One of my history obsessions is with old deep sea ocean divers. Back in the 1800s, these hard-hat daredevils were pushing the limits of science and adventure to a shocking extent. Today, they are almost totally forgotten — a crime.
Here’s a piece I wrote for American Heritage Invention and Technology on one diver’s near-fatal descent in 1886 on a shipwreck called The Oregon out in the Atlantic Ocean some 20 miles south of Fire Island, New York. It was over 110 feet deep in cold water with rough seas and blinding-bad visibility. Yet he did it with a copper helmet, rubber air-hose supplied by a hand-cranked pump, no lights, no gloves, and almost no scientific understanding of “the bends” or decompression. Just plenty of raw nerve.
Here’s the link. Hope you enjoy it:
“An Incident on the Oregon: Deep-Sea Diving a Century Ago,” American History Investion and Technology, 1994.