Divers go deep to ready ships


Last week, beneath the cold waters of CFB Esquimalt, divers from Fleet Diving Unit (Pacific) (FDU(P)) moved about like sub-aquatic bees.

They were replacing the sensitive sonar domes of HMC Ships Regina and Winnipeg, and, according to MS Marc-Andre Bibeau, what is a relatively simple task in dry dock, is complicated beneath the waves.

“You have to worry about a laundry list of things you don’t need to think about on land,” says MS Bibeau. “For example, if you drop a tool on land you can just pick it up, but if you drop something down there it’s gone.”

Six bolts securing the six-foot-long, eight-foot-tall fibreglass dome were removed with a two-handed speed wrench. The old dome was then lowered onto a supporting structure of legs assembled underwater by the divers to ensure it wasn’t damaged. Crane operators then removed the old dome. A new one was then lowered into the water, manoeuvred into place and secured by the divers.

“It’s a nice bit of team work between the divers and the guys up top,” says MS Bibeau. “There’s a lot of moving pieces in terms of workers, so it’s good to have everyone on the same page.”

When it comes to the physical aspect, MS Bibeau says the difference between surface and sub aquatic can be strikingly apparent during the most routine parts of the job.

“It’s an added complication, because you need leverage to use a speed wrench,” says MS Bibeau. “Anything that requires leverage down there is challenging. You’re basically weightless, so you have to secure yourself or find your own leverage. It can put you in some strange positions sometimes.”

He says while all the added complications may make the job seem overwhelming his team is skilled and used to this sort of task.

“The domes have to be replaced around once a year, so this isn’t out of the ordinary for us,” he says. “We’re happy with the work we’ve done on it, and we’re ready to do it anytime we’re needed. I’m glad to have my team at my back.”

Shawn O’Hara, Staff Writer

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