Experiment with Diving Dress, 1833
JOHN and JOSEPH ORCHARD having constructed a DIVING DRESS for the purpose of searching the Bottom of the sea in a moderate depth of water, beg leave to inform the public that they will, on TUESDAY MORNING at 10 o'clock, go down at the pier head and walk underwater towards Castle Cornet. This being the first thing of the kind ever made in this island, they invite the attention of the public to the above trial.
The Orchard brothers cannot have been able to get much further with their ideas, as this technology seems to have been reinvented 30 years later by two Frenchmen. They were certainly persistent, however, the 'Submarine Society' successfully diving the wreck of HMS Boreas off the Hanois two years later. For the history of diving equipment, see Bevan, John, The Infernal diver, etc., Submex, 1996, in the Library.
The Comet, June 28th, 1833.
It having been announced in this paper on Monday last by John and Joseph Orchard, that they would on the following day at 10 o'clock in the morning, make an experiment with their diving dress1 at the pier head, a considerable concourse of persons, male and female, assembled on both piers to witness this novel undertaking. Owing to some cause or other, the diver, John Orchard, was not ready to undertake his exploit till about noon, when he descended at the south-pier head, in about 16 feet of water; he reached the bottom and remained about four, five, or six minutes under water, and was drawn up again. The boat was then towed out near the south buoy, in about 22 feet of water, but the ladder used on the occasion not being sufficiently long to reach the bottom, our submarine adventurer could not reach the ground; he went, however, as far as the ladder permitted, and remained some time under water. After being drawn up the second time he wished to repeat his visit to Davy Jones' locker, but the spectators were satisfied that this was unnecessary, and they advised him to leave well alone. This advice was listened to, and with it ended the experiments of that day.
Some of our readers may be curious enough to know something respecting the structure of the dress in question. To satisfy their curiosity we observe, that it consists of a pair of leather pantaloons and jacket of the same material, which are fastened round the body at the waist with two iron bands, kept together by nuts and screws. In the front over the eyes, there is a piece of glass to allow the diver to discern objects when under water. On the back of the neck there is a pipe to which is screwed a leather hose, through which the dress is inflated with air pumped by means of an engine fixed in the boat, constantly worked by two men. On the left side is another pipe to which another leather hose is fastened, so as to permit the foul air to escape freely. The diver is furnished with two weights of about 22 lbs each to facilitate his descent and keep him down. A small rope called the check string, is fastened on the right arm of the diver, in order to enable those in the boat to draw him up on any given signal. When Orchard put off his unusual habit, we perceived that he was wet to the skin.
Before we dismiss this diving machine, we may be permitted to remark, that these two Brothers deserve public encouragement on account of their perseverance in their having shewed to what useful and practical purposes their diving dress may be applied, after it has undergone the improvements to which it is susceptible. There can be no doubt as to its practical utility, when properly organized. But these men want the means to mature their undertaking², and those who wish to encourage men of talent and assiduity, have an opportunity of doing so by affording a trifle to those two industrious individuals for the purpose in question. We have heard it stated that about £5, would be sufficient to purchase the required apparatus, and make such other improvements upon the dress as have been pointed out by the experiments already made. The sum is not large, and since there is a prospect of bringing into use an instrument which may in certain circumstances be of considerable advantage to the public, we hope that moderate sum will not be withheld from these persevering individuals.
Such was the curiosity excited on this occasion, that persons were not satisfied with taking their stand on both piers, but about thirty or forty boats filled with well-dressed females and gentlemen, surrounded that in which the diver went out, and at times, we must say, greatly impeded the progress of the business.
It appeared to us that the leather hose are considerably too large, and not being airtight, it was impossible to introduce a sufficient quantity of air to render the situation of the diver any way comfortable to himself. The Pump, too, requires improvement in order to its working easy, but we have no doubt this will be remedied before another experiment takes place.
1 The Star of June 4th, 1891, reports on 'A new diving dress,' the patented invention of Colonel William Carey, C.B., R.A. He called it 'the crustacean diving dress,' the principle of its design being that 'the lobster and crab in water do not carry their own shell.' The particulars of this invention, a rather bizarre atmospheric diving suit made of metal, he had printed in a pamphlet, details from which are given in the article in the Star. William Carey was born in Guernsey in 1833, the son of Octavius Carey and Harriot Hirzel Le Marchant. He served in the Royal Artillery, and retired in 1891.
2 The Library is very grateful The Historical Diving Society for providing us with a copy of 'The History of Diving in Guernsey,' an article by Mick Peters from the Proceedings of the Conference of the Historical Diving Society, 2005, which discusses the Orchard Brothers and the death of Peter Gallienne in 1836 off Alderney, which Mr Peters thought possibly the first case of the death of a helmeted diver, as well as diving activity in Alderney directed by the Germans in 1941. We have also received a copy of Mr Peters' more detailed analysis of the Submarine Diving Society from the Editor of the Society's newsletter the Historical Diving Times, which is available at the Library.