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Author Topic: John and Charles Deane. Diving Pioneers  (Read 4053 times)

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Offline Bilgerat

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Re: John and Charles Deane. Diving Pioneers
« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2015, 08:15:31 »
Thanks Herb Collector, interesting stuff. Here's how the story of the Deane brothers fits into the story of HMS Royal George:
"I did not say that the French will not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Lord St Vincent


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John and Charles Deane. Diving Pioneers
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2015, 23:37:41 »
John Deane (1800-1884) and his brother Charles (1796-1848) both became merchant seamen after attending the Greenwich Hospital School for Boys. Charles later became a caulker at Barnards Shipyard at Deptford.

In the early1820's, a stable near Whitstable caught fire with the horses trapped inside. John Deane was present and when he saw that the small water pump used was having little effect, he put on the helmet from a suit of armour and asked that air be pumped into the helmet via a hose. He was then able to enter the smoke filled stable and rescue the horses.
Realizing the implications, Charles Deane filed a patent for a smoke helmet and suit in April 1824. The apparatus consisted of a lightweight copper helmet with three glass windows and a short breast plate rivetted to a garment made from leather or airtight cloth. Air would be pumped into the helmet via a box bellows and a leather hose, while another shorter hose allowed the exhaled air to escape.
Charles sold his patent to his employer, Edward Bernard, for £417. The first smoke helmets were built by Augustus Siebe, a German born British engineer with a workshop in London, in1827. But there was little interest from the Admiralty or fire insurance companies.

The two brothers realized that by using a modified smoke helmet as a smaller version of the diving bell, covering just the divers head, the diver would have much more freedom of movement. They then developed the "Deane's Patent Diving Dress", which was perfected by 1828. Once again Augustus Siebe was asked to produce the device.
The diving suit consisted of a helmet, open at the bottom and fitted with glass windows, that rested on the divers shoulders and was held in position with weights. Air was pumped into the helmet via a hose attached to an air-pump on the support vessel. The diver wore a rubber undersuit, with a heavy calico jacket and trousers on top. The exhaled air bubbled out around the bottom of the jacket. Heavy boots with lead weights completed the kit. The suits major flaw was that the diver had to remain upright otherwise the helmet would fill with water via the open bottom.

By 1829 the two brothers were carrying out trials of the suit at Whitstable, after which they operated as "Submarine Engineer's" around the south coast, recovering anchors and chains and salvaging items from wrecks. In 1832, after a demonstration at Portsmouth, the Admiralty commissioned the brothers to remove the wreck of the Royal George in the Solent.
The Royal George had sunk at Spithead in 1782 with a great loss of life. Resting in 70 foot of water, it was a major hazard to navigation. Among the items recovered were eight iron and nineteen bronze guns. In June 1836, while they were still working on the Royal George, local fishermen asked them to investigate an area where their nets frequently became entangled. The divers found some old timbers protruding from the seabed along with a large bronze cannon. Three more guns were brought up by John Deane in August. The finds were handed over to the Board of Ordnance and a committee was set up to identity the wreck. In September the committee reported that the wreck was most likely to be that of the Mary Rose sunk in 1545. By the end of 1840, when the Deane's ceased work on the Mary Rose, more guns had been recovered along with timber, pottery, long bows and several human skulls.

Meanwhile Augustus Siebe had perfected the closed diving suit. No longer would the diver be in danger of drowning if he did not remain upright. The Siebe suit, rather than the Deane's suit, was adopted as the standard equipment for RN divers. The contract for the final removal of the Royal George was passed to Charles Pasley, a Colonel in the Royal Engineers, whose men were using the new Siebe suit.

In 1836 the two brothers produced the world's first diving manual, which explained in detail the workings of the apparatus and the necessary safety precautions.
Charles died in 1848, while John Deane, a remarkable man, now known as 'The Infernal Diver', continued diving for many years. When the Crimean War broke out he was employed by the British Government and his work included diving under the ice in the Black Sea to salvage sunken Russian warships.
In 1856 he retired to Ramsgate, where he died in 1884.

More links

A reproduction of the Deane diving helmet @

An image of Charles Deane's diving demonstration c 1830.

A brief history of diving. Places the Deane's in the context of diving history.


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