Diving Helmet

Production date
Circa 1930
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Object detail

Dr. Mel Ward's Diving Helmet, c.1930s
Shallow water diving helmet. Made in Australia and used by Australian marine scientist Melbourne Ward on expedition in Torres Strait & Papua New Guinea.
CH classification MARITIME TECHNOLOGY Diving Diver's helmet
Production date
Circa 1930
Production place
H610mm x 450mm x 340mm
Media/Materials description
Copper, brass, glass, rubber, synthetic seal putty
History and use
During the 1920s and 1930s there were a number of expeditions to the Great Barrier Reef by amateur and professional scientists. Charles Melbourne ‘Mel’ Ward was a prominent member of many of these expeditions, some of which were carried out in association with the Australian Museum.

This Australian made hood (helmet) was featured in the pearl diving scenes from the 1937 Australian film 'Vengence Of The Deep' (AKA 'Lovers and Luggers'), directed by Ken G. Hall and filmed by Frank Hurley (cinematographer).

Another film crew from Hollywood arrived with the intention of also producing a pearling film. The cinematographer and a colleague did met up with Mel Ward and his shallow diving expedition and the crew and Ward spent a number of months diving for crustaceans off PNG - Ward's speciality. Eventually the footage was scrapped and the crew returned to Hollywood.

Mel Ward was one of the first scientists to experiment with underwater cameras and to use underwater goggles or ‘divers’ glasses’. He was also the subject matter of the first underwater photograph taken on the Great Barrier Reef.

This hood has a large rectangular faceplate. The crown followed the shape of the diver's head, making it easier to tilt the head backwards for an upward view. The inlet valve allowed air to enter the hood on the mid right side and was guided by a deflector to the front window; minimizing fogging and draft. Excess air escaped below the apron (corselet). The position of the air inlet valve forms an air safely chamber; in case of a cut or loosened hose. The hood sat on the diver’s shoulders and was held there by four (4) 8.25 pound lead weights hung on straps from eye hooks on the apron; two (2) on the front and two (2) on the back. The contour roll on the outer edges added strength to the apron. There is a lifting (ducking) handle at the top, and two side handles.
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