We are looking at a dive weight, used by hard hat divers dating back to the late 19th century and it was in use until the early 60s.
This object has personal interest for me, being a diver and also how the industry/recreational pursuits have changed. I started diving in the early 70s with a neoprene wetsuit, a 12lb weight belt and scuba gear (self contained breathing apparatus).
An important part of dive equipment are the lead weights. In hard hat diving they were worn generally on the chest, back and shoes, to counteract the buoyancy of the helmet and diving suit. Weighted boots may use brass, iron or lead for soles
There are two general weight types. Both are still in use. First is the older helmet weight. They are used in pairs. The large horse shoe type weights hold the helmet down and are attached to the corselet with figure eight hooks that go over breast plate weight studs. The Greek sponge divers simply joined the weights with ropes which went over the corselet like saddle bags. The second weight type is the weight belt. It has shoulder straps which cross at the back and go over the breast plate. The US Navy Mk V weight belt weighed 83 lb. However, commercial belts usually were about 50 lb. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_diving_dress
The Lady Denman Maritime Museum has a full dive suit, complete with hard hat, boots and pump on display. This suit was used by three generations of oyster farmers and divers on the Clyde River in NSW. The helmet dates back to 1914 and the suit was imported from Siebe & Gorman in the UK, manufacturers of dive equipment. It was used from 1952 -1959.
It made me wonder how brave these people were using this sort of equipment. It would have been extremely heavy and cumbersome. They would work underwater in all sorts of conditions, dark and cold with currents running. Air was supplied to them via a hose from a pump on board the boat.
Check out the hard hat! How would it make you feel being enclosed in that in 10m of depth.
Today diving still has its inherent dangers but it has become a recreational sport with divers exploring the waters around the NSW coast.
Oyster farming has changed and this dive gear has become obsolete. A reminder of different times.
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