The sea has always exerted a huge fascination on man: stories, legends, films, books have the blue giant as protagonist. Many remain enchanted watching the reflection of the water, then there are those who can’t resist a dip; others, on the other hand, are fascinated by the underwater world. But beyond the evocative power and daydreaming that it arouses in us, the sea, for many, is also a place of work. Cargo and merchant vessels, cruise ships and platforms are words that represent a world of often unknown professions…
When it comes to sea trades, probably one of the first jobs that springs to mind is the sailor. The job of the sailor is one of the oldest man has exercised and certainly one of the most tiring. But what exactly does a sailor do? Nowadays, the job of a sailor does not take place exclusively on board a ship: a sailor can also work on land, for example at marinas, following mooring operations or port services logistics. The tasks of sailors on board ships, on the other hand, range from steering the ship, as in docking and mooring operations, to ship maintenance. He also provides assistance to passengers and other on-board services, such as preparing meals and procurement. In Italy, professional sailors are registered as “seafarers”, a term indicating people working on board ships and who are registered with a harbourmaster.
One of the most evocative figures related to the sea is definitely that of the lighthouse keeper. Who has never thought, at least once in their life, what it means to live and work in one of these towers where the sea can be seen from any angle?
The lighthouse keeper had the important task of turning on the light of the lighthouse at dusk and turning it off at dawn, thus providing a point of reference for maritime navigation.
It is however a job which is dying out because, thanks to new technologies and automation, the daily presence of a person inside the lighthouse is no longer necessary. The keepers no longer live in the lighthouse, but intervene only for routine maintenance and in case of failure. The consequence is that worldwide many lighthouses have remained abandoned for decades, exposed to neglect and the fury of the elements. But their position on the sea, often very evocative, and the history they are steeped in, have led to a renewed interest in lighthouses in recent years. Some have become museums or the headquarters of historical associations, others have been transformed into beautiful hotels or holiday homes. In fact, due to their location, almost always breathtaking, they attract all those travellers with the common desire to become “lighthouse keepers”, even for just a few days.
If the sea and history are your passion, then submarine archaeology is the profession for you! Submarine archaeology is a branch of traditional archaeology born just over half a century ago, which studies the testimonies of past civilizations buried beneath the seabed. The sea, in fact, contains many archaeological artefacts, for example encapsulated in ancient sunken vessels. The submarine archaeologist has precisely the task of discovering and bringing this valuable information hidden in underwater artefacts and wrecks to the surface. Thanks to new technologies, archaeologists are able to go to depths that only a century ago were unimaginable. As can be easily imagined, love for the sea and history alone are not enough to practice this profession. It is essential to carry out appropriate studies, acquiring a degree in archaeology or preservation of the cultural heritage. Subsequently you can choose a field of specialisation, becoming experts in river, marine, lagoon or submarine archaeology. Additionally, you must have a scuba diving license.
The marine biologist
When one thinks of a marine biologist, often one imagines him following whales or swimming with dolphins, always globe trotting, perhaps sailing in tropical seas … In truth, this idea is often far from reality. Marine biologists who lead the kind of life are a small percentage. This is because marine biology is a vast discipline, which includes several specialisations: the task of the marine biologist, in fact, is to study the marine ecosystem, which includes seas, oceans and brackish areas. So it’s easy to see how this science offers a “sea full” of career opportunities.
Generally, the work of the marine biologist is divided between field work, in which he collects samples of marine life, and laboratory work, in which he analyses the data and samples taken, in order to assess the health of the sea. For this reason, marine biologists are professionals whose knowledge must span several disciplines such as chemistry, physics, biology, geology and ecology.
In order to undertake this career, you need a master’s degree in marine biology. There are many job opportunities, ranging from scientific research to work in aquariums or fish farms, from organisations and associations fighting for environmental protection to jobs in marine parks, aquatic centres, as well as teaching and training.
Working on platforms
Another sea trade – or rather, sea trades – take place on oil or gas extraction platforms. This is very hard work, in difficult environmental conditions. You need to be ready to live far away from home, from your loved ones and from your habits, far from dry land and from daily points of reference. To live on these floating cities, moreover, you must also have a strong team spirit and work for each other.
There are many professional roles that revolve around a platform, not only engineers or geologists are required: also office workers, labourers, maintenance workers, divers, electricians, draughtsmen, mechanics, plumbers, welders, catering, cleaning and security staff, as well as healthcare professionals are required. In addition to an adequate level of specialisation for the specific job,working on a platform there also requires willingness to travel, resistance to stress, physical fitness and knowledge of English.
The job of skipper is definitely one around which legends and adventurous stories abound. But its is a serious and extremely challenging job, besides being full of responsibilities: from the technical aspects to relations with the various harbourmasters and with the guests on board. When the ship is in the water, the skipper has absolute command over the crew and takes full responsibility for them. In recent years the profession has become popular in leisure boating, i.e. sea and river navigation for sporting or recreational purposes.
For the oceanographer, the sea has no secrets. That of the oceanographer is perhaps a less well-known job and consists of the study of the oceans and seas as a whole. In particular, this discipline involves knowing the seas and oceans under three different aspects:
- physical oceanography studies the physical and chemical properties of the oceans and seas, their movements and the exchange of energy between the ocean and the atmosphere;
- biological oceanography studies the living beings of the sea and their ecology;
- geological oceanography deals with knowing the origin and structure of the ocean basins, as well as their constituent rocks and the sediments that are deposited in them.
It is an essential job: knowledge of the depths of the sea, in fact, makes it possible to sail the seas in complete safety and also allows underwater construction, such as the laying of telecommunications cables, construction of offshore wind farms and the laying of oil and gas pipelines, to be performed.
These of course are just a few examples of the many sea trades. If you want to know about the others, here are some insights: