Carbonear native Keith Slade member of specialized navy diving team
Everyday is a new and exciting adventure for Carbonear native Keith Slade.
The 33-year-old father of two is a diver with the Royal Canadian Navy.
As a military diver, or clearance diver, Leading Seaman Slade has had the opportunity to travel the world, taking in all sorts of underwater scenery, from the freezing iceberg filled arctic to the barrier reefs of Australia.
He dives with a select group called the Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic out of Shearwater, N.S., near Halifax.
For the past 12 years, Slade has been training with the military, starting out in the reserves at HMCS Cabot and completing basic training at the Canadian Forces Base in Borden, Ont. He completed his port inspection diver course, then his ship’s team diver course. He now has a qualification level five (QL5) certification in diving.
His diving journey hasn’t been easy. In fact, his training has consisted of some of the most stressful and difficult exercises he has ever experienced, especially the six-week ship’s team diver training.
“What I didn’t expect is the intensity of the course,” Slade told The Compass in a phone interview from his home in Beaver Bank, N.S. “I may not have paid with cash money, but I certainly paid with a lot of blood, sweat and tears.”
The courses are created to weed out those who are not suited for the position, since it takes a lot of physical endurance and the ability to deal with high stress situations.
Slade is also a certified underwater bomb technician, disarming sea mines and other military grade explosives.
“The explosive stuff is exciting. It makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck from time-to-time,” Slade said.
But he also gets to take part in some interesting adventures.
Just this past April , Slade was a member of a group that travelled to the arctic waters off Devon Island in Nunavut, where a team photographed the Breadalbane, the world’s most northerly shipwreck from 1853. The divers had to cut through five-and-a-half feet of ice to begin their dive.
“We have to be capable to dive in all conditions all around the world,” he explained. “In the Arctic, we had to prove we were capable of doing our job in the high north.”
Slade loves diving in all conditions, and noted diving in the arctic is just as beautiful as diving in tropical environments.
“There’s something about the freedom of being in the water,” he said.
How it began
His military capabilities and the decision to be a diver began much earlier in his life.
As a young boy, Slade attended many swim competitions for Poseidon Swim Club of Carbonear to cheer on his older brother Ken. After that, he decided to start swimming competitively and began his lifeguard training.
“I ’m from Newfoundland, and we’re surrounded by water, it was natural to swim,” Slade said.
Slade was also a member of the 589 Carbonear air cadet squadron, where he spent five years. He also received lifeguard training through cadets.
Attending Greenwood air cadet summer training centre in Nova Scotia, he worked as a lifeguard at camp, but also worked at the Carbonear Swimming Pool.
Slade has worked hard to get where he is, and prides himself in the work he has done with the diving team.
“Everything that I have done pertaining to my job has been an experience,” he said. “Some days I could go to work and I could be fixing diving equipment, the next I could be on a helicopter to Sable Island.”
Slade has taken part in some interesting expeditions using a rebreather, a special i zed breathing apparatus. The rebreather helps recycle carbon dioxide into a useable substance. It also doesn’t make noise or release bubbles like other scuba diving equipment.
This is also the equipment he uses when he disarms explosives, so noise doesn’t activate them.
Although it was Slade’s hard work and dedication that got him where he is, t here are many other things he attributes his success to, including the Carbonear pool and support from his family.
“I can firmly say that the Carbonear Swimming Pool and the services it provides, had a tremendous impact on the person that I am today,” he said.
Working there has helped him earn the skills necessary for long dives and water safety.
“I couldn’t think of a better job as a teenager,” Slade said.
Brother Ken, as well as sisters Krista and Katie, all worked in some capacity at the Carbonear pool, something they enjoyed as well.
A few years ago, Keith was transferred to Nova Scotia from British Columbia, which he was anticipating to get closer to his and his wife’s home province of Newfoundland and Labrador and their families.
His family has great pride in him, and has encouraged him throughout the years.
Mom Elizabeth told The Compass how excited she is of Keith’s achievements, and how he received international recognition for his arctic expedition.
Slade really enjoys the work he does with the Navy.
“I couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” he said.
Keith Slade has been a member of the Canadian military for the past 12 years.
Keith Slade had the opportunity to use a diving suit that was retired around the same time he was born, the Mark V dive ensemble.
Carbonear native Keith Slade is a clearance diver with the Royal Canadian Navy in Shearwater, N.S.