Article and Photos by Jay Moskowitz
Disclaimer: The views and language of this piece may not reflect the views and language of Scuba H2O Adventures Magazine.
It was the last salvage job I would work in New York City before heading to live in Florida. Just my luck it was the middle of winter.
The Hudson filled with ice flows, and the job consisted of multiple stages: find, clear, move, and remove any and all obstacles. Any diver that’s worked salvage inland or deep water will tell you the salvage starts great but can go south in the blink of an eye.
This job was no different. To start, the salvage crew, six other divers, tenders, salvage master, dive supervisor, tug captain, salvage barge crew/ riggers and crane operator… there was a half a mile of wood pilings that needed to be strapped and pulled out of the mud and muck, not to mention going out and breaking the freakin’ ice. The wind was no problem, but the cloudy weather, the snow, the rain… well, ok, to be honest it was a pain in the ass!
The first day was more of inspection dives, breaking through the ice, and dropping bubblers to keep ice from over freezing. Once we had all the pilings pulled, we had to burn the old metal sea wall away: a half a mile of rusted metal covered with crap that had to be cleaned so it can be burned close to the bottom: about 20 feet during low tide. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The job started a week or so later, and due to it being in New York Harbor, security had to be maintained. The harbor police were involved as well (too much bullshit – the company was hired, permits were given – just let us do what we are paid to do!). The first actual work day was a week later at 5 a.m.: still dark ice with strong freakin’ winds coming off the water. You have to love this shit!
Since we had only one salvage barge and crane, the pilings were broken down into sections. Getting the slinging cable to pull the piles one at a time, it took two weeks working 10- hour days and seven days a week to completely remove them. The hardest part was the repositioning of the barge and crane, and in all that time we had one accident when one of the pilings broke free from the cable and fell back into the river – lucky all the divers are completely clear when the pulling starts. To make this job a bitch, some of the dam pilings snapped during the removal stage and some of the time the sling would slip off. The crew would laugh if we weren’t so pissed, but hey, this is salvage. It’s never perfect, and hell, what job is?
By the second week we had more than half of the pilings removed and started the burning phase. That’s when problems started. One day the generator went dead, the fuel tanker was late… one thing after another… the one great thing. With all the problems occurring one after the other, there was not one single injury!
Another great thing about a job this close to shore: it was easy to get supplies and there was something new to learn just about every day, learning different ways to make the job easier and safer. Ever diver knows no one knows it all. To be in this business you have to be open to keeping your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut.
At any rate, most of the kinks were worked out and the burning phase was going pretty damn good. It got to the point where the salvage crew and dive crew were working together like they have been for years. It was great to be of part it, even though it was a small job.
As we totally cleared a section we had to make surveys of the bottom to see how deep the mud was before hitting hard surface such as rock. As with any salvage job we started finding all kinds of stuff on the bottom. We kept and cleaned most of it.
This is just one of many stories and jobs from my dive log.
About Jay Moskowitz
Jay Moskowitz is a commercial diver with many years of sea time working offshore oil and gas rigs as well as marine salvage and inland inspection work including large motor vessels (such as oil tankers), cargo ships, container ships, bridges, dams, and piers. From 1977 until 2014 he worked as a commercial diver, ocean engineer, and diver emergency medical technician for multiple companies around the United States. Jay finished his commercial deep sea air/mixed gas diver training in 1979 at Divers Training Academy in Florida, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in City College of New York.
For his entire life, Jay has had a love of being in, round and underwater. He received his first scuba certification at age 13, and has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards for diving, scuba instruction, and water safety instruction, and has earned diver safety awards from PADI, NAUI, and NASA. He recently received the Scuba Schools International (SSI) Platinum Pro 5000 open water dives award. In his spare time, Jay enjoys swimming, shell collecting, underwater photography, writing, and volunteering for animal rescue teams.