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Basic gear from mid-twentieth-century Britain: Typhoon (E. T. Skinner)

Discussion in 'History of Diving Gear' started by David Wilson, Apr 2, 2018.

  1. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    The Typhoon Blue Star diving mask appeared in both 1956 and 1966 catalogues.

    Typhoon Blue Star diving mask
    s-l1600b.jpg s-l1600e.jpg s-l1600f.jpg s-l1600g.jpg The mask came in a rather attractive dark blue colour and I can confirm that the quality of the material is such that the rubber remains just as supple today as it was at the time of its original purchase, because I have a half-century-old one in my collection.

    The catalogue caption for this mask read as follows: "Blue Star. The ideal mask for underwater swimming, exploration and harpoon fishing, with an easy watertight fit to suit all faces; fitted toughened glass or plastic lens. Special model with yellow filter and plastic lens. Rims available as extra." So the basic model shown in the images above came without a metal rim. 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."

    Historians of French diving masks will notice the physical resemblance between the Typhoon Blue Star and the Hurricane Tous Visages (below) diving masks:
    According to its 1956 catalogue, Typhoon sold both models. The name "Tous Visages" means "All faces" in French, echoing the claim of the Blue Star mask "to suit all faces."

    That's it for the moment, but we're not quite finished with the Blue Star mask yet. In the next posting we'll be reviewing the same mask complete with its metal rim fulfilling a necessary function by anchoring an early frontal breathing tube.
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2018
    John C. Ratliff likes this.
  2. iamrushman

    iamrushman Great White

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: ft. lauderdale, florida
    i really enjoy and thank you for the very in-depth study of the above masks and fins...thanks for sharing the photos of the classic wet suits.
    David Wilson likes this.
  3. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    Thank you for the positive feedback, iamrushman. I mentioned in my last message that I hadn't finished reviewing the Typhoon Blue Star mask.
    DSCF0156_cropped_2.jpg The image above shows a 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 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 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."

    This said, a metal rim was available for the Blue Star mask as an optional extra. In the January 1956 issue of the British Sub Aqua Club journal "Neptune", the following article appeared: CombinedMask-Tube.jpg Here is the "combined mask-tube" in Lillywhites' 1956 catalogue:

    and here it is again in the 1956 edition of "Skinner's handbook for skin divers":
    Typhoon_T3_Snorkel 1.jpg
    I find this "combined mask-tube" version of the Blue Star interesting because it refutes the notion that all "combined masks and snorkels" were of the Cressi "Medusa" type (below):
    The Blue Star version could be used without the attached frontal breathing tube as a stand-alone mask. Another reason for my interest is that the use of a frontal snorkel in mid-fifties Britain predates the adoption of frontal snorkels by competitive finswimmers by many years. Actually, the frontal snorkel dates back to 1940s France:
    More about this when we get on to Typhoon snorkels later in this thread.

    That's it for the Typhoon Blue Star mask. We'll proceed to the Typhoon Super Star mask next. It too came with its own different option of "combined mask-tube".
  4. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    Mask 015.jpg
    The Typhoon Super Star mask was the luxury model on the mask pages of both editions of "Skinner's handbook for skin divers". The image above shows the model I once received as a Christmas present. It is still is remarkable condition with the rubber body and strap perfectly supple and the stainless steel of the rim and buckles uncorroded.

    Typhoon Super Star diving mask
    s-l1600a.jpg s-l1600c.jpg s-l1600d.jpg The images above show a black version of the Super Star with visible signs of use and wear. The product description in "Skinner's handbook" is below:
    What I prize most about this mask, apart from the connection with my late parents, is the generous flanged edge of the skirt. One of the illustrations in the Eagle Annual article mentioned earlier in this thread shows the effect:
    This feature alone makes this mask still the best-fitting model in my collection. Not bad for a product discontinued before the 1970s. How many modern masks offer this?

    Well, that's it for the Super Star in its basic form, but we'll see it again as part of another Typhoon "combined mask-tube" in my next message.
    iamrushman and John C. Ratliff like this.
  5. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    You may have wondered what those three protuberances were for atop the skirt of the Typhoon Super Star diving mask (above). The most pronounced, circular one was identified in the 1956 edition of Skinner's handbook for skin divers as a tube socket (below):

    Here is a Lillywhites underwater catalogue drawing showing what the "Typhoon Automatic Valve Assembly" looked like when it was fitted to the Super Star mask:
    This illustration reveals the purpose of the three protuberances on the top of the mask. The large round one projecting upwards served as a socket for one end of a corrugated hose leading to the automatic valve of a breathing tube at the other end. Converting the upright protuberance into a tube socket meant piercing the thin rubber sealing the top and thereby rendering the mask unusable without the breathing tube attached unless a suitably sized stopper was found to plug the hole and prevent the mask flooding. The other, smaller flatter protuberances served as twin anchor points for the buckles of the harness straps.

    Typhoon patented the automatic valve in 1957. Here are the patent drawings of British Patent GB781597A, "Improvements in or relating to Valves for Underwater Breathing Apparatus":

    If you want to read the full text of this patent, it can be downloaded from Espacenet - Original document.

    The Typhoon Automatic Valve was by no means unique for its time. The French diving equipment Hurricane, whose products were carried by Typhoon, had a similar device in its repertoire:
    Both the Typhoon and the Hurricane versions claimed that the valve would operate correctly whatever position the user was in. US Divers had a different version called the "Marino" for the American market:

    So much for the Super Star diving mask in its original form and when fitted with a patented breathing tube assembly. The former, but not the latter, remained in production until the mid-1960s. We'll move on next to the remaining 1950s and 1960s diving masks manufactured by E T Skinner (Typhoon).
  6. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    Moving on to 1950s and 1960s Typhoon diving masks other than the Blue Star and the Super Star, we'll take the individual models in pairs as much less information about them is forthcoming compared with what is written about the two "flagship" masks. This posting will focus on the Silver Star and the Surf Star.

    Typhoon Silver Star diving mask
    Typhoon_56_3.png The third image above refers to the mask's "feather edge face piece", suggesting that the Silver Star resembled the Super Star featuring as it did not only a stainless-steel band with a top screw but also a flanged facial edge. The remainder of the skirt resembled in turn the Blue Star. So the Silver Star was likely to have been a cross between the Super Star and the Blue Star. I have not been able to locate a period photograph with an identifiable Silver Star diving mask. Please chip in if you are aware of such a verifiable photographic source.

    Typhoon Silver Star diving mask

    The Silver Star and the Surf Star were similar in appearance. The distinctive features of the latter was its low volume ("shallow face piece") and its "nose recess". The design may well have been inspired by the early-1950s Cressi Pinocchio mask (below, worn by its inventor Luigi Ferraro):

    The Typhoon Surf Star mask may have inspired in turn a Soviet mask:
    Read more about the above in my Soviet mask thread at Soviet masks: Russian models.

    Sadly, I couldn't find any historical photographs of the Surf Star either. Next time we'll take a peek at Typhoon's diving masks for children and young people from the 1950s and 1960s.
    Last edited: May 2, 2018
  7. iamrushman

    iamrushman Great White

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: ft. lauderdale, florida
    interesting concept with the nose space within the lens...very interesting reading.
    David Wilson likes this.
  8. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    Thanks, iamrushman. On to Typhoon mask for youngsters during the 1950s and 1960s. The Junior Star was the juvenile model in the 1956 edition of Skinner's handbook for skin divers, while the Cadet Star served this function in the 1966 issue.

    Typhoon Junior Star diving mask

    The image above appeared on the side of cardboard boxes containing other Typhoon diving mask models:

    And this is the product description for the Junior Star in the 1956 Typhoon "catalogue":
    Other than the size and the lens materials, information about this Typhoon mask is sketchy. Like the Blue Star, the Junior Star lacked a stainless-steel rim with top screw, meaning that, in the interests of economy, the edge of the oval lens was retained within a groove in the rubber body of the mask without the additional security that would have been afforded by the metal band. The mask came with twin buckles, however, to enable strap length adjustment.

    In the 1966 edition of Skinner's handbook, the Junior Master was replaced by the Cadet Star.

    Typhoon Cadet Star diving mask
    Typhoon_1966_3.png If the catalogue illustration is anything to go by, the Cadet Star bore a very close resemblance to the Junior Star. The reason for the change of name was the "new cushioned face flange", which merited British Patent 932258 "Improved Mask for Use in Underwater Swimming and Diving" back in 1963. Patent drawings below:
    So much for Typhoon masks for children and young people during the 1950s and 1960s. We'll move on to Typhoon diving masks of the 1970s in the next posting.
  9. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    A caveat is necessary before embarking on a survey of diving masks in the 1976 and 1979 Typhoon catalogues. It is difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between Typhoon models that were imported and Typhoon models that were manufactured in-house during the 1970s. A further complication is that some models were imported from a French manufacturer and then upgraded in the Typhoon factory with drain valves (US: Purge valves). In this posting I'll focus on 1970s Typhoon masks apparently imported from the company that made Marin brand diving equipment in Nice on the French Riviera, the Société de Fabrication d’Articles de Chasse d’Exploitation Sous-Marine (SFACEM). The SFACEM also teamed up with Scubapro in the States and was eventually taken over the American company.

    FMT31Typhoon Stablisator diving mask
    s-l1600c.jpg s-l1600a.jpg Note the word "Typhoon" embossed on the skirt. This mask appeared as the "Compensator" in the 1966 Skinner's handbook:
    This was the mask I purchased when I joined my university sub-aqua club in the mid-1960s. As the product description above shows, the mask also came in a drain-valve version:

    FMT31D Typhoon Stabilisator diving mask with valve
    The 1976 and 1979 catalogues featured both masks. Typhoon carried another Marin mask, the Scubavision (below).

    FMT32D Typhoon Scubavision diving mask
    Here is the description: "A de-luxe mask with excellent vision. Wide oval face plate of toughened glass with stainless steel retaining rim. Internal nose hold for pressure equalisation. Double flange face seal. Drain valve fitted." The model had a junior version (below).

    FMT34(J) Typhoon Junior Scubavision diving mask
    The product description: "For youngsters, and those with small faces. Very soft rubber with good vision."

    In the next posting, I'll complete the repertoire of Typhoon diving masks of the 1970s with the remaining models, which may have been manufactured in-house or simply carried by Typhoon.
    iamrushman likes this.
  10. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    As promised, the remaining four Typhoon masks of the late 1970s and a reminder of the possibility that they might not have all been made "in-house" by Typhoon, which "carried" gear made by Technisub and Cressi.

    FM33D Typhoon Maxivision Mask
    A mask available in both 1976 and 1979 catalogues. Description: "Wide vision, reduced air space, double flange seal, toughened glass. Metal retaining rim, external nose hold with built-in drain valve; one of the top quality masks with really excellent vision."

    JMT41 Typhoon Santana Mask
    A mask available in 1976. Description: "An inexpensive mask with oval shaped toughened glass, stainless steel retaining rim and internal nose holds."

    JMT42 Typhoon Swimjoy Children’s Mask
    Available in 1976. Description: "Soft black rubber mask, toughened glass, metal retaining rim and at a very reasonable price."

    UK99 Typhoon Vidi Mask
    Available 1979. Description: "A new generation of diving mask designed and made by Typhoon. A tempered glass lens set into a frame giving very low air volume and exceptionally wide vision. Easy adjustment of mask strap with a double flange seal. Colours: Red, Yellow, Blue and Black."

    So that's it for Typhoon diving masks from the 1950s to the end of the 1970s. The last model heralds a "new generation" of masks whose design has sustained to modern times. Next up is a look back at Typhoon breathing tubes from the fifties to the seventies.

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