Many of us know do not know that diving suits came first, way before fireproof, hazmat (hazardous materials) and space suits ever came to be. Underwater expeditions started as early as the latter part of the eighteenth century. And while it is obsolete and bulky, it was just as aesthetically and practically interesting as their modern-day counterparts.
the 1800s -1900
Giant underwater bell
No, it’s not used to make those clanging sounds underwater and spook the sharks and octopuses to death. Its official name is called Halley’s Diving bell. This bell is sent underseas and filled with weight. Here, an assistant stays inside to help the diver who is navigating outside it, wearing another smaller bell on his head. There is a tube that connects this individual bell to the main, bigger bell so that the diver can source air from it. Heavy barrels with weights and filled with air is then sent down as well as a resupply point for both bells.
Diver’s Designer Dress
A Frenchman who also served as a Navy Guard (Gardes de la Marine) in Brest, France designed one of the oldest diving apparel used in history. This French aristocrat named Pierre Remy de Beauve invented it around during the early 1700s. A Vegetius-type (since it was featured in a book by the writer Vegetius) diving dress resembling a jacket made of leather and a metal headwear with two windows made of glass was discovered earlier around 1405. However, its use back then was even more limited.
This diving dress has two hoses, with one of those getting air from the surface while the other one acted as an exhaust for breathed air.
Lethbridge Diver Machine
Its design looks ridiculously simple but the process to make it watertight and durable is no doubt complex. This time, it was an Englishman named Andrew Becker who designed it. It has systems for air inflow and outflow and is mainly used for wreck-hunting underwater. Treasure hunters, anyone?
Klingert Diving Machine
A Polish guy named Karl Klingert made and used this equipment himself. He tested it in the rivers of his own place in Wroclaw. It seems a bit heavy though with the suit’s head protected by a tin plate and cylinder shaped. The only advantage is that the person can walk on the seabed or riverbed as the case may be.
Specifically, the parts include a helmet, a jacket, and trousers. It also has an air tank with a turret connected to it. That said, the tank has to be replenished given its limited supply.
Fast forward to the 1900s
If you are a fan of Baymax, you would love to see this suit especially when it’s used underwaters. It actually has 3 models with the latest one produced around 1929-1940 with its own breathing system and even a telecom system. It is said that this suit can be used at an astonishing 525 feet below sea level which was a feat back then.
Then there was the inflatable too which also came about the same time.
Cousteau-Gagnan diving wear
Finally, the pioneer automatic and autonomous suit that has its own pressure regulator and made with compressed air containers was invented in 1943. Modern-day designs seem to have taken off from this one already.
Another suit which is described as atmospheric and can survive at a whopping 1000 ft below sea level, has no need for a long decompression procedure was discovered in 1974.
We are grateful for the leaps and strides in the design and function of these suits made by these inventors and scientists. Surely, we would not have the cozy, comfortable and cost-effective diving suit that we have now without their noble brainchild.