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PATENTS FOR HISTORICAL EQUIPMENT
The reorganization and partial conversion to digital of various paper archives in which for decades the files relating to many sectors has proved to be a very difficult task, the end of which appears increasingly remote.
To give you the strenght to go on with this discovery, every now and then you happen to drop in something particularly interesting that we had completely forgotten. This is the case of an embarrassing bundle of cards I came across with, voluminous and anonymous. Once tidied up, the many sheets turned out to be copies of the original documents with which some famous and now historic equipment had been patented. In these pages the most interesting patents will be reported, starting this month with Pinocchio, the mythical mask of Cressi Sub, followed by the cousin Granfacciale.
NO CERTAINTY - Surely when we read, we learn however, sometimes, it happens that we question what we believed to be our absolute certainties. Or, at least, some doubts arise.
SINGLE-HOSE REGULATOR – For example, it is commonly known that the first single-hose regulator was invented by the Australian Ted Eldred who began selling it in 1952 with the Porpoise name. This is not true; we need to clarify it: now we learned that this record belongs to the American E.R. Cross with its Sport Diver regulator in 1949. Maurizio Baldinucci refers in its article "History and development of the single-hose regulator" presented in this website in the “Let’s talk about” section. We will discuss this subject in his next detailed article.
WATERPROOF CANERA – We believed that the Calypso Phot, which than became Nikonos, was the first waterproof camera, born from a brilliant idea of Cousteau and produced by the Belgian Jean de Wouters for La Spirotechnique in 1961. More recently, we thought to have discovered that the record of this invention had to be addressed to the Austrian Schaefer, who made a waterproof camera perfectly functioning in 1958 dedicated to macro pictures; at the end, he left this project as a prototype now, hidden in a showcase of the Aquazoo Löbbecke Museum of Düsseldorf, Germany. Now we "discover" that, in the USA, the Aqua-Cam camera of the Eastern Scuba Supply was sold in 1954. You can see it in the Fotoinesub section and in the Virginio Masera collection in its https://www.museosubacqueotorinese.com website.
MASK EQUALIZATION – We knew that the technological process to equalize goggles or monogoggles (goggles with one glass and free nose) was the old system of the Japanese Ama divers until 1942 when Maxine Forjod had the idea to include the nose in its round mask. By reading again the ancient book "between sharks and corals" of Hans Hass, which talks about his adventures in Curaçao and Bonaire during the summer of 1939, it seems that someone discovered a different solution already at that time, by equipping the monogoggle with a small hose to blow air with the mouth.
STAINLESS STEEL SPEARGUNS – It is not true that the only ancient stainless steel spearguns were the Italian Super Trident of Salvas in 1967 and Vico Jet de Luxe of Mares proposed right after, the second one in stainless steel only on request. In fact, Salvas made available in 1966 its precious S-1 speargun with stainless steel frame and tank. Three pieces that today, together, could make any collector happy.
MASKS WITH LEVERS - Mordem was the first, in 1961, to introduce a round mask with incorporated levers; it remained the only one to have the direct control of the levers though its glass. Voit liked this idea and, in 1962, it presented the 50 fathom diving mask that was very different in its manufacturing; in fact, levers worked from the outside to two small internal pockets situated in the lower part of the mask, at the nose sides.
Same problem for the large Nemrod Max Vue mask with 3 glasses. Also, this mask had levers bypassing from the outside below the mask frame, acting on two large internal pockets positioned at the nose sides. The finger housing to equalize the nose was substituted by these levers.
BACK-MOUNTED SCOOTER – The Aquanaut SPU was an underwater scooter to be fixed in the back, under the tank driven with the body movements, so that the diver had free hands. Its 2-speed engine could reach 4 mile/h. It weighted only 12 Kg. Its characteristics made it a unit suitable also for surface navigation, perfect for disabled people. With this introduction, the American Aquadyn Underwater Technologies presented it in 2000 and, at that time, it seemed to be successful. Where it is now?
SO MANY DIVING GEAR – In the second half of the 1970, the adventure and discovery age is almost finished but, the season of tropical journeys dedicated to divers begins. Diving gear explodes, latest brands and new products are born continuously. At the end of 1978, in the diving boom, the choice is huge. Looking at the catalogues and yearbooks of that time, it comes out that the Italian marked offered several models of diving gear, new and well known. The main ones were: snorkels 68 - cylinders 39 – weight belts 24 - knives 71 – compressors 18 – underwater cameras and video recorders 62 - regulators 47 - speargun 189 – ring-like BDC 14 – torches 45 - masks 109 - suits 118 – diving watches 19 - fins 51 – depth gauge 78, besides an impressive quantity of accessories.
THE OLDEST SCHOOL - Luigi Ferraro, on behalf of the Cressi company and in logistic cooperation with the Italian Touring Club organization, in the summer of 1948 organizes a diving course in Marina di Campo, in Elba island: this is the first diving school in the world. Together with him, his wife Orietta and Edmondo Sorgetti, of Gamma (Italian Navy special forces) and of sponge fishing. The only breathing apparatus that they had were their very old personal ones from the war, that is the oxygen rebreathers. In fact, oxygen rebreather is just born. The Cousteau regulator produced by a La Spirotechnique is still a rare and little-known piece. After Elba island, Ferraro and his friends transfer to Ischia island and, in 1950 to the almost unknown, at that time, Tremiti islands.
The one at Tremiti island is not a diving course as the previous ones in Elba and Ischia but, the first diving school cruise, on board of the Laura boat. This diving school cruise is so successful that, in 1951 is repeated in the Pontino archipelago, among Ponza, Zannone and Palmarola islands. All this and much more of our history can be read in the book "Luigi Ferraro, un Italiano" of Ninì Cafiero.
THE FIRST UNDERWATER VIDEO RECORDER HOUSING– At the beginning of 1970, underwater video recorder housings were already available in many models, both amatorial and professional. At their top for quality and performances we find a majestic, unique black housing. It is the Swiss Bolex Paillard of 1971, dedicated to the prestigious 16 mm video recording of the same historical company which purchased, soon after, by the Austrian Eumig. This latter will be the “queen” of this sector, presenting in 1979, the first underwater video recorder in the market. However, his history is a thrilling one. It was the inventor Kurt Schaefer who created it, presenting his project very naively to Eumig that, right after, put it in production: but under his brand and without rewarding anything to Schaefer, who suited the company for stealing his project. Unfortunately, he did not obtain anything because, after a while, the company Eumig bankrupted.
LA SPIROTECHNIQUE REGULATORS - Sometime ago, the regulators manufactured by La Spirotechnique had a hose coming from the left, opposite to all the others in the world where the hose was coming from the right. The reason was simple. The Fenzy ring-style BCD and then the real BCDs produced in the following years by the French company had the breathing emergency corrugated hose on its right so that the hose was designed on its left, not to create confusion and possible hindrances during critical situations.
CRESSI – There is a model, perhaps a prototype of the FOLGORE spring speargun of 1958 with a remarkable peculiarity: a control to set trigger sensibility. In the handle left side a visible brass lever protrudes with which, by an internal deferment and two contrast springs, acts on a skid that pushes the rounded internal head of the trigger (Speagun > Cressi > Folgore).
SEA DIVING – In 1988, this company from Gallipoli in the south of Italy, presented a revolutionary diving suit in neoprene with incorporated BCs, named UNIGAV. It had a double layer in the breast and in the hips to form ai air bag, it was supplied by the tank and equipped with load and download valves, as in the dry suits. It did not succeed much, because it was tied when filled with air, and for its reduced positive jog.
REVOLUTIONARY REGULATOR - Explorer Maior, introduced by Pirelli in 1960, was the brother of the famous Explorer Standard. With air, it had to function as an open circuit standard regulator while with Nitrox or other mixes, it should transform in an original semi-closed circuit, by filtering the CO2 with a small amount of sodalime and recycling the breathing gas. Moreover, with oxygen, it could function exactly as an oxygen rebreather, that is as a closed circuit. Evidently, some design naiveties and some defects denied it any success but, maybe, the inspiring idea of this old project, probably ended only with some test units, should merit to be recaptured.
THE FIRST BOOK - Many years ago, in the Commander Cousteau’s cabin in the Calypso, there was a copy of The Complete Goggler, surely the first book ever published about spearfishing diving. It was written in 1938 by the American journalist Guy Gilpatric, telling his diving adventures in the Cap d’Antibes sea, where it moved in 1929. It dived with modified aviator goggles – the book title means “the perfect man with goggles” and a spear in his hand, terrifying the naïve groupers that inhabited the sea bottom of the French Riviera. A fun that became fashion few years later, when the first fins invented by De Corlieu introduced the age of modern diving. Gilpatric had a big social success and taught to others his art, having among his first students the Austrian Hans Hass. This story is reported in another book, that became precious: “The Man under the sea” of James Dugan, published in Italy by in 1957.
AQUA LUNG International is a division of the Air Liquide French group and, today, it is the world largest manufacturer of diving gear, present in different Countries in the world, with branches that own the most prestigious brands. Originally, Aqua Lung was the generic name given in the Anglo-Saxon countries to the Cousteau-Gagnan breathing apparatus "Scafandre Autonome", forged by Henri Dolisie of Montreal, Canada. It was than patented in the United State and, since, it is synonym of breathing apparatus.
JETSTREAM OF 40th – the 1.000 Jetstream regulators of 1958-1998 produced by the Swedish Poseidon in occasion of its 40th anniversary and distributed all over the world, flashy for its huge second stage, silver-colored as its first stage, are very difficult to find also in the flea markets. And, because of this, since sometime “fake” offers began, to be frank semi-fake offers. This means that people offer some Jetstream regulators composed by the second stage of this series assembled with a standard first stage because, in the market, there are much more second stages of this 40 anniversary then first stages, cranked out by Poseidon for those wishing a silver octopus set. Those commemoratives are, instead, specifically marked also in the first stage. Its functioning is unchanged, but the collector value is also if, until now, they are still part of modern items.
MARES - SAFE fitting dated 1976 for the double cylinders was special, not only for its dimensions and weight. To guarantee safety, its side connection to fix the secondary air source "was catching" under the reserve thus, if for any reason the reserve did not open, changing to the secondary air source bypassed it. Vice versa, if someone was breathing from its secondary air source and the reserve did not open, all air could be used changing to its primary regulator in the central position.
TECHNISUB - ARALU cylinders of the 70s – 80s in good conditions are valued by collectors, above all, if they have their visible red stickers, intact or almost. However, be careful to these differences: those made in the first years were much more spectacular; in fact, they had the "moustache” in the upper position bigger than the logo and there was frame while, in the next years, the moustache became smaller aligning it with the logo. Everything framed by a black border line. This solution was firstly reserved to the small 4-liter cylinder then expanded to the larger one, as you can begin seeing in the 1986 catalogue (Virtual Museum > Cylinders and regulators > Cylinders).
SALVAS SHARK - The pneumatic Trident spear gun of 1966 was followed, after one year, by the Super Tident, produced completely in stainless steel, for the most demanding clients. These cannot be found anymore, so it must be said that its production was very little.
MARES - Also the Vico Jet De Luxe of 1967 has been proposed the year after in a limited series all in stainless steel, as it is clearly demonstrated by its weight: 2.600 grams against .275 grams of the standard model (Spean Guns > Mares > Vico Jet De Luxe stainless steel).
DIVING HOUSINGS FOR UNDERWATER VIDEO OPERATORS - During the pioneering years, we saw any type and model, but one is unique for its brilliant simplicity. Rossella Paternò described it in her fascinating article about the incredible life of Leni Riefenstahl, incomparable photographer and director during the years preceding the Second Wolrd War (Hds News, March 2016). This housing was built from a cut soccer ball; the camera was positioned inside, with the porthole built with a thick glass, framed and bolt for watertight seal. It functioned perfectly and, for the first time in the world, the divers during the Berlin Olympiads in 1936 were filmed underwater.
CRESSI - In the USA they call it HOOKAH (Surface Air Supply). It is an open helmet supplied from the surface via a floating air hose. It is still used for recreational dives in small depths. In Europe it is not known so, it is a wonder to discover in the first page of the old Cressi catalogue-price list in 1947 called "diving bell" and listed under the title "diving half helmet". Price is not shown (Technical > Catalogues and logos of diving manufacturers > Complete catalogues - 1947 Cressi catalogue).
PORPOISE -It is the first world regulator with one single hose, officially presented in 1952 in Australia. Its prototype dates 1949, when the CG45 of Cousteau was just marketed. At that time, no one suspected that someone could develop small, practical and simple regulators, instead of the 2-hose bulky ones. "The Porpoise" book, edited some years ago in limited copies, tells its story with lots of interesting details but it is sold out. Recently, there has been a reprint of 50 copies. You can try to have it by writing to Mel Brown <email@example.com>.
SOS - DCP decompression instruments (bend-O-meter) with plastic (kralastic) housing had, in the first years, a band positioned between two small metal arches, blocked in spaces made at the housing outside. These spaces often break so, in 1964 this system changes and the band become a belt loop, inside the housing. This allows to date with more accuracy one’s own instrument.