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Basic gear from mid-twentieth-century Australia: Turnbull etc

Discussion in 'History of Diving Gear' started by David Wilson, Oct 31, 2018.

  1. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    My attention has now turned to mid-20c diving equipment "down-under", in the sense of the world's antipodes and Australia in particular. And here I must declare a personal interest. My first diving mask was purchased in a North East England store during the late 1950s but manufactured in Australia: a triangular green Turnbull Searaider like the one in the vintage ad below:
    img134-jpg-418743-jpg.464966.jpg
    I treasured that mask for many years before substituting a model made in England with a more comfortable featheredge face seal.

    Before proceeding to a review of Australian masks, snorkels and fins from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, I also have to state up front that I have travelled widely without crossing the Equator. So when I write about matters Australian, I speak from the second-hand experience of my online and printed research findings and not with the eyes of somebody who has actually visited the country. So I expect to be frequently corrected during this thread by those of you who know Australia better than I can possibly do.

    I am going to begin this thread with a review of the basic underwater products of an enterprise based in the most populous city in Australia and indeed Oceania: Sydney. The M. D. Turnbull group of companies, based in the southeast suburb of Mascot, made and distributed "polystyrene and rubber products, including surfboards, drink coolers, portable ice boxes, rubber spearfishing equipment, rubber thongs, semi-pneumatic tyres and a wide range of rubber and polystyrene products for both industrial and consumer markets (The Age, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, Wednesday, Jan 1, 1969).

    Here's a Turnbull company timeline I compiled earlier:

    1954. Non-adjustable open-heel Turnbull Swim Flippers, “Australia’s most popular and successful fin,” on sale on page 5 of Lillywhites Ltd of Piccadilly Circus, London Underwater Fishing and Aquatics Equipment List 1954.
    1955. Adjustable open-heel Turnbull “Multi-fit” Swim Flippers, “Australia’s most popular and successful fin,” on sale on page 3 of Lillywhites Ltd of Piccadilly Circus, London Underwater Sports Equipment List 1955.
    1956. Turnbull Swim Equipment advertisement on page 4 of C.Y.C.A. Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race 1956 programme: “De-Luxe” Mask, Turnbull “Searaider” Mask, Swim Fins, Multi-fit Adjustable Flippers, Super Flippers, “Rocket” Speargun and Snorkel Range manufactured by Turnbull Rubber Pty. Ltd. of Mascot, Sydney, Australia. Turnbull among underwater brands available from Andrews & Dalton of Hounslow, Middlesex according to advertisement on page 29 of June/July 1956 issue of Triton. Turnbull underwater swimming equipment, including Turnbull Rocket Gun, available from Grays of Cambridge according to advertisement on page 29 of August/September 1956 issue of Triton. “Fit Turnbull and feel safe”.
    1957. Turnbull underwater swimming equipment, including Multi-fit adjustable swimfins, Giant Super Flippers, diving masks, snorkel tubes and Turnbull Rocket Gun, available from Grays of Cambridge according to advertisement on page 29 of March/April 1957 issue of Triton. Turnbull underwater swimming equipment, including Searaider mask and Super Flipper, available from Grays of Cambridge according to advertisement on page 29 of August/September 1956 issue of Triton. Turnbull among underwater brands available from Andrews & Dalton of Hounslow, Middlesex according to advertisement on page 1 of December 1957 issue of Royal Naval Diving Magazine. Turnbull among underwater brands available from J. G. Fenn of Stoke on Trent according to advertisement on page 13 of Sep/Oct 1957 issue of Triton.
    1958. Non-adjustable open-heel Giant Turnbull Fin, “widely used in Australia,” on sale on page 6 of Lillywhites Ltd of Piccadilly Circus, London Underwater Sports Equipment List 1958. Turnbull underwater swimming equipment, including Searaider mask and Super Flipper, available from Grays of Cambridge according to advertisement on page 29 of January/February 1958 issue of Triton. Turnbull among underwater brands available from Andrews & Dalton of Hounslow, Middlesex according to advertisement on page 29 of March/April 1958 issue of Triton.
    1959. Sea Raider mask, De Luxe mask with snorkel and protective goggles available from sole distributors of Turnbull underwater swimming equipment Grays of Cambridge according to advertisement on page 33 of May/June 1959 issue of Triton.
    1960. Sea Raider mask, De Luxe mask with snorkel and protective goggles available from sole distributors of Turnbull underwater swimming equipment Grays of Cambridge according to advertisement on page 22 of Jan/Feb 1960 issue of Triton. Turnbull Pacific Super Fins, “a really powerful fin”, available from J. G. Fenn of Stoke on Trent according to advertisement on page 24 of Jan/Feb 1960 issue of Triton. Turnbull Super Fin available from J. G. Fenn of Stoke on Trent according to advertisement on page 5 of May/June 1960 issue of Triton.
    1962. Airdive equipment of Melbourne, Australia, distribute Baby Swim Fins, Continental Flippers, Searaider Masks, Deluxe Wide Vision Mask, Ocean Survey Mask, “S”, “J” and “L” snorkels made by Turnbull.
    1962. Turnbull Swim Equipment advertisement on page 20 of July/August 1962 issue of Australian Skindivers Magazine: New. Giant Continental Flippers. For maximum comfort and propulsion specially designed for large fittings, wet suits and sandshoes. Made out of a special salt-water floating-quality rubber with the famous foot comfort and paddle rigidity. A special ankle strap with a rustproof buckle is added for absolute security. In blue only. Manufactured by Turnbull Rubber Pty. Ltd. 18 Ricketty St., Mascot, Sydney.
    January 1969. Hanimex, the Australian owned worldwide photographic equipment maker and trader, enters the polystyrene products and rubber products fields with acquisition of the capitals of the Turnbull group of companies.
    October 1970. Hanimex Pty. Ltd. advertises in Sydney Morning Herald for experienced rubber moulder at Mascot plant, whose products include rubber swim equipment.
    1976. Turnbull Continental and Giant full-foot fins equipment, available from Greens Watersports of Bristol according to advertisement on page 157 of July/August 1976 issue of Triton. Nock & Kirbys advertisement in Sydney Morning Herald, Sun Oct 24, 1976, p. 82, for Hanimex Junior Swim Flippers, Continental Fins, masks and snorkels.

    Sadly, information remains unforthcoming about the timing of other events in the evolution of the Turnbull family of companies (Turnbull Holdings Pty. Ltd., M. D. Turnbull Distributors Engineering Pty. Ltd., Turnbull Rubber Pty. Ltd. and South Pacific Surf Boards Pty. Ltd). If anybody knows the dates of either the birth or the demise of M. D. Turnbull, late of 18 Ricketty Street, Mascot, Sydney, I'd be grateful for the details. To whet the appetite, I have scanned a Turnbull catalogue and posted it online at https://drive.google.com/open?id=0Bw7z_4bLjOOEcVVBT09INkJqNEU. You may be surprised to learn which leisure items other than underwater gear were manufactured and distributed by the company.
     
  2. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    Just one more message today to begin the review of Turnbull diving masks. We'll take a closer look at the triangular Searaider, which I mentioned was the first face plate I ever owned and used.

    Turnbull Searaider diving mask
    Sea_Raider.png
    img135.jpg
    The second image is a Grays of Cambridge advertisement from page 33 of May/June 1959 issue of the British Sub Aqua Club journal Triton.The caption reads: "Sea Raider Mask. In green rubber, featuring the triangular shape, with better vision at eye level and fitted with Triplex safety lens or Perspex." Grays has stocked this model since summer 1957. From what I remember about the mask, it had stiff rubber walls and was prone to leakage because it lacked a featheredge seal. The triangular shape may have prompted the manufacturer to print the word "TOP" on the frame to indicate how the mask should be worn.

    More models from the Turnbull diving mask range to come in a few days' time.
     
  3. АлександрД

    АлександрД Manta Ray

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    The great sign on the top of window - "TOP" :)
     
  4. Bob DBF

    Bob DBF Solo Diver

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    I'll bet they had TOP etched on the glass as well. It makes sense since a triangular shape may be problematical to re align properly when reassembling.


    Bob
     
  5. Wingy

    Wingy Solo Diver

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    Location: Perth West Aust.
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    When I get back to Aus I have my fathers early 1970s red rubber wetsuit - will check the brand I'm assuming it would have been purchased from Jack Sue's shop. May have some pics to send you
     
    John C. Ratliff and David Wilson like this.
  6. JamesBon92007

    JamesBon92007 Great White

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    I certainly don't know British prices, but is that 15 pounds, 9 shillings? That sounds very expensive.
     
  7. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    No, 15/9 in pre-decimal UK currency means 15 shillings and 9 pence (15s 9d). That's about 79 pence in modern UK currency, some way short of one pound sterling. 15 shillings and 9 pence would still have been quite a lot of money to spend on a diving mask in England during 1957 when the average weekly wage was 7 pounds 10 shillings (£7.50).
     
  8. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    Onwards and upwards. Next up is the Turnbull range of diving masks with stock numbers as well as names. First for review is the M3 swim mask.

    M3 Swim Mask
    M3SwimMask-1.png
    The catalogue caption reads: "M3 Swim Mask. In blue and green rubber, this medium size mask is fitted with a plastic lens and rustproof buckles." Note the word "TOP" again on the body of the mask above the lens.

    Another distinctive feature is the single stainless-steel buckle at the back of the head instead of either side of the mask body. This style was reminiscent of the Dunlop Aquafort mask reviewed in a different thread:
    img108-png.472231.png
    The M3 Swim Mask lacked a metal rim and top screw. The plastic lens was secured within an unseen groove.
    dscf0156_cropped_2-jpg.457297.jpg
    The image above shows a Typhoon Blue Star in my mask collection broken down into its three separable constituent parts. The headstrap can be seen towards the back and the plastic lens is just visible at the right. A deep groove for the insertion and retention of the lens is clearly visible in the flexible rubber body at the front of the picture. There is no metal rim around the circumference of the rubber rim of the mask body for added security of the lens. In his 1956 tome "Your guide to underwater adventure", Peter Small gave buyers of such "frameless masks" the following advice: "When looking at a mask, don't be afraid to pull back the lip of the groove which holds the face-plate, to see that it is deep and firm enough to do its job." With the passage of time, however, oval masks without stainless-steel rims were regarded less and less favourably. The "Which?" mask and snorkel consumer report of August 1965 remarks "We found some cheaper masks in which the face plate was held in only by a rubber rim or were glued in as well." According to Mike Busuttili's 1968 guide "Underwater Swimming", "Stainless steel fixing band. Every mask should have a fixing band around the rim of the face plate. The rubber body of the mask is not sufficient to hold the glass in place, and a mask without such a band would tend to leak." British Standard BS 4532 (Specification for Snorkels and Face Masks) of 1969 simply decreed: "The eyescreen shall be securely fitted to the face mask by means of a retaining rim as part of the moulding, reinforced by a circumferential clamp of corrosion resistant material."
     
  9. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    The second Turnbull mask to be considered today is also known as "Sea Raider". Though designed for young people, this model came with superior features.

    M4 Sea Raider Junior Mask
    M4SeaRaider-1.png
    According to the caption, "M4 Sea Raider Junior Mask. In green rubber, fitted with a SAFETY glass lens. Rustproof lens retaining band buckles with a flared feather edge for comfortable face fitting. The mask may have borne resemblance to the economy M3 Swim Mask, featuring as it does the single stainless-steel buckle strap arrangement at the back of the head instead of either side of the mask body. However, the "safety glass lens", the "rustproof lens retaining band" and the "flared feather edge for comfortable face fitting" represented real improvements for their time.
     
  10. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    The final contribution for today covers two further Turnbull diving masks, both numbered "M5" and bearing the name "Sea Raider". The first model is oval and the second triangular.

    M5a Sea Raider Mask
    M5a_Sea_Raider.png
    The M5a is captioned thus: "M5a Sea Raider Mask. In blue rubber. Oval shape, flared feather edge for comfortable face-fitting, fitted with a safety glass lens with rustproof buckles." This model was probably intended to be an adult version of the "stripped-down" M3 Swim Mask with feather-edge seal and lens-material enhancements.

    M5b Sea Raider Mask
    M5b_Sea_Raider.png
    The catalogue caption: "M5b Sea Raider Mask. In blue rubber. Triangular shape, flared feather edge for comfortable face-fitting, fitted with a safety glass lens with rustproof buckles." This model resembled the M4 Sea Raider in appearance but without a stainless-steel lens-retaining rim.

    More anon.
     
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