There is a danger of pearl diving in the Tennessee River. Truthfully, all types of pearl diving can lead to accidents, panic situations, decompression issues and more. There have been many deaths on the Tennessee River especially during the peak days of pearl and mussel diving.
We usually think of divers as having a tank of air on their backs however Tennessee River divers do not typically dive with a tank. Instead, they have an air compressor on their boat and they have a hose that pumps air to them below the surface. There are a few reasons for this. First, even if they wanted to dive with a tank it is difficult to find a place to fill those tanks up especially deep in Tennessee and along the river. Secondly, the tanks only hold a limited amount of air so divers would have to resurface and change their tanks to spend an entire day diving.
So, what is the danger of pearl diving? There is an international diving flag that notifies all people on the water that someone is diving. This is the dive flag.
If boaters drive too close to the boat, they run the risk of cutting the air hose leaving the diver under the water breathless.
The Tennessee River is dark and deep and full of strong currents. Sometimes divers can get caught in the current and may get tangled in underwater debris. Also, if divers descend too far down, stays at big depths for too long or ascend too rapidly, they run the risk of decompression sickness.
Finally, there might be sabotage by other divers. It is scary to think about but there was one time that this business was highly competitive.
Here is Bruce to tell us more about his experience with the dangers of pearl diving and, more specifically, about the five friends he lost on the Tennessee River. And to hear about the best time to dive on the river, read Summertime and the Diving is Easy.