In the mid-2000s Harry Sokol, a gastroenterologist at Saint Antoine Hospital in Paris, was surprised by what he found when he ran some laboratory tests on tissue samples from his patients with Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory disorder of the gut.
When Morgan Spurlock famously spent a month eating large portions of McDonalds for the purposes of his documentary Supersize Me, he gained weight, damaged his liver and claimed to have suffered addictive withdrawal symptoms.
What I do is install underwater gas and oil wells. The whole job involves stress, from getting in a helicopter to fly out to a ship 300km north of Shetland, to getting on the dive ship itself. There’s the pre-saturation medical, and then I go into a 2.5m x 7m chamber for a month. I’ll be in there with 11 other divers, working in teams of three. You go up and down to the sea bed in a submersible decompression chamber, basically a diving bell, that’s lowered to 20m above the sea bed. Then two of you get out of a little hole in the bell and you’re “locked out”, as we call it, for six hours in the pitch black and off to do your work with all sorts of marine life. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. Usually I work one month and then have two months off.
There’s no room for arguments in this environment. You need to be very tolerant of other people because you’re living in such close proximity. You also need to accept the fact that if it goes wrong, you’re probably not going to get out alive. You need to go in with your eyes open. There are deaths. We lost a 32-year-old diver a couple of years ago who had a three-week-old daughter. It happens, so you need to be aware of the risks.