An Early ‘Try-Dive’.

A section of the classic work, ‘Deep Diving And Submarine Operations’, by (Sir) Robert H. Davis, is devoted to, ‘Divers’ Yarns And Adventures’, and includes the story of an early ‘Try-Dive’ by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894), the author of that classic of pirate tales, ‘Treasure Island’, who made several dives in Wick Bay, Scotland, wearing Augustus Siebe’s diving dress and helmet.

“… I found myself at last on the diver’s platform, twenty pounds of lead upon each foot, and my whole person swollen with ply and ply of woollen underclothing. One moment, the salt wind was whistling around my night-capped head; the next, I was crushed almost double under the weight of the helmet.

“As that intolerable burthen was laid upon me, I could have found it in my heart (only for shame’s sake) to cry off the whole enterprise. But it was too late. The attendants began to turn the hurdy-gurdy, and the air to whistle through the tube; someone screwed in the barred window of the vizor; and I was cut off in a moment from my fellow-men; standing there in their midst, but quite divorced from intercourse; a creature deaf and dumb, pathetically looking forth upon them from a climate of his own. Except that I could move and feel, I was like a man fallen in a catalepsy. But time was scarce given me to realise my isolation; the weights were hung upon my back and breast, the signal rope was thrust into my unresisting hand; and setting a twenty-pound foot upon the ladder, I began ponderously to descend.

 “Some twenty rounds below the platform twighlight fell. Looking up, I saw a low green heaven mottled with vanishing bells of white ….

 “Wick was scarce an eligible place of stay. But how much better it was to hang in the cold wind upon the pier, to go down … among the roots of the staging, to be all day in a boat coiling a wet rope and shouting orders – not always very wise – than to be warm and dry, and dull, and dead-alive in the most comfortable office.”

A sentiment that continues to resonate with those who’ve given their lives to diving.



Categories: History

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