When I was dredging we worked in some pretty dangerous water. I’m talking about the Buller River.
Anything down to 25 Feet underwater. And most of the time in fast water. Usually requiring the wearing of two weight belts.And when I say fast water, I mean real fast. Even the suction nozzle was tied off to pullies, as was the dredge. If you raised your head, you were a goner. And of course we had our airline on, attached with a Keene harness, hot water lines, tucked into the weight belts. Always made sure both weight belt quick release clips, were aligned the same way. So if you got in the shit, you were not fumbling around.
When you took a downstream tumble it was a pretty amazing ride. Relying on your airline as an anchor line is not wise. So you had to recover, before you hit the end of the airline. The contingency plan for if you cannot recover, was ditch the lot. Thats weight belts off, gumboots off, and float to the surface. Airline stays on of course. A bit hard to undo the laces of your boots in those circumstances.
On occasions you can get your feet caught between large boulders, the easy way out. Far better than cutting your foot off, is to just slide your foot out of your gumboot. You can recover the gumboot later.
We always had risk management plans in place. There was always two of us dredging. Should one be trapped underwater, ie under a face fall, large boulder etc. The plan was, The other diver surfaces. Fills the dredge motor with fuel, turns down throttle to save fuel yet keep adequate air supply. Three fist thumps on the trapped guy. Tells him that, that is all done and you are off to get help. Luckily that situation never eventuated. My diving mate was a terror when seeing the gold on the bottom, he would burrow a tunnel under the face, rather than terracing the face. I would hover above him ready to extract him when the inevitable face fall would occur or a large boulder would start to slide down. It was reach down grab him and pull. I could never get him out of that habit. Once he was seeing gold, he was gunna chase that crevice crack or sump as far as he could. And a tunneling he would go. I mean the gold wasn’t going to go anywhere, and the safe way is to remove the overburden and get to it that way. Far safer. I used to call it terracing the face.
Those were great days. Best day was five and a half ounces in six hours. Maybe one of these days I will write up some stories about the golden days. And one about when we got gassed.
Like I say if you are dredging in water you can stand up in, then wear what you prefer. You arent going to get into much trouble in stand up water. Any deeper then start doing some risk management stuff and always think of Murphys Law. Prepare for the worst, and have a plan for it. I dredged for around 30 years.