Salvage & Hydraulics



Program Overview

In the Salvage & Hydraulics Tools module, students get to work in teams to bring up a boat that is sunk at the bottom of Lake Union. Due to the nature of teamwork and awesomeness, this course entails more high-fives than any other at D.I.T.

Course Program

Week 1

Hydraulics I: Hydraulics unit start up and shutdown procedures, hydraulic manifold procedures, hydraulic tool connect/disconnect procedures. Practical use of all available tools.

Week 2

Hydraulics II: Continue dives and practical use of hydraulics tool

Week 3

Salvage Theory: Classroom, formulas, measurements, creating a plan

Week 4

Salvage practical: Surveying, patching, and raising the wreck


Underwater power tools extend diver capabilities in such areas as ship’s husbandry (underwater hull maintenance), underwater construction, offshore (oilfield) diving work, salvage work and oil spill clean up operations. Both pneumatic (air driven) and hydraulics tools are commonly used underwater. During the two weeks in Hydraulics, the class will cover:

  • Diesel engine fundamentals
  • Introduction to hydraulics tools and safety
  • Advantages and disadvantages of Hydraulics and Pneumatic tools
  • Underwater chainsaws
  • Hull scrubber: Used in ships husbandry
  • Impact wrench: Used to flange up pipes
  • Drill and jackhammer: Used to cut and hammer concrete
  • Hammer drill: Used to drill holes in concrete

You’ll also learn how to use big aluminum pontoons, 2,200lb lift bags, pumps, and hand tools such as hand saws.

You’ll become familiar with the hydraulics tools topside and go over safety, and then you’ll practice using them underwater. One of the most exciting things is using the underwater chainsaw! You dive down to the bottom, and then use the chainsaw to try to cut the thinnest piece you can from a big thick log.

What do students need to be successful in this course?

“You have to retain the information given to you, work well in a team environment, and trust the other guys on your team.”

—Instructor Randy “Buzz” Busby

Watch: Underwater Chainsaws

Watch: Underwater Jackhammer

Underwater Chainsaw

This is a favorite tool here on campus. When asked how they feel about using underwater chainsaws, students and teachers say things like “Freakin awesome” and “the ultimate power of destruction”


The two week long segment of the course starts with getting the students into teams. You and your team will work together to accomplish lifting the boat. Beginning in the classroom, you go through salvage formulas and learn how to create a salvage plan.

Two students from each team dive down to the wreck during the first week to measure the boat and it’s holes. They bring this information back to the classroom and work with their team to figure out the weight and dimensions of the pontoons and boat, as well as how much weight your lift bags and pontoons can lift. You’ll use this data to create a salvage plan.

Instructor Busby says, “We give them formulas and they have to go off the formulas. We give them everything they need, but they have to figure it out.”

The next step is to create patches for the holes in the boat. You’ll cut these out of plywood and prepare them to apply to the boat. Two more divers from each team go down and apply these patches to the boat covering the damaged areas of the boat.

For the final part, the last two divers from each team go down to the boat and use lift bags and pontoons to bring up the boat. One team per day lifts the boat. This can take an unpredictable amount of time, and is pretty exciting! The week that this is happening, everybody likes to see the boat come up, and even admin staff up in the building are known to run to their office windows to see it come up. “It’s fun, everybody really enjoys it.” Says Busby.

Bringing up the boat

Raising the wreck requires a lot of rigging, both topside and underwater as well as a lot of teamwork!

Watch: Written in Mud – How Divers Think on Their Feet in Salvage Jobs

Real World Applications


Graduates who pursue salvage jobs are likely to find themselves with plenty of things to do and places to go. Some wrecks wait for years before being salvaged, and some need to come up right away. Factors such as location and insurance money dictate how soon the wrecks get salvaged. You could find yourself bringing up oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico that got knocked over by hurricane Katrina, or being sent to a wreck that happened recently in an area like the Puget Sound, which would get brought up right away.


Graduates who pursue careers offshore will use hydraulics impact wrenches to mate up flanges on pipelines or tie in’s of spool pieces to a platform. Basic hydraulics knowledge learned during this module will aid graduates in setup and utilization of various high tech hydraulics tools such as diamond wire saws, guillotine saws, and hydraulics shears commonly used in the offshore industry.

“It’s a team environment. It’s the funnest thing they do at school because you get to see the fruits of your labor so to speak”.

—DIT Instructor Randy “Buzz” Busby