In 1873, Benoît Rouquayrol and Auguste Denayrouze built a new piece of equipment, with a perfected air supply, and a total weight of 85 kilos. It was stable, resilient, and equipped with a telephone link with the surface. Outfitted with a large helmet with portholes and leaden soles, divers could descend to great depths while still accomplishing a variety of missions: this was the great era of the "heavy-footed" suits.
Based on this model, a number of rigid, most often articulated, diving suits were manufactured. Rouquayrol and Denayrouze pursued their research, and developed in 1864 the gas regulator, which is the ancestor of the pressure regulator that gives a diver autonomy. Heavy diving suits continued to be used for working in the sea, until the twentieth century.
This extraordinary device was used in the early twentieth century to work in deep waters: its shell actually resists pressure up to a depth of 160 meters, the breathing system is managed in a closed circuit, a telephone lets the diver stay in contact with the surface, and the grips serving as hands are mobile enough to accomplishment exacting tasks.
This type of equipment was nonetheless replaced by autonomous diving suits. Although they can descend to great depths, pressure there crushes the coupling joints, making any movement impossible.
Photos : © Musée de la Marine, Paris
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