. The

company was founded in 1957 by Glenn

Walker. His family had been in commercial

fishing on the New Jersey coast for generations.

However, when the family sold their

boat, Glenn stayed in the water and took up

another maritime career. Operating as Glenn

Walker, Inc., his new company grew steadily

from a one man diving operation, to a company

that employed ten divers and provided

diving services across the eastern half of the

United States, from New Jersey to Missouri.

The diving company still proudly bears the

Walker name to this day.

In 1973, Glenn decided to leave the diving

industry to pursue other adventures. He sold

the business to Harry Streit and headed

westward. Harry had been working at the

Philadelphia Naval Station and was looking

for a business opportunity and new adventures

of his own. With the assistance of some

friends, Harry acquired the diving company

and renamed it Walker Diving Contractors,

Inc. By keeping the Walker name, he kept the

goodwill and contacts that had been built up

over the years.

Harry owned and operated the business for

more than thirty years during which time he

employed almost every member of his family,

making this a true family business. Walker

Diving took on numerous unique and challenging

projects. One project involved several

years of surface decompression diving for the

US Army Corps of Engineers in Georgia,

while another required designing special

pipe to slip-line a siphon for the City of

Philadelphia. By taking on bold challenges

and succeeding where others were reluctant

to go, Walker Diving became the largest

inland diving company in the eastern half of

the nation. In the late 1980s, Harry bought

Portadam, Inc. (a portable dam company) and

founded W. H. Streit, Inc. (a marine construction

company.) The family ran all three affiliated

companies until they were sold upon

Harry’s retirement in October 2004.

Several years before he retired, Harry

signed Walker Diving and W. H. Streit with

Local Union 454, the Wharf and Dock

Builders of Philadelphia, which is the local

union of the United Brotherhood of

Carpenters. Becoming a union employer

allowed Walker Diving to rapidly hire

large numbers of capable, experienced

divers and to work for many of the larger

heavy and highway contractors who were

also union affiliated. This partnership with

organized labor continues to provide Walker

Diving with many benefits including the ability

to rapidly hire large numbers of capable

experienced divers and the ability to use the

nationwide training resources of the United

Brotherhood of Carpenters.

In 2004 when Alex Kalafatides purchased

the diving company, he renamed it Walker

Diving Underwater Construction Corp. Alex

had grown up in a maritime family, and he

and his wife provided renewed energy to the

small diving company, which had in recent

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


years been overshadowed by W. H. Streit, Inc.

With their efforts, the Walker Diving name

again became well known in the industry.

Additionally, they brought on an experienced

and capable project management staff. Those

managers continue to allow Walker Diving

to solve the complex underwater challenges

presented by the aging infrastructure in

the Northeast.

In 2009 the Kalafatideses decided to focus

their efforts on another business opportunity

and the diving company was again sold. The

new and current owner, David Earp, is a Navy

veteran who grew up in New Jersey. With a

degree in Ocean Engineering from the US

Naval Academy and ten years of experience

leading Navy Divers and SEALs, David was

thrilled by the opportunity to remain in the

diving community in a new capacity. He has

retained to this day the business name,

Walker Diving Underwater Construction.

Since David’s arrival in 2009, Walker

Diving has grown rapidly. With more

resources and improved equipment, the experienced

management team at Walker Diving is

once again competing for and successfully

completing larger and more challenging

underwater projects. Walker Diving has been

selected to build several intake and outfall

systems for new natural gas power plants.

Additionally, Walker Diving has established

itself as a capable and trustworthy partner

in the construction industry, frequently

employed by larger marine contractors when

they need to add additional diving capability,

beyond their in-house dive crews. Walker

Diving provides services as a subcontractor to

both union and non-union general contractors.

They also perform as a prime contractor

when the scope of work is an appropriate fit.

In recent years, Walker Diving has modernized

its facilities, equipment and procedures.

The staff has expanded to include more

project managers, a full time safety director

and additional office staff to keep up with the

increasingly complex regulations in the construction

industry. The expanded team works

hard each day to live up to its slogan, “The

Commercial Diving Experts.”

The aging infrastructure in the Northeast

will continue to provide complex underwater

challenges and the Walker Diving team is prepared

to provide the required solutions. Walker

Diving looks forward to engaging with our construction

colleagues to solve challenging underwater

problems in the region and to driving

innovation in the inland diving industry.

Top: Diver on a jobsite in New York harbor.

Skyline can be seen in background (2017).

Bottom, left: David Earp prepping for a dive

while in the Navy (1997).

Bottom, right: Barge used to construct a new

cooling water intake for a power plant in

Pennsylvania (2010).









Top: Divers in the Gatehouse.

Below: Howard Kline.

Marion Hill Associates, an

inland diving and marine construction

contractor located

near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,

provides a unique mix of topside

and marine contractors,

commercial divers, and environmental

professionals. Teams

from MHA routinely handle

unique problems encountered

in underwater construction.

The company was founded

in December 1980 by Richard

Riley, Sr., and Richard “Rich”

Riley, Jr. Richard Sr. was a

partner in a construction company

that specialized in plant

and mill construction. When

the company was awarded a

contract to build a hydroelectric

plant outside Pittsburgh,

there were no local marine

contractors willing to take on

the project. Having some

experience in scuba, he completed

the project with a

small team. Rich enjoyed the

work so much he decided to

attend dive school at the Professional Dive

School of New York, which was operated by

Andre Galerne.

After graduating from dive school, Rich

went to work for Galerne on an international

project. Once the project was completed,

Rich returned to Pittsburgh for a brief

respite and met Tracy, who would become

his wife. At that point, he decided to put

away his passport and focus his efforts on

developing a company to service the

Pittsburgh region.

With the help of contacts developed in the

days of steel mill construction, Marion Hill

Associates was able to gain a foothold in the

Pittsburgh marketplace. The growth of these

relationships provided access to bigger and

better projects.

MHA’s first underwater project was to

place 1,000 cubic yards of concrete underneath

a hydroelectric plant. This was

done with a two-man dive team, while a

third man floated on an inner tube keeping

time on the surface. It took two different

concrete contractors to keep up with the

supply for the project. The tremie was

moved into place with come-a-longs and

the total underwater placement was completed

in ten hours.

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


Today, MHA is comprised of approximately

twenty divers, tenders, operators, pilots,

laborers, and mechanics. The company

prides itself on offering a wide variety of services

for nearly any inland marine customer.

MHA has long-standing relationships with

power plants, steel mills, paper mills, water

authorities, drilling contractors, nuclear

power plants, sewage treatment, and most

any other business that calls the river home.

MHA also has a marine construction division

that offers services ranging from piledriving

dock building to river drilling. MHA

is proud to service customers ranging from

small property owners looking to have a dock

built at a riverfront home, all the way up to

multi-year contracts with such companies as

General Electric, Department of Defense, and

the USACE.

The company strives for safety in all its

construction and diving projects and has

been awarded the Chief of Engineers Safe

Performance Award for Underwater Diving

Projects performed in the Pittsburgh Division

of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and a

Public Service Commendation by the U.S.

Coast Guard. MHA is committed to providing

a safe working environment for its employees,

subcontractors and job site owners.

A number of dedicated individuals

have contributed to the company’s growth

and success over the years. Vice President

Leen Dykstra has an extensive background

in inland construction diving and has been

with the company more than twenty years.

MHA employs 15 to 20 divers spread across

3 dive teams. The dive supervisors—Mike

Folweiler, Josh Gostomski, and Steve

Benaventeùhave all been with the company

for ten years or more. MHA also operates a

marine construction division headed by

Superintendent Les May.

Rich’s son, Gwynn Riley, now serves the

company as Business Development Manager

and represents the third generation of the

family involved in the firm.

MHA regularly donates time, money

and equipment to the Boy Scouts of America.

Rich is the recipient of the James E. West

Fellowship Award, which acknowledges

distinguished contributions to the Boy

Scouts of America. MHA is also the proud

recipient of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

safety award.

Marion Hill Associates is located at 1740

Fifth Avenue in New Brighton, Pennsylvania.

To learn more about the company, check the

website at

Top: A dock used by Marion Hill.





Above: ONYX setting articulating concrete

mats on a pipeline in Biscayne Bay, Florida.

Below: Splashing a diver to inspect pipe.

ONYX Services, Inc. is a diversified pipeline

services company based in Houston, Texas.

The company specializes in pipeline inspection,

maintenance and repair. ONYX partners

with a broad range of clients across all energy

sectors and environments, including land,

marsh, and underwater.

ONYX Services, Inc., began in January

2012 after a small group with knowledge

and experience in oil and gas service agreed

to pursue a common goal of working for

themselves and owning a business.

The mission of the new company was

to provide all pipeline operators a one

call resource for their inspection, repair,

maintenance, and construction needs on

land, marsh, or underwater. Professional,

knowledgeable and experienced crews provide

and implement cost effective solutions

for any location, wherever customers work.

They summed up the services they offered

with the slogan, “Got Pipe? Get ONYX!”

It took a few months to secure all the

permits, licenses, and insurance required

to get the business going. Finally, several

experienced people were hired and ONYX

hung out its shingle and began work in the

North Houston, Texas, area. Starting with

some basic equipment and a leased building

and land purchased three years later, it was

not long before the first small project was

awarded. Soon, through word-of-mouth and

lots of cold calling, more and more projects

were awarded. ONYX has now performed

work in all the contiguous forty-eight states.

ONYX had to overcome a major challenge

when a drought-ending flood early in 2014

left six inches of water in the building after

the rain stopped. With no power in the area,

but plenty of customers calling for ONYX’s

services, all employees not already working

on projects started cleaning the building

while continuing to answer the needs of

their clients. This went on for several days

and on through the weekend before things

began to gain a semblance of order. However,

ONYX’s clients never realized the chaos

caused by the flooded building as all their

needs were met during the post-flood cleanup.

ONYX has grown steadily year after year

and had approximately fifty employees in

2016. The company and its employees take

great pride in supporting the local high

schools and many youth teams in the area.

Looking to the future, ONYX plans to

remain highly diversified in its clientele

and services with a focus on North America

and the Upstream and Midstream oil and

gas sectors.

To learn more about ONYX Services, check

their website at

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


U.S. Underwater Services, LLC has a solid

history of more than two decades as a commercial

diving contractor in the inland, Gulf

of Mexico and international markets. USUS

provides a wide range of commercial diving,

inspection, repair and maintenance services to

industries such as oil and gas, shipping, public

works, defense and marine infrastructure.

USUS was founded in Burleson, Texas, in

1995 by a young entrepreneur and sport

diving enthusiast who saw an opportunity

to utilize diving to assist local municipalities

in maintaining their water systems.

Soon after, commercially trained and certified

divers were added to the team, providing

legitimization and a path to becoming a true

commercial diving contractor. By 1997 the

company had expanded into the offshore

Gulf of Mexico market, and over the next

several years, USUS expanded its client base

and rig support/diving services to nearly every

major offshore driller in the Gulf of Mexico.

Key individuals in the company’s early

years included the Canadian duo of Jason

Smith and Scott Miller, as well as Scott

Farris, Bryan Nicholls, David Wolfe, Compton

Cooper, Rich Campbell and Craig Loftin.

In 2006, private equity firm, Benford Capital,

purchased controlling interest of the company.

The following year, Australian-based Neptune

Marine Services purchased USUS and integrated

the company into its international portfolio

of oilfield and energy service companies.

After the devastating Hurricanes Katrina,

Rita and Ike in 2005-2007, USUS was

involved in a variety of post-hurricane work,

including platform inspections, site surveys,

debris removal and subsea structural repairs.

The additional offshore work generated by

these storms enabled USUS to expand its

service offerings and accelerated the company’s

growth for the next several years.

In 2010, USUS recorded several significant

milestones, some of which included: the

rebranding of USUS to Neptune Underwater

Services; the relocation of the operations

base to a newly remodeled 50,000-squarefoot

facility in Mansfield, Texas; the

completion of its largest multi-platform

inspection campaign; and the deepest mixed

gas diving projects in the company’s history.


In 2012 the management team of USUS,

with the help of Benford Capital and

Coppermine Capital, purchased the assets of

NUS in a management buyout. The new privately

held entity, U.S. Underwater Services,

LLC was formed; reestablishing the USUS

brand within the commercial diving industry.

USUS prides itself on being an employer of

veterans and a supporter of veteran’s causes.

In 2014 the company was recognized as a

Patriotic Employer by the Office of the

Secretary of Defense for its support of the

National Guard and Reserves.

U.S. Underwater Services joined ADCI in

1996, only a year after its founding. The

company’s current President/COO, Bryan

Nicholls, has served on the ADCI Board

of Directors since 2009, was second vice

president from 2014-2017, and was elected

president of the ADCI in 2017.




Above: Crew at work on the salvage of a

vintage submarine.

Below: The front cover of a Subsalve USA

product catalog.

Bottom: A diver ascending to the surface

with an anchor secured to an underwater

lift bag.

Richard Fryburg knew exactly what he

wanted to do as a career! Fryburg started

diving at age fifteen and at seventeen, he failed

at raising the 300-ton sunken tug boat Mount

Hope from Narragansett Bay using 5,000-gallon

oil tanks. Fryburg began designing and

manufacturing underwater lift bags in his parent’s

garage in Worcester, Massachusetts and

in 1977 Subsalve USA was born.

Fryburg graduated from Long Island

University in 1977 with a degree in marine

geology. He was far more interested in developing

underwater flotation than working for

offshore drilling companies. With the help

of his father, George, he moved Subsalve USA

to Providence, Rhode Island, and began

marketing and manufacturing a line of underwater

lift bags and traveling to trade shows

around the country. This created the Subsalve

USA brand and enabled expanding the product

line to a larger range of standard open

bottom and enclosed lift bags. Subsalve USA

grew to offer custom flotation devices and

systems for special applications that exceed

the capabilities of standard products. The

company developed proprietary products,

including the Quad Bag—a multipurpose dive

bag, the VRS-2000—vehicle recovery system

and the MarkV/ORCA Underwater Ordnance

Disposal System.

Subsalve USA developed the skill and

experience to become an innovator in buoyancy

and engineered inflatable products

including: Pipe Pluggers used in construction

operations; Inflat-a-Tank—inflatable containment

and storage bladders; Water Load Test

Bags for crane testing; Fend-Air—a product

line of marine inflatable fenders; and Aircraft

Lift Bags–used to remove crashed or crippled

aircraft from runways.

Subsalve USA was awarded a U.S. Navy

EOD contract for 170 units of the government

designed MARK II Mod I Flotation Bladder

for use in the removal of mines. Over the

following years, Fryburg worked with the

U.S. Navy to modify the outdated system,

ultimately developing Subsalve’s state-of-theart

Mark V-Explosive Underwater Ordnance

Disposal System, which has been delivered to

the U.S. Navy and twenty Navies worldwide.

Following the 9/11 attack, demand for the

system increased and resulted in modifications

to the system and a sole source development

contract with the U.S. Navy with the new

Mark V/ORCA System. Subsalve USA now

has contracts with the U.S. Navy and many

foreign navies for the MarkV/ORCA system.

Under Fryburg’s guidance and tireless

work ethic over the last forty years, Subsalve

USA has become a world-leading innovator

in buoyancy and engineered inflatables with

brand recognition and loyalty around

the world. Subsalve USA has had many highprofile

projects including James Cameron’s

record-breaking solo dive to the bottom of

the Mariana Trench documented by National

Geographic, underwater habitats for Discovery

Channel’s Shark Week and National Geographic,

projects for NASA, Texas A & M University,

Oracle Team USA, Disney, Exxon Mobil,

Warner Brothers, Woods Hole Oceanographic,

and many others.

After forty years in business, Subsalve USA

was acquired by Performance Inflatables in

May 2017 with Fryburg taking a new position

as Chief Growth Officer, which will insure

that Subsalve USA will continue to offer the

highest quality products and service available

in the industry and will be raising the world

to new heights for years to come.

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


Looking back on a long and successful

career, Jon Hazelbaker explains that he has

been fascinated by the underwater world

since childhood, watching Mike Nelson

(Lloyd Bridges) on the television series, Sea

Hunt. At age ten, Jon purchased his first scuba

tank and regulator by mail for $40. By age

twelve, he had purchased another tank and

started a pool cleaning business. As a teenager,

he worked part-time in a dive shop, and

for a small inland commercial dive firm.

Jon’s career now spans nearly fifty years in

the commercial diving and marine construction

industries as an inland “hard-hat/heavy-gear”

diver and as the owner/operator of commercial

diving and marine construction companies.

His career began in 1968 when he made

his first commercial dives while working as

a young diver for a small commercial dive

firm in the Midwest. He attended commercial

dive school after high school (1967) and

joined the United Brotherhood of Carpenters

and Joiners as an apprentice in 1969.

He became a journeyman “hard-hat” diver in

1972 and maintained his membership in

the union until his retirement in 2003.

Jon founded his own dive firm,

Commercial Diving Services, Inc., in 1969

and over a thirty-year span and with the

addition and assistance of two vital partners—Tony

Kiefer (1978) and Thomas “Tim”

Garnette (1983)—grew it to be one of the

larger inland dive firms in the country. In

1994, they sold the firm to American Oilfield

Divers, Inc., and Jon stayed on as a vice

president and general manager of American

Inland Marine, Inc., and, subsequently, Stolt

Offshore-General Contracting Division.

Jon has been a strong supporter of ADCI

throughout his career. His company first

joined ADCI in 1989 and he was elected to

the Board of Directors, where he served for

seven years. He was the founding chair of the

association’s Midwest chapter and served in

that capacity from 1990 to 1993. He chaired

the ADCI National Committee on Underwater

Bridge Inspection Standards from 1990-1994.

The bridge committee was the forerunner of

the present engineering diving committee,

and was instrumental in making critical

revisions to the FHWA Manual’s chapter on



Also associated with:



Underwater Inspection to eliminate

references to recreational diving

certifications, and more closely align

with the ADCI consensus standard

and current industry standards.

In 2001, Jon was awarded the

Tom Devine Memorial Award, presented

to those individuals making

“significant contributions to the

practice of commercial diving.”

He was inducted into the ADCI

Commercial Diving Hall of Fame in 2005,

and in 2014, he was presented the ADCI

President’s Award of Excellence.

Today, Jon lives in South Florida with his

wife, Colleen, and provides consulting services

to the industry through his new company,

Hammerhead Marine Services, LLC. He provides

services as an expert witness on diving

accidents and contract disputes; he served as

one of the instructors for the U.S. Army Corps

of Engineers Dive Safe Safety Administration

courses; serves the ADCI on special projects;

and as a designated third-party auditor, conducting

dive safety audits on member dive

firms, and commercial diving schools.

Additional information is available at

Jon Hazelbaker, founder



Top: Jon Hazelbaker, raw water intake

repair project, Lake Michigan.

Above: Jon Hazelbaker receiving the 2014

ADCI President’s Award of Excellence.





Above: Donald Dryden.

Dryden Diving Company, Inc., is owned

and operated by Donald Dryden, whose family

has been in the marine construction industry

since the 1930s. Don started working in the

marine construction industry in 1970 and

founded Dryden Diving in 1979. The company

was incorporated in 1985.

The company’s early success was due to the

fact that Don was an experienced journeyman

dockbuilder prior to attending commercial

dive school. Dive school taught him how to

go underwater, he already knew how to work

when he got there.

In the early days of the nuclear industry,

Don and company pioneered some of the

first diving in radioactively contaminated

water on reactors and nuclear fuel handling

systems. Over the past thirty-five years, the

company has conducted safe and efficient

diving operations at eleven American nuclear

power plants and has current blanket service

agreements with two.

In response to the needs of the nuclear

power plant industry, Dryden Diving developed

its on-call response program. Dryden is

one of the few commercial dive companies

that maintain a crew of divers with staged

equipment on standby to respond to emergent

work at any time of any day. The company’s

emergent work dive crews often work

at five or more different locations in one

week. Clients know they have a dependable,

professional, and well-equipped crew ready

when they need them.

Today, Dryden Diving continues to perform

marine construction, salvage and

nuclear diving as well as potable water,

contaminated water, marine structure inspection,

and ship husbandry for domestic and

international shipping.

In 2013, Dryden Diving initiated the

development of a wet welding program. Today,

Dryden Diving has qualified procedures and

diver/welders to perform Class B structural

welds as per AWS D3.6M:2010 for A36 and

A572 steel. The company intends to qualify a

stainless steel procedure for the nuclear

industry by the fall of 2017. The company’s

diver/welders provide professional structural

welding services directly from Dryden Diving

as well as for other diving companies requiring

‘wet stick’ structural welds.

Dryden Diving’s affiliation with the United

Brotherhood of Carpenters gives the company

access to the approximately 1,000

commercial divers in its membership

nationwide. This ready pool of trained

diving mechanics allows Dryden Diving

to operate anywhere in the United

States with a largely local workforce.

Dryden Diving has conducted diving

operations a mile from its office in

New Jersey to Palau in the Pacific Ocean.

Dryden Diving Company, Inc., looks

forward to continuing servicing the

broad customer base it has developed

over the years and meeting the challenges

of new technology and markets

as they arise. For additional information,


WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry


Chesapeake Bay Diving, Inc., based in

Portsmouth, Virginia, provides a broad range

of services, including ships husbandry, salvage,

construction, water treatment facilities,

power generation facilities, along with many

other underwater needs. The firm’s experienced,

professional divers provide services

coast-to-coast as well as internationally.

The company was founded in 1986 by

Bill and Donna Santabar. As Donna recalls,

Bill noticed a ‘For Sale’ sign on the property

next door to his one day and came in to

announced he was going to buy the building

and make it into a dive shop. “My reply was,

‘You are crazy!’” Donna says. “It’s a good thing

he didn’t listen to me.”

The new business was a natural for Bill,

who was the diving supervisor at the Norfolk

Naval Shipyard after retiring from the Navy’s

Explosive Ordinance Disposal Team at Fort

Story. Bill earned numerous awards for developing

underwater techniques and promoting

efficiency while underwater.

After operating the dive shop for fourteen

years, Bill was ready to retire and play golf. The

business was sold in 2000 to three employees:

Aaron Addison, Jay Wilson and Martin Dorn.

Addison trained under Bill, Wilson was a scout

swimmer in the Marine Corps before attending

dive school and signing on with Chesapeake

Bay Diving. Dorn served in the U.S. Navy and

joined CBD shortly after. Bill deemed the trio

capable of carrying on the Santabar legacy. “Bill

was like a second father to me,” Addison says.

“We’ve tried to pick up where he left off.”

In recent years, Chesapeake Bay Diving has

expanded its heavy salvage capability and has

been involved in clean up following a number

of Gulf Coast hurricanes. The company has

the resources to cleanly extract petroleum or

other products from submerged vessels while

protecting the safety of the local ecosystem.

Chesapeake Bay Diving can design, manufacture

and install any cofferdam a vessel may

need. It can also help set up a maintenance

schedule for hull inspections, hull cleanings,

propeller polishing, and seachest cleanings.

These inspections help lower fuel costs and

insure hull integrity.

The company is also involved in construction

work, including form work, welding, burning,


epoxy injection, and jacketing. In addition,

Chesapeake Bay Diving provides turnkey power

generation services that include stop logs, cleaning

intake gratings and trash racks, repairing

and replacing valve, and all other maintenance.

Chesapeake Bay Diving also has the

means to locate and inspect submerged and

buried pipelines to verify coverage prior to

potential exposure, and to perform any other

pipeline maintenance.

“We’ve done about everything there is to do

over the years, from finding a lost engagement

ring to huge salvage operations,” Addison

comments. “We’ve got a well rounded group of

guys who are well trained and equipped.

“We’re proud of the work we do and look

forward to carrying on the proud tradition

begun by Bill Santabar.”

Above: Chesapeake Bay Diving attending a

container ship at the local cargo terminal.

Bottom: Bill Santabar diving on the

Chesapeake Light Tower.





Joe Farrell outside of Resolve Marine

Group’s headquarters.

Joe Farrell was only twelve years old

when his family moved from the inner

city of Boston to the Quincy, Massachusetts,

coast, and at that age, he found a job

with a boat rental firm. His love of the

sea was born from this experience and

sparked a career that eventually became

Resolve Marine Group, a worldwide leader

in salvage and wreck removal, emergency

response, and maritime training.

At eighteen years of age, he joined the

United States Coast Guard. After attending a

U.S. Navy diving school, he became a ship’s

diver and an engineman on a USCG icebreaker

working in the Arctic, followed by duty as

an explosives advisor in Vietnam. After four

years, he left the military and joined the U.S.

Navy’s Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation

Center (AUTEC) in Andros Island, Bahamas.

He spent the next four years recovering torpedoes

as a diver jumping out of helicopters,

strapping the surface floating weapons and

flying them under the helicopters back to the

AUTEC base.

After leaving the Bahamas, Joe served as

the Chief Engineer on a large Dutch-built

oceangoing salvage tugboat. After a few

years working onboard the tug, the owners

allowed Joe to use the tugboat in an attempt

to independently develop work. Joe was able

to use the tugboat to perform the salvage projects

and eventually allowed to purchase the

vessel. He promptly renamed the tugboat

Resolve after having resolved what he wanted

to do in life.

Over the next ten years, Resolve undertook

salvage jobs in the warm waters of the

Caribbean, working on various small

freighters and island vessels. Following the

1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, the

Coast Guard established new regulations for

OPA-90 and Joe realized if he wanted to

remain in business, he would need to meet

those requirements. In short, Resolve needed

a shipboard firefighting team and the best way

was to build his own training facility. Resolve

soon became the only salvage company with

an in-house team of experts who also served

as professional firefighting instructors. This

effort led to establishment of the Resolve

Maritime Academy, which has trained more

than 37,000 professional marines and port

firefighters from around the world.

Resolve’s core business is vessel emergency

response and has more fully stocked and

owned response warehouses globally than any

emergency vessel responder. The company

operates worldwide and with facilities and

staff in Singapore, Shanghai, Gibraltar,

Mumbai, London, Rotterdam, Cape Town,

Florida, Alabama, and Alaska, in addition to

twenty-two OPA-90 SMFF depots in the

United States.

Resolve has also successfully performed

extremely complex salvage operations

throughout the world. The company has

experienced salvage masters, naval architects,

engineers and divers standing ready to assist

clients around the clock.

In 2006, Resolve, in conjunction with

the U.S. Navy, sank the decommissioned

USS Oriskany aircraft carrier to create the

world’s largest artificial reef off the coast of

Pensacola, Florida. The challenging project

took more than two years and more than 150

full-time personnel. While completing the

project, Joe learned the Oriskany was the

aircraft carrier that a young Lieutenant

Commander named John McCain flew off on

October 26, 1967. McCain was shot down

over Hanoi and spent five and a half years as

a captive of North Vietnam. It was also on the

deck of the Oriskany where McCain’s father,

Admiral Jack McCain, assumed command of

the Navy’s Pacific Fleet while his son was

being tortured in Hanoi.

As a token of appreciation, Joe saved a

porthole from the Oriskany and presented it to

McCain, now a U.S. Senator, in his office at

the U.S. Capitol.

For nearly thirty-eight years, Resolve

Marine Group has met some of the biggest

maritime challenges throughout the world. As

Resolve has grown, it has remained steadfast

in its commitment to reinvest profits in people

and businesses that align with Resolve’s

core mission: to protect life, the environment,

and property at sea. Joe attributes his phenomenal

and successful growth and good fortune

to giving more then you ask for in return

and to simply treat people the way you would

like to be treated.

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry







The Association of Diving Contractors

International stands today as more than just a

trade association. Since 1968, the ADCI has

become the voice and symbol of safety for

commercial diving and underwater operations.

Industry stakeholders such as government

regulatory agencies, militaries, schools,

vendors, manufacturers, the medical and

insurance communities, as well as those that

engage in the operations of commercial diving

all look to the ADCI as the premier entity for

the establishment of industry best practices.

One reason for the longstanding sustainability

of the Association is its willingness to engage

in open dialogue with the industry when developing

the guidelines and recommendations

within the International Consensus Standards

for Commercial Diving and Underwater

Operations. The hallmark and strength of the

Association is its diverse make up, which allows

it to approach industry challenges on a variety

of levels. The ADCI’s regional chapter framework

provides an outlet for both members and

non-members to share their lessons learned and

notable operations conducted, all of which supports

the Association’s focus on safety, education,

and communication.

There have been many individuals over

the course of the last fifty years who have

helped make the ADCI what it is today. They

can be found in the Commercial Diving Hall

of Fame, serving on a committee or on the

Board of Directors. They can be found working

on a pipeline, a dam, or in an office.

Supporters of the Association serve the industry

in a variety of different ways. Over the

course of its history, the ADCI has become

adept at listening to and acting upon feedback

in the best and most effective way to better

the conduct of underwater operations. In

short, the key to the ADCI’s first fifty years

and the key to its next fifty years, will be its

ability to embrace change and focus its efforts

for change on positive terms.

As the current Executive Director of the

ADCI, I am honored to serve in the footsteps

of those who’ve paved the way for me to try to

make a difference. I am also blessed to work

every day with the longest tenured employee

in the Association, the Grande Dame and my

colleague, Barbara Treadway. No one person

has seen more of the progression of the ADCI

firsthand than Barbara.

I have also encountered others who have

helped me to lead organizational change, build

positive industry relationships, learn from my

mistakes, be open to new ideas, take the

initiative, and fix fatal flaws. I cherish the

opportunity to hold this position and be a part

of the positive impact that the Association of

Diving Contractors International has on the

underwater industry.

Underwater Intervention, UI 2018.




American Marine Corporation.............................................................................................................................................................94

Association of Diving Contractors International ................................................................................................................................111

Chesapeake Bay Diving, Inc. .............................................................................................................................................................109

Collins Engineers, Inc. ........................................................................................................................................................................63

Commercial Diving & Marine Services, Inc.........................................................................................................................................82

Divers Institute of Technology.............................................................................................................................................................84

DRS Marine Inc. .................................................................................................................................................................................88

Dryden Diving Company, Inc............................................................................................................................................................108

Eason Diving & Marine Contractors, Inc. ...........................................................................................................................................78

Enviroscience, Inc...............................................................................................................................................................................63

Global Diving & Salvage, Inc. .............................................................................................................................................................90

Hammerhead Marine Services, LLC/Commercial Diving Services, Inc................................................................................................107

Historical Diving Society USA .............................................................................................................................................................63

J.F. Brennan Company, Inc. .................................................................................................................................................................70

Lakes & Rivers Contractors, Inc..........................................................................................................................................................63

Logan Diving & Salvage......................................................................................................................................................................74

Mainstream Commercial Divers, Inc. ..................................................................................................................................................80

Marine Diving Technology Class of 1973—Santa Barbara City College................................................................................................92

Marion Hill Associates Diving and Marine Services Group ................................................................................................................102

National University Polytechnic Institute ............................................................................................................................................63

The Ocean Corporation ......................................................................................................................................................................63

ONYX Services, Inc...........................................................................................................................................................................104

Randive, Inc........................................................................................................................................................................................63

Resolve Marine Group.......................................................................................................................................................................110

STS Chile (STS Marine Engineering and Constructing Limited)...........................................................................................................98

Subsalve USA....................................................................................................................................................................................106

Teichman Group of Companies...........................................................................................................................................................96

U.S. Underwater Services, LLC .........................................................................................................................................................105

Underwater Construction Corporation................................................................................................................................................64

W.J. Castle P.E. & Associates, P.C. .......................................................................................................................................................86

Walker Diving Underwater Construction LLC ...................................................................................................................................100

WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry





Mike Cox, an elected member of the Texas Institute of Letters, is the author of more than a

score of non-fiction books and hundreds of articles over the course of a career dating back more

than forty years. In 2010 he received the A. C. Greene Lifetime Achievement Award

and has earned numerous other recognitions for his writing over the years. His most noted work

is a two-volume history of the legendary Texas Rangers, published in 2008-2009. A long-time

newspaper writer turned state government spokesman, Cox lives in Austin. When not writing,

he spends as much time as he can fishing and hunting or traveling and otherwise enjoying life

in Texas.



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Iron, Wood & Water: An Illustrated History of Lake Oswego

Jefferson Parish: Rich Heritage, Promising Future

More Than a River: Decatur-Morgan County

Loudoun County, Virginia:

Preserving Tradition, Embracing Innovation

Miami’s Historic Neighborhoods: A History of Community

Old Orange County Courthouse: A Centennial History

Plano: An Illustrated Chronicle

The New Frontier:

A Contemporary History of Fort Worth & Tarrant County

Rich With Opportunity:

Images of Beaumont and Jefferson County

Salt Lake City: Livability in the 21st Century

San Antonio, City Exceptional

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WORKING UNDERWATER: The Story of the Commercial Diving Industry



ISBN: 978-1-944891-50-3

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