The dangerous world of underwater welding

Originally published at: The dangerous world of underwater welding | Boing Boing


Are robots just not making muster for the welders’ union? Except for the video part this video could have been made in 1930. “Looks like the underwater steam engine’s galvo is acting kittenish! Look out, welder! But it’s kicking off a lot of nitrous and she likes it for now.”


I remember many years ago, a standup comedian was riffing on her temp assignments. A typical call from her agent would be, “answer phones, some filing, light typing, and a little bit of underwater welding.”

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An acquaintance of mine was a professional diver. He dove in pristine clean water at pretty low depths. He worked in nuclear power plants. He had a lot of free time because his diving was exposure limited. Sometimes you could use up your entire occupational annual limit for radiation exposure in one dive.


That would make me very interested in who set the safety limits and what their threshold of acceptable risk for me was :grimacing:


Off-topic, but I really want a hyperbaric chamber so I can paint underwater-scapes!


Funny, but of course there are standard limits for exposure to workers. They’re based on historical data of exposures that led to radiation related illnesses. I think they’re set so that if you received the maximum dose every year that you would have a 1-2% increase of risk during your lifetime.

(At least according to certain industrial scientists, using 50 year old medical records kept by various organizations with strong interests in the outcome.)

A buddy of mine used to work at a nuclear power plant. He was in an info security role, so normally he never left his desk. But everyone on site wore dosimeter badges anyway, because nuclear.

One day they had an ‘incident’, and it was all hands on deck. He got called into the plant and given a job as a “tool deliverer”. He was given a cart full of tools that the mechanics had already laid out for themselves, and instructions to park it in a certain spot next to a certain machine, and then leave. He did so, and according to his dosimeter, he received his entire annual maximum exposure in that one trip.


I didn’t have an emotional grasp of “dose limits” until I watched the Chernobyl mini-series. Fiction, but brought certain truths home.

This is the scene that brought it home.


See also:


Well it is codified into law rather than a regulation issued by some agency. So at some theoretical level the the safety limits are set by Congress.


I’ve known a few saturation divers. One of my first questions is “which joints have you had replaced or rebuilt?”.

It’s usually some combination of hips, knees, wrists, shoulders.

This in men in their mid-thirties with no family history of arthritis. Decompression can be very hard on cartilage.


You wonder how marine mammals do it; when even futzing with exotic gas mixes and taking extensive precautions isn’t enough to keep your bones from starting to die if you try it as a human.


As a recreational scuba diver who is interested in what’s down there, I have wondered exactly that, very very often.


I believe that mainly they do it by not breathing compressed air.


Involves arguments with Earth, Air, Water, and Fire. Daunting indeed.

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They may wonder how we walk, run and even jump on our flippers.


Not mine, found it several years ago on the interwebz:

[Rob is a commercial diver for Global Divers in Louisiana. He performs underwater repairs on offshore drilling rigs. Below is an E-mail he sent to his sister, which was submitted to a “worst job experience” contest on a Ft. Wayne, Indiana radio station. It won 1st prize…]

Just another note from your bottom-dwelling brother.
Last week I had a bad day at the office.

I know you’ve been feeling down lately at your work, so I thought I would share my dilemma with you to make you realize it’s not so bad after all.
Before I can tell you what happened to me, I first must bore you with a few technicalities of my job.
As you know, my office lies at the bottom of the sea. I wear a suit to the office. It’s a wetsuit. This time of year the water is quite cool. So what we do to keep warm is this: we have a diesel powered industrial water heater. This $20,000 piece of equipment sucks the water out of the sea. It heats it to a delightful temperature. It then pumps it down to the diver through a garden hose, which is taped to the air hose.

Now this sounds like a darn good plan, and I’ve used it several times with no complaints.
What I do, when I get to the bottom and start working, is take the hose and stuff it down the back of my wetsuit. This floods my whole suit with warm water. It’s like working in a Jacuzzi.

Everything was going well until all of a sudden, my butt started to itch. So, of course, I scratched it.
This only made things worse.
Within a few seconds my butt started to burn. I pulled the hose out from my back, but the damage was done. In agony I realized what had happened.

The hot water machine had sucked up a jellyfish and pumped it into my suit.
Now since I don’t have any hair on my back, the jellyfish couldn’t stick to it. However, the crack of my butt was not as fortunate.

When I scratched what I thought was an itch, I was actually grinding the jellyfish into my butt.
I informed the dive supervisor of my dilemma over the communicator. His instructions were unclear due to the fact that he, along with 5 other divers, were all laughing hysterically.

Needless to say I aborted the dive.

I was instructed to make 3 agonizing in-water decompression stops totaling 35 minutes before I could reach the surface to begin my chamber dry decompression.
When I arrived at the surface, I was wearing nothing but my brass helmet.

As I climbed out of the water, the medic, with tears of laughter running down his face, handed me a tube of cream and told me to rub it on my butt as soon as I got in the chamber.

The cream put the fire out, but I couldn’t poop for 2 days because my butt hole was swollen shut.
So, next time you’re having a bad day at work, think about how much worse it would be if you had a jellyfish shoved up your butt.

Now repeat to yourself, “I love my job, I love my job, I love my job.”


One of my cousins was a commercial nuclear diver long enough to save enough money to buy a bed and breakfast on the sea shore that he ran until he retired.


true story: i wanted to go to a training facility in Houston to become an underwater welder on gulf oil rigs. i was 19. i had broken my femur on a land-based oil rig in Oklahoma 18 months prior and the school’s physician said no way. i have a fixative pin in my hip and they feared it would be a likely spot for nitrogen bubbles to lodge under pressure and that it could cause me to get serioisly and excruciatingly bent on decomp.
fast foward 40 years, i’ve lost half that leg to an accident, but i still dive recreationally, just not to any real depth and all within the safest of guidelines.
prolly best i did not persue the deep water career, given that i seem a bit accident prone. :weary: