Divers work below the surface of the water, either in the sea or in inland rivers and dams. Whether in a civilian or a military capacity, those who work under water usually do so in a suit adapted to underwater diving, with an air supply hose. Divers are capable of accomplishing many tasks underwater, ranging from construction, repair and maintenance of pipelines, ships, harbours, dams and other underwater equipment, to the recovery of bodies or murder weapons from rivers, dams and the sea.
Many people practise diving only as a hobby for the purpose of spear fishing, underwater photography or shell collections. In South Africa mainly commercial, industrial and military diving and diving for scientific purposes are undertaken.
Commercial / Industrial diving: Commercial divers are involved with the exploration of raw materials and food sources on the sea bottom. The population of South Africa keeps growing and as animal, plant and mineral sources are depleted, the natural resources of the sea have to be used in order to solve the problem.
These divers also develop methods of preventing water pollution. Industrial diving involves the construction, repair and maintenance of pipelines, ships, harbours, dams and other underwater equipment. The specialised tasks of the industrial diver under water are amongst others, welding and drilling work, surveying and working with explosives, machine monitoring and the surveying and salvaging of ships.
Diving for scientific purposes: This type of diving involves archaeological, oceanographic, mineral-ogical and biological underwater surveys, as well as the testing of apparatus and equipment. These divers mostly dive part-time as part of their tasks.
This type of diving involves the examination of rock reef formations in order to determine how old they are, the removal of valuable sunken goods of historical importance and the classification of minerals near the surface of the sea. They also do research on plants, seaweeds, fish and other sea-animals for biological and other purposes.
Military diving: The underwater warfare and sabotage techniques that are used worldwide have made it necessary for every navy to rely on highly trained divers in order to combat these activities. Young men of the SA Navy are trained as dive specialists for the Combat Operators Branch in order to fulfil these functions
Divers are needed in most warships, marine installations and diving bases on the South African Coasts. Navy teams are requested from time to time to help other government departments with general maintenance and repairs, as well as to act as back-up crews during disaster and salvage operations at sea. Police divers also assist with the recovery of bodies or murder weapons from dams and rivers.
Working underwater is not only difficult and strenuous but also potentially dangerous. Natural risks such as sharks, octopuses and other dangerous sea creatures must always be borne in mind. Diving illnesses such as “the bends”, and carbon dioxide poisoning, air supply obstruction and strong sea currents and breakers and dirty, sandy water, are all dangers to which divers are exposed. Industrial and underwater work requires a great deal of effort, especially with regard to the handling of equipment. Sometimes the diver also has unpleasant tasks to perform, such as recovering decomposed bodies.