vintage, nostalgia and memories


July 19, 2017

History of Diving Suits: 21 Strange and Wonderful Diving Equipments and Gears from the Late-17th to the Mid-20th Century

For centuries people have been interested in going beneath the sea. Ancient manuscripts contain depictions of early divers. Century old artifacts imply people dove for valuable materials such as pearls. This interest in the sea pushed people to develop ever-improving methods of staying underwater for longer periods of time at ever increasing depths.

And the suits that people created with late-18th century or 19th century technology are astonishing to behold. See for yourself!

1. The first known diving helmet by Edmond Halley, late 17th century


"A bell was sent to the bottom, and then weighted, the assistant surviving on the air trapped in the bell, and the diver, wearing another smaller "diving bell" on his head,could make his way around a bit to the extent of the tube which would draw on the air in the bell. The two would be resupplied with air in weight barrels sent down from topside, to be retrieved by the diver and lugged over to the bell." – according to Ptak Science Books.



2. A Diving dress, built by the French aristocrat Pierre Remy de Beauve, 1715


One of its two hoses supplied air from the surface via a bellows and the other one evacuated the exhaled air.



3. The Lethbridge diving machine by John Lethbridge, 1715


This airtight oak barrel was used to salvage valuables from wrecks. Another Englishman, Andrew Becker, developed a similar system in the same year, but that suit had a system of tubes for inhaling and exhaling, too.



4. The Diving Machine of Karl Heinrich Klingert, 1797



The inventor tested it in the river of his hometown, Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland). The head of the suit was protected by a cylinder-like tin plate and the design allowed to walk on the riverbed.


"It consists of a jacket and trousers made of waterproof leather, a helmet with a porthole, and a metal front. It is linked to a turret with an air reservoir. The reservoir cannot replenish itself, so the suit has a limited dive time duration." – according to Bibliodyssey.


5. The concept of the Chauncy Hall Suit, 1810



6. The first suit with "heavy-footers" was made by August Siebe in Germany, 1819. A waterproof garment was added in 1837.


This type of helmets and equipment was used more than a century.




7. A suit with 20 small portholes, designed by Alphonse and Theodore Carmagnolle in Marseille, France, 1878




8. Fleuss Apparatus, 1878


The rubberized mask covered the whole face was connected via tubes to a breathing bag. It could be used as a gas mask, too.


9. A diver goes down to the wreck of the British schooner Cape Horn off the coast of Chile to recover a cargo of sunken copper, 1900



10. One of the first atmospheric diving suits, by M. de Pluvy, 1906



11. The 550 lbs. aluminum alloy suit, by Chester E. Macduffee, 1911



12. Three generations of Neufeldt-Kuhnke suit to work in deep waters, 1917-1940



The first model (1917-1923)


The second (1923-1929)


This third generation shell (produced between 1929-1940) with a closed circuit breathing system was safe up to a depth of 525 feet (160 m), and had a telephone!


13. Mr. Peress with his new steel suit, made of Staybrite Silver Steel, at the Olmypia, London, 1925



14. An instructor checks on a student lying in a decompression chamber during a class at the Gillingham Diving School, Kent, England, 1930



15. How to build a Diving Helmet from an unused Water Heater, 1932


The whole article is available here with all the instructions to build your own helmet. But if you only have a cookie jar, just relax, here's some help on how to make it work:


16. An Inflatable Suit



17. 1-Man Sub, 1933



18. Diving Suits Used to Raise Mastodon Bones, 1933



19. Metal Suit, said to enable a diver to descend to a depth of 1,200 feet, 1938




20. The first true automatic autonomous diving suit with pressure regulator and compressed air bottles, the Cousteau-Gagnan diving suit, 1943



21. Marketed since 1946


An atmospheric diving suit which enables a diver to work for unlimited periods at a depth of 1,000 ft (300 m) without the need for a long decompression process, 1974

(via io9)

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