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
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