Confessions of a Deep Sea Diver by PizzND
I recently left my job as a deep sea diver. I worked for a large company that offers diving services ranging from salvage, underwater demolition, ship repairs, and search and recovery. They are a reputable company and are considered safe and reliable. So much so that they are often contracted by the government. Truth be told, I will miss working for them. The people I worked with were truly the best of the best. But there are only so many unexplainable things you can witness in the deep before you decide to stay out of the ocean forever. Here are some examples of the secrets many divers take to their graves.
On the way to a job we were contracted to perform, our propeller became fouled. I suited up and prepared to make a quick dive to remove the fouling. I did a brief inspection and located thick line wrapped around the prop and shaft. I notified the supervisor, who then lowered a canvas bag with the tools I needed to cut it off. I hung the bag from the shaft and began freeing the propeller. It didn't take long, and I returned to my tool bag. I noticed a strange crunching sound when I dropped the tools in the bag. When I looked in the bag, it was full of large shells, many of which I had just crushed. After getting out of the water and stripping off my gear, I began examining them. The shells had what appeared to be hieroglyphics etched into them. I learned from one of the senior guys that this wasn't common, but had happened to several of them before.
On one other occasion we were recovering a military aircraft. When we arrived, naval ships were on scene waiting for us to recover it for them. We were quickly briefed that they had lost communication with the pilot and wanted us to recover it so that they could investigate. I was sitting comms and logs (communicate with divers and monitor depth & bottom time) when the divers reached the project. They reported that the plane was intact. We were all surprised. The supervisor asked how extensive the damage was. And they explained it was completely intact. As in, there was no visible damage at all. It was just resting on bottom. Even stranger, the aircraft canopy was still in place. That means that the cockpit is still sealed, in other words the pilot did not eject. But there was no sign of the pilot. We recovered the plane and the military took custody of it. We never heard about it again.
I witnessed another strange occurrence from topside at the location of a planned demolition. It's necessary to explain that one way you can keep track of a diver is to watch their bubble stream. When a diver inhales, the helmet's demand regulator provides air from their umbilical. Then when they exhale, it is exhausted into the water and floats up to the surface. On topside you can watch the bubbles to get a general sense of where the divers are. Now on this occasion we were hundreds of miles from land, and had placed two divers in the water. About an hour into the dive, we started noticing something strange was happening. There were three distinct bubble streams coming from where they were working. At first we assumed that there was a current and it was affecting them. But soon we noticed a fourth set of bubbles coming from a distance. It stopped about 20 feet from the divers, near the other mysterious bubbles. We asked the divers, but neither could see anything out of the ordinary. Then, even from the surface, we heard a blood curdling screech from the waters. Then silence. The divers weren't too concerned, we hear strange things all the time. Sound travels well in the water, and you learn to assume it's a long distance away. But soon, it looked like the water in the distance was boiling, and it was getting closer. It wasn't boiling though. It was countless new bubble streams moving nearer to the location our divers were working. The supervisor ordered the divers to get onto the dive stage to be lifted back to surface. The bubbles were frighteningly close now, and the divers being lifted out said they had begun seeing shadowed figures in the distance. They couldn't quite make out what they were though. We elected to pull the divers out without completing their decompression stops and throw them into our hyperbaric chamber.
During another dive near the Bahamas I had a frightening experience. It was my first salvage job with them, so I got in with a highly experienced diver. At just over 200 feet deep, we were examining the sunken vessel for rigging points. As I approached the bow of the ship I noticed he was investigating a damaged portion of the hull. He swam a few feet into the ship looking around. I asked him a few times if he wanted me to tend his umbilical (air supply hose) from just outside the ship (it's highly advisable since it's dangerous to enter a sunken ship) to which he stated no. He didn't want to enter the ship. He insisted he was on the port side of the ship. Assuming he was disoriented I reached in to grab him. Just before touching him, I realized there were no bubbles coming from the helmet. Whatever this was, it wasn't breathing. I backed up and reported that something else was down here. I expected mockery, but there was none. The next thing I heard was the diving supervisor. "Both divers, square yourselves away and get ready to leave bottom" When back on surface I asked the supervisor about it, he said he refused to put his divers in exceptionally dangerous situations. He then refused to clarify. We declined to complete the salvage.
I'm not entirely sure how to explain this next dive. I was on bottom, laying on my back staring up toward the surface. All I could see were varying shades of darkness. Suddenly I came to my senses. I had no memory of how I got here. I realized I couldn't remember getting into the water, or even why I was here. I tried to will my body to stand up, but realized I couldn't move. I couldn't control my body. Over the comms I could hear topside instructing the other diver to find me. How long had I been down here? How long had I been missing? He told topside that "They grabbed him" I tried to shout out, but I couldn't even do that. After a few frantic minutes of communication between the diver and topside, I noticed a shadow growing clear. It was moving toward me. "Topside, I've found him" He reached down and grabbed my harness to drag me back to our dive stage. As he pulled me, I rolled over and got a brief glance at my surroundings. I had been laying in a pile of human bones.
One of the strangest things I've ever witnessed happened on a body recovery mission. Even I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't been the one in the water. The military had found a site in which they believed the bodies of several missing World War Two sailors would be found. I entered the water with another diver with body bags to carry the remains. On bottom, we eventually found three skeletons. We placed them in the bags and returned to the stage. On our return trip to the surface, we saw the bags begin to move. At first very slightly, then violently shaking and rolling. Bubbles escaped from two of the bags, and then they went still. The third bag continued struggling. We reached surface and sat down on the deck, stripping our gear immediately. We were afraid to touch the bags, but one of the tenders eventually unzipped the moving bag. An old, frail, very alive man rolled out coughing water. We stood shocked, unable to comprehend what we were witnessing. Still not sure what I was doing, I ran to the other two bags and unzipped them. There were two more old men laying motionless in the bags. They appeared to have just drowned. We attempted CPR but were unable to revive the men. The man, who was somehow now alive, was backing away from us. Screaming of the horrors he'd witnessed. He screamed about an eternity spent burning. We locked him in a room and contacted the military that we had found a "survivor" Within the hour a military chopper was hovering over us to pick up the two bodies and the survivor. We had placed the bodies back in their bags, and handed them over. The man bent over to inspect them, unzipping the bags. As he opened the bags, an unbearable stench overtook us. The bodies appeared to be in decay, as if they'd been dead and soaking in the water for a week. He zipped it back up and had them lifted into the chopper. Then we escorted him to the survivor. We could hear the screaming from down the hall. We opened the door and saw blood splattered on the walls. He was alive, and screaming, but he too appeared to have started decaying. The man calmly walked him to the chopper and the two of them were lifted onboard. We never heard about them again. However, I went back and examined the room. With his blood he had drawn hieroglyphics on the walls. I'm still not certain of what I viewed, but there were a few things that seemed to stand out. Waves, flames, and bodies. There was a tremendous amount of them on the walls, but shortly after I walked in our supervisor began scrubbing the walls. He refused to let us examine it any further.
I've heard rumors about the "Keepers of the Deep". I've wondered about them for quite some time. I believe they are the link between many of our stories. Their myth within our team is seldom spoken of. But here is what I gathered over the years. We are not meant to roam the depths of the ocean. And when a diver loses his life in the deep, it doesn't stay that way. They are cursed to forever roam the oceans. And when they find the living, in an envious rage, they will bring you back to the depths from which they came.
Before I share anything further, there are a few things I'd like to clarify. I received an astonishingly large amount of comments and personal messages since posting. Several people pointed out to me that there are probably very few people with experiences like these. And of those people even fewer could say that they've recently left their job. Therefore, there are probably a lot of people out there who already know who I am, or that could figure it out easily. That being said, I still believe that everybody deserves to know.
First, I'm going to answer some of the common questions I've received. Yes, I've experienced a lot of terrifying things in the ocean. But, when you consider the amount of dives I've made, these experiences have truly been few and far between.
Basic information about our dive gear. While it does vary based on the job, we do have a standard we typically use. We are hard hat divers meaning we wear helmets, not scuba. It is surface supplied air. We have an air system on surface which runs through an umbilical down to the divers. The umbilical attaches to the helmet to supply the air. Woven in with the umbilical are our essentials. Without getting too technical there is a line to supply air, electricity for a light, communications, and essentially a depth gauge. Additionally, we wear a tank on our back as an emergency gas supply. It doesn't contain much though. Just enough to get to the surface in an emergency. We don't use rebreathers for the work we do. We do however occasionally use a full face mask instead of a helmet, or scuba if it is more practical. But it rarely is.
The Keepers of the Deep. I have never found information about them online. The only people I've heard discuss them were the members of my team. I've been told other teams have had run ins with them too though. But even the guys on my team are hesitant to speak about them.
I'll answer more questions as they arise, but I'll get back to why you're really here. While working on an oil rig, we were utilizing an ROV (imagine a small remote control submarine) to do inspections. We'd been hired to inspect for structural damage or deficiencies after the rig had complained of abnormal vibrations. During operations the ROV's are tended from a line that offers power, a strength member, and transfers video and sonar images back to topside. As the ROV descended into the darkness below we began to notice thin scratches along the structure. At first it was barely enough to rip the marine growth off of the metal, but as we got deeper the scratches turned to gouges. As we descended even deeper, we began to notice that the scratches appeared deliberate. We pulled the ROV up close to inspect. There, before us, were images. There were hieroglyphics carved into the metal. And they were fresh. The deeper we got, the older the carvings appeared. They were corroded, and partially covered in growth. Whatever was making these carvings was working its way up from the bottom. Then, the ROV stopped responding. It began shaking back and forth. We lost power to it. We tried to pull it up by its tending line but it seemed stuck. Then, we felt it. Tugging against the line, but it was coming from the ROV's side. Something was pulling it deeper. Two more guys jumped onto the line and struggled to pull it back up. The line began creaking, and parted. We pulled up the remainder of the line, but that ROV was gone forever. The supervisor was then left with the task of figuring out how to report our findings to the oil company.
One incident took place about a year ago. During a salvage job we were in the process of installing the rigging gear. While facing the ship, with my back to the open ocean, I hadn't noticed anything approaching. Suddenly something smashed into the tank on my back, hard. I was slammed into the ship, flattened against it by the force. I turned around, there was nothing. I would later learn that I had several bruised ribs from the impact. After reporting to the other diver and topside, we were told they were going to pull us. We got back onto the stage and started being lifted toward the surface. We kept our eyes peeled, scanning into the not too distant shadows. During a decompression stop we began seeing a shadowy figure circling around us. We continued to monitor it as it circled closer and closer. We began to see it more clearly. There was a massive shark circling us. Now I have never been afraid of sharks. But there's something about being circled by a massive shark, in the middle of the ocean, dangling from a chain, that can instill a new phobia in the bravest men. Keep in mind we aren't in an enclosed cage, just a platform to stand on. It felt like being served on a platter. It eventually circled close enough to see its features, but I didn't recognize its species. It was bigger than a great white, and with entirely different coloration. It was mostly black with a few gray features. It continued eying us as we sat there helpless, praying to be left alone. By the time we completed our decompression requirements it was nearly close enough to touch. The stage lifted us up and out of the water, relieved that the shark had not decided to find out how we taste. On surface we deduced that the shark had lunged at my back, but had only managed to hit the Emergency Gas Supply cylinder.
We did another dive, this time in crystal clear waters. And there's something nice about getting a job in waters where you can actually see your surroundings. The visibility was over 100 feet . We got to the bottom and began work. There were two missiles that had been ejected from a military aircraft and had not detonated. We were briefed on their location and told they were not armed and would not detonate provided they were handled appropriately. We located them much easier than we expected and began preparing to rig them up. Just as I laid my hands on the first missile, my dive buddy said "Oh shit!" My stomach dropped. I don't care how many times you've worked with an ordnance. I sincerely believe you will always have that uncomfortable sensation in your gut, and nervousness in the back of your mind. I looked up and realized he wasn't talking about the missile, he saw a wall of sand rising in the distance. Something, hopefully just the current, was kicking up the sand from the bottom of the ocean. The wall of sand was growing and was about 30 feet tall. Even worse, it was approaching us. Soon it was upon us. It's hard to describe what bad visibility does in the water. It's not a matter of not having enough light, it's a matter of too much crap in the water blocking the light. Imagine fog, but imagine if you can that this fog is thicker than anything you've ever witnessed. I'm talking about fog so thick that you could have a flashlight pointed at your eyes from an inch away, but you are completely blind to it. That's what bad visibility is in the water. The moment the sand hit us, we were engulfed in pure darkness. I placed my hand against my faceplate, but couldn't even see it. After a few moments we began hearing a metallic scraping sound. Then, as swiftly as it arrived, the sand was gone. We had crystal clear waters again. Except that there was no sign of the missiles. I had been within arms reach when the wall of sand hit us, but now even feeling around under the sand revealed no trace of them.
The next incident occurred during a humanitarian job that we volunteered to perform. After a portion of bridge collapsed over 50 foot deep ocean waters, we volunteered to recover the vehicles, and hopefully the bodies. By the time we arrived on scene the collapse had taken place just over a week ago. We spent the first day surveying the area and developing a plan to lift the most we could in the week timeframe we had available. By the start of day two we were actively pulling vehicles off the bottom. It was a difficult job to say the least, but not because of the effort required. The state of disarray in the cars was heartbreaking. These weren't military pilots or sailors lost at sea. These were families on vacation or people commuting to work. It was hard to say what was harder. The cars where we found an entire family. With the parents seat belts unbuckled and them in the backseat having been trying to unbuckle their children. Or the cars where the parents got out, leaving the children buckled in the backseat. I tried not to imagine the panic that had been going on inside the cars as they flooded from broken windshields or windows, as people frantically tried to escape. But I couldn't forgive those that left their family to drown. Each day we moved on to a new section of cars. And on the fourth day we started noticing several of the cars had their doors open and nobody inside. We were happy to find easier work, especially under the assumption that the tragedy had been lessened by people escaping the wrecks. That is until I began rigging a minivan for removal. The family inside hadn't been so lucky. As I ran slings through the van and prepared it be lifted. I noticed the other diver inspecting the rigging gear. He began undoing one of my shackles. I asked what he was doing, and the response was not what I'd hoped for. "I'm checking this truck for bodies" I felt the familiar sick in my gut sensation. Slowly, I crept over to the diver, and turned his body toward me. It resisted, but slowly turned its face toward me. It's faceplate was fogged up, and I fought my better judgement. I leaned in close, and I wish to this day I hadn't. It was dark, but I could all too clearly make out the features. Rotting flesh. The person wearing this helmet had long since passed away. I lost my confidence, starting to scream. My comms were blazing, divers and topside were frantically trying to get my attention. But I was focused on one thing only. I was scrambling backward, away from him. But I had fowled my umbilical around the rigging gear in my state of panic. The thing had again returned its focus to the minivan. As I frantically cleared myself from the slings, I noticed the telltale lack of bubbles coming from the helmet. It was opening the minivan door and reaching inside. As I swam away from the van, I watched it grab one of the passengers and drag them into the darkness.
This was when I began to realize I might not be cut out for working beneath the seas. I continued diving for longer than I knew I should. The entire time the thought lingering in the back of my mind. I need to get a safer career.
I apologize that it has taken so long for me to update you all. I've been resting on this story for the past week, scared to share it. I believe this will be my final update today.
After my last post I was contacted by my former diving supervisor. He told me the danger of sharing these stories. Then his tone changed.
"Things are getting worse down there..." He had never before spoken freely about it with me. But he continued. "We had an incident this last week... And we lost men". I was shocked. We all know the dangers, we've all seen the Keepers of the Deep. But nobody actually expects to die. After a close call or two, you just expect to keep having close calls. He continued "Out of respect for our fallen, you need to use your best judgement before sharing this. And realize, it isn't safe to share this story" He then continued.
The team was contacted to perform a standard salvage job for the military. They had been incredibly vague about the work, but indicated that a vessel had gone down. The dive team and their gear were loaded aboard a U.S. Naval ship to be escorted to the project. This is abnormal, but not unheard of. But things became more, and more strange as they travelled to the project. First, they were briefed by the Commanding Officer. He reviewed the confidentiality agreement regarding our work. Then the brief was turned over to a man who did not introduce himself. He explained that the Navy has been working on a prototype submarine. It's capabilities and new technologies would not be relevant to us. All we needed to know was that it was tremendous. The size would dwarf any subs we'd ever witnessed. He then admitted the Navy did not need routine salvage work, but assistance recovering their prototype. He briefed the team that four days prior they had lost contact with the crew. Sonar images show the submarine resting on bottom, apparently intact, but nobody was responding to communications attempts.
As the ship arrived on scene, they found that they were not alone. Nearly a dozen Navy ships were already awaiting their arrival. The divers were given the go ahead to get in the water and begin work. Their first task was to inspect the submarine for damage and hazards. They needed to provide a bottom report for the engineers to develop a plan for raising it. They didn't want us rigging it up however seemed fit to us. They needed the prototype in as good of a condition as possible.
The divers entered the water and were soon in awe of the creation. It was like nothing they had ever seen. It was tremendous. From where they descended they could not see the forward or aft ends of the submarine, and the water was abnormally clear. In addition, the sub was created out of what appeared to be a reflective metal woven into scales. They began inspecting the sub for damage. After they had reached the maximum allowable bottom time, they were brought back to the surface to swap out without event. They reported to the next set of divers that they had explored from midship to the aft end and had found no apparent damage. The sub appeared to have gently set down in the sand.
The next next set of divers entered to inspect from midship to the forward end. They began advancing while inspecting for damage. About ten minutes into the dive, one diver began tapping on the hull. Immediately both divers reported that they could hear people inside the submarine banging against the hull and shouting out. They couldn't understand what they were screaming, but the message was clear. They were terrified. The supervisor reported that they had found evidence that the crew was still alive. The divers continued advancing. It was about five more minutes before their next report. Their were carvings across the submarine's metallic scaled surface. Hieroglyphics had been carved into the submarine, and appeared to stretch from the very front of the submarine toward midship. Still, there were no signs of structural damage that would have caused the submarine to cease functioning. The divers returned to surface and the Commanding Officer was given a full report on the day's findings.
The team was assured that the submarine was capable of sustaining the crew. They were eager to retrieve it, but the crew was believed to be in relatively little danger.
As day two begun, divers descended with instructions to locate four specified locations. Engineers needed to verify they were still structurally sound for attaching rigging. Immediately the divers reported that they could still hear the banging coming from within. They began locating the rigging points quickly and easily. As they approached the forward end of the ship, just within the region which was covered in carvings. They noticed a figure moving about. They both saw it, there was no denying it. But it soon disappeared from sight. The divers were unable to figure out where it had gone. They agreed to quickly find the remaining two points. It was quick work, the two remaining points were located. All four were intact and readily available for use. As they readied to return to surface, they were informed that there were two more locations they were being asked to inspect. There were supposedly two hatches, port and starboard, that the engineers had insisted needed to be checked. The supervisor was wary "The engineers up here got uneasy when they heard your reports of something moving around the ship. They stepped inside and when they returned insisted that you find the two hatches. I'm not sure what's going on, they are being very ambiguous. Please be cautious"
The divers returned to the area in question and began closely reexamining the area. As they worked, they soon saw a figure emerging from the submarine. It was dragging a body out of the hatch. They froze, and watched as it pushed the hatch closed, and began dragging it into the distance. They then approached the spot and realized the hatch was almost indistinguishable between the scales and carvings on the submarine, but it was there. As they were reporting this, that hatch began to open again.
Topside lost communications with the two divers. It was sheer panic on topside. The tenders were reporting strain on the divers' umbilicals. The standby diver donned his helmet and prepared to get in the water. The umbilicals began violently shaking and pulling. The standby diver was clearly terrified, but nonetheless approached the side of the ship prepared to enter the water. The strain on the umbilicals released, and suddenly the lines went limp in the water. A few moments later air bubbles were erupting to the surface. The supervisor grabbed the standby diver and told him, get the divers, and get the fuck out of there. He entered the water, and began tracing out their umbilicals. His goal was to follow the umbilicals to the divers in distress. As he followed the umbilicals he saw the air violently erupting from below and continued deeper. He reached the source. The umbilicals had been cut free of the divers and were pumping air into the water. Knowing the divers had no air supply, he urgently searched the area for the two divers. After five minutes, he had found no sign and was ordered to inspect the hatch. He frantically made his way to the hatch, hoping beyond hope to find the divers alive.
As he approached, he found the hatch open and saw the two bodies laying on the floor. He entered the space to retrieve them. As he did, he noticed several figures in the darkness of the room. He grabbed the nearest body and began pulling it as the figures rushed toward him. They were instantly upon him, tearing at him and his gear. In fear, he released the body and attempted to flee the space. In the struggle, he freed himself and rocketed to the surface. He was pulled up and over the side of the ship unconscious.
His bloodied body lay on the deck, likely suffering from an arterial gas embolism from his rapid ascent. The team rushed him into the hyperbaric chamber to treat him.
The supervisor informed the Commanding Officer that all diving was being terminated. He had lost two men and one was in critical condition. There were inexplicable things happening on this submarine, and he would not sacrifice more men.
The treatment continued through the night, and the diver regained consciousness. He told the supervisor he was done. He would not reenter the water again, ever. He was assured nobody would be returning, and that as soon as his treatment was complete the entire team was returning to land.
The next morning the team was summoned for what was believed to be a debrief. They entered the room to speak with the Commanding Officer and his team of engineers. The CO asked them to take a seat. He then informed them that they would not move forward with the salvage of the prototype. However, what was down there couldn't remain. Whatever was inside of the submarine had to be positively destroyed. The team was to reenter the water, and plant charges in locations specified by the engineering team. The supervisor was furious. He demanded that the team be taken back to the mainland and released from the ship. Armed sentries entered the room and restrained him. The CO again repeated his orders and clarified that the team would not be allowed to leave until the job was complete.
Dive side was reassembled under the watch of several armed sailors. The supervisor continued to protest the job. After over an hour of conflict two divers agreed, under duress, to get in the water to plant the charges.
The two divers entered the water. Fearfully they moved to the specified locations and began placing the charges. They began hearing the banging and shouting coming from within the sub. The divers, understanding these men would be killed, began sobbing. The CO came onto the comms and again explained they would not be allowed to leave until the job was complete. After regaining their composure, the two regretfully continued.
The two completed their task and returned to the surface. In their shame they refused to speak to anyone, and left dive side.
The ships began departing from the location and the team was again summoned. The Commanding Officer thanked them for their service to their great nation and informed them that they would be handsomely rewarded for the regrettable tragedy they had encountered. He then went over the confidentiality of the job, and everything that they had witnessed. His final words to them were "Previous events have been leaked to the public. Please realize there will be real consequences for any leaked information about what happened here today"
My supervisor ended the conversation stating that the entire team had agreed they were going to leave the diving company. Their fear of the deep sea, and remorse for the job, were too great. He told me "There are some places man simply isn't meant to explore"