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 in front of his house which is right on the waters edge.
George in front of his house.

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.

The house right on the beach front.
The house right on the beach front.

Training at Simonstown.
Training at Simonstown.

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.

Blues Breaker.
Blues Breaker.

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.

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Some underwater photographs of the dredging process.

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.

The once proud Blues Breaker is no longer looking to good.
The once proud Blues Breaker is no longer looking too good.

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.

Front Entrance to house.
Front entrance to George’s house.

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.

George with old diving suite.
George with an old diving suite.
Model ship made from scrap wood.
Model ship he made from scrap wood.
Info about the model ship.
Info about the model ship.
George with some of the goods he sells.
George with some of the goods he sells.

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.

Ludwig and George meet again after 40 years.

George and wife Debbie

George with family.

George's cabin which is right on the high water mark.

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.

George with a group of old school friends

George with daughter Helen looking at a slide show of his school days.

George after a quick dip in the pool - still looks pretty fit for a 60 year old.

Having a nice cold one.

George checking out all the messages and photos about him on "Gone Fishing"

All the very best for the future George and may you strike the “BIG” one soon.


6 Comments

  1. Hanlie on July 31st, 2009

    Fascinating! I bet he was an interesting character to talk to!

    The little guy always gets the raw deal, doesn’t he?

  2. Chris M on August 4th, 2009

    Wow, what an amazing life to live!

    You mentioned a pay day of R100,000 being extremely rare, have they ever had such a day? I couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than diving along the bottom of the ocean looking for diamonds and other interesting bits and pieces!

    This must have been on of your most interesting experiences thus far?

  3. pbdphoto on August 4th, 2009

    It has happened but it is a bit like winning the lotto. Also they are man handling massive vacuum machines sucking up the gravel that contains the diamonds. They would only find out later what they had got.

  4. Chris M on August 4th, 2009

    Ah yes, of course, I misunderstood somewhat.

    Well, at least they’ve hit the lotto before 😀

  5. Ken on August 12th, 2009

    Anyone know how we can contact George to get a copy of the video – is it on DVD yet?
    Thanks

  6. pbdphoto on August 12th, 2009

    You can contact George through either Debi @ 0835248528 or Dee @o278517395. Also PO Box 442, Port Nolloth, Richtersveld, South Africa.



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