Class of 1992
By Ian Makida
Zachary Dixon is a commercial diver with the American Marine Corporation. The company was founded on Oahu over thirty years ago and has offices in California and Alaska. During his last eight years with American Marine, he has installed gigantic rocks for break walls, poured concrete underwater, cut metal pier supports, welding, sandblasting and even painting underwater. As both a diver and a construction worker, he does most of the hard labor underwater by himself.
To succeed, he needs to be quick thinking, inventive, able to adapt to situations and communicate well. Depending on where he dives, he might be in extremely cold water with zero visibility, trying to feel his way in the dark, describing what he finds and figuring out how to fix it. On occasion, he may have to battle strong currents and large seas far out into the open ocean.
Becoming a commercial diver takes a lot of dedication, perseverance and training. Zachary received his marine biology degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz. While there, he learned to SCUBA dive and became certified as a Dive Master. Zachary worked as a commercial fisherman in Alaska for two summers so that he could get enough money to enroll at the Diver’s Institute of Technology in Seattle, Washington.
The training at the diving school was seven months long and involved learning how to do inspections, construction, welding, cutting steel, and salvaging. Almost everything on and in the water has or will be installed and/or inspected by a diver. Divers need to know and understand the physics involved in breathing compressed oxygen at depth. Because it is a risky job, they also need to understand when it is necessary to decompress so they don’t get the bends. His company uses surface supplied diving as their standard practice. This involves using an air compressor to feed air to the diver through a hose that is fitted to a hard hat diving helmet. This umbilical cord to the diver from the surface allows the diver and diver supervisor to talk to one another. The dive supervisor keeps track of the depth and time the diver needs to return safely back to the surface.
Zak’s job involves a lot of traveling to the neighbor islands and places like Midway, Johnston Island and Wake Island. He works a forty-hour week, but is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He has worked many 80-hour plus weeks.
Zak now realizes that his years at Waiakea High School taught him to process information to do things, then to communicate these ideas. He learned team work through sports. He said that every job he works on requires the brains and muscle from everyone involved.
He advises anyone who wants to become a commercial diver to take industrial arts classes, to learn to work well with your hands and to enroll in a good diving school that has been around a long time. When he has to complete a difficult underwater task, he visualizes the entire job in his head before beginning work. He advises, “Work out the consequences of all the tasks before doing them and, foremost, always be smart and do the safe thing. Never ever rush into anything. Underwater, you often can’t see the whole picture, but you need to be sure and understand the whole picture. Your life may depend on it.”