Why did this would-be pilot trade her wings for waves?


Ratanang Maremane liked the sound of being a fighter pilot. So she signed up for a learnership with the South African Defence Force. After completing the programme, she waited in anticipation for the letter that would designate her service. When it came, the contents were not what Maremane had expected. Her bunk wouldn’t be next to an airfield, but on a naval base.

Open-minded, Maremane answered the call to serve her country where she was needed most. She underwent rigorous training to become a diver, and served the South African Navy until 2008. Thereafter she spent a year diving for the South African Heritage Resources Agency. Not only did Maremane take quickly to the craft thrust upon her, she was good at it. Based in East London, she now works for Transnet as the company’s only female commercial diver.

Maremane’s natural feel for the water has surprised even herself. Having once been wary of the creatures of the deep, she now proclaims that they are harmless when left alone. A pioneer for women in her field, her hope is that more will begin to view the ocean as a place of opportunity. "The youth, particularly from inland, are not aware of certain career fields,” explains Maremane. “I was not aware that there is such a thing as commercial diving before I joined the navy.” Her example brings South Africa a step closer to changing this.