Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Elmar Salveron’s Underwater Office

We love reading stories about folks who make a living utilizing the sport most of us consider a hobby.

He wears a suit, works eights hours daily, and goes to work five days a week, like most of us. But there's a difference.

Elmar Salveron’s 'suit' is a diver’s suit and his job involves spending approximately 10 hours a week underwater cleaning the inside of a 36,000-litre glass fish tank at The Aquarium Restaurant at the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club.

The 51-year-old Filipino aquarium supervisor has been at it at the same place for the past 10 years now – swimming with the fishes for three hours a day, three times a week, as he dives in with a fine brush inside the tank holding 170 fish and floor-to-ceiling artificial coral placed in the middle.

Work hazards

A three-hour underwater session impairs his hearing for the rest of the day.

"It gets worse if I have a cold. I try to stay healthy, but catching a cold is a professional hazard. It happens a few times a year."

He points to temperature shock as the main cause for him catching colds.

"It may be 48 degrees outside, but the temperature in the tank is maintained at 27 degrees. I soak myself in water up to my waist for five to 10 minutes before entering the tank," he reveals.

Change of breathing pattern is yet another functional adjustment he needs to make.

"You have to get used to breathing through your mouth. It’s a bit like snorkelling, only it lasts for three hours."

To master the art of diving, Salveron had to undergo a month-long course at Scuba Dubai, which proved to be a useful addition to a degree in agriculture and experience gained in prawn farming when he was in the Philippines.

Everyday hero

Many times, his diving skills have made him a hero in the eyes of guests at the al fresco restaurant – Boardwalk. He is your man if you drop your mobile phone, your wallet or that precious ring in the creek below. He will go down and get it for you.

"I do it voluntarily. I have on many occasions been to the bottom of the creek (20 feet) and brought back wallets, rings, radios, mobile phones, etc. Rings are the hardest to find."

His richest dive yet helped bring back a woman’s handbag containing $5000 (Dh18,365) and another Dh5000 in cash.

Not that he does it for perks. According to him, a kiss or two from the fishes is enough to make his day.

"They are like my friends. When I finish cleaning the tank, I just stand still for a while so they can come close to me and play with me. One butterfly fish has really taken a shine to me and comes and kisses the side of my neck. It is actually a painful prick, but she doesn’t know it, so I let her do that."

An expert is never without some useful trivia.

"Do you know how to tell if a fish is sick?," he asks. "It is attacked by other fish for not joining them. The world of fish works a little differently than that of us humans," he shows off on his knowledge about fish.

Outside the world of fish and water, Salveron swaps his wet suit and cleaning brush for a guitar. He plays an active role in church, playing the guitar three times a week at the Music Ministry, a Catholic Christian community.

He is now looking forward to his forthcoming annual trip to the Philippines where he will join his wife and six children. "Since I moved to Dubai, I have produced three graduates in my family. Two of my kids are nurses and one is a mass communication graduate."

He calls them "the products of the creek".

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The Wandering Waterman said...

Like the site, can't wait to see the store up and running! Thanks for the comment on my blog, will totally trade links with you guys. I'll put you up today, and if you can return the favor, would greatly appreciate it! See you underwater!

Neutral Dive Gear said...

Thanks Waterman!

We've got you linked up in our blogroll!!