The Commercial Diver Network
The following is an excerpt from a government doc**ent on the Louisiana Offshore Olifields. It gives a historical insight of the evolution of GOM oilfield divers and the ADCI. Enjoy.
The first diving operations in the Gulf of Mexico were little more than topside jobs completed
underwater. Men recall jumping off of boats, barges, and platforms to retrieve dropped objects,
install clamps, or check for oyster beds. They did not have, nor perceive a need for, any formal
training as divers.
However, the progress into deeper water was rapid, and keeping the rigs, platforms, pipelines,
and vessels operating called for modification and innovation. Underwater jobs required longer
than the time a man could hold his breath and expanded to include inspection, installation of
anodes for protection against corrosion, and salvage. Those already working in the industry
began to look outward for new technologies developed elsewhere, and those with the interest and
training in underwater work saw the industry as a new opportunity.
Working from within the industry, local workers used the air compressors available on boats and
acquired war surplus equipment to create systems that would allow them to breathe while
underwater. The early jobs were in depths under 100 feet, and divers could stay down as long as
they wanted without suffering ill effects, so there were ample opportunities for them to learn how
to manipulate tools and perform tasks underwater. Through magazines and trade publications
individuals acquired information and ideas. Each diver had to come to the job with his own
mask, hose, and compressor, and anyone who acquired the equipment was likely to form his own
company. Technological diffusion was rapid, facilitated by the loose organization of diving
companies and their propensity to join together when more than one or two divers were needed
on a job.
SCUBA (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) was developed in 1947 but was not
readily adapted for offshore work. Specialized tanks and compressors were not available in New
Orleans until the mid-1950’s, and even then they were rare. Roy Smith, a diver who introduced
SCUBA gear to the offshore industry in the Gulf described the early days:
In the early ‘50’s, around ’53 or ’54, work was slow, so my friend and I said,
“Why don’t we go to Grand Isle?”… I was in the U.S. Coast Guard during the
war, so I went and got my operator’s license and started working on boats. After
awhile, the platforms grew in number, and I got more interested in diving. I
wanted to dive. There was no SCUBA diving at that time. Since I was the captain
of a boat, I got me a gas mask and a hose and would dive around the boat. A
friend of mine and I had heard about them diving with SCUBA gear in Florida, so
we said, “Let’s go see it.” … Rowland’s Sporting and Army Goods Store in New
Orleans ordered an aqualung. They didn’t know what to do with it, so they called
me. We threw it overboard and all took a dive with the tank. I bought the
aqualung from him. They found a surplus compressor from a submarine and put it
in their store and started filling tanks (Smith, personal communication, 2002).
A few years later, in 1957, Ronald and Walter Daspit, natives of Lafayette, Louisiana, developed
a “bailout bottle” that could be worn on a diver’s belt and provide a short-term, emergency air
supply for a diver whose surface air supply had been cut off.