|Harvesting divers in Zanzibar, 2006|
The first group of harvesting divers I met was in Zanzibar, Tanzania in 2006. These men harvested sea cucumbers for export to Asia and were excited to learn about the hyperbaric chamber we were there to train the local divers to operate. I understand since its installation most of the people who have been treated in that chamber are those same cucumber divers.
In January, we got word about a new chamber that Dr. Elmer Mejia had opened in La Ceiba, Honduras. He was treating Miskito Indians injured while harvesting lobster. Everything fell into place and Dr. Matias Nochetto and I were on our way there in February. Since then things have snowballed with connections to two other groups of divers in different parts of the world. These other dive communities essentially do the same thing, but use slightly different techniques and with more or less organization. And more is still to come.
I remember in school the stories from the early part of the 20th century about the exploitation of workers and the hazardous working conditions. I fully realize that these conditions still exist in many different parts of the world in sweatshops and mills. I also realize that I can’t right all the wrongs or stop all the injustices. The situation of harvesting divers hits home a bit more for me, though. As a diver and a person who makes a living working for dive safety, it is troubling to see men be disabled or killed doing exact thing that I do for fun and call a sport. And worst of all, we know what is causing the injuries these men receive, we know how to treat it when they are hurt and we have a pretty good idea how to avoid it, too—or at least reduce the risk significantly.
My journey this year has been eye-opening, exciting, frustrating, frightening and amusing. It has taken me to Honduras, Mexico and Brazil. In the process I’ve met some amazing and inspiring people. They are working day in and day out, enduring difficult circumstances to make the lives of harvesting divers better, safer and healthier. Now it’s my turn. There is a two part article, talking about the situation in two different locations, now online at AlertDiver.com. There is also a photographic slide show of 18 images. I look forward to your comments after reading the articles and seeing the images.
Simply go to AlertDiver.com. Click on the Features link and find the Harvesting Divers article. That main article will lead you to a sidebar and a photo essay of 18 images.
Below are two links to other parts of this project.
• Using still images and video segments I shot along the way, we created a video you can watch on Youtube– DAN Video Guy page:
• National Geographic took an interest in this project and featured it in the Nat Geo News Watch:
From here, I will continue to tell this story with live presentations and other publications. Next week in Las Vegas at the DEMA Show I will be giving two presentations on the situation and plan to take that talk on the road next year.
But, also, it is time now to move onto Part 2 – working with these divers to improve their lives..