Byford Dolphin Accident
THE MOST GRUESOME DEATH: THE BYFORD DOLPHIN ACCIDENT
Imagine running a hundred metres underneath the sea, a adversarial area that daylight in no way reaches and in which temperatures can plunge to 3 tiers above freezing. All your off hours are spent in a tiny, cramped metallic tube, respiration a aggregate of gases that makes it difficult for you to talk and continuously saps warmth out of your frame, supplying you with a everlasting chill.
Here you could devour a meal added thru a tiny hatch or trap some hours of sleep earlier than your subsequent shift starts and it’s time yet again to plunge returned into the abyss. Now believe dwelling like this for months at a time, not able to get away your little sealed global with out going through a positive and ugly death. Welcome to the extraordinary twilight global of saturation diving, one of the maximum risky – and well-paid – jobs withinside the global.
Developed as a part of the U.S. Navy’s Sealab Program withinside the mid-1960s, saturation diving is a way that permits human beings to stay and paintings at intense depths for prolonged durations of time. Specifically, it’s miles designed to conquer the chance of decompression sickness, higher called the Bends.
As a diver breathes pressurized air at intensity, Nitrogen progressively will become dissolved of their frame. If they then ascend to the floor too quickly, the drop in strain can purpose this Nitrogen to pop out of answer and shape tiny bubbles, which could purpose crippling joint pain, strokes, paralysis, or even death. To keep away from this, divers have to ascend to the floor slowly, taking decompression stops at everyday periods to permit the Nitrogen to be slowly and effectively expelled from their bodies.
However, for lengthy, deep dives like the ones required withinside the offshore oil industry, this approach will become infeasible as divers might ought to spend a ways greater time decompressing than running at some point of every shift. For example, a dive of greater than an hour beneath a hundred metres intensity might require greater than 50 hours of decompression.
Instead, in saturation diving the divers spend their complete running shift beneathneath strain, spending their off-hours in a diving chamber pressurized to their running intensity and traveling to and from the activity web website online in a pressurized diving bell called a switch pill.
This exercise is primarily based totally at the reality that when a positive quantity of time a diver’s frame will become absolutely saturated with Nitrogen and can’t take in any greater, that means that irrespective of how lengthy they live beneath, the desired decompression time stays the same.
Thus, instead of making more than one dives and decompressions, saturation divers most effective decompress as soon as on the cease in their shift, significantly decreasing the danger of decompression sickness. The disadvantage is this unmarried decompression can soak up to 2 weeks to entire. There also are different hazards, which include Nitrogen narcosis, a disorienting euphoria because of respiration Nitrogen at strain which divers describe as being much like alcohol intoxication. Oxygen additionally will become poisonous beneath round eighty metres, so saturation divers have to breathe trimix, a fueloline aggregate wherein lots of the oxygen is changed with Helium.
This comes with its personal problems. Not most effective does Helium regulate the human voice, forcing divers to put on digital descramblers a good way to be understood, however it additionally has terrible thermal properties, wicking away frame warmth and leaving divers invariably chilled. Breathing Helium at depths beneath three hundred metres also can produce extreme neurological results called High-Pressure Nervous Syndrome.
But the best chance in saturation diving is the high-strain surroundings itself, as a collection of 4 British and Norwegian divers observed in 1983 in a ugly occasion called the Byford Dolphin coincidence. Byford Dolphin became a semi-submersible offshore oil rig constructed with the aid of using Aker Engineering of Oslo in 1974. Weighing 3000 heaps and manned with the aid of using a group of a hundred, it became able to drilling in waters as much as 460 meters in intensity.
To permit production and upkeep of the wellhead at those depths, the rig became geared up with an advanced Saturation Diving gadget constructed with the aid of using French company COMEX. On November 5, 1983, the rig became drilling withinside the Frigg Gas Field withinside the Norwegian area of the North Sea. At 4AM, British divers Edwin Coward and Roy Lucas have been resting withinside the dive chamber whilst Norwegian divers Bjorn Bergersen and Truls Hellevik have been getting back from their shift withinside the switch pill.
The pill became hoisted from the water and docked to the dive chamber with the aid of using diving tenders William Crammond and Martin Saunders, permitting Bergerson and Hellevik to climb thru a quick trunk to enroll in Coward and Lucas.The everyday system became for the divers to first seal off the trunk and isolate the chamber so the tenders ought to depressurize the pill and detach it from the airlock. But earlier than Hellevik ought to near the chamber hatch, William Crammond launched the clamp securing the pill to the trunk.
The consequences have been right away and horrific. The pill violently decompressed and blasted farfar from the trunk, killing Crammond and critically injuring Saunders, whilst withinside the chamber the strain dropped without delay from nine atmospheres to at least one in an instant. Hellevik, crouching withinside the trunk, became blown apart, scattering frame components throughout the rig deck. One observer defined locating his liver “entire as though dissected out of the frame,” whilst a part of his backbone became located 10 meters above the chamber at the rig derrick.
The different divers withinside the chamber fared little higher. Autopsies of Coward, Lucas, and Berergsen discovered lumps of white fats clogging their arteries and veins – proteins which had cooked and induced as their blood flash-boiled. Mercifully, all 4 divers are believed to have died immediately and painlessly. A next research concluded that the coincidence became because of human error.
As William Crammond became killed withinside the incident, it isn’t regarded why he launched the clamp earlier than the chamber hatch became closed; investigators surmised that a aggregate of fatigue and deck noise might also additionally have result in a deadly miscommunication. However, every other key aspect became the saturation diving gadget itself, which, notwithstanding suggestions from Norwegian oil and fueloline regulator DNV, had now no longer been equipped with any interlocks, strain gauges, or different protection capabilities to save you the diving chamber from being disconnected whilst pressurized.
This fault withinside the device became now no longer cited withinside the reputable coincidence report, and as such the households of the divers killed obtained no monetary compensation. Believing the research to be a cover-up, the households shaped the North Sea Divers Alliance, which sooner or later succeeded in suing the Norwegian Government and acquiring a agreement in 2008 – 25 years after the coincidence.
The Byford Dolphin rig remains in operation, presently on agreement with British Petroleum, and saturation diving is still broadly used withinside the offshore oil industry, continuously rating many of the maximum risky however well-paid jobs withinside the global – with many divers receiving as much as $1400USD in step with day.
While protection measures and coincidence fees have progressed extensively in view that 1983, the Byford Dolphin incident stands as a stark reminder of the risks that constantly include dwelling and running in intense environments.