Avon Dam Underwater Gate Installation

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‘TV’ Stars’ Studio 33 Fathoms Below

Figtree has a team of underwater television stars working seven days a week. But few people have seen them because their show is watched only by officials of the Water Board and a few observers.

Their studio is 200 feet (60m) down the face of the Avon dam, where the three divers are installing new gates.

Diver Neil Johnson, who heads Commercial Diving Services Pty Ltd, said the job was not particularly dangerous but it was tedious.

At 200 feet (60m) it is pitch black and the lights for the closed circuit television cameras also light the work area around the gates at the base of the dam wall.

The three man team of Mr Johnson, his 19 year old son Keith and “Snow” Thoroughgood, take only about a minute to get down to the work area. But it takes 45 minutes to come back up again otherwise they would suffer the bends through rapid decompression.

Once they are down there they have 15 minutes to complete their work before they have to re-surface. The 15 minutes is the maximum time allowed at such a depth.

There is an on-site decompression chamber in case anything goes wrong which gives the diver “a good chance of survival” Mr Johnson said.

At that depth the pressure on the men is 104 pounds per square inch compared to a normal 15 pound p.s.i on the surface. But the depth does not worry Mr Johnson.

After all, he just finished a job at Warragamba dam where the team did an inspection job 312 feet (95m) below the surface and where it took an hour and a half to surface.

Mr Johnson said this was an Australian freshwater diving record. He said his company was the only one in NSW which had the equipment to operate at such depths.

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