Nicholas Sloane doesn’t mind discomfort. The 56-year-old SA marine-salvage master has survived two helicopter crashes and spent thousands of hours aboard ships that are burning, sinking, breaking apart, or leaking oil, chemicals, or cargo into the ocean.

Often, he gets calls in the middle of the night asking him to pack his bags and fly immediately to a disaster zone across the world, anywhere from Yemen to Papua New Guinea. Twice, he’s fought off armed pirates using water cannons, sound cannons, and strobe lights...

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