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John Deane’s Diving Helmet

In 1823 John Deane, who has since become known as the Infernal Diver, patented the design for a “smoke helmet”. This helmet was designed to be used to fight fires as it allowed the pumping of breathable air through a hose and into the helmet allowing firefighters to stay in smoke filled rooms and areas for longer and perform their duties for longer with less risk of dangerous smoke inhalation. This mask was first used by Deane several years prior when some of his horses became trapped in a burning stable and by using the apparatus he was able to save all the animals!

This technology which originally comprised a copper helmet attached to a leather hose which had fresh air pumped in by a double bellows, quickly developed into one of the earlier forms of diving equipment.

For hundreds and even thousands of years humans have used diving as a method to explore the waters world below us. Freediving has been practiced across the world all the way back to ancient Greece where people would dive for food and commodities such as sea sponges, this was performed with no technology merely the extreme training of the lungs to perform such long dives. Diving bells began to be developed around the 16th century these were rigid chambers that would sink to the sea floor and allow for extended periods to be spent submerged underwater allowing for more in depth exploration of shipwrecks to occur.

In the 1820s John Deane along with his brother Charles began trials on their smoke helmet trialling it as diving apparatus, they completed trials around England including in the Thames, off the coast of Whitstable and even in Gosport!

By 1836 the equipment had been trialled successfully and when a fishing net was caught on the wreck of the Mary Rose in Portsmouth Harbour the Deane Brothers employed their technology with great success. Over a short period the men were able to recover material from Henry VIII’s famous warship including guns, longbows, timbers and shot. Following the Deanes’ intervention the location of the ship was lost again until 1982 when she was finally raised from the Solent.

To find out more about the history of diving and the trials performed by the Deane Brothers in Stokes Bay be sure to book onto the GHODs event at the Diving Museum when booking opens on 20th August:

Programmes are out now and BOOKING OPENS ON 20 AUGUST 2022!
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