Diving Helmet

Production date
Circa 1880
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Object detail

C. E. Heinke 'Pearler' Diving Helmet, c.1880s (England)
12 bolt, 3 light (window) Standard Dress Diving Helmet with square corselet.
MARITIME TECHNOLOGY Diving Diver's helmet
Production date
Circa 1880
Production place
H495mm x W350 x D400mm
Media/Materials description
Copper, brass, glass, lead, rubber
The manufacturer's name is stamped into the brails on the corselet:

Serial number 7273.
The initials ‘CK’ scratched into the front of the corselet probably indicate the driver’s name.
The word ‘JAPAN’ can be seen stamped into the brail on the left shoulder and could indicate that the helmet was used on a Japanese lugger.
History and use
This is an earlier style 'Pearler' helmet as identified by the non-return valve. This helmet, like other Heinke's and Siebe Gorman's demonstrates the craftsmanship that went into its manufacture, the bonnet having been hand beaten over a mould for shaping rather than being spun by machine. There are corselet (breastplate) weight loops both to the front and back of the corselet. This helmet was made in the last independent period of Heinke.

'Pearler' corselets were squared to allow the diver to bend forward to collect shell from the sea bed. They became extremely popular in the pearl fisheries of Australia and around the world and this particular type of Heinke helmet was favoured by the Torres Strait pearling industry.

Charles Edward Heinke was born on the fourth of September 1818. He was the son of a Prussian immigrant, Gottlib Fredrick Heinke who was a successful copper smith and had a business at 103 Great Portland Street, London (est. 1819). Charles was to become a very successful manufacturer of diving equipment. His first helmet appeared around 1844. Heinke worked hard to improve the Siebe style helmet and gradually gained an excellent reputation for reliability and for being better designed from the practical point of view. He later introduced an additional exhaust valve on the front of the corselet (breastplate) (these days referred to as the 'peppermill'). This device made it possible for the diver to ascend and descend fast and as often as they wished. Heinke became world famous for his 'pearler' style helmet. These helmets featured a square corselet (breastplate) allowing the diver to bend forward to pick of shell from the sea bed. Companies like Siebe, TAO, Robinson, and Morse later copied the idea.

Charles died in 1869 but his company continued. The last helmet was produced in 1961. Over the years the company name changed:
C.E.Heinke, Submarine Engineer (from 1844 - 1871), during this period Heinke had 2 to 3 different trading names split around the family.
C.E.Heinke & Co., Submarine Engineers (from 1871 - 1922).
C.E.Heinke & Co. Ltd., Submarine Engineers (from 1922 - 1961).
Until 1905, helmet featured the 'butterfly' style wing nuts, after that regular wing nuts were used.
Associated person
Registration number


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