BLACKFOOT– When one looks at documentaries about the ocean or watching movies about deep sea diving, one can imagine what it might be like. Not for Doug Hoksbergen, his dream of being a deep sea diver was born when he first saw "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." For years the image of the diver walking away from the submarine and surviving on a single breathing implement, was something that drove him to chase that dream. "My grandfather said 'Don't let anyone tell you no.' My brother was supportive too."
When Doug sat down to interview for the Divers Institute of Technology in Seattle, Washington: he almost didn't make it to the next round of classes. On the wall was a prop from 20,000 Leagues, which was donated to the school. He had pulled it off the wall and put it over his head, "I just had to you know?" and the lady doing the interview was a little terse with him about it. However, he made it through training. Six to seven months of training and Doug finally had the moment to get into the water. "I knew this is what I always wanted to do."
One of the most memorable dives Doug went on was on Eugene Island off the gulf of Mexico. "I was only down about 200 feet and it was three in the morning. Even with my head lamp, you can't see very far in front of you. I looked around and all I could see was these green dots. I was surrounded by sharks. They don't mess with you. Honestly all the wildlife you see down there don't mess with you."
There are some interesting aspects of diving that most people don't hear about. As a diver one cannot be bashful. When getting in or out of the suit, "You have to strip down to your birthday suit and get hosed off. Then hopping into the small areas within five minutes and getting gear on, you learn to not care and not be bashful."
Doug has done numerous types of diving within the field. Saturation diving seems to be one of the most brutal types of diving. One is placed in a hyperbaric chamber which is saturated in a way to keep the occupants at the proper dry pressurization. They are lowered into the water to reach the right working pressure. They are then in the chamber for 28 days and work for about 10 hours a day. They usually do saturation diving chambers for depths greater than 250 feet. Depending on what the work is needed. "It is like having a high paying jail sentence. You do the work and then are stuck in the small confines after going out. It is grueling but hey 28 days on and 28 days off ain't bad. One of the top women compression divers would rebuild cars on her ranch when off the rig."
Some of the gear needed for working on underwater demolitions was different than the average divers. One has to be safe when the explosion goes off, as well as keeping the innards intact. Doug worked on demolitions mainly with Chevron and when helping with hurricane restoration. "You've seen how big those platforms can get. Now imagine them twisted and hurled a couple miles away. There has to be a way to bring up the rubble and get the oil platforms back to working order."
When Doug was working on salvaging and wrecks, he would find some very interesting items. One ship he found a perfect working compass (which had been water logged) was sunk within two years of being decommissioned. The compass had been in the water for over thirty years but was saved from most of the ravages from the way it was packed away. Items like portholes, lamp covers, clocks, and bottles, are just a few of the items in his collection he is proud of.
Even though Doug dealt with body recovery during hurricanes and salvaging wrecks: he still remains a positive person. The average diver lasts in the business for around five years. Many times it is due to wear on the body or getting injuries. Doug has had numerous injuries from his salvaging, including numerous scars. He even had his ribs broken by a very playful dolphin. "It takes a certain type of person to remain in the business. I absolutely loved the water. It was some of the most peaceful times, just being in the suit and seeing the wildlife. I got to see things very few people get to see first hand. It's a unique feeling." Doug managed to stay within the business for 20 years and has seen places all over the globe. He moved back to Blackfoot after retiring "for the third or fourth time" and has been enjoying being back home with family and friends. "I will always miss the water. But I do like being back."