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

Discussion in 'Vintage Equipment Diving' started by David Wilson, Apr 2, 2018.

  1. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    On to the Typhoon T3 breathing tube, which was a "frontal" snorkel of the kind now used by competitive swimmers.

    Typhoon breathing tube Model "T3"
    Lillywhites_1956b.png
    Since the breathing tube was positioned at the front rather than the side of the swimmer's head, it could not be retained by the mask strap in the same way as conventional breathing tubes were. The "attachment bracket" seen halfway along the barrel not only served served to anchor the snorkel to the top screw of a mask fitted with a metal rim but also functioned as a fulcrum enabling the snorkel to tilt backwards when the mouthpiece was released.

    Here are a couple of images of the T3 breathing tube attached to a Typhoon Blue Star diving mask fitted with the optional stainless-steel rim:
    Typhoon_T3_Snorkel 1.jpg
    CombinedMask-Tube.jpg
    The first picture is from the 1956 edition of Skinner's handbook for skin divers and comes with a caption suggesting that a frontal breathing tube was "the type now favoured by the experienced underwater swimmer." The second image is from the British Sub Aqua Club journal Neptune and comes with a caption describing the same configuration as "a combined mask-tube of the type which many previously made for themselves." Both allude to a preference among mid-1950s British snorkellers for frontal snorkels long before such devices became a component of the competitive swimmer's kit.

    Here is a photograph from the 1956 publication Underwater sport on a small income by Barry J. Kimmins:
    baths200-jpg.453531.jpg

    The frontal snorkel was actually invented by Dr Raymond Pulvénis in France during the 1940s:
    0d746101af1ac03825081a7c29a96648-jpg.457302.jpg
    He was a medical doctor who researched syphilis, wrote the first spearfishing book and invented the frontal snorkel he called a "tuba", which remains the standard French word for "snorkel" to this day.

    Returning to the Typhoon "T3" breathing tube, here are are a couple of pictures of swimmers using the model:
    Neptune_1956_b.jpg
    Which.png
    The first image shows a Jantzen ad from Neptune. Jantzen is best known for its swimming costumes, but it "carried" other companies' underwater swimming equipment during its long history.

    The second image is from an August 1965 Which? consumer report on masks and snorkels. Here is how the "T3" fared in comparison with other breathing tubes of the day:
    Which.jpg

    That's it for today. I'll move on next to the Typhoon Universal Ball Valve and the "T4" breathing tubes in the next posting.
     
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  2. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    Time to review the Typhoon Universal Ball Valve, which earned a British Patent and was used in combination with the Typhoon Super Star diving mask.

    Typhoon Universal Ball Valve

    typhoon1957-png.457788.png
    The Universal Ball Valve appeared as follows in Skinner's handbook for skin divers:
    Typhoon_UBV.png

    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":
    patentdrawing-jpg.457789.jpg
    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:
    abm-5-jpg.457795.jpg
    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:
    43-jpg.457796.jpg
    The Typhoon Universal Ball Valve appeared in both 1956 and 1966 editions of Skinner's handbook. The product was discontinued before the mid-1970s, probably because it could only be used with one model of diving mask, which was then unserviceable as an separate unit without the ball valve attachment. Probably one of the earliest cases of overengineering in diving equipment manufacturing and certainly not the last!

    I'll leave it there for the Typhoon Universal Ball Valve, which could not be used independently of the diving mask with which it was combined. Next for consideration is the Typhoon "T4" snorkel.
     
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  3. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    typhoon_1966_6-jpg.459133.jpg
    The Typhoon "T4" breathing tube first appeared in the 1966 issue of Skinner's handbook for skin divers (Breathing tube page above).

    Typhoon Breathing Tube Model "T4"
    Typhoon_1967-1968.png
    1976_2.png
    Which.jpg

    The first image is from a 1967 Lillywhites catalogue, where the snorkel is simply described as "polythene, yellow". The second is from the 1976 Typhoon catalogue. The third is from an August 1965 Which? consumer report on masks and snorkels. Here is how the "T4" fared in comparison with other breathing tubes of the day:
    which-jpg.460168.jpg
    The "T4" model was my first "serious" snorkel, purchased when I joined a university branch of the British Sub Aqua Club in the mid-1960s. It was shorter and came with a wider bore than the aluminium ball-in-the-cage "T2" Typhoon model I previously owned.
     
  4. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    1976_2-png.460563.png Snorkels_1976.png
    The Typhoon "T4" model breathing tube originally came with a short wide-bore yellow plastic barrel and a rubber mouthpiece with a fixed U-shaped extension (above). However, the "T4" name passed in the 1979 Typhoon catalogue to a new model sporting a flexible-hose mouthpiece.

    Typhoon Snorkel Model "T4" (T-Flex)
    T4_T-Flex.jpg
    Typhoon-1979.png
    This was Typhoon's first flexible-hose snorkel. The design was originally intended to be of benefit to scuba divers, because the mouthpiece dropped out of the way when it was not needed.

    We'll move on to Typhoon snorkel models T-5 to T-8 (see picture above) in the next posting.
     
  5. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    On now to the remaining Typhoon snorkels, models T5 to T8. Let's start with the "T5", whose barrel came first with a twist in the barrel before the U-bend leading to the mouthpiece. The twist was absent from its successor, which had a straight barrel before the U-bend leading to the mouthpiece.

    Typhoon Model "T5" U-type Snorkel: Twist Version
    Lillywhites_1967_plastic.png Small_1957.png

    The first image is from a Lillywhites 1967 catalogue. The second is from from Peter Small's 1957 book Your Guide to Underwater Adventure, where the breathing tube is captioned "Some tubes have a twist and bend to enable them to be held more comfortably in the mouth." If you have read my thread about Russian and Ukrainian snorkels at Russian and Ukrainian snorkels, you will have seen an image of a Mosrezina snorkel with the same distinctive feature:
    il_fullxfull-1115865548_t5is-jpg.422592.jpg
    This Soviet design dates back to 1960 at least and the rationale of the extra forward curve in the barrel is that it eases the positioning of the mouthpiece in the mouth.
    j-shaped_2-png-420350-png.422599.png
    The above drawing is from the most comprehensive treatise on Soviet underwater equipment published in 1969, P. P. Serebrenitsky's Техника подводного спорта, which provides geometrical dimensions and angles absent from Western publications on basic diving gear. The rationale of the twist and bend is explained thus: "The snorkel has a small reverse 15-20° bend, which sets it to a vertical position when swimming face downwards."

    The original Typhoon Model "T5" with twist and bend came with a metal barrel. A second version of the Typhoon breathing tube model "T5", available in 1967 or earlier, assumed a more conventional J-shaped configuration with a straight plastic barrel.

    Typhoon Model "T5" U-type Snorkel: Straight Version

    Lillywhites_1967_metal.png Lillywhites_1968.png 1976_4_BlackU.png
    The images above are dated 1967, 1968 and 1976 respectively. The third image from the 1976 Typhoon catalogue is captioned "T.5 Black 'U' type Snorkel. Rigid plastic tube with 'U' bend and mask securing loop". The 1979 Typhoon catalogue image of the snorkel was accompanied by the legend "Flexible with particularly soft mouthpiece. Mask loop and reflective tape". The reflective tape at the top of the snorkel was there for safety reasons to alert others engaged in open-water pursuits, such as boating, about the presence of snorkellers in and under the water. German Standard DIN 7878 for snorkels (Tauchzubehör Schnorchel - Maße - Anforderungen - Prüfung), which appeared in February 1980, mandated the use of these reflective safety tapes on snorkels.

    Three more Typhoon breathing tubes to review. "T6", "T7" and "T8" model snorkels made their début in the 1976 Typhoon catalogue and will be the subject of my next posting.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2018
  6. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    The "T6" model snorkel was a relative latecomer to the Typhoon scene, arriving as it did in the mid-1970s.

    Typhoon Model "T6" Black Rod Snorkel
    1976_1_BlackRod.png
    The product description in the 1976 Typhoon catalogue read as follows: "T.6 Black Rod Snorkel. Flexible plastic tube and mouthpiece with mask securing loop." Here it is again in the 1979 Typhoon catalogue (second from left below):
    typhoon-1979-png.460569.png
    where attention is also drawn to the reflective safety tape around the top, the way the mouthpiece can swivel to affect a comfortable oral position and the bargain asking price for the product.

    The "T6" is reminscent of the L-shaped snorkel, whose design claimed to increase breathing ease, cut water drag, and eliminate "water trap". Here is a description of the "Snork-L" snorkel, which epitomises the L-shaped snorkel and may have inspired the Typhoon "T6" breathing tube:
    USDivers64.png

    And finally a word about the Typhoon "T6" snorkel's product name: Black Rod. Yes, the snorkel came in black and bore a passing resemblance to a rod, but the name "Black Rod" carries other connotations in the UK, where the snorkel was manufactured and sold. "Black Rod" is the short title of the "Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod" or the "Lady Usher of the Black Rod", an official in the British Houses of Parliament.. Black Rod is best known for their part in the ceremonies surrounding the State Opening of Parliament and the Throne speech. He or she summons the Commons to attend the speech and leads them to the Lords. As part of the ritual, as Black Rod approaches the doors to the chamber of the House of Commons to make their summons, they are slammed in their face. This is to symbolise the Commons' independence of the Sovereign. Black Rod (below) then strikes the door three times with their staff, and is then admitted and issues the summons of the monarch to attend.
    ImageVaultHandler.aspx.jpg
    This ritual is derived from the attempt by King Charles I to arrest the Five Members in 1642, in what was seen as a breach of the constitution. This and prior actions of the King led to the Civil War. After that incident, the House of Commons has maintained its right to question the right of the monarch's representative to enter their chamber, although they cannot bar them from entering with lawful authority.

    We'll take a look at the Typhoon "T7" model snorkel in the next posting.
     
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  7. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    Now for the final two breathing tubes in the Typhoon snorkel range, coded "T7" and "T8". The "T7" model was a nod to the past, while the "T8" was a something of a nod to the future.

    Typhoon Model "T7" Aluminium Snorkel
    1976_5_Aluminium.png
    The product description in the 1976 Typhoon catalogue read thus: "Gold anodised aluminium with rubber top protector, and mask securing loop. Very easy to clear." The 1979 Typhoon catalogue caption was along the same lines (see item 14 below):
    typhoon-1979-png-460569-png.461025.png

    The "T-7" was a nod to the past insofar as it came with a "gold-anodised aluminium tube" like its predecessors from the 1950s and 1960s, the "T1":
    lillywhites_1956-png.459645.png
    the "T2":
    lillywhites_1956-png.459649.png
    and the "T3":
    lillywhites_1956b-png.460156.png

    But the "T7" was also a nod to the past because of its rubber top protector, so reminiscent of the Cressi Delfino snorkel, marketed in the USA by Healthways during the late 1950s and early 1960s:
    Cressi_Delfino_3.jpg This version of the Delfino snorkel was manufactured by Cressi for the United States market, where Healthways was the sole distributor, while the European version had no "flexible upper section of gum rubber":
    Cressi_Delfino_1955.jpg
    The simple European design contrasts with the drawing of the Healthways version of the Cressi Delfino in the 1955 edition of the Carriers' Dive: the complete book of skin diving:
    Carrier2.jpg
    I'm left wondering whether the dynamic lines next to the gum-rubber upper section of the breathing tube are there to indicate its harmless flexibility if the snorkeller collided with another swimmer or a patch of vegetation, or whether the top protector actually vibrated in use!

    In the next message we'll take a look at the last in the snorkel series, the "T8" snorkel.
     
  8. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    On to the "T8", which was billed as a "contour-shaped snorkel" in the Typhoon 1976 catalogue and based on the then newer concept of a snorkel fitting the contour of the head rather than conforming to more rigid "J-" and "L-shaped" configurations.

    Typhoon Model "T8" Contour-shaped Snorkel
    1976_3_Contoured.png
    The 1976 description: "T.8 Contour-shaped Snorkel. Rigid plastic tube with provision to fix retaining lanyard to mouthpiece, and mask securing loop." The 1979 version (see item 12 below):
    typhoon-1979-png-460569-png-461025-png.461453.png

    Scubapro had a 1971 patent for a contoured snorkel (drawings and "patent pending" product below)
    US3603306-1.png
    Scubapro.png

    Dacor manufactured another "wraparound" snorkel in the late 1960s:
    Dacor.png

    So there were earlier American precedents for Typhoon's move into contoured snorkels with its "T8" model. The latter's other feature, provision to fix a "retaining lanyard", merits a mention. La Spirotechnique's L-shaped snorkel, created in 1963, came with such a lanyard:
    spiro_1965.jpg
    Lanyards were designed to fit around the swimmer's neck to prevent snorkel loss and appear to have been a European snorkel design feature.

    Well, that's it for vintage Typhoon snorkels. We'll take a look at one more Typhoon product in the next posting, namely the company's period drysuits, which received a British Patent.
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2018
  9. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    So on to the drysuits in Typhoon catalogues from the mid-1950s to the close of the 1970s.

    1956-1966 E. T. Skinner (Typhoon) Drysuit
    Typhoon_1956_10.png
    Typhoon_1958_07.png
    Nov-Dec_1958.jpg
    The ads above date from 1956 to 1958 and illustrate how the suit was donned and how it looked when donned. The main selling point was the speed and ease of donning the suit without assistance. For Peter Small in his Your Guide to Underwater Adventure, however, what made this suit innovative was its patented method of ensuring watertightness:
    Peter_Small_p62.jpg Ley Kenyon's review of the suit in his Pocket Guide to the Undersea World was along similar lines: "TYPHOON. British. Under £15. A new one-piece suit which will be available in 1956. It is made of natural rubber-proofed flexible fabric, and is entered through a short aperture in the chest, which is sealed after entry by a watertight zip fastener 2 ft. long. It has a novel feature that has proved very successfulin tests. Through a short rubber tube fitted on his chest, the diver can vent air out by sucking, so creating a slight suction inside the suit, which makes the neck and waist seals really watertight. This, among other advantages, reduces the amount of lead required to overcome buoyancy. Operated in reverse the sucking tube can be used to inflate the suit if the diver becomes tired on the surface some distance from the shore and wishes to relax. Inflating the suit with warm breathed air will also help to warm up a diver suffering from cold. This suit can be worn with thick underclothing, as it is loose fitting, and this enables it to be got into and out with ease."

    The suit earned British Patent GB 842768 entitled "Improved Sealing Means for an Aperture in an Article Comprise of Flexible Sheet Material" and filed in 1958, drawings below:
    Patent_Drawings.jpg

    US Divers appears to have carried a yellow version of the Typhoon suit for the American market:
    US_Divers_1959.jpg

    You may have noticed from the ads at the beginning of this posting that Typhoon used another British manufacturer, the Avon Rubber Company to make the suit. Avon also made its own drysuits, which were good enough for NATO military use.

    We'll cover a second version of the Typhoon drysuit in the next posting.
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2018
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  10. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    The second version of the Typhoon drysuit no longer came with the "Typhoon watertight closure" but with a shoulder-level back entry sealed with a waterproof zip.

    Typhoon dry suit (shoulder entry version)
    Typhoon_1979.png
    wominwet2.jpg
    The first image is from the Typhoon 1979 catalogue. It was a unsex suit. Here is the caption:
    Typhoon_1979_caption.jpg
    So this new suit came with a variety of options for the lower limbs: latex socks, ankle seals and waterproof boots.

    That's it for now when it comes to Typhoon gear. I hope what I've posted here has been of some interest. We'll move on to review the basic gear made and marketed by another British manufacturer, W. W. Haffenden (Britmarine), in a new thread to appear soon.
     

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