So you want to turn your passion into a career? There are jobs beyond recreational diving.
These careers offer some of the most extreme conditions available. Whether they work in extremely deep water or around hazardous material, it takes a certain level of guts.
Excerpt from the article
Nuclear Reactor Diver
Commercial diving — working underwater, usually wearing a helmet with surface-supplied air rather than a scuba tank — encompasses a variety of diving jobs, but few raise eyebrows so much as those in and around nuclear reactors.
Before she went to commercial-diving school, Kyra Richter had been a scuba diver for 10 years, working as a dive instructor in Asia and the Caribbean, and as a technical cave diver in Mexico’s cenotes. “Despite all this, I knew as a woman I’d have a hard time in the male-dominated environment of offshore commercial diving, even though my dream was to be a saturation diver,” she says. “One of my instructors had photos of himself working in a nuclear plant, and it fascinated me from day one.”
Today, Richter is a nuclear-dive-program supervisor for a plant in Michigan and has consulted on programs in the United Arab Emirates and South Korea. “Nuclear diving is a mix of inland and industrial diving, which means we work in rivers, lakes and oceans, and in man-made intake tunnels, condensers, pools, tanks and other structures inside the plant,” Richter explains. “We work in open or closed systems, clean or dirty water, which is contaminated water that contains radioactive isotopes.”
But for all the eyebrow-raising nuclear diving might cause, Richter says it’s one of the safest forms of commercial diving. “There is a lot less expense-cutting and a lot more support from the industry to appropriately staff a job,” she says. However, that doesn’t mean it’s without risk.
she says. Overexposing a diver to radiation is highly unlikely. “That’s why we clean all areas prior to work, do surveys of the work area, and the divers carry probes so that they can survey each area themselves before they walk into them,” she explains. “We’re also remotely monitored by radiation-protection technicians who can get instant readings on the doses we’re receiving.”
When bad guys want to cover up a crime, they often try to hide the evidence underwater.
says Michael Berry, founder and president of Underwater Criminal Investigators. “It’s my job to not only find these items, but also recover them in a way that preserves any fingerprints, DNA or other evidence that might be left behind.”
When Berry started working as a police diver, there was no standardized training. “Everybody was studying rescue diving, but the reality is, the majority of what we do is recovery,” he says. He went on to develop the first Underwater Criminal Investigator course for PADI; today, UCI is a leader in police search-and-recovery training.
Over the nearly 30 years he has worked as an underwater investigator, Berry has found himself diving in every type of environment imaginable, and has encountered his share of aggressive wildlife along the way.
The worst problem he encountered came from bacteria. “I was diving in a rock quarry that had turned to mud over the years, looking for stolen merchandise, and I came across a bag filled with the rotting corpses of puppies and kittens,” he says. “I ended up catching meningitis and was out of commission for months — it almost killed me.”
For technical-diving instructor John Claytor, the swamps and river-beds of Florida and Georgia are a treasure trove of lost old-growth lumber.
His story starts in the late 19th century, when a logging boom was in full swing, harvesting old-growth trees and transporting them by barge along U.S. waterways.
Claytor says experts estimate around 10 percent of those logs were lost when barges carrying them sank. The low oxygen content at the bottom of these rivers and lakes preserved the wood, and the scarcity of the logs makes them valuable.
“I started diving around here in 1965, when I was in junior high, hunting for old bottles and Native American artifacts. Everywhere I dived, I’d see these logs all over the bottom, so I started keeping track,” Claytor says. “Years later, I had to screw my head on right and start making a living. I had a lot of MacGyver blood in me, so I went back to those old notes and started teaching myself how to pull those logs out and process them into lumber.”
Today, Claytor and his son bring the trees up, dry them out, cut them into lumber, and then use them to create custom projects like furniture and flooring.
But the work, called deadhead logging, is one of the most dangerous types of logging. Underwater crews have been featured on the History channel show Ax Men. “I try to block out the negative when I’m down there,” says Claytor. “I’ve dealt with every hazard you can think of, from poisonous-snake bites, alligators and 250-pound snapping turtles to getting caught in fishing lines and nets.”