George Moyses – Diamond diver
I met George on one of my walks along the beach soon after I got to McDougalls Bay. He was being interviewed by Get Away Magazine so I said I would catch up with him on another day. He has become quite famous in the area as he was also recently on SABC 2 in the 1st episode of a programme called “Shoreline”. It took me a number of attempts to catch up with him but yesterday I was eventually able to sit down and hear his story.
George, who is 57, is a well spoken friendly guy, who has been living in the area for the past 30 years earning a living as a diver, extracting diamonds from the sea at various locations along the West Coast. He is passionate about the sea and diving. He is also a keen surfer and windsurfer and enjoys the solitude of living on his own at McDougalls Bay in his small house on the beach.
He received his diving training while serving in the navy at Simonstown.
It was near Simonstown that he and a friend salvaged a fishing boat, the Arabian Star, that had sunk without major damage. They restored, fitted out and renamed her Blues Breaker, then headed up the West Coast to try and make their fortunes.
I have watched a video that George made called “Diamond Divers” and can say that you have to be slightly crazy to do that kind of work. It is incredibly dangerous, they loose at least 2 divers annually, very physical and really long hours for generally not much reward. George has been fairly lucky and only had one major accident, right at the beginning of his career, when he was hit in the face by a propeller.
They can of course strike it lucky and have a really good pay day, of maybe R100,000, but that is an exception, a bit like hitting the lotto. They normally earn about R7,000.00 to R10,000.00 per month. These guys carry all the costs and only receive 50% of what they take out. They can only work when weather and sea conditions are favourable, which might be only 10 days of the month.
George no longer works off his boat but from the shoreline. They use converted tractors to haul all the pipes, pumps and sifters right on to the rocks. In the video you see them working in the gullies as they look for and extract the gravel that contains the diamonds. I would not last an 10 minutes if I tried to do what they do.
George is a multi talented guy and supplements his income in different ways. He is a keen photographer and videographer and has produced a video which he sells for R100.00. I bought one of the videos and it has some fascinating footage of what these men go through in order to make a living. Most of the divers seen on the video are not young, average age of 50+ , and must be extremely tough and fit to survive. Many of the younger, experienced, divers have left for the oil rigs where they earn a good wage and work in far better conditions.
He has converted part of his house into a small museum for which he charges R10.00 a visit and he also makes various articles from driftwood which he sells. He is separated, in a very friendly way, from his wife who lives and works in Port Nolloth and has 3 daughters, the youngest of whom is just about to matriculate.
I gather from the video interviews and what George says, that there is a lot of uncertainty as to how much longer these divers are going to be able to make a living if things do not change. Right now the only ones making money are the mining companies who take 50% off the top with virtually no cost to themselves.
UPDATE ON GEORGE:
This post about George has been one of the most popular and most read so I thought I would post a quick update, thanks to Ludwig Venter, an old school friend who caught up with George and family a few weeks ago. Ludwig sent me some pix so I am posting these for all who might be interested.
Another update on George:
George went to his 43rd school class reunion in Senekal recently and his friend Ludwig Venter sent me these photographs to post on this site.
All the very best for the future George and may you strike the “BIG” one soon.