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  • : Plongeur-Scaphandrier durant de très très nombreuses années, j'en ai vécu des choses sous eau et ailleurs. POUR VOIR TOUT LES ARTICLES PUBLIES ALLEZ AU BAS DE LA PAGE ET CLIQUER SUR TOP ARTICLES. TO SEE ALL THE STORIES GO AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE AND CLIC ON TOP ARTICLES
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28 février 2015 6 28 /02 /février /2015 17:49
The story of a nearly crushed diver

During my offshore period, I also got used to work from time to time in Belgium for my former colleague Rik who had created his own diving company.

This allowed me to not lose my experience in civil engineering which unlike offshore diving was most of the time done in fully black water.

One day in November 88, Rik called me to go to the Van Damme sluice in Zeebrugge to replace a brake block under one of the doors.

To permit you to understand the nature of my work, you have to know that this huge sea sluice is isolated from the sea and the docks by 2 big rolling doors. Once in his close position, the door is held in place by two big clamps (one at each end) which are closed hydraulically and pressed against a concrete beam.

Like any moving parts, these brake blocks wore out and we had to replace them at regular intervals.

This replacement was entirely done under water according to a specific methodology.

The job was very technical, but the major difficulty was to gain access to the working area. Indeed, to reach the place I had to creep under the door of the lock, and then once inside it I needed to install various hoists and pulling devices to a few steel profiles so that I could bring the braking device to its position. Once there, this new brake had to be lifted for one meter and then be positioned accurately in front of his support so that I could introduce a series of screws.

This last phase of work was by far the most complicated because at this point, the space between the concrete beam and the braking block did not exceed 45 cm. So you see a very tiny place to work in and where I could hardly pass my chest.

During my dive, I had now arrived at this last operation and had already installed two or three bolts.

Quietly and being careful to not hook myself, I stepped slowly backward and went to the tool basket to pick up a new bolt.

I was barely out of the door when suddenly I heard a light whistling sound that ended with a "Clack".

What a strange noise I thought but without attaching any importance to it.

Then I grabbed my new bolt and crept again under the door to reach the clamp.

Arriving on it my blood froze and I was immediately taken by a fear quiver.

The story of a nearly crushed diver

The small space in which I had worked a minute earlier was now fully enclosed and the brake pressed against the concrete beam.

I immediately crawled out of the door and began to shout on the phone like a mad treating the surface crew of all imaginable bird names.

Then without saying anything, I grabbed the down line and came up rapidly to the surface. There, mad with rage and without even waiting for the help I removed my equipment and threw everything down.

At the surface, they had still not well understood what had happened because I was so shocked that I couldn’t explain myself correctly.

Then after a while I get a bit calmer and could finally tell them about the IMPOSSIBLE. Indeed, although being blocked in the control room, the hydraulic cylinders operating the clamps had moved and shut down the brake on which I was working.

Having finally understood the situation, Rik run to the sluice master to know who and why the lockout and tag had been removed.

Of course, the story made a terrific fuss and five minutes later all the lock-keepers were near me to once more hear my version.

On the side of the technical service, each vowed its great gods that they hadn't touched anything and according to them, the only explanation they could provide was that there probably remained a residual pressure in the circuit that close the cylinders.

But to me this explanation did not convince me entirely.

Anyway, I was now in a very stressful situation because I was really shocked by the incident to the point that I wanted leave the site.

But, on the other hand, I knew that in doing so I could have some difficulties to get back in the water in a few days.

I therefore took my courage in both hands and get re-dressed to finish the job that I had started. Arriving on the pad, I tried to not think to the heap of bloody mush I could have been if I had stayed a few seconds more to this place.

Half an hour later I came up with the mission completed. My dive, had calm me, but during the weeks that followed, my sleep was filled by horrible nightmares.

Then with the time nightmares ceased and were replaced by other dreams from more enjoyable situation.


A verbal record or a simple panel indicating "diver in the water" is not enough. A proper lockout is: remove fuses, put a lock or other device to 100% ensure that the concerned equipment cannot be returned to service.


Papy One

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21 février 2015 6 21 /02 /février /2015 14:09

_2139.jpgIn 2005, a well-known electricity supplier, made contact with us to plan an accurate inspecting work in one of its fuel pools which could in function of the encountered results lead to the welding of a small patch. As one might imagine, welding under water is far more complex than surface welding and most especially when it comes to weld some thin special stainless steel like those existing in most nuclear plants. Thus in addition to the preparation of the inspection procedure, the client also asked us as well to prepare a welding procedure for this operation.

This meant that we had plenty of work ahead of us.

To accompany me in this operation, I had selected 3 of our divers/welders and prepared for them an underwater welding training program with that type of stainless steel so that they could pass their qualification without problem.


Personally, I had a good work and dive experience within nuclear installations.

But for my colleagues, it was the first time that they were going to intervene in the hot area and therefore they had also to follow a course concerning the nuclear safety and radiological risks.


But theory is one thing and practices another and so like any newbie they were a bit scared about this type of diving and many more questions came up concerning their safety.

Among these, was the question of how we at the surface were going to control the level of radiation to which they could be faced during their dives?

Very professionally I explained them that a radiation mapping from the bottom would be carried out before diving and this would allow us to localize the potential hot spot places where they should avoid passing.


Secondly, I told them that they would be equipped with a probe connected to the surface that would measure in real time the radiation level they will be exposed to and thus be able us to act accordingly.

Thirdly, I also said them that they would carry several electronic sensors and dosimetry films underneath the dry suit which would measure the dose of radiation absorbed during each dive.

But while I was explaining all this  something made 'TILT' in my small brain.

It’s perhaps the accumulation of too many diving and saturation hours, but I’ve always loved to crack jokes to my colleagues and I must say that I was gifted to make them swallow almost anything.

So here, while continuing to develop the subject, I told them that these sensors and dosimetry films were positioned at the extremity of each member and that the last dosimeter was positioned to the level of sex.


In reality, these instruments of control are simply held in place by adhesive tapes but here I couldn’t help to change truth a little bit and thus the most seriously of the world told them:

-    Besides, concerning that last one, the guys from the RP (radiation protection) service who provide the instruments have asked me to communicate the measurements of your sex so that they could prepare the adequate dosimetry rings.

Immediately as you might expect my divers began to laugh.

-    No, no my boys, I’m not kidding you, it is always like that.

-    Remember that your balls are very sensitive to radiation and therefore the reading need to be very accurate and this can be only done with a tight-fitting ring.

-    Thus once we will have finished our little meeting, I will ask you to measure the circumference of your verge in a RESTING position and write it on a piece of paper.

Apparently, I had managed to convince them because shortly after lunch, three small pieces of paper carefully folded arrived on my desk.


-    OK, thanks guys, I'll send the info to our client and in the meantime this afternoon we will practice how to put on and remove your diving equipment to avoid contamination.


The afternoon went on normally, but it was too beautiful, my Joker spirit could not help thinking what was going to happen next.

At the end of the day, I called my colleagues back and with an air lightly embarrassed said to them:

-    Look guys, I just had a phone call from the client, and he asks us to confirm your measurements because they look wrong. But at contrary if they are  correct then there is a real problem because they don’t have such small dosimetry rings.

Small sneering of the divers.

-    You will damn us there?

-    No I assure you, I would not allow me to joke on that matter.

Then all of a sudden, a big laugh came from a desk in the background.

It was the Secretary to whom I had told what I was working on, and which was now convulsed with laughter and thus put an end to the Machiavellian story I had mounted.

But my three divers weren’t laughing at all and they rapidly left the office.

As one might imagine, the same evening I took myself a few measurements to reassure me.

Phew, I was in the standards.

The welding training and preparation of the work, lasted some time yet, then the D day arrived.

And so on a certain day of 2005 we all together left our office for the nuclear plant.

Once on-site, I introduce my divers to Marc, the person in charge of our work.

 I knew Marc pretty well and had informed him of the hoax.

He offered us some coffee and we talked about some banalities during some minutes.

Then he seized his phone, formed an internal number and told its correspondent the following words:

Allo André! look, the diver with their little dicks are here in my office. Can you bring me the special order.

He lay down the phone and immediately both of us burst in laughter under the enraged eyes of my colleagues.

 In their eyes, I saw that the retaliation would be terrible and I now had better be on my guard.

 But nothing happened, the entire work took place in the joy and the good mood and the client was fully satisfied with our service.


Today, some years later and despite the threats that I had recived, nothing unpleasant happened to me.

Maybe my colleagues forgot to take revenge.

 Let us hope that they will not read this confidential article which I hope will remain between us.


 Laughing is so good

 Papy One









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7 février 2015 6 07 /02 /février /2015 08:55

Papy-One--275-.jpgDuring the eighties a very large storm had caused the grounding and the loss of several ships in the Algerian waters.

Several shipwrecks lay in the port of Oran and another had sunk in the harbour of Algiers.

As this represented a risk to navigation, a wreck removal market had been launched and the contract had been given to the company I worked for in those years to remove them by one way or another.

In 86, all wrecks except one had been removed and the one left was the MINISEA who was lying on its starboard side at a depth of 24 m in front of Algiers.

The procedure adopted to remove the wreck consisted to cut the vessel in three parts of about 500 T, lift them and drop them in deeper waters.

The first operation on that wreck was to extract a maximum of lead minerals that still was inside the ship in order to make her less heavy but also to clear the areas where would take place the cuts.

This first phase of work had already begun a few weeks before my arrival on the site and when I came on board of the COMEX II on the 8 January 87, much of the ore had already been recovered.

That lifting barge I was going to work on during the next few weeks was far from having the comfort of some other barges as indeed the living containers took water from everywhere.

But this discomfort was quickly forgotten thanks to the chef-coq who made the best meals I had ever eaten.

On board there were thirteen people consisting among others of the barge master, five riggers, one diving supervisor, four divers, the chef-coq and our cat Felix.

This entire people made a very good and enjoying team.


In order to take my bearings I passed the second day of my arrival to make a complete survey of the wreck because although we were in the Mediterranean Sea the visibility was not very good. It is true that we were in the winter and at this time of the year, the sea was often bad. Water also was a bit cold as she turned to about 8° C which for the chilly guy I am was not very funny.

In addition, I was a bit upset to learn that the project manager had only foreseen 6 mm wetsuit for the divers and I was not happy to dive in these conditions.

Result, after my second dive I decided although it was a bit uncomfortable, to wear a second wet vest above the first one and so I could now spend my 2 hours under water without suffering too much from the cold.

At the beginning, most of my dives were due to cut panels out of the side so as to have access to the latest cubic meters of ore mud which were then pumped with a Toyo pump.

Then, once all the ore was removed, we started cutting the wreck laterally from one side to the other.

The cutting was done with Broco exothermic rods, and thus no need to say that we take particular care to make a lot of gas venting windows to avoid the accumulation of explosive gasses.

Explosion hazard was either not the only risk present during the cutting. Structural tension was also present almost everywhere in the wreck and we had to take care to position ourselves at the good place because sometimes the plates parted abruptly several tens of centimetres at the end of a cut.


On the 26 January we had already well advanced in our work and we were ready to start the cutting of a new section.

It was a crew change day, and two of the divers were waiting for the speed boat which was announced in the next few minutes.

But the time went by and no boat at sight.

Our diving supervisor get impatient to the point that around 9 o’clock he decided to send Olivier in the water and designed me as his standby diver.

Once ready, the diver started his dive by installing a down line.

As usual, I was fully dressed with my stand by gear but unfortunately that day I was taken by a sudden urge to go to the loo and therefore ask to leave my post for a certain time.

When I came back on deck, I was only dressed with my neoprene pants and boots and it was then that all of a sudden a big BOUM shook the barge.

Immediately I knew that the diver had suffered a big explosion.

On the phone there were no more signs of life, the supervisor had lost phone contact with the diver. Immediately the two colleagues jumped on the umbilical and were now trying to bring the diver back to the surface.

Unfortunately, the umbilical jammed somewhere in the wreck and it was impossible to pull him up.

What could I do? Continue to equip myself as the Sup had asked me to do.

That meant put on my neoprene vest, my bailout, my band mask and the umbilical.

No question I thought it would have taken too much time.

So the only thing I did was to put on my fins, take a scuba bottle and a mask and jump in the water.

BRRR !!!! water was very cold without my vest, but in any event no question to stop my descent.

While I was following the diver’s umbilical I told myself that it was probably too late for my mate because with such an explosion there should be little chance that he survived.

Once on the bottom, I was quickly able to locate him in the hold and thanks god, I saw that he was still breathing.

He was unconscious, and therefore as prescript by our procedure I opened his free flow to give him a lot of air.

I had now to bring him out of the hold so that he could be pulled to the surface.

I could feel that the guys on deck took care of the umbilical because once he was free the diver to go up.

Obviously, the surface was not aware of the condition of the diver and the beginning of the recovery was too fast.

Immediately I gripped the umbilical and gave them a one pull stop signal.

Immediately the progression ceased.

I then gave them a three pulls signal on the line and the ascent did resume at a more normal speed.

During ascent I could observe my colleague and saw that he had reopened his eyes wondering probably what had happened to him.

Once on the surface it was not very easy to take the diver out of the water because although he was conscious, he was absolutely unable to come up at the diving ladder.

To take him out, I was obliged to fix a rope to his harness and 3 men were then needed to hoist him out of the water.

As for me, I was happy to get out of the water because although I had only stayed a few minutes in the cold water, I was starting to freeze.

On the deck floor, Eric was busy to remove the diver’s helmet and after a few seconds, Olivier could again breathe free air.

His glaze was still haggard but he was now quite conscious and answered correctly to our questions.

For one moment, we thought to transfer him into our recompression chamber but as he only dived for a short time we didn’t fear a decompression accident.

Off course we did a general examination to verify his state.

Apparently there wasn’t any fracture, but the diver complained from ears pain and suffered vertigo.

Although his external signs seemed not too serious we needed to be sure that the diver didn’t suffer any internal bleeding due to the pressure of the shock wave.

Therefore, the barge master made a radio call for assistance and it was decided to send the diver to the hospital as soon as possible with the speed boat that had now arrived with the new divers.

Once the wounded evacuated ashore we had a look at the diving gear and there we could see that the communication cable had been cut at the entry of the helmet by the force of the explosion explaining why we lost contact with the diver.

At the end of morning the two new divers were installed, I had taken a long warm shower to heat up again and the rest of the team was again a bit more relax and thus the supervisor decided to resume work.

No need to say that once at the bottom I took at least a quarter of an hour to analyse what happened the previous dive.

The cut Olivier had to do consist to make an opening in the engine room in order to install a lifting sling.

Apparently, it was at the moment of igniting his first rod to make the venting hole that the explosion occurred.

As we had not yet burned in this part of the wreck, the only possible explanation was that the machine room contained some explosive decaying gas due to stored products.

The problem was that we needed to reach this place and therefore I had to continue the work of the unfortunate diver.

Although I told myself that normally the explosion must have consumed all the dangerous gas, I could not prevent myself to burn my first rod with a stretched harm while at the same time I turned my head in order to avoid an eventual frontal blast wave.

After having consumed my rod, I was sure there would be no explosion hazards for the moment and I started to cut as usual.

Later in the day, we learned that Olivier suffered numerous bruises, had the two eardrums perforated, but didn’t suffered any internal bleeding.

The rest of the job went without major problems and on the 22 February the last piece of wreck was dropped in the waters.


 -        Never continue a dive without a stand by diver

-        Use a LARS

-        Know the pulling signals

 Papy One



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27 décembre 2010 1 27 /12 /décembre /2010 17:12



Mercredi 8 décembre 2010, comme à l’accoutumée, la drague DN31 est occupée à niveler le fond de la passe d’entrée de l’écluse de Berendrecht.

Dans l’écluse, le tanker Crystal Topaz s’apprête à sortir de celle-ci avec l’assistance d’un pilote.

21h20, la porte s’ouvre et le tanker se met en route vers le fleuve.


Crystal Topaz 

Pour une raison encore inconnue il se trouve rapidement face au dragueur qui à cause de sa houe tractée sur le fond ne parvient pas à se déporter.

21h30, c’est la collision.

La coque de la drague est perforée sur bâbord par le bulbe du Crystal Topaz et sous la force de l’impact le DN31 chavire instantanément.







 Malgré l’énorme brèche, la drague reste flotter, apparemment, les cloisons étanches n’ont pas été touchées.




Immédiatement l’alerte est lancée et les secours s’organisent.




Les pompiers d’Anvers arrivent rapidement sur place suivie de peu par un hélicoptère équipé d’une caméra thermique.








En effet, trois hommes constituent l’équipage de ce navire.

Sont-ils tombé à l’eau, ou au contraire restés dans l’épave, pour l’heure, nul ne sait ce qu’ils sont devenus.

Apparemment, aucun signal n’est entendu sur la coque, mauvais signe.

Pour s’en assurer, il va valoir plonger et tenter d’entrer dans la timonerie où peut-être une poche d’air peut exister.

Sur place, les pompiers plongeurs  ne sont pas fort chauds pour faire cette plongée car dans cette partie de l’Escaut, le courant est important et la visibilité est nulle.

Heureusement pour eux, dès le début de l’alerte, l’assistance de BDC est également demandée pour prêter main forte aux sauveteurs et dès 23h00 une équipe de plongeurs est également sur place.

Au sein de l’équipe c’est Thierry notre francophone qui se propose de faire la plongée.



La tâche n’est pas facile, car s’il n’est déjà pas aisé de se repérer dans une épave qu’on ne connaît pas, alors que dire dans une épave flottant tête en bas.

Qu’à cela ne tienne, notre plongeur, l’un des meilleurs actuellement sur le marché parvient malgré les conditions difficiles à entrer dans la cabine de pilotage.

Là, après quelques recherches il tombe sur le corps d’un des membres d’équipage qu’il remonte aussitôt.

Malheureusement, il est déjà trop tard, le gars ne parviendra pas à être réanimé.

Thierry repart ensuite vers un autre compartiment de l’épave où il existe encore un mince espoir de retrouver les deux  marins, mais arrivé devant la porte de celui-ci il constate qu’elle est bloquée et ne peut l’ouvrir suffisamment pour y pénétrer.

Dans l’eau, le courant de marée devient de plus en plus fort. La plongée devient à ce point dangereuse que le chef d’équipe décide de l’interrompre.

Ne pouvant plus rien faire sur place, les autorités décident de faire remorquer l’épave flottante vers l’un des docks afin de la mettre en sécurité en attentant le matériel de relevage.



 Très rapidement, les décisions techniques sont prises. Ce sera le RAMBIS, qui procédera au relevage.

Celui-ci, se trouve actuellement en Hollande et il lui faudra quelques heures avant d’arriver sur place.

En attendant, nos plongeurs pourront déjà mettre les passeresses en place sous l’épave afin de par la suite faciliter le tirage des énormes élingues d’aciers.



Le RAMBIS arrive au cours de la nuit suivante. Aussitôt son équipage se met au travail.

















Comme la drague flotte toujours à l’envers, il va valoir la retourner afin de pouvoir la vider de son eau.

Pourtant, suite à une décision portuaire cette opération ne pourra se faire là où le DN31 est sécurisé et il faudra le déplacer très doucement à l’autre bout du quai où les travaux de retournement pourront être réalisé.

Pour éviter de perdre l’épave en route, toutes les élingues de relevage et de retournement sont donc mise en place et la drague est soulevée un peu et maintenue en berceau.






Après quelques heures de remorquage, le retournement peut débuter.

Les élingues de retournement sont sécurisées.








Le retournement peut débuter.

Six minutes plus tard, la drague a retrouvé sa position normale et les cales peuvent être vidées de leurs eaux.










Malheureusement, pour les familles, à l’intérieur de celles – ci, aucune trace des pauvres marins.





Pour nous, le sauvetage est terminé.

Il ne reste plus qu’à récupérer le containeur rempli de matériel qui gît quelque part au milieu de l’Escaut.




Quant à l’unité de dragage, elle repose désormais sur un chantier naval aux Pays-Bas.




  Papy One

Photos : FH / NICO / BDC / Internet

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21 août 2010 6 21 /08 /août /2010 23:00

 Le CURSOR vient de couler 

epaveQu’est-ce qui c’est passé avec ce duwbak ?

Pourquoi a-t-il subitement décidé de sombrer au beau milieu du canal de Willebroek en ce jour de juin bloquant ainsi une bonne partie du trafic maritime?

Peut-être était-il usé de transporter des tonnes et de tonnes de boue de dragage d’un bout à l’autre du canal ?

Cela seul un expert maritime sera habilité à le dire, mais pour que celui-ci puisse donner son verdict, il faudra d’abord renflouer l’épave.

Bien entendu, renflouer une épave ne se fait pas d’une manière improvisée.

Cela demande pas mal de réflexion et de calcul afin d’élaborer un plan de sauvetage garantissant le succès de l’opération.

Ainsi, pendant que les divers spécialistes défendaient leur offre auprès de la compagnie d’assurance, tout le monde était cependant d’accord qu’en attendant la décision finale, il était déjà nécessaire d’alléger le bac au maximum en le vidant de son chargement.

Finalement, après pas mal de rebondissement l’assureur fit son choix.

Les travaux de renflouage allaient pouvoir commencer.


Photo n° 2 : Arrivée du matériel



 Photo n° 3 : mise en place 4 

Photo n° 4 : Début des travaux1

 photo n° 5 : Les plongées débutent11A


A suivre

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