My bout with the 'Bends.'


Special Forces
Rest In Peace
Jul 16, 2008
Seattle, Puget Sound — PNW
I thought some might like to read my bout with the 'Bends'. :D

The one website I posted has a video showing some of the stuff that happened when he hit the boat and the Helo with Bill Muncey landing on the Helo barge after I rescued him.

In 1958 most people in civilian life that used SCUBA, used the Navy's tables and their assent procedures. To include me.

The Navy Hard Hat salvage diver rated medic, who was assigned to spend the time in the chamber with me bitched and moaned a lot about having to be in there with me.

Keep in mind that there were not an awful lot of civilians using SCUBA at that time. Most civilian divers, used one thank with a 'J' valve reserve. It was hard for them to get the bends, if they only used the one tank, as most did. So no, he hadn't had any civilians before. He was mostly liking to tease me. (The Navy Medic diver, who spent the whole 36 hours with me.)

After the 36 hours I had to stay at the station for 24 hours and we had a good time together at the local Navy 5-6 club, sharing a few beers.

As for me, and how I got the bends, etc. I normally carried my equipment in my LE patrol car, while on duty. In August '58 on a Tuesday morning of the day I had my first dive of the day and later got bent that late afternoon. I was called to a log boom in Lake Washington, where a night watchman, had disappeared. I spent about an hour under the log boom, looking for him at 30 to 40 Ft. (All the air in one tank.)

I got out of the water and was resting and having a cigarette, (I smoked then.) and saw a white patch UW a few feet off the dock. I jumped in and checked it! Guess what! The white spot I had seen, was the bald top of the watch mans head. He was holding a wooden pole at port arms, with a hook on the end (There used a lot around log booms.)

Apparently along with air trapped in his clothes the wood gave him enough buoyancy to keep him suspended just UW.

Our LE dive team, at the time were all civilians, except for myself. I was the only full time deputy, that was a diver. (Sheriff Reserve Commission, granted for the other divers, because of their skill.)

The reserve divers, were picked because they were the best divers in our area and passed tests set up by an ex-Navy diver. Of course, during the day all of them were working at their civilian jobs.

At the time, our team covered the annual Gold Cup or Seafair Unlimited Hyro-Plane races on Lake Washington, since about 1955. I rode in the USCG Helo, and if their was trouble jumped, with full SCUBA gear into the crash scene and rescued the driver and got him into the basket for a lift, etc. We actually, worked under the command of the USCG on the Hydro course.

On that previous Sunday the Gold Cup race was held and the Unlimited Hydro Thriftway, driven by Bill Muncey, lost a rudder and hit a USCG 40ty footer picket boat on the course broadside. We had out LE team divers on these picket boats, on the turns and the center of the course. They were on the South turn on the boat that was hit. They helped the USCG people survive the crash, etc. Both boats sank. I jumped from the USCG helicopter and rescued Muncey, the driver. The person in the video, in the bathing suit is one from my team, that was on the boat that was hit.

On Monday, the day after the race, all the team's divers, volunteered to raise the USCG boat, from about 90 feet. I had to work my regular patrol schedule, so I couldn't go. Our dive team raised the CG boat with the Thriftway boat, impaled in the side of it.

As the two boats came to the surface, the Thriftway broke off and sank again. The USCG boat was recovered.

Our dive team on the scene, told the Thriftway camp, that they considered the salvage of the CG boat, as part of our responsibility, since we were working for them. The Thriftway; however, in their mind, was now a matter of a commercial salvage operation. They left the scene.

On Tuesday, on the afternoon of my log boom dive, I got a radio message to call the Sheriff. Now, this is a bit unusual for a deputy in a department of our size to call THE Sheriff. This was also before we had Civil service and deputies served at the pleasure of the elected Sheriff.

So I called him and he said, I want you to find the Thriftway and recover it. I told him what had been proposed by the others in the dive team. He repeated what he said. I said YES SIR!

I found one of the other divers, who agreed to help me with the task. (He worked for Ma Bell and could take off.) (What else could I say? I liked my job and I had two kids, another in the basket and a non-working wife.

We proceeded to the spot where there was an oil slick reported and spent about 30 minutes finding it. It was resting on its rear, with the bow straight up in the water. (Styrofoam packed in the bow.)

No sunlight penetrated to that depth, so it was pitch black except for our home made lights (Navy battle lanterns converted to use a seal beam and a lantern battery.)*

We were diving off a USCG Buoy setter, a fairly large ship. It took us awhile another 30 Minutes at 90 feet, to coordinate the ship and get the cable hooked up to the stern of the Hydro. The Thriftway camp, who were also on board, wanted us to use the regular hoist hook-up on the sides of the boat. We told them no-way!

Anyway, by the time we got through it was dark and the wind had churned the waters of the lake real rough. We were also short on air, we knew according to the Navy tables, we were over just on that dive. We didn't want to dive off that boat in the lake, because of darkness and rough water, etc. I wasn't to concerned about my first dive of the day, as it thought it was a shallow dive. 30—40 Ft. Another mistake!

Yes, we sort of played fast and loose with the tables. We wanted to get the job done and I felt some pressure from the Sheriff's request, etc.

As time went on on the way back to the dock, I began to get some pain in the joints of my fingers. We went to a deep warm water pool, after docking and I went down to 30 ft and than 10 ft. At 10 feet I was doubled up with pain and couldn't even keep my mouth piece in. It was decided to fly me to Keyport, WA* Naval Torpedo Station where they had a large chamber with a personnel and medical/food lock.

They nixed the Helo flight and loaded both of is on a USCG 40' and off to Keyport we went. My partner suffered no pain and didn't get bent.

On arrival, we noticed that there were cars with their lights shining on the base's baseball field. (They were still waiting for the chopper.) They loaded me into the Chamber with the Medic and a Navy doctor. We went right down to 160+ feet. Prior to this time I didn't have any more pain, on the boat, etc.

The Navy doctor started asking me questions at that depth, and I started giggling because I sounded like somebody on helium does, or maybe Mickey Mouse. He figured that I had a bubble on a place on my brain, that had cancelled my pain, or was it because of my giggles?

Any way, since it was a very large chamber, the doctor could visit when he wanted to, as well as hot food or medications could be brought down, etc.

So, we both came up from that depth over the 36 hours. I made a very good contact in a Chief Master Diver Sheets,* that later helped pull some strings for me to get into the Navy run, Combat Diver school in Key West in '62, from the SF Reserve.

BTW: My wife who was pregnant at the time and knew I was diving and over due was sitting around the fireplace cutting her toe nails, when a news flash came over the TV saying: Young Sheriff's Diver in race with death to the Keyport Naval station.

She knew it was me. This was followed by a knock on the door with two deputies making a notification. The Sheriff drove her to Keyport, the first time and told her to let him know if she wanted to visit again, to call and he would provide a ride. etc.

Note: The attached picture is the rear part of the Chamber I was in along with the one of the persons that operated at the time of a later visit.

Only once as an occupant! My visit to Keyport and the Chamber was by invitation to represent the SFA on a Pearl Harbor day memorial day event.

I'm rather surprised, I haven't been back to a chamber though, although I tend to be more careful, especially now!