Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Moment Back In Time: Diving At Brooklyn Navy Yard In The Early 1900's

Brooklyn navy yard Circa 1910

I recently came across this great postcard from the early 1900's entitled :"Diver preparing to descend, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y." The equipment worn by the diver in the photo just looks so inadequate, but was probably state-of-the-art back then. One wonders if the poor guy ever made it up to the surface after his dive.
However, a quick interned search revealed that such dives were part of a US Navy program which led to innovations and longer dive times.

From Wikipedia:
Experimental diving in the US Navy started in 1912 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard under the leadership of Chief Gunner George D. Stillson. Stillson's research program ultimately led to increasing diver capabilities from 60 feet (18 m) to over 300 feet (91 m) of depth based on Haldane's decompression work with the Royal Navy. This resulted in the first publication of the United States Navy Diving Manual and established the need for a facility dedicated to research and development of diving procedures.

In 1915, Stillson's team was sent to salvage the F-4 submarine. On these deep dives, the divers experienced the debilitating effects of nitrogen narcosis leading them to try the addition of helium to their breathing mix. The navy salvage operations then came under the direction of Warrant Gunner C. L. Tibbals who lead teams through the salvage of the S-51 in 1925 and S-4 in 1927 further establishing the naval need for equipment, training, and procedures for rescue operation.


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