SCHOLARSHIP DIARYThe Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society is a non-profit, educational organisation whose mission is to promote educational activities associated with the underwater world. It has offered scholarships for over 35 years.
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GOING COMMERCIALAt the end of September, I finished my scientific diving training in Finland and headed back home to Ireland. I travelled to a small town in the far south of the country called Castletownbere in County Cork. It is a fishing port village, backed by beautiful mountains, facing onto the Atlantic Ocean, sheltered by the headland of the Beara Peninsula and Bere Island.

I had come here to take part in commercial diver training, this training is the first step that many divers take into the professional diving industry. It is a legal requirement in Ireland, the UK and many other countries around the world to have commercial diver training in order to be employed by someone to carry out any diving work such as engineering, construction or maintenance and, in many cases, this also includes scientific, media or even military diving. Essentially for anyone that is planning a career in the underwater world in a further capacity than the recreational or technical diving industry, commercial diving training is pretty much essential. I was joined in Castletownbere by a group of equally enthusiastic candidates from various industries and diving backgrounds - engineers, fish farmers, construction workers or like myself, planning a career in scientific diving. It was eyeopening for me to meet people with such different motivations to train as commercial divers and drawn to the sea.I had come here to take part in commercial diver training, this training is the first step that many divers take into the professional diving industry. It is a legal requirement in Ireland, the UK and many other countries around the world to have commercial diver training in order to be employed by someone to carry out any diving work such as engineering, construction or maintenance and, in many cases, this also includes scientific, media or even military diving. Essentially for anyone that is planning a career in the underwater world in a further capacity than the recreational or technical diving industry, commercial diving training is pretty much essential. I was joined in Castletownbere by a group of equally enthusiastic candidates from various industries and diving backgrounds - engineers, fish farmers, construction workers or like myself, planning a career in scientific diving. It was eyeopening for me to meet people with such different motivations to train as commercial divers and drawn to the sea.

We began on Monday morning bright and early in the classroom for diving briefings and dive theory. In our first few days we practised basic dive skills, getting everyone onto the same level and then cracked on with swim tests, fullface mask training and rescue drills. The rescue drills began with assessing an unconscious buddy on the surface and carried through towing with rescue breaths, shore egress, shoreside scene management with CPR and O2 administration.We began on Monday morning bright and early in the classroom for diving briefings and dive theory. In our first few days we practised basic dive skills, getting everyone onto the same level and then cracked on with swim tests, fullface mask training and rescue drills. The rescue drills began with assessing an unconscious buddy on the surface and carried through towing with rescue breaths, shore egress, shoreside scene management with CPR and O2 administration

After a week of shore diving and training in various navigation and search and recovery training, we headed out to the ‘Sandfisher’ a purpose-built barge, moored off Bere Island as the perfect training platform for the course. Out on the barge we had a high-pressure compressor for filling tanks after each dive, a surface-supplied diving station and low pressure compressor, a hyperbaric recompression chamber, galley, head and mess. It was an ideal set up for the course and meant that as a team of students and instructors, we could run a full day of diving incredibly efficiently.

We began most mornings with classroom sessions covering everything from diving physics equations to rope splicing and equipment servicing. I found it fascinating to learn more about the world of commercial diving and also it was great to learn from instructors with such incredible depth of knowledge on each specialist topic.

Our course director Brian Murphy led most of our classroom sessions with a wealth of knowledge from over 40 years of experience in the diving industry as a commercial diver and instructor having worked in the North Sea and around the world as a mixed gas saturation diver and dive supervisor. He covered every aspect of diving physiology, physics and legislation with us.

Our instructor for all things equipment was Cillian Gray, who is one of the leading dive equipment technicians in the country, also with a wealth of experience as a commercial diver in the inshore aquaculture, civil engineering and scientific industries. We were also joined by Tiernan Gray, who is a life support and diving supervisor and instructor having worked at sea for many years both offshore and inshore. He taught us about first aid and diver rescue as well as how to run a dive team smoothly and without opportunity for accidents or injuries.

After theory and dry skills, we would head out to the barge for our day’s diving. Normally it would be two dives a day and when you weren’t diving, you were the surface support of ‘tender’ to a diver’s comms line, deck watch or fully dressed in and ready as a ‘standby diver’ able to hit the water at a moment’s notice.

By the end of the five-week commercial diver course, we had covered everything from diving physics and physiology, the ins wand outs of a commercial scuba set up and its repair to communication systems, working underwater, chartwork and hyperbaric chamber operations. It was an intensive and challenging few weeks but at the end we each had been given a wealth of knowledge and had grown as divers and as a team. I am so glad to have been trained by the calibre of diving instructors at BIM but also with the friendship and joy of working with a great team.