Hugo Marrero : Being A Submersible Pilot
My primary responsibility is to take the scientists safely to their work location. I need to ensure that they are safe, that the submersible is safe, and that the environment is safe because if we don't focus on the safety first and worry too much about the work its not good. If you are the bottom and you are not watching the environment around you, you could get trapped on the bottom, or you could have a failure and then you have to cancel the research for the day - or even the entire research for the mission if the failure is catastrophic. So our primary function is to make sure that they are safe, the submarine is safe, the secondary function is to support the scientists in whatever it is that they need to carry out their primary research.
The hardest part of the job is to take people safely. Safety to me and to all of my peers is the most important thing. You are taking people to a very hostile environment, you are taking people down three thousand feet in the middle of the ocean, and if you for a second get lacks on safety is when accidents can occur. I mean going underwater and driving the submersible is easy, the hard part is that you have to keep track of things that could go wrong; your scrubber could go bad, you may have an oxygen leak, you may have a water leak inside the submersible, there is always a possibility of smoke in the cabin, there is the possibility of somebody getting sick, having a heart attack because we take people of all ages (adults anyway) and safety is the most important thing to me. We work just like a sports team, if the team is not united and cohesive things just don't happen. We all have a specific function, for example I am in charge of all of the electrical and electronic systems on the submersible, other guys are in charge of mechanical maintenance, other people are in charge of the management of the operation and as we work together offshore, especially at sea we pretty much know what we have to do, there is very little talking because there isn't much time to talk when things are moving. We already have, for example, a set of words that we use when we are on the radio - and you try and keep your talking to a minimum in that in that way everybody know what is going to happen. It is like an act on a scene or in a movie - everybody knows when it is their part, when they come in and almost without any direction, although there is a director, which is the operations director and he is the one that says okay next, next, next.
For example the launch of the submersible, the diving and recovering there are key words. The underwater communications are not always clear, but if you are always using the same language, just like a director does you know what is going on, you know exactly what they meant when you heard it. On the surface the most dangerous part is the recovery, when you are recovering you have a ship that is moving, a swimmer that has to come in, you have the crane operator, all of those guys have to work together and in unison. If anything goes wrong it could be the life of one or more persons at stake - so it's very important that we all work in a team.
What I have always brought into the picture, what I can bring into the diving process is accumulated expertise that I have gained throughout the years. The electronics are a never-ending quest of learning because electronics change so frequently. We have been able to upgrade the submersible a few times and improve the safety. Also the experience I brought in from working the tourist submersibles - safety was also the number one issue - in this one you are taking every-day people down in submarines - even though you are not going that deep you are still underwater and things can go wrong. So the expertise, the combined expertise from these two experiences has been an asset that I have brought to the dive process.