The early diving suits through rare photographs, 1900-1935

The invention of the personal diving suit in the early 18th century allowed for more sophisticated exploration of the depths of the ocean. The initial campaign for the manufacture of diving suits was to aid rescue missions, at a time when many ships (many carrying treasures) were lost at sea on dangerous voyages.

The first diving suits were designed in the 1710s and in 1715, English inventor John Lethbridge created the first fully enclosed suit, which included watertight sleeves, a pressurized air-filled barrel, and a viewing hole.

In Poland in 1797, Karl Heinrich Klingert developed a full-body diving suit made of a metal helmet, wide metal waistband and pants, and a vest made of waterproof leather. With the use of a pump turret, air can be supplied to the diver through a long, weighted tube.

The next biggest leap in diving technology came in 1837 with the advent of the "heavy footer" – a diving suit designed to enclose the diver in thick waterproof leather, a heavy metal helmet and weighted boots. Diving helmets developed for this have been used for more than a century. Diving helmet suits made it possible for divers to move more freely underwater.

In 1878, Alphonse and Théodore Carmagnol in Marseille, France, developed an armored suit with twenty small portholes and articulated limbs, for which they were granted a patent. It weighed 838 pounds.

It was the first human-sized atmospheric diving suit (ADS) – meaning the pressure inside the suit was an atmosphere – similar to that at the surface – and so the diver would not need to worry about the hazards of decompression.

Sadly, the suit never worked properly and the joints were never completely waterproof. The original suit is now on display at the French National Naval Museum in Paris.

In the same year, Henry Fleiss of London became the first scuba diver to use compressed oxygen with his invention of the first self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA). He was granted a patent in 1878, and it eliminated the need for a diver to rely on air supplied from the surface.

A rubber mask was attached to a rubber airbag, copper oxygen tank and a scrubber to remove CO2 so that the exhaled air could be re-breathed.

The device was originally developed to rescue trapped miners, but was quickly recognized for its potential underwater. Although this limited the working depth of divers due to the risk of oxygen poisoning, it was a revolutionary design.

The British Navy was the first to train and recruit divers for its purposes, and the US Navy followed suit in a training program in 1882.

However, there was little official interest in this new technology and it was not until 1898 that the USS Maine was sunk that American divers could prove its use and value. It was then that they were able to recover the cipher codes of the ships, keeping them from falling into enemy hands.

1 comment:

  1. Again, where was Afrika with any of these advancements? With any advancements? The same place they are now. Nowhere.


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