Ralph keeps Blue Planet team out of deep trou­ble

Cool-headed pi­lot steers telly team to safety af­ter sub springs a leak in mid­dle of Antarc­tic Ocean

Paisley Daily Express - - Front Page - David Camp­bell

You’re 450 me­ters below the Antarc­tic Ocean in a tiny sub­mersible, a BBC crew is re­ly­ing on you to keep them safe, but some­thing isn’t right.

There’s wa­ter gath­er­ing in a depth gauge and you are 30 min­utes from safety. What do you do? Do you panic? In Ralph Ad­di­son’s case, you stay calm and do what you do best.

The John­stone man was pi­lot­ing the Nadir sub as part of the film team for the BBC’s stun­ning Sir David At­ten­bor­ough fronted Blue Planet II doc­u­men­tary, when some­thing went wrong.

“It was our very first dive of the mis­sion.

“We took it down for a shake down as it had been sit­ting for about six weeks un­used. We wanted to make sure ev­ery­thing was work­ing prop­erly.

“That ’ s when the leak hap­pened,” he ex­plained.

“There was a bit of wa­ter in the depth gauge.

“We had to find out if it was com­ing from con­den­sa­tion from our breath­ing or from some­where else.

“We have drills for this sort of thing and we can iso­late leaks quite eas­ily when we find them and can carry on with the mis­sion.

“I think they tried to make it a bit more dra­matic for the TV.”

Such poise un­der pres­sure is why sci­en­tists and me­dia teams reg­u­larly put their lives in Ralph’s hands on dives in some of the most re­mote lo­ca­tions around the world.

For Ralph, ad­ven­ture has never been far away. He left John­stone High and joined the army at 18 and worked as an avion­ics tech­ni­cian ser­vic­ing Apache at­tack he­li­copters dur­ing two tours of Afghanistan.

Now 32, and liv­ing in Inchin­nan with his wife Jayne and young chil­dren, Dy­lan and Eliza, Ralph still has a thirst for new ex­pe­ri­ences.

“Lots of peo­ple ask how I went from air­craft to the sub­mersibles.

“I was leav­ing the army and went to a ca­reers event. There was a Perth Fisher Sub­mersible stall and they said with my en­gi­neer­ing back­ground it could be a good fit,” he adds.

“It was dual job, main­te­nance and op­er­a­tor.”

And from there he never looked back.

A three-year stint in Western Aus­tralia saw him be­come a fully trained sub­mersible pi­lot on the Ella Five.

He was part of the sub­ma­rine res­cue team, and also helped train other coun­tries such as South Korea, in sub­ma­rine res­cue.

“My wife and I made the de­ci­sion we wanted to start a fam­ily so we moved back to Scot­land. I worked at Faslane as part of the NATO sub­ma­rine res­cue team.

“A con­tract came up on the Alu­cia ship, which takes sci­en­tist and me­dia teams to lo­ca­tions all over the world.

“There are two sub­mersibles on the ship, which we take crews out on.

“We have done a whole range of dif­fer­ent op­er­a­tions. We filmed the Nat Geo doc­u­men­tary Mis­sion Galá­pa­gos, and lots of other things all over the world.

“That’s how the Blue Planet II shoot came about.

“David At­ten­borourgh has taken a back seat from the front line film­ing now so we worked with pro­duc­ers who asked for spe­cific things.

“The ship will map the sea bed to make sure there are no ma­jor walls or rocks, then we will take them down to film.

“It is a really big un­der­tak­ing with lot’s of plan­ning in­volved.

“I ac­tu­ally got a mes­sage from Orla Docherty, one of the pro­duc­ers on the show, to say thanks again and to say Blue Planet on Sun­day night got 11 mil­lion view­ers.

“My fel­low pi­lot is Alan Scott, who is an­other guy from Scot­land, so I think the BBC were quite pleased that they came all that way and it was two Scot­tish guys look­ing af­ter them.”

Calm un­der pres­sure Ralph didn’t panic

In the deep He leads ex­pe­di­tions hun­dreds of me­tres down

Ready to go Ralph and crew pre­par­ing for an­other deep sea dive

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