Early Helmet Diving

Early diving helmet on a mannequin

It was not until the early 19th century that a successful diving helmet was invented. It was an idea for a smoke helmet by Charles Deane in 1823 that started the ball rolling. Together with his brother, John, the smoke helmet was developed into a diving helmet which they then successfully demonstrated on a shipwreck off the south coast of the Isle of Wight in 1829.

News spread fast. The design was improved. Siebe Gorman became a world-renown manufacturer of early diving helmets. The Royal Engineers were quick to recognise the potential of helmet diving and within a few years the Royal Navy were taking the equipment all around the world.

An underwater industry was born – exploration, salvage, treasure hunting, pearl diving, construction, repair and, later, oilfield diving all became possible.

Divers became famous for their heroic exploits – William Walker, for example, the diver who saved a Cathedral. His remarkable story is told in the museum.

The smoke helmet that launched the global underwater industry is in The Diving Museum. The Deane Helmet. It is the only surviving example in the world.