Propellers

I was a diver – not a great diver, just a diver. If you’ve lived on Midway, you may recall how people would notice how you spend your time, then assume you were the local expert on that subject. Like the day that big ship came into port, after snagging a big net in each of its two propellers. Soon, my coworker (Jeff Bream) and I were called to ask if we could help. Somehow, the word got around that Jeff and I were divers and that we’d be happy to help go underwater and cut the nets away. Happy??

Within a couple of minutes of hearing this request, I took my first Excedrin. The thought of being underwater and near those giant props was unnerving to me. What if someone started the engine and those things started to rotate? I was really up-tight about that and one more Excedrin helped with my tension headache.

We met with the ship’s captain and got assurance that someone would guard the wheelhouse, so that no one would even accidently start the engines.

Eventually, Jeff and I dropped into the water, alongside the ship that was tied against the cargo pier. I remember my first impression in looking at those huge propellers – they were taller than both of us ! Huge ! Jeff and I had decided to each straddle one propeller shaft and start cutting away at the entangled ropes. Man, I was nervous. If those props were to start turning, we’d never get out alive – human chum.

No matter how tight my neck was, we knew we had limited underwater time and needed to getter’ done.

As we were cutting and cutting and cutting – we heard the unmistakable sound of a large engine starting, just above our heads. Jeff and I immediately looked at each other. Even through the dive-masks, we could read each other’s expressions. What the hell was going on? They told us they would guard the keys and make sure no one started those engines !

We jumped off the propeller shafts and started making our way to the top. It was then that we learned that the engine was only an electrical generator and didn’t have any connection to the props. None the less, when underwater, sound travels much farther and seems a lot louder and caused my neck to get as tight as those ropes.

We resumed our task and I couldn’t get it done fast enough. We did a superb job in cutting away all those tangles ropes. Afterward, we received our pay – a ‘thank you / see ya’.

At my age, I doubt I’ll ever do that again – but if I should be asked, I’ll pass on the offer.

I’ll never forget that day.

Mike Daak – Midway Island