Diving in the Desert: DIT Grad Takes Salvage Skills to a New Frontier

Diving in the Desert: DIT Grad Takes Salvage Skills to a New Frontier

Will Deans’ journey into commercial diving was long and challenging. He began later in life than most.

“I was 36 when I graduated from Diver’s Institute of Technology (DIT). I was old,” he says.

Graduation pic

Will Deans DIT Class

He lived in Olympia, Washington, near a smaller town where he owned and operated a construction company. But Will decided to change careers after seeing the movie “Swamp Waters.”

“I thought ‘That’s kinda cool’.” And with two friends who were already divers, Will made the switch. The tough road began immediately as he continued working and going to school in Seattle.

“I kept my business going through school,” he says. “Driving from Shelton to Seattle and back.”

He graduated November 2014. “My target was to have a job by April,” he explains.

Will’s determination remained steadfast as he pursued his dream job: salvage diving.

“I knew what I wanted, and I wanted to be a diver.” But Will didn’t want to be just any diver. “I wanted to do salvage for the travel.  I love to explore. I have 3 boys and want to show them the world.”

Family Vacation Goes Awry

With a few leads in Florida, Will and his family set out to fulfill the dream of traveling and exploring. Their first adventure wasn’t far away.

In suit- deep dive Lake Union

Will getting ready for a deep dive while in Dive School at DIT

“We bought an RV, sold everything, and began driving [towards Florida].” Will and his family made it to Las Vegas, Nevada and decided to spend a few days there. Unfortunately, a few days turned into a year long delay after an accident totaled their RV.

Again, determined Will didn’t give up.

He found his first diving job while living in the Mojave desert. For several months he worked at one of the few lakes near Vegas. Then he received an email from one of his original leads in Florida. Resolve Marine Group was at the top of Will’s list of companies to work for.

“I wanted to work for them because they were international.”

So the family finished their trek to Florida, and Will landed a job with Resolve. Then they sent him to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, as a salvage 1 diver.

Navigating the Extreme, Wild Alaskan Frontier

Will’s job as a construction owner was tough, similar to guiding a canoe down a winding river. But if topside construction is like canoeing, then this was white water rafting.


Will Deans in Alaska

“It was a different ballgame.”

They were located in a “crazy wild area, with nothing,” he explains. “A floatplane or boat had to be used to get anything. We worked 12 hour shifts, more than 12 hours most days.” Apart from the desolate region and long hours, Will was amazed by the commercial diving environment.

“Sharing confined spaces with a lot of individuals was shocking. There were 15-20 people on a tugboat.” This claustrophobic setting was not something he was used to. The size of the machinery and equipment was equally overwhelming “I saw videos in my classes, but you don’t appreciate [the massive equipment] until your right there.”

“The worst part,” he says, “was being away from family for 2-3 months.”

But working in Alaska gave him some unique adventures.

“My last salvage job in Alaska was a crab vessel job.” The situation played out like an episode of the Deadliest Catch. Will and his team were called to a shipwrecked vessel on the coast of Port Bailey, a remote island. “The vessel tipped sideways and went down, then washed up onto shore. We went out, pulled it upright and pulled it off shore. Then chopped it into pieces.”

The Great Unknown to Industrious Waterways

Will has a sixth sense when it comes to cleaning and inspecting boats, but it wasn’t always that way. He acquired this expertise in Dutch Harbor.

“There wasn’t a lot of dive time [in Dutch Harbor]. We dove in rotation and I only had 20 dives in all the time I was up there.” With limited time in the water, Will took the opportunity to learn skills elsewhere.

Verett Shipyard

Will on the job in Alaska

“I worked in the metal shop at the shipyard,” he explains.

“Before bringing boats out of the water, they would set blocks, called staging. When the boat was in place, they would send a diver to help make sure the blocks were set tight and everything was secured. So I got a lot of experience seeing the underside of boats.”

The work was stressful and frigid, but they witnessed commercial diving at its best.

It also gave Will the experience he needed for his current job.

“The more strength you show, the quicker the opportunities,” he points out. “If diving is what you want to do, be persistent. And then, be persistent.”

Practicing a Learned Skill: Hand Sight

Will currently lives and works in Louisiana. “I work in all waterways from New Orleans to TX on boats pushing barges,” he says. Ropes, cables, even mattresses get sucked up into the wheel of the boats.

Morgan City, LA

Will on the job in Morgan City with his collegues

Will’s job is to clear out the wheel and inspect the boat. “I go in and get rid of problems ailing the boat,” he explains.

But there’s a kicker. “Every time I get in the water it’s zero visibility.” So Will has to know boats pretty well. “I don’t even open my eyes half the time. I just jump off in my wet suit and feel everything. In this job, I ‘see’ everything I feel.”

With his background in Alaska, he is now able to “see” with his hands when cleaning and inspecting boats in zero visibility.

Persistence Pays Off

“Persistence” has been Will’s career mantra, and it is his advice for upcoming divers.

Morgan City 2

DIT Grad WIll Deans

“The more strength you show, the quicker the opportunities,” he points out. “If diving is what you want to do, be persistent. And then, be persistent.”

Written by Beth Smith, staff writer at Water Welders

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