Scuba diving on the Tien River

DONG THAP – Diving and repairing fishing rafts and mending nets Mr. Bach Van Ho, 65 years old, earns 350,000 VND per day, only salvaging timber and boats on the riverbed, sometimes he is paid several million VND.

Last year’s Doan Ngo Festival, Mr. Bay Ho and a group of divers went down the Tien River and turned into the Cai Vung River to repair a fish raft for a farmer in the Hong Ngu district. The owner has just finished collecting the dolphins and toadfish, so he spent a lot of money, building new rafts and refurbishing old rafts.

His group took turns, people building rafts, people diving to mend torn nets. Divers use oxygen generators, so each breath lasts several hours. Mr. Bay – the oldest person and the main worker, holds the position of “foreman”, mending nets on the shore. “I’ve been diving for 22 years, I want to retire, but my children can’t do it, so I go to help,” said Mr. Bay, standing bare-back on the plank over the raft.

Mr. Bay Ho, after 22 years as a diver, only needed 30 seconds to find the hammer that had fallen into the water.  Photo: Ngoc Tai
After 30 seconds, Mr. Bay Ho managed to find the hammer that fell into the water. Photo: Ngoc Tai

After a while, the group of nailers, unfortunately, fell into the water, so they asked him to pick them up. Mr. Bay, after drying his hands, went to the oxygen generator and plugged it into the plug with the electric handle. The machine runs with a buzzing sound, spraying air into an elastic tube the size of a finger, about 20 m long. He sucked on the end of the tube, took a breath of air, and then dived.

On the water surface, there was only a gurgling flow of air, signaling the position of the old craftsman. In less than 30 seconds he emerged with the hammer in his hand. Then he dived again, came up with a few snails and mussels in his hand, laughing: “Under the water, the eyes can’t see, the right hand is sensitive”. He also only experienced for a group of young nail workers using moderate force to nail under water, not to raise their arms because it was easy to slide the dangerous hammer.

He was born in Cambodia. When peace was restored, he went down the Mekong River from Nam Vang city (Phnom Penh) to Vietnam. Putting a pole on a river in the countryside outside Tan Chau town, An Giang province, nearly 15 km from the border, he and his family built a small riverside hut, making a living by casting fishing nets.

In the month of high water, he pushed his boat into the field to release his net. In the dry season, he floated on the river to catch fish and shrimp to raise five children. At the age of 40, he switched to being a diver because he saw that this profession was profitable, he had a talent for swimming, and each dive was 15-20 m long.

Thanks to his job as a diver, Bay Ho can raise his cubs and have a few hundred million left over when he's old.  Photo: Ngoc Tai
Thanks to his job as a diver, Bay Ho can raise his cubs and have a few hundred million left over when he’s old. Photo: Ngoc Tai

New to the profession, Mr. Bay must tie a 5-7 kg iron chain around his body to dive deep. Because I just learned to breathe, I couldn’t see in tears, I was nervous and not used to work. Several times, he sneaked up and hid behind a fish raft, thinking of quitting his job, but “didn’t continue diving, he didn’t have money to buy rice in the afternoon”. Overcoming his initial fear, he gradually became a famous diver in the area.

Many times the Tan Chau ferry was damaged, and the propeller (the part on the engine that helps the fan) was wrapped in the grass and called him to come and remove it. Nearly two years ago, he alone used 10 drums to recover the engine cover, the propeller was more than 10 m long and weighed several hundred kilograms, receiving thunderous applause from the people on the shore. At that time he was paid 4.5 million dongs in salary.

Another time, when he was lifting the rudder, lifting it, his spine dropped, creaking. A few days back home, his back ached even more, although he sought treatment in many places, he still left a scoliosis sequelae. “This profession, life and death are separated by a breath, cannot be subjective”. It was very dangerous, but thanks to his profession of diving, he was able to raise his children, each of whom he taught a profession on land, forbidden to follow his father’s profession. However, fate was shaky, the children did not do enough to revive their father as a diver.

Mr. Bay's group of divers are responsible for building new rafts and repairing old rafts that require deep diving.  Photo: Ngoc Tai
Mr. Bay’s group of divers are responsible for building new rafts and repairing old rafts on the river. Photo: Ngoc Tai

Mr. Bui Van Cuong, Mr. Bay Ho’s son-in-law, has been in the profession for a year, at first only doing odd jobs on the shore, then learning to dive deep. “A lot of water immersion is also familiar, diligently earns 7-8 million a month”, Cuong Bao. Many days when he was addicted to work until he felt chest tightness, he realized that his ear was bleeding because of the great pressure. Resting for a few days, the 35-year-old man went diving again, at most unloading scrubs and trees in the river, often being paid three million dongs a day.

The money is a lot, but the salvage work requires divers to work hard, especially to salvage wood. Before that, divers had to dive many times to locate, estimate the weight of the tree, and then enter the water to tie a rope to the body, remove obstacles, and use pulleys to lift the wooden trunk hundreds of kilograms. The tree is anchored to the side of the canoe and slowly pulled to the shore. On the Tien River, large and small wood is enough, with more ancient roots than people hug. As a result, divers have more money to sell wood, sometimes more than salvage money.

In addition to Mr. Bay’s group, on the Tien River near the border, there are a few other groups engaged in scuba diving. They specialize in trawling trees for people who spread nets on the river, thereby limiting the tearing of nets. These groups also accept finding drowned people, but not everyone dares to do the job. Each time, the diver hung a white cloth on the boat like a kind of pennant…

Diving work for people working on the Tien River. 
Video: Thanh Tien

(According to vnexpress)

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