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…Trevor D’Oliveira describes life under water
By Alva Solomon
Many professions in today’s world come with their challenges but what can be more challenging that spending 5 to 7 hours under water alone, with your entire life being in the hands of your colleagues above.
Such is the life of diver , Trevor D’Oliveira, a professional diver who has been in the under- water profession for more than 30 years. In fact, he started diving in 1983, some 38 years to date. “I still do diving, and will still do it once the job is financially feasible,” he said.
D’Oliveira, who lives at Santa Rosa, Moruca at the moment, says he does general diving, whether in mining or salvaging. He said that many persons feel excited with the adrenaline diving brings, especially those in the mining sector. But he cautioned that a prospective diver should never go under water if his/her heart isn’t into it.
He said that diving requires one’s full attention. “Your focus, your undivided attention, and always remember you are alone,” he noted. He explained that while on land one can ask all for all the advice necessary for a normal job but while under water, one’s survival depends on experience and instincts.
More importantly, one’s chances of survival also lays in the hands of the person above who is required to pay apt attention for signals from the diver. That person can be a sailor or the diver who will take over from the person under water.”So always be 100% focus on your job and protect yourself to the best of your ability and past experiences because in my view, although I love it, diving is one of the most dangerous work from it’s beginning,” he said
According to D’Oliveira, very few things have changed since he started diving in terms of safety since the latter is always a priority.
As regards his experience, D’Oliveira , who was born and raised at Malali on the Upper Demerara River, has dived extensively in Guyana’s rivers and tributaries, almost in every region where mining is being done except the Berbice River area and its tributaries. He has also dived abroad, in Suriname to a lesser, over a three year period. He said he enjoys diving in the neighbouring country since the salary is much better and also there is access to telephone in the most remote areas there. To this end, he said having contact with one’s family is always a priority .
Asked what time period was the longest he spent under water, D’Oliveira said he spent 7 continues hours below the water which he noted was a challenge he enjoyed. He also recalled an incident in which he was covered down by mud.
He said that there are many divers who dived for longer periods but “my 7 hours was done in an area where 3 and 4 hours was a long dive.” This was in the Region Seven area some years ago.
As he recalled the experience, he said the General Manager approached him and asked that he accompany another diver since another person who was expected to dive that day was unwell.
He said he was off-duty at the time but he agreed. ”When I went on the pontoon the diver was under water so I asked how long he was under and they said he was there since 8 am.”That was some 6 to 7 hours prior. D’Oliveira said he then suit up and went under water.
“I took over from him and worked my heart out, knowing I would have spent much longer than the normal time which was between 3-4 hours, so I checked my time,” he said. He then spent the entire 7 hour period working under water.
He also recalled once when tragedy struck as the earth caved in on him while working in the Demerara River.“I was covered down under land while diving and was rescued in in unconscious state, bled through my nose, mouth and eyes. But I prefer not to go into these details because they brings back much painful memories which I prefer not to go into,” he added.
In terms if payment, D’Oliveira said a diver in the mining sector works for a percentage on the production. In Guyana it’s 70/30 or the best 65/30 while in Suriname , it is 60/40..the smaller percentage being for the divers. If the team if divers is small, better payment goes to the diver. “So less the divers more the pay,” he said with a chuckle.
As for those who may plan to be divers, his advice to them to is to follow their hearts. “I may not be the best but I am way above average and can compete with the best and I am therefore better than many of the rest,” he said. “If your heart is not into it don’t do it. This is a personal decision,” he added.He said on land you can ask for advice but when under water you are alone.