You want to pop the question to your girl – so you save up enough money to buy her a beautiful diamond ring. But what are the risks that were taken before putting that sparkly band on your loved one’s hand? Billions of dollars worth of diamonds lie undiscovered at the bottom of the ocean. The new Spike TV show, Diamond Divers, chronicles a rough-and-tumble crew of gem hunters who trek from Washington State to the infamous Skeleton Coast off the dangerous coast of South Africa in search of riches.
This motley crew battle such dangers as sharks, pirates, potential shipwrecks, and epic storms to mine for diamonds under the sea. Fearless Captain John, and his tough nautical crew, put everything on the line to battle the treacherous seas of South Africa – and sometimes each other:
COED caught up with Marty House – one of our head divers on Diamond Divers (and the guy fighting in the video above) – to find out the true skinny on what it’s like to be a real-life treasure hunter.
COED: What are the risks that diamond divers go through to get the diamond that might go on your loved one’s hand?
DIAMOND DIVER: Out in that South African sea, there were sharks, underwater avalanches, poachers, deadly storms and in general, Poseidon’s wrath – those waves were monstrous, getting up to 50-60 feet at times. Of course there was the danger of the boat sinking (believe me, in the rickety wooden boat we were in, that was a real possibility) and injury. I put my diving career on the line; it’s easy to get hurt in those unpredictable seas out there. If I got hurt, my career would be over.
COED: What’s the hairiest situation you’ve been in?
DIAMOND DIVER: Once, I was digging at the bottom of the sea and got trapped in what felt like quicksand. Also, the suction nozzle wasn’t the greatest the first time out and it was tough trying to make sure my equipment and myself didn’t get sucked in down there. You’re down there for up to an hour at a time – the deeper you go, the more dangerous it is. You really had to be careful, because just one small cut was enough blood to attract sharks.
COED: Do you think diamonds are so valuable because of the dangers attached to obtaining them?
DIAMOND DIVER: Yes, I’m sure that’s a factor. It’s a dangerous journey going out to South Africa and braving those rough seas. We were lucky enough to get through one deadly storm, but a neighboring boat didn’t make it. They lost four men that day. People lose their lives over these diamonds – these diamonds have to at least be somewhat close to being worth that.
COED: What’s the toughest dive you’ve ever been on?
DIAMOND DIVER: My first dive was in the Gulf of Mexico and it was a major test for me. I had to dive to 150 feet in zero visibility and the sea swells were huge, which made the boat move – thus moving the equipment along with it. I had to go down there and place an 8×20 foot slab of concrete that I couldn’t see, onto a crane I also couldn’t see. In situations like that, you really need a good sense of direction because you can’t see what’s above you or around you.
COED: If it’s so dangerous, what keeps you coming back?
DIAMOND DIVER: The chance for riches, the rush of it, the excitement and the adventure. I’m an adrenaline junkie. I love doing what most people don’t get the chance to do!
COED: How does one become a diamond diver? Is there special training?
DIAMOND DIVER: Sure, you can go out there and try it without any prior training, but I don’t you’ll make it back. You absolutely need to know the rules about diving and have some proper training – the physics and medicine of diving is crucial – there are rules to follow and symptoms to recognize if something goes wrong.
COED: What’s your background?
DIAMOND DIVER I’m a commercial diver, so I went to dive school and spent many years diving recreationally and commercially – getting experience. No school can teach you experience. I was probably over qualified as a diver out there – but at the very least you should be trained in rigging, deep diving, underwater construction, underwater demolition, penetration diving, CPR, and first aid to go diving for diamonds.
COED: What did you do before diamond diving and why did you decide to go into it?
DIAMOND DIVER: I started out as a logger – which is where all my experience rigging comes from. I’m a big risk taker and love the excitement- you need to take these risks to really appreciate life. Diving came about because I realized I could get paid for a daily adrenaline rush. I also wanted to be a part of an elite group of people who were trained specifically for this job. As for diving for diamonds – the possibility of adventure and riches interested me. Also, I had never been to South Africa, so it was a chance to see and dive in a new place.
COED: How would you describe the personality of your diamond diver crew?
DIAMOND DIVER: Well, I would say Sam – my best friend, roommate, and fellow diver- and I were humble and excited. We really worked hard out there. As for the rest of the crew, they were a different breed – and that’s all I will really say about them. As a crew, we were all very excited about being there and about the possibility of finding diamonds. We also all shared an element of the unknown, because we had no idea what we were getting into or what was happening next. We shared the drive to find those diamonds, though. Man, we really wanted to find diamonds.
COED: What is the equipment needed for diamond diving?
DIAMOND DIVER: General equipment include hand tools to fix the boat; plus welding equipment and metal working equipment to work on the pumps and fixing the boat from underwater. The pump is the main piece of equipment in diving for diamonds – it sucks up all the potentially diamond filled gravel. The pump was 200 feet long, was 6” wide and was cut up into 40-50 foot sections. Depending on how deep we went, we had to detach and attach these sections using a pneumatic impact wrench to phalange it up – which is essentially bringing two phalanges together and bolting them.
Dive equipment – as commercial divers, Sam and I are used to surface air supply, but this boat wasn’t properly equipped with that, so we ended up having to use regular Scuba gear that was self-contained. The only difference was that we used full face masks, which allowed us to talk and communicate with each other.
COED: What’s the biggest treasure you found on a dive?
DIAMOND DIVER: Prior to this trip, my buddies and I once found a model T at the bottom a lake in Washington. As for what we found in S. Africa, I’m not allowed to tell you that yet. You’ll have to tune in to see…