6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Devon Life today click here

Philip Durdey: living on the edge

PUBLISHED: 10:30 30 May 2017 | UPDATED: 10:30 30 May 2017

Philip Durdey, author of $500,000,000 & Some Goats

Philip Durdey, author of $500,000,000 & Some Goats

Matt Austin

Being kidnapped by pirates isn’t the only dramatic incident in the life of diver Philip Durdey, discovers Catherine Courtenay

when he went in the pub and recounted stories about his life, people would tell Philip Durdey: “You should write a book.” And that was before the kidnapping.

Philip, who’s from Kingsbridge, is only in his early forties, but so far he’s managed to survive several near death experiences, heroin addiction and rehab, and a gunpoint kidnapping. He also happens to have one of the most challenging and dangerous jobs, that of a deep sea saturation diver.

“Mum thinks I have a bit of a self destruct button,” he says, before admitting: “But I do crave adventure.”

Encouraged by the pub regulars, Philip did indeed write a book. $500,000,000 and some Goats was published last year and was inspired by the horrifying ordeal of being taken by Nigerian militants when he was working off the coast of Africa in 2007. It was his first diving job and the final day of work before he was due to return home, when the pipe-laying barge was boarded. Philip and a small group of colleagues were captured and taken deep into the jungle where they were held in appalling conditions and with constant death threats, for over two weeks.

His account of what happened to him makes for a gripping read; he describes the dangers, the conditions they had to survive in, along with the constant emotional and physical strain.

“Even if the kidnappers treat you well, everything is taken from you, all your choices; your life is completely in their hands. The day they want to end your life is up to them.”

Surprisingly, there’s also a fair amount of humour in the book, alongside the descriptions of terrible food, insects in their thousands, unimaginable toilet ‘facilities’ and the erratic behaviour of the various guards who one minute would be having a friendly chat, the next beating them and setting up fake executions.

“We’d huddle together like scared puppies. It’s amazing how much comfort you can get from someone else, and no matter how bad, you can still bounce off each other,” he says.

One of the ways Philip coped during his incarceration was to think back on his life and recall incidents from his past. There was the time he almost drowned as a boy (and was saved by his mother) to when he was probably the only paperboy in the south east of England who attempted to make his rounds the day of the Great Storm of 1987. He’s brutally frank about his desperate years as a heroin addict, going through rehab, and it seems the escapades didn’t stop when he moved to Devon to live with his parents - namely a tractor crash; the time he was arrested while waiting at a bus stop and when he was washed overboard from a fishing boat...

Despite the mishaps, Devon definitely marked a turning point in Philip’s life. It was where he found solace, work and where he met his wife, Sophie. And it was working as a carpet fitter in the home of a local diver that gave him the inspiration for his current career.

Saturation divers work at deep sea levels, but to avoid the dangers of constantly diving to depths of up to 300m, they are kept in sealed chambers on board the boat, taking turns to go down to the seabed. Philip lives with around six other divers for around 28 days in the chamber, breathing a mixture of helium and oxygen. Their food and clothing is passed to them through a door lock and teams of scientists constantly monitor their life support.

“It’s seven days of not doing anything, lying on a bunk and eating and drinking tea; you can’t get up and walk around or choose your food. It’s not great conditions but I quite like it,” he says.

Strangely, it’s this routine and boredom that appeals to him. “When I come home and see a bit of chaos I can freak out!” he laughs. “I can handle a mate’s arm being ripped off, but paying bills… it’s a bit silly isn’t it?”

He even seems to like diving in Nigeria’s waters where he says: “You can’t see a thing, not even your fingers. Things bump into you; you have to do it all by feel and touch.” In fact, following the kidnapping, when he returned to work in the much safer waters off Saudi Arabia, he found the conditions almost too comfortable.

“It was a bit dull and boring” he confesses. “You fly to Dubai where a driver is there to meet you...but when you land in Nigeria, you’re alert straight away; it’s edgy.”

Philip likes “edgy” and at the same time will be remarkably calm about his kidnapping ordeal. “You just crack on,” seems to be his philiosphy on life.

With plans for a second book underway focusing on his diving escapades, Philip has opted for the safer option of regular work in Qatar. With Sophie and their children waiting at home, it seems he’s very happy with his lot.

“The last couple of years have been quiet – but dull is really quite good.” he smiles.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Devon Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Devon Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Devon Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Macmillan Cancer Support’s brand new charity fundraiser, Art 4 Macmillan, will be offering a double event in the form of a sale and special auction later this year. Kate Williams caught up with organisers Suzie Warren and Bridget Hill to find out what is in store

Read more
Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Judi Spiers talks to a North Devonian who has found himself travelling the world to instruct newcomers in a sport close to his heart

Read more
Monday, July 24, 2017

He’s one of the greatest cinematographers of all time but at home in Devon, Roger Deakins likes to take a break from the limelight. Chrissy Harris met up with him to talk movies, Hollywood and pasties...

Read more
Monday, July 17, 2017

We have covered just some of the celebrities born in Devon, however it seems that we had forgotten some. Here we have 8 more celebrities that were born in Devon

Read more
Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A new exhibition of contemporary sculpture seeks to inspire, surprise and even challenge visitors to Buckland Abbey. Claire Saul talks to the creative force behind The Art of Reflection

Read more
Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Farmer and wildlife conservationist Tim Green died in a horrific accident in February. He was just 42. Here, his best friend and business partner Rebecca Hosking tells Chrissy Harris how she and her team are carrying on in his memory...

Read more
Monday, June 19, 2017

Businessman Steve Littley sold his transport firm and left Surrey for the perfect, quiet life in Devon. A decade and £3.5million on, the building work at Cranberries Hideaway has finally finished. Kate Williams visits the former dairy farm and discovers how the journey evolved

Read more
Monday, June 19, 2017

John Wright turns back the clock to talk to a man whose job once took him around the lanes of Devon in all weathers to make sure the milk got through

Read more
Monday, June 19, 2017

Chagford’s community farm enterprise, Chagfarm arose out of two brothers’ yearning to connect farmers with local communities, writes Fran McElhone

Read more
Monday, June 12, 2017

In the latest in her series throughout 2017 profiling inspirational women, Kate Haskell talks to foster mum Wendy Hart

Read more
Monday, June 5, 2017

Dartmoor actress Victoria Lucie has made a quick transition from school to stage and screen, as she tells Jimmy Swindells

Read more
Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Made in Chelsea’s Cheska Hull tells Chrissy Harris why she’s happy to call Salcombe her home

Read more
Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Being kidnapped by pirates isn’t the only dramatic incident in the life of diver Philip Durdey, discovers Catherine Courtenay

Read more
Monday, May 22, 2017

Celebrating his 90th birthday, a retrospective spanning seven decades of work by renowned landscape artist Kenneth Webb is sure to inspire and delight this month, writes Carol Burns

Read more
 
South West Life advert link
 
A+ South & South West
 
South West Life advert link
 
South West Life advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter


Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad
Devon Life Application Link


Local Business Directory

Devon's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search