Sir Isaac Newton once said
"WE STAND ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS".
Well, we've all got stories, but I agreed to submit a couple on the Oilfield Divers site, so here comes the first of my all-time best! (Worst)
This one is wild! as the initial task changed several times as you will see.
I was in a two-man Sat in the Gulf. My bell partner was Hugh Gray. Dennis Floyd was the Superintendent, Bob Newkirk and Tom Philips were the two Shift Supervisors. Initialy, we ahd some welding to perform on the platform and we also were to observe a drill string entry into an open wellhead that they were going to workover.
I was watching the drill string entry and informed topside that the string was coming in at an extreme angle and that they need to stop and realign it. They decided to continue lowering the pipe until I told them the pipe was actually bending. they pulled the pipe back up and as I inspected the wellhead, I confirmed that the internal threads were damaged. Now the job turned to having to take a grinder and repair the the so they could fit some kind of coupler to the wellhead.
We had this HUGE light frame so we could see. Well, one evening as I was grinding away on the damaged threads, the lights went out. I informed Bob (Newkirk) that the light hd gone out, to which he replied "The lights did not go out Walt, you've got company"! I turned my head to the right and right next to my shoulder was an eyeball that was bigger than my head! I was the BIGGEST Jewfish I've ever seen! Well he was between me and the bell so I just looked away and continued grinding. No Shit man, as it drifted off to the right and toward the other side of the wellhead the lights reappeared, and I Swear, it was at least 8 ft. long, it was taller then me and had a girth about 3 ft. thick! Anyway, the threads were repaired and we were able to get them reconnected into the wellhead.
Next bell run we started on the welding task. Hugh goes out to start the weld repairs. He was out of the bell for a short while and Tom (Philips) informs me that he's coming back to the bell to get more rods. Tom starts calling to Hugh but there's no answer. Well if you knew Hugh you also knew he seldom replied. Anyway, Tom keeps calling him with no reply and he asks give him a jerk on his umbilical. Here's the weird thing, we usually didn't bother to pick up each other's hose as we were just coming back for more rods, but for some unknown reason, I picked up and neatly coiled his hose in the bell. So, I give a jerk on his hose and he "floats" rather lifeless under the hatch! Well, even though we had an "unconcious diver" recovery rig in the bell, in a moment like this, I assure you, your adrenalin takes over. I literally yanked him up and right into the bell. He was not breathing and as I attempted to get his hat off, he started to slide out of the bell to which I reacted in such a way that I knee'd him in the back as I grabbed for him and it must have knocked some air into him as he gave out a huge GASP! Anyway, I secured the bell and they recovered us to the surface.
Upon locking back into the holding tank we were advised that Dr. Gordon Dougherty had arrived to check on Hugh and determine what had happened. So, they put Gordon and Jim Roberson in the bell and blew down to our holding depth. The doctor determined that Hugh had suffered from an Angina attack. so when they were ready to recover the Dr. and Jim back to the surface, they realized they had left them at depth too long to just bring them up with a normal decompression table and ended up running them on a Table 6!
After they reached surface they began decompressing me and Hugh. Once we got to surface, they flew Hugh and the Dr. to the beach and then sent me back in along with my good buddy Jim Roberson to complete the job.
One thing I hadn't mentioned before, was that our Launch system was not able to reach out far enogh to lower the bell to working depth, due to the batter of the platform legs. So, they rigged up a snatch block on the umbilical and hooked it to the crane so they could boom us out far enough to clear the platform and get to depth.
One more fuckup on this job was after our last bell run, when we came to the deck and disconnected the crane from the umbilical, as they boomed up, the the override circuit failed on the boom and it just kept coming and crashed into one of the buildings and stopped just short of hitting our living tank but laid across it so we couldn't get out until they were able to repair the crane.
We all eventually made it home safely, to fight again another day!
Most of these stories start with "This ain't no shit" but this a true story, the best as I can recollect it. Sometime in the 80's I was working for Oceaneering International when I got the call come to the office to discuss an emergency situation.
Almost every diver was offshore and all of our equipment packages were out as well. They rounded up 4 of us divers, Ted Hess, David Burtner and myself. I cannot remember the other hand. Plus, Bob Holloway as the Supervisor. A semi-submersible had two of its anchors break loose in a storm while we're still down hole. They were unable actuate the shear rams and gas was leaking from BOP. The top of the BOP was 550 fsw. As we discussed the risk factors either Ted or Bob stated flatly that this would be hairy and if you did think that you would make dive you could leave now... no one did.
As I said earlier there were no equipment packages left at the shop just a hodgepodge of racks, gas, and a couple of compressors. We were made aware that there was a saturation system on its way from the North Sea and it had just entered the Gulf undertow. The problem was that this system had been stripped clean, no valves, no Environmental Control Unit (ECU), no bunks and no... pooper. We put our equipment on the trucks and headed out. When we got to the dock we loaded the boat and got underway immediately. If I remember correctly, it was 12 hour run out.
The system coming from the North Sea was a Drager System. It was made in Germany and not yet certified for use in the US. The situation was so bad for the drilling rig that it was time to break some rules. Had the BOP failed the drilling rig would have sunk in no time. You can't float on gas...
We got to the drilling rig at the same time as the Drager. We offloaded both the Drager system and our hodgepodge of diving equipment.
Everyone busted their butt to get rig up for an observation dive. Ted and I were fitting out the inside of the Deck Decompression Chamber (DDC) while Dave and the others worked on the bell and the outside of the DDC. We were missing lots of parts, not enough valves, no ECU, no bunks and... yep still no pooper. The system was dive able but just barely.
If you know who Ted Hess was (he recently passed) then you know he was a legend. The Little General, that's what we called him. He was incredibly demanding, mostly about safety, and best damn diver I ever knew, and I knew some of the best. Ted was obviously going to be make the observation dive but he would need a bell partner in case something went wrong. We were just about done fitting the valves when he turned to me and ask "What's your deepest dive Cudd"? I told him 300ft walking pipe for Arab (Joe Farah). Ted says do you want to make this jump? I said sure... That was it the decision had been made. We buttoned up the DDC and went to inspect the bell. The bell guys double checked our work at the same time.
We suited up and climbed into the bell and down we went to 550 fsw. When we got on location, we tried to turn the outside lights on but they didn't work. We broke out our flashlight and Ted repaired the lighting circuit. This was only the first failure amongst many to come. With the lights on, we were able to see the BOP with drill string snaking its way to the surface. There was a very large amount of gas leaking from several areas on the stack. We reported back to topside what we observed they asked if we thought that we could trip the shear rams. Ted and I discussed it and decided that it was possible. And because of the situation we decided to give it a try.
What started out as an observation dive was going to turning to a bounce dive...or more. Ted was making the excursion while I tended him. We had about 20 minutes if I recall correctly. We blew down fast and Ted swam to the wellhead. He tried to actuate the rams but had no luck. I pulled him back to the bell and we prepared to ascend. Did I mention that not only were we short parts we also had no hot water suites or system. We couldn't get the hatch to seal. Time was running out. A few more minutes and we would be in saturation. We kept trying to get the hatch to seal as they were bringing us up a little while we kicked the dogs to get it seal but no luck. Finally, the clock won, topside comes over the radio and Bob Holloway informed us that we were now in saturation mode. We had tried everything to get the hatch to seal to no avail. Finally, I looked at my Miller 400 and said to Ted "Let's try this Miller." Working at Oceaneering most of divers wore Kirby Morgan masks or Rat Hats and used give me a hard time about my Miller. That hat saved my life several times and this was one of them.
I disconnected my Miller from the umbilical and used it like a hammer to beat the dogs tighter. We finally got a seal and we started up. You sure as hell couldn't do that with a Kirby or a Rat Hat! By now we were freezing but we could do nothing but deal with it. About two thirds the way up the clutch on the bell wrench gave up. That dropped us about 50 feet and shook us up pretty good. They were able to stop the free fall but could not retrieve the bell. Finally, it was decided that they would surface dive and chain wrap our bell cable. This took several hours and attempts but finally they got us on deck and mated the bell to the DDC. We went from freezing our keasters off to suffocating in DDC with no ECU. Topside had rigged tarps for shade and was running water over the DDC but it was like being in an oven. Bob told me later that one of the welders had come and offered his fan. He says "Open dat door an we can cool dim off." Well, that made me laugh out loud. They had flown parts out so that Ted and I could install the head, ECU, bunks but not all of parts had gotten there.
I was so hot I asked topside to send me in some ice. Ted tells me it a good way get a heart attack and I replied that I figured I was going to get one anyway in this heat I might as well be comfortable while I was having it. They locked in garbage bag with about 15lbs of ice in it. By the time it got to depth it only as big as a soccer ball. I grabbed and laid on my chest all the while Ted telling me that it could kill me. About three bags later I was cooling down nicely when Ted says " Damn it send me some too!!" Another good laugh. After they got the parts in to fix the bell wrench, we made another dive. This time we took separate High Pressure hoses down with us to try to actuate the rams. It was my dive.
This wellhead had about 10 giant Jewfish (can you say that now?) that called it home. They are very inquisitive and BIG. Some were the size of Volkswagens!! I have one leaning on me while I'm scrapping barnacles off of the fittings. There's another one on top of me sucking the slag up. One was the size of a micro=bus! Every time he inhales, he just about pulled my Miller off my head! Ted said it was one of the funniest things that he'd ever seen. I got the shear to actuate and Ted got the blind close. We finished building out the Drager System while we decompressed and it got certified when it was back on the beach. There lots more nuances to the story but I am already too long.
From Don Wyatt - We "Vernon Dixon and I" were on a McDermott barge. I was talking to a Foreman in the wheelhouse and on the Radio we heard "we are going over". This was at night. About an hour later another McDermott Barge called wondering if we saw or heard of their boat the Lady Verna. We hadn't. They sent their Crewboat out to look for it and found it in the position in the picture shown. The CB searched but found nothing but debris. We were put on our CB with Scuba but unable to enter the boat due to rough seas. We requested the DB to come over and give us a lee side. Vernon and I made several entries but couldn't get in the Bow due to a freezer falling over the entrance. Did not find the crew!
Then the only option we had was to rig slings to. Try and right it on bottom, sling it and set it on the DB. Picked it up with the stern sitting on bottom. The sling broke and it slowly went back in the same position. Thank God!!!
On the second attempt they were holding it and the Capt. stuck his hand out of the wheelhouse window. Dixon jumped in to retrieve the Capt Just as Vernon got to the wheelhouse the cable snapped again. Again the boat in slow motion started twisting to the port. The Capt. jumped out the window.
Vernon hollered at me the Mate was on the starboard side. I grabbed a couple of life jackets as I was going over the side. When I got around the bow I saw the Mate standing with a dazed look in his eyes. Seas were starting to pick up. I tried to get the Mate to jump to me and all he would say was "Don't Touch Me". A wave hit and knocked him underwater but he came back up quickly. I saw another wave coming and when it knocked him down I latched on to him from behind and he went limp. Thank God for the Life Jackets. He had to weigh 300lbs.
The Captain told us how many times we entered the boat. His knuckles had very little meat on them from trying to signal us. They were trapped in the Bow. Had we sat the boat on bottom we would have killed those men. When we picked the boat up the second time the obstruction moved enough they could get out of the Bow. About 2 months after that the Captain died in a car wreck. Plus that was the second time he got trapped in a sunken boat.
Footnote: The Coast Guard did come out. They searched for 24hrs and left. It came out in the paper that CG Divers rescued the crew...