Lurking in the depths

Dawn Orkanker
Dawn Orkanger Noway

A couple of years ago I joined a new vessel in Orkanger, Norway, we sailed the vessel from Norway to Mobile Alabama in America. A few of our department’s crew were new to the industry, they had been for working 6 months integrating 2 new ROV’s onto the new vessel, Some of them, had never put an ROV in the water. The boat sailed past the Faroe Islands then headed towards New Foundland then proceed South along the East coast of America round Florida and into Gulf of Mexico.

Sunset Miami
Sunset Miami

Off the coast New Foundland we stopped the vessel to test dive the ROV’s. This is always tense, putting an ROV in the water for the first time. It’s full of electrical components which go bang when mixed with seawater, We were all hoping the seals protecting the electrical gubbings were correctly fitted. As the ROV went in the water, eyes concentrate on the monitoring the system sensors, making sure there is no great change or any alarms. One of the new young lads shouted “What’s that?” Looking up expecting to see some kind of problem, a white streak flew passed the camera. ” A Nobby ” shouted one of the experienced guys on the team (Nobby Clark a shark, I have never been able to identify who Nobby Clark was, someone said its the bloke out of Slade, a 70’s, big hair, big hats and big bell bottom trouser band. I don’t think that’s true ) The new guys in the team were amazed, in fact we all were, first dive and we see a shark. It was inquisitive, 3m-4m long with the blue steel gaze (the strange thing with sharks you might only catch a glimpse of their eyes but you remember them) it swam round the ROV a few times before heading off into murky the depths.

I have witnessed a few sharks with the ROV over the years, but I got up close and nearly personal with them once before. We were mobilising a project in Cape Town. We used to have a beer in restaurant after shift. It could have easily been a Heineken, probably best pub in the world, advert, without dispute, with Castle beer instead of the Danish stuff. Normally pubs near to ports are ram shackle dives with a broken juke box and bearded barmaids serving tepid beer. Panama Jacks looks like one of these or at least it used to 12 years ago. It looked like a couple of port-a-cabins bodged together. But inside they served the best calamari I have ever tasted. Lobsters were kept in tanks, not the wee ones with 10 lobsters lying on top of each other in a window of China town. These were solid walled 10 foot by 6 foot by 2 foot paddling pool size tanks, you got a net on a six foot pole to catch them(the Rand was 15 to one pound at the time and we lived like weekend milloinaires). The wee purple Mozambique Lobsters were the sweetest, like carmelised pineapple in toffee sauce but from the sea and with claws and not yellow.

A few of us took the opportunity to head down to Gansbaai, we stopped at a cafe had a cup of tea and signed a disclaimer, if the charter boat’s captain took a dislike to us, he could shoot us and it would be our fault, type disclaimer. We sailed round a wee island named after its smelly inhabitants, seal.


The crew proceeded throw a large tuna head over the side of the boat, attached by a rope and drag back to boat. The sea erupted in mass of watery foam, bubbles and a set of double teeth



The sharks were baited a couple of times. We were told to don our suits. It was time to get in the cage. The first bloke in the cage saw a shark

We were second, the sharks must have instinctively knew there was a more dangerous predator in the water and never approached the cage or they were bored and went looking for more entertainment.

Enough of the holiday snaps.

The vessel sailed on and reached Alabama and we went home. I worked on the vessel for a nearly a year 5 weeks on 5 weeks off. Kerr worked with another department on the vessel. We had worked together off and on for over 15 years he was about my age, Scottish, living on the East Coast Australia. He’s one of the good guys, good stories, good laugh and he knew his job and always was willing to help. Over cup of tea, he was describing spasms he was getting up his spine, he had an appointment to see the doctor when he got back home in a couple of days. A couple of weeks later we heard the doctor had found prostrate cancer and had given 6 months to live. We were devastated. He was a young guy with loads more adventures, he had a long term girlfriend but no kids. I felt guilty having thoughts of my family and my own mortality. I was gutted.

I left the vessel a few weeks after Kerr’s diagnoses, to start working on another project.  I returned to the vessel a year later for a short trip. This trip was also Kerr’s returning trip, two consultants had given him 6 months the 3rd looked at the test results then uttered the famous Ozzy saying “Noooo worries mate (Australian accent)She’ll be right” (I have embellished the doctors words for effect. No doubt he was very professional. Fair dinkham mate.) Kerr had been through cancer treatment and came out looking 20 years younger. He had lost alot of weight and had a youthful bounce to his step. Ya dancer. Over another cup of tea, he was describing the treatment and the changes to his life style. Gone was his home’s beer fridge it was now a tufo fridge. Gone were the fry up breakfasts, steak pies and mince with chips. In port when guys went up the shops, they brought back chocolate for the troops and cartons of V8 vegetable drink for Kerr. We ended up talking about my low carb, high protein diet and if he ate too much processed meats his cancer blood cell reading would increase dramatically. He warned me, against my large consumption of processed meats, they have chemicals lurking in the meats from factory farming processes which have links to cancer. It was not a lecture from a smoker on nicoette patches or tee totaler having completed a course of AA meeting or even worse, myself on the horrors of sugar. It was educational, he trying to highlight information his nutritionist had given him. Food on the vessel is limited and I did try to alter my diet. On returning home I started with small steps. My first ventures into tofu were bland and unexciting but 4 billion Irish can’t be wrong (sorry that’s potatoes) and I persevered. Learning to squash the water out the tofu, add strong flavours and chillies help. At restaurants it is now a quest to find new ways of eating tufo. Deep fried, stir fried and with sauce( as long as it’s not been sweetened) trying increase my tofu knowledge.

I physicaly struggle to eat enough food during the day, I am constantly hungry, a massive breakfast would last 2-3 hours before I am hangry (it’s a mixture of hungry and angry) I would require another massive portion for another 2-3 hours. 12 sausages was not uncommon. Or a couple packs of supermarket ham or roast beef for snacks.

I changed my 6 or 8 egg breakfast for a green lumpy viscous proteins shake. The following ingredients are used every morning but guesstomeasured and differ every morning.

Hemp protein
whey protein,
peanut butter,
cashew nut butter,
omega 3,6,9 seed oil,
cayenne powder
cinnamon powder
Milk cows normally. I have tried almond milk and enjoy it and buy in a few cartons at a time.
The hemp tastes like baked unwashed broccoli. But it fills me up until lunch time. Lunch most days, I dry fry nearly 200 grams of tufo in inch squares in a pan until both sides are slightly hard and nearly crispy. Adding tomatoes or mushrooms or any leftover vegetables from the previous evening dinner. Then 4 – 6 eggs are added and finished by grilling it turning it into a tofu omelette or Spanish tofu tortilla. A packet of sugar snap peas before lunch. A bowl of soup at the back of two helps me get through preparing the dinner. Dinner is always a low carb affair including experiments with aubergines or chickpeas or lentils. I am aware of my large consumption of whey and milk are not necessarily reducing my processed meat chemicals but this is small steps. If I am a wee bit aware of what’s lurking in the deep I will try to reduce the dangers by sitting in a cage or reducing my exposure to some chemicals. Hopefully

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