Hundreds of deep-sea divers began to suffer from serious health problems after taking part in diving operations as part of Norway’s “pioneer era” of North Sea oil exploration, which lasted from 1965 to 1990.
Magn Muledal was one of them. During his time working as a pioneer diver, Magn was exposed to decompression sickness, which is an illness that occurs when pressure levels fall too quickly. He also suffered several diving accidents, and once had to recover the dead bodies of oil rig workers when a platform capsized. These incidents had lasting effects on Magn’s health.
This was dangerous and stressful work. Air gas was used for dives down to 50 metres, and de-pressurisation took place in the water or at the surface. Longer dives required the use of a special chamber in which divers could rest, sleep, and eat between their shifts on the seabed, which sometimes lasted for days or even weeks at a time. The divers used decompression tables to measure how much time was needed to safely adjust pressure levels when coming up to the surface.
Some pioneer divers developed serious mental disorders after leaving the job. Many were left unable to work again.
In 2004, the Norwegian government set up a compensation scheme for the divers out of a sense of moral and political duty. However, the government did not accept legal responsibility for what had happened. This led to a series of unsuccessful legal challenges by the divers, who wanted to secure more compensation on the grounds of state neglect.