JOSH Thomas spent almost 11 months as a salvage diver on the Costa Concordia in Italy, but has watched the final stages of the operation on TV from his home at Ballina.
Mr Thomas was the only Australian in a team of 80-100 divers, but had to leave Italy to renew his work visa and was unable to get back to work on the final stages when the 114,000-tonne ship was lifted back into a vertical position.
He said he did about 150 dives on the luxury cruise ship that ran aground off the Isola del Giglio in January 2012, killing 32 people.
The salvage operation has been a feat of engineering involving a series of 11 towers with hydraulic mechanisms controlling 36 cables under the ship.
These slowly rotated the vessel, directing it towards six specially built platforms affixed to the granite seabed.
Mr Thomas said his work mostly involved building the concrete structures upon which the ship now rests.
"It is interesting work, but when you are pouring 20,000 tonnes of concrete, it does get repetitive after a while. But when you are working with all of those different organisations and people from so many countries, it's definitely interesting," he said.
"The engineers who work all this stuff out, it's quite incredible what they are doing."
Mr Thomas's father was a salvage master and his son "grew up on scrap barges".
Mr Thomas said he might get back to work on the ship.
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