Legends of Diving Articles

 

Victor G. Worst
UDT and Early East Coast Dive Shop Owner
My Diving History as told by Victor G. Worst

My diving career began in Carey, Ohio at the ripe old age of twelve. The municipal swimming pool was located very near my home and in the beginning of summer the pool would be filled for the season. After eight

months of the fill pipes rusting, the pool would have a large amount of rust particles on the bottom. Three or four of us younger kids would use weighted brooms to sweep the rust into the drains at the deeper end of the pool. We would use a Desco pool mask when at the deeper depths. Air was supplied from a small electric compressor. There was no volume tank and no non-return valve on the mask. Being kids, when we wanted the diver to come up we would simply pull on the

Victor Worst (left) with Jeff Rice, president of ILD, at the open house of NAUI Feb 20, 2010.

hose or pull the plug on the compressor. Of course with no non-return valve on the mask, it would suck down on your face. Needless to say we knew nothing about possible diving injuries such as air embolism or that you could die from it. No one else in the area did either so in our ignorance we had fun.

At seventeen I joined the Navy to go into UDT (Underwater Demolition Team) and in those days the Navy put you where they needed you. I was told that being a torpedoman's mate on submarines would lead right to what I wanted to do. What a crock that was!

While aboard my first submarine (diesel) I shipped over and the money received ($412.00) bought my first set of Scuba equipment. A shipmate lived near Honest Archie's dive store in New York so he picked up a steel tank, bacpac, double hose, single stage
Dive School Class
of 1964
regulator, weight belt, wetsuit, mask, fins and speargun. My first dive was in the ocean from shore at Groton, Ct. by myself. Having had submarine escape training at this point I knew I had to exhale while ascending when breathing compressed air.

The ship sailed for a Mediterranean cruise the following week. When the ship tied up in Monaco, the captain asked if some of us would check the propellers. Two of us made a dive on the ship and reported all was ok. A third shipmate wanted to make a dive so I said I would go with him. We had a nice dive following the bottom down to one hundred feet. We had only been there seconds when he ran out of air and panicked and went to the surface as fast as he could. I followed and when we broke surface he had bloody, frothy sputum coming from his mouth. Then he went unconscious due to an air embolism and I towed him to shore where he was put in a portable recompression chamber and rushed to Toulon, France to the French Navy's diving facility. He came back to the ship four days later, but never dived again that I know of.

The summer of 1964 I finally received orders for Navy Scuba School at sub base, Groton, Ct. This was the last class to be taught with the Scott full face mask. The bottle was carried upside down and the hose from the first stage to the mask (second stage) went under your arm. That rig was the Achilles heel for many fellows that almost became Navy divers. In those
First in Navy Dive School
days we did not have BCs([air inflatable lifejackets) like today. We wore small CO2 inflatable vests. It was only inflated in an emergency and when you reached the surface you needed to have your knife ready to puncture it because the neck hole was so small it choked you. When the mask would flood one hand was used to work the purge button and the other hand had to hold the exhaust closed. The water would then be forced out the bottom where the mask sealed against your face. If you used your arms for swimming to keep yourself on the surface, you would drown in the mask. In those days we used double Navy aluminum nineties (scuba cylinders) which were negatively buoyant even when empty.

Upon completion of Scuba school I went back to submarines until I received orders for First Class Divers' school at the Naval Gun Factory, Washington, D.C. I checked into school and until classes started some of us chipped paint from the inside of a recompression chamber that two Navy divers died in a few weeks before when an oxygen explosion occurred. The Navy dive tables have all been tested by Navy divers either in water dives or dry
Graduating Certificate
dives in a recompression chamber. You might say tested in blood. Though we did not realize it then, we were guinea pigs. Now they say we were pioneers.

First class divers' school included classroom, Scuba, surface supply to include air, deep air, and helium, recompression chamber operation, explosives, underwater welding and cutting, and salvage operations. I was Honor man (first place) in a graduating class of eleven that started with twenty-two after twenty-six weeks of training. Not too shabby, considering I was threatened with disenrollment twice for being a bit of a hell raiser.

Memories of dive school include:

  • A boat having to break ice in the Anticosti River so we could make our surface swims for Scuba during the second week of Feb. wearing 5MM waist high wetsuits.

  • Making our first hundred foot Mk 5 dives in zero visibility. You thought you would never reach bottom.

  • The diving dresses had patches on top of patches and still leaked, so you never made a dry dive. The only time it really bothered you was a project that required you to crawl into a small pipe on your back and had to crawl out when the water in the helmet got up to your ears. You would have to crawl out, stand up and drain the water from the helmet and then go back into the pipe to finish the project. School was tough, but enjoyable.

I
Victor with diver
was then stationed on the USS Tringa ASR 16. The Tringa was a submarine personnel rescue vessel. While there I did the diving gas mixing for various depths. Helium oxygen mixtures were used at depths below 200 feet. On diving operations we rotated on the various dive stations. Some of which were diver, standby diver, diver tender, gas manifold operator, radio operator, time keeper, etc.

Next duty station was the Submarine Escape training center at Groton, Ct. Here I was put in charge of the Scuba Locker which also
Victor instructing
made me the senior Scuba School instructor. Scuba school was only taught during the summer months so I also taught submarine escape. All of the divers teaching became very good at breath holding due to the nature of training submarine escape. Most of us could hold our breath close to four minutes and free dive (breath hold) to 128 foot (the bottom of the training tank.) A person that we all worked with was Robert Croft. He holds the first two world records for breath hold dives.

During this time I became a YMCA Scuba instructor. I then converted to a NAUI instructor in 2004.

Notes of interest include:

  • Due to my experience at the Carey swimming pool I detected a chlorine gas leak in the escape training tank system before anyone was injured

  • Trained all of the Ct State Police dive team at the time as Navy divers

  • Trained Joe Bodner, NAUI instructor #9 as a Navy diver

  • Trained local police dive teams

  • Have personally taught approximately 3000 students

  • Taught how to teach dive tables at instructor courses

  • Performed mouth to mouth resuscitation to a successful conclusion on a diver who had stopped breathing on an open water dive due to a large smoking habit and over exertion.

  • Performed mouth to mouth resuscitation to a successful conclusion on a student that had stopped breathing in a swimming pool due to holding his breath while having pneumonia.

  • Started working part time at the third oldest dive store in the USA (Aqua Sports Inc.) in 1968. I began working there full time after leaving the Navy in 1970. I became part owner in 1974 and full owner in 1976. Aqua Sports has the distinction of always being owned by Navy divers. At this time I started doing commercial and speculation diving also.

Notable events:

  • Installed instruments at various depths for Raytheon for environmental studies diving to depths of 165 feet?.some days making five repetitive dives starting at 120 feet.

  • Working with the state police to recover a drowning victim. My tenders were not tending me properly and I was sucked into a 28 inch pipe. My dive mask was pulled down my face and pulled my mouthpiece out of my mouth. Unable to pull myself and the tenders unable to pull me out of the pipe, I knew the only choice I had was to cut my safety line and hopefully get in a position where I could retrieve my mouthpiece and then have time for the others to close the valve and find a way to get me out. I went through about thirty feet of pipe, two 45 degree elbows and a valve. I came out the end as if shot from a cannon, due to the water pressure. I did three cartwheels and landed on my butt in the middle of the stream. After putting my knife away and taking my fins off I walked to my truck. After the fact we determined about a ton of pressure rocketed me through the pipe. I never really thought about how easily that could have ended in my drowning; I just reacted to the situation with the knowledge and equipment I had. I was bruised from head to toe, but was diving the next day.

  • Did the diving work for raising ships, floating dry docks and marine railway cradles. Raised a 146 ton barge in 72 feet of water in less than four hours using only a tug and an air compressor.

  • Set explosives to remove the conning tower hatch and the heads from three live shells lying on the deck of the U85. German sub sank off the outer banks N.C. in 100 feet of water.

  • Made six Scuba dives on the wreck of the Merida, 210 feet. During this time five  others also made one dive each using the latest surface supply diving equipment of the day. Thirty divers said they would make the dive, but once we were on site they decided not to. There was no Nitrox or trimix in those days. My dives were 23 minutes bottom time with 53 minutes decompression stops. I was bent twice. We were looking for six million in silver. One of the fellows on surface supply was overcome with nitrogen narcosis. I increased his air pressure which caused his air supply to free flow and ventilated him. This cleared him up long enough to get part way to the surface and after a second free flow we were able to get him to a depth that he was no longer affected. During part of these trips Denny Morse was along. He and John Grich were the divers that recovered the statue of Andria Doria.

  • Used explosives to shear off the remaining structure of the steel fishing pier at Ruddy Inlet, Virginia Beach, VA

  • US Divers came out with a single hose regulator named the Royal Aqua Lung. While my wife Donna was using one, it stopped giving her air. Frank Scalli, national sales manager at the time and our sales rep. Tony Bruno came to our home to discuss the incident. Frank asked me to show how it might stop supplying air. I think it had happened before, but people were unable to pinpoint the problem. Frank said he would show the engineers at the plant what I had found as soon as he got there the next day. The third day dive stores received a telegram that the regulator was recalled. It was never acknowledged that Donna and I had anything to do with it, but I have to think that our meeting with Frank did.

  • Over the years I did testing and evaluating of equipment for US Divers, AMF Voit, and White Stag.

  • Installed instruments at 100 feet on the bottom of Block Island sound (the coast of R.I.) that recorded the atomic bomb blast in Alaska.

  • Dived on the Soviet trawler Pavilosta SRT 4553 to salvage the propeller. After descending to the bottom and seeing the propeller was worthless steel instead of valuable brass, I knew we would not return. Wanting to recover a memento, I swam up to a doorway and seen a pair of hip boots. Then I looked up and saw the Soviet insignia (the hammer and sickle) on the side of the stack. It now hangs on the wall at Aqua Sports. The ship was 31 miles east of Nags Head, N.C. at 190 feet

  • Set a goal for others to follow in underwater cutting of sheet pile. Fifty three sheets thirty three inches wide per day average.

The following list is for the curious adventurers:

  • Fourteen inches of ice had to be broken through for me to get in the water and work one day.

  • Descended fifty-four feet inside a thirty inch pipe pile holding a Scuba tank between my legs with no fins on and shackled a lifting wire to a chain that was stopping the pile from being driven deeper.

  • Underwater burning- cutting steel with an electric arc. I have been shocked with 180 to 200 amps from a welding machine twice. The little tingles you get all the time do not count.

  • Stuck in pipes with Scuba until I was able to free myself with a jet hose twice. The pipe I went through does not count here.

  • Leg caught across a fourteen inch airlift at thirty feet of depth until dive tender could shut off the air compressor. Yes, it hurt.

  • Hit in head while using Scuba with a small chinker, two or three hundred pound rock used to fill voids between large stone in a breakwater or seawall. Fourteen stitches.

  • Air driven chainsaw kicked back so hard it cracked the one inch glass in the Mark V helmet I was wearing. Did not leak too bad so finished the day.

  • Buried under mud and rocks while jetting cables in sea bottoms. Not a problem as long as you keep hold of the jet hose.

  • While getting out of the water my foot slipped and a piece of quarter inch plate glass went through the sole of my wetsuit bootie and into my foot. Took the doctor three tries to pull the glass out.

  • Another time while getting out of the water I stepped on a nail in a water logged board and of course jumped up only to come down on three other nails with the other foot. One nail almost came out the top of my foot. The nails went through my fins and hard sole booties before going into my foot. The doctor said all he could do for me was to give me a tetanus shot. I then went to work until eight o?clock that evening doing a lot of limping. Thinking the salt water would clean out the punctures, I went diving after work and the next day was fine, Love that salt water.

  • Many minor cuts, bruises, and strains.

All in all, just another day at the office.




Victor's Classes:



1968

1968


Victor with diving gear:



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12701 South Dixie
Bowling Green OH, 43402
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