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Basic gear from mid-twentieth-century Italy: Mares and Pirelli

Discussion in 'History of Diving Gear' started by David Wilson, Jul 8, 2020.

  1. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    A postscript. I forgot that I had some auction images of the Mares-Pirelli Ondina mask of the 1950s. Here you go:
    upload_2021-2-14_11-30-34.jpeg
    upload_2021-2-14_11-30-53.jpeg
    upload_2021-2-14_11-31-6.jpeg
    upload_2021-2-14_11-31-21.jpeg
    upload_2021-2-14_11-31-35.jpeg
    upload_2021-2-14_11-31-51.jpeg
    upload_2021-2-14_11-32-8.jpeg
    upload_2021-2-14_11-32-26.jpeg
    upload_2021-2-14_11-32-42.jpeg
    upload_2021-2-14_11-32-55.jpeg
     
  2. Popgun Pete

    Popgun Pete Barracuda

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Melbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
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    I think many of these elaborate snorkel masks are the designs of landlubbers who never went diving. They may have spoken to divers and tried things out in a pool, but the harsh reality is many of these gadgets are not satisfactory for open water or ocean diving. Their disappearance tells us that they were not competitive with plain vanilla dive mask designs and simple snorkels. There may have been a tendency to ape commercial diving equipment back in the day, but shorn of their compressed air supply lines while still looking the part, if you did not know much about diving.

    This process is still going on today. Dual Breathing System Kids Snorkel Mask Full Face Snorkeling Anti Leak/Fog | eBay
    twin snorkel mask.jpg
     
    АлександрД likes this.
  3. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    I'm grateful for the likes.

    Thanks for the input, Pete. In response, I can only point out that masks with built-in snorkels had their enthusiasts as well as their detractors in the European underwater hunting community of the early to mid 1950s, sometimes commanding relatively high prices because affluent adult tourists could afford to purchase them for their Mediterranean spearfishing vacations and preferred them to plain masks. Over recent years, I have traced over 150 different twentieth-century snorkel-mask models. I agree that snorkel-masks lost their popularity post-1960, although they were still sold in Spain during the 1970s and in Greece into the noughties. In some countries, e.g. the UK, they eventually received a bad press because of their perceived role in snorkelling accidents. In the early 1970s, the British Sub Aqua Club journal reported a case of a boy drowning in a swimming pool because he was wearing a diving mask over his mouth; the mask he was using happened to be a standard mask without a built-in snorkel, so any gear can be misused in the wrong hands or through wrong-headedness. In 1989, the French published a decree banning the sale of snorkels with ball valves, well after French manufacturer had ceased making them. As for post-new-millennium snorkel-masks, they appear more outlandish than their predecessors to my untutored eye. I bought one but have never tried it out in the water. The original Easybreath model was developed after years of research and experimentation and was designed to be used for underwater swimming as well as surface observation of the seabed, but it is now recommended for the latter only.
     
  4. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    upload_2021-2-14_9-48-19-png-642046-png.642060.png
    Back to the Pirelli Ondina snorkel-mask, which you may recall resembled the above in the early to mid 1950s. Tne earliest Pirelli-specific catalogue I have access to is dated 1959, where the Ondina had undergone a metamorphosis:
    PIRELLI-Catalogo-1959---36.jpg
    PIRELLI-Catalogo-1959---37.jpg
    So many changes. The snorkel is now on the left-hand side, topped with a smaller hinged valve with a floating ball shutting off the air supply when submerged. The metal lens-retaining band of the original is absent along with the rest of the elaborate ironmongery. The wide head straps have been replaced with a single standard one. Just the round shape remains. The mask comes in two versions, one with a flat lens at 1,900 lire and another with a convex lens at 2,000 lire.

    1960
    PIRELLI-Catalogo-1960---23.jpg
    No change in 1960.

    1963
    PIRELLI-Catalogo-1963---16.jpg
    Ditto

    1963: English-language Pirelli catalogue
    upload_2021-2-17_10-29-44.png
    ONDINA.
    Face piece with wide visibility, plastic side snorkle fitted with float-operated shut-off valve. Weight: 0.6 Kg. (1.3 lbs.). ONDINA with convex glass. Weight: 0.6 Kg. (1.3 lbs.)
     
  5. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    1964
    Pirelli_1964_8.jpg
    Italian: "ONDINA ®. Di gomma morbida, con mentoniera. Facciale ellitico. L. 1.950. ONDINA ® con vetro curvo. L 2.100."
    Rough translation: "ONDINA ®. Soft rubber with chinpiece. Oval facepiece. L. 1.950. ONDINA ® with convex lens. L 2,100."

    Changes afoot. The model with the ordinary lens is now oval in shape and covers the chin as well as the eyes, nose and mouth. A price rise to accompany the changes.

    1965
    PIRELLI%201965%20-%2033.jpg
    Both flat and convex lens versions of the Ondina are now described as having an oval facepiece. Prices have risen again.

    1966
    PIRELLI-1966%20-%2039.jpg
    No change.

    1967
    PIRELLI-Catalogo-1967---40.jpg
    Ditto.

    1968
    Pirelli_1968_11.jpg
    The convex lens option of the mask is no longer available.
     
  6. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    And finally we come to the 1970s. The following Pirelli catalogue is from that decade but otherwise undated.

    Pirelli Ulixes
    PIRELLI-Ulixes-Catalogo-1974---4.jpg
    Italian: "ONDINA®. 3) Facciale ellitico per una migliore e più ampia osservazione subaquea. Imballo di spedizione: in scatole da 10 pezzi."
    Rough translation: "ONDINA®. 3) Elliptical faceplate for better and wider underwater observation. Shipping packages: packs of 10 pieces."

    We end today with some auction pictures of a Pirelli Ondina mask.
    upload_2021-2-17_11-2-41.jpeg
    upload_2021-2-17_11-3-2.jpeg
    upload_2021-2-17_11-3-31.jpeg
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    upload_2021-2-17_11-5-4.jpeg
    upload_2021-2-17_11-5-26.jpeg
    upload_2021-2-17_11-5-45.jpeg

    Enough for today. More at the weekend with a review of a Pirelli snorkel-mask débuting in 1959: the Galatea. Meanwhile, keep safe and well.
     
  7. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    Thanks, everybody, for the likes.
    800px-Guillemot_-_Acis_and_Galatea%2C_1827.jpg
    Now for the Pirelli Galatea snorkel-mask. Galatea (Γαλάτεια; "she who is milk-white"), daughter of Nereus and Doris, was a sea-nymph anciently attested in the work of both Homer and Hesiod, where she is described as the fairest and most beloved of the 50 Nereids. In Ovid's Metamorphoses she appears as the beloved of Acis, the son of Faunus and the river-nymph Symaethis, daughter of the River Symaethus. When a jealous rival, the Sicilian Cyclops Polyphemus, killed him with a boulder, Galatea then turned his blood into the Sicilian River Acis, of which he became the spirit. The painting above is The Loves of Acis and Galatea by Alexandre Charles Guillemot (1827). See more at Acis and Galatea - Wikipedia.

    Here is the Galatea snorkel-mask in Pirelli's 1959 catalogue, which is the company's earliest underwater product list to which I have access:
    PIRELLI-Catalogo-1959---38.jpg
    PIRELLI-Catalogo-1959---39.jpg
    The mask is at top right, priced 1,550 lire.

    1960
    PIRELLI-Catalogo-1960---24.jpg
    The Galatea now costs 50 lire less, while its red mask and blue snorkel can be viewed in their true colours.

    1963
    PIRELLI-Catalogo-1963---16.jpg
    Same price in monochrome.

    During the same year, Pirelli brought out an English-language catalogue featuring the Galatea thus:
    upload_2021-2-21_9-14-13.png
    GALATEA. The synthetic snorkle with float-operated shut-off valve ensures untroubled breathing even in very rough waters. Weight: 0.3 Kg. (0.58 lbs.)

    1964
    Pirelli_1964_8.jpg
    Italian: "GALATEA®. Di gomma morbida, a facciale ellitico. L. 1.500."
    Rough translation: "GALATEA®. Soft rubber. Oval faceplate. L. 1,500."
     
  8. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    1965
    PIRELLI%201965%20-%2033.jpg
    Italian: "GALATEA®. Di gomma morbida, a facciale ellitico. L. 1.500."
    Rough translation: "GALATEA®. Soft rubber. Oval faceplate. L. 1,500."
    Note the 50 lire price rise. Otherwise no change.

    1966
    PIRELLI-1966%20-%2039.jpg
    Ditto.

    1967
    PIRELLI-Catalogo-1967---41.jpg
    Ditto

    1968
    Pirelli_1968_12.jpg
    Same caption again.

    Production of the Galatea was discontinued before the 1970s. At each stage, this model was identified as an underwater observation and hunting mask. In the early years, replacement breathing devices were available for the Galatea. The valves were claimed to operate correctly in all positions in the water.

    The Ippocampo will be the next Pirelli snorkel-mask for review midweek. Keep well and safe until then.
     
  9. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    Thanks, АлександрД!
    Piazza_di_trevi_-_fontana_di_trevi_hippocampus_crop.jpg
    Now for the Pirelli Ippocampo snorkel-mask. "Ippocampo" is Italian for "hippocampus", an English word of Latin derivation used primarily nowadays as a scientific term denoting the area of the human brain associated with learning and emotions. However, "hippocampus" (Greek: ἱππόκαμπος, from ἵππος, "horse" and κάμπος, "sea monster"), often called a sea-horse in English, is also the name of a mythological creature, typically depicted as having the upper body of a horse with the lower body of a fish. If you are ever in Rome, be sure to visit the Trevi fountain (above), one of the eternal city's many "must-sees" and an opportunity to toss some small change unto the water for charity and in tribute to the 1954 movie "Three Coins in the Fountain", which I watched at a tender age on my first visit to the cinema. There, against the magnificent backdrop of the Palazzo Poli, you will see the sculpture of Oceanus in his chariot taming a hippocampus.

    Sadly, Pirelli's memorial to the hippocampus turned out to be a very short-lived member of its family of snorkel-masks lasting as it did a mere couple of years in production.

    1959
    PIRELLI-Catalogo-1959---38.jpg

    PIRELLI-Catalogo-1959---39.jpg
    The model above poses with the Ippocampo mask in the 1959 Pirelli catalogue. At 1,650 lire, it is the most expensive snorkel-mask on the page.

    1960
    PIRELLI-Catalogo-1960---24.jpg
    One year has elapsed and the price of the Ippocampo has been reduced by 50 lire, which is not always a good sign when it comes to product longevity. And so it proved as the Ippocampo was quietly dropped from the range.

    So why was production discontinued? One conjecture is that the Ippocampo mask body had elongated sides too characteristic of late-1940s/1950s "breathing masks", e.g. the Cressi products below:

    1946-materialepubblicitario2-jpg.580106.jpg

    By the 1960s, the emphasis in mask and snorkel-mask design had shifted to a lower-volume look.
     
  10. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    I'm proceeding immediately to another snorkel-mask in case anybody feels short-changed today by a single posting to this thread.
    Frederic_Mistral_portrait_photo.jpg
    The Pirelli Mirella's product name does not appear to originate in Hellenic mythology this time, unless, of course you know different! :confused: My initial take on the matter, evidenced by Italian-language Wikipedia's "Mirella" entry, is that "Mirella" is the Italian version of the name "Mireille", a French derivative of "Mirèio" first used in a poem of the same name by French author Frédéric Mistral (above). Written in 1859 after eight years of effort, Mirèio was a long poem in the Provençal language comprising twelve songs describing the thwarted love of Vincent and Mireille, two young people of different social backgrounds in the southern French region of Provence. The name Mireille (Mirèio in Provençal) is a doublet of the word "meraviho", which means "wonder". In the nineteenth century, "Mirella" established itself as an Italian girl's name, thanks to an Italian translation of Mistral's narrative poem and to the lyric opera Mireille (1864) inspired by it, composed by Charles Gounod.

    The Mirella made its début in Pirelli's 1959 catalogue:
    PIRELLI-Catalogo-1959---38.jpg
    PIRELLI-Catalogo-1959---39.jpg
    The caption bills the Mirella as an observation and underwater hunting snorkel-mask manufactured in plastic for youngsters and priced at 1,050 lire. A spare breathing device was available for 530 lire.

    1960
    PIRELLI-Catalogo-1960---24.jpg
    Same caption with lower price (1,000 lire) for the snorkel-mask and a polythene bag for package it. The entry below is from the 1960 catalogue of the German diving equipment company Barakuda, which imported and carried the Mirella:

    upload_2021-2-24_12-4-53.png
    German: "PIRELLI „NEREO JUNIOR“ („MIRELLA“) (ital. Fabrikat). Kinderschnorcheltauchmaske für Nasenatmung, Maskenkörper aus Kunststoff mit seitlichem Schnorchelstutzen. Gut funktionierendes Hebelventil. Preis: kompl. DM 8,40."
    Rough translation: "PIRELLI “NEREO JUNIOR” (“MIRELLA”) (Made in Italy). Children’s snorkel diving mask for nose breathing. Plastic mask body with a socket for the snorkel on the side. Price complete: DM 8.40."

    The use of "Nereo Junior" as an alternative product name for the "Mirella" is interesting as it estables a connection with the Pirelli Nereo mask, which is mentioned in Fabio Vitale's article VIAGGIO NELLE ATTREZZATURE SPORTIVE DEGLI ANNI ’50 from which I reproduce a somewhat low-resolution image of the Nereo along with its caption:
    upload_2020-12-13_10-16-16-png.630041.png
    Italian: Maschera Nereo Pirelli. Carcassa in gomma lucida di colore nera, verde o blu che racchiude, con un maggiore ispessimento del bordo esterno, l’ampio cristallo ovale; mentre il bordo facciale è assottigliato per favorire l’aderenza a qualsiasi forma di viso.
    Rough translation: "Pirelli Nereo Mask. Glossy black, green or blue coloured rubber body enclosing, with increased thickening of the outer edge, the large oval lens; while the facial border is thinned to facilitate adhesion to any facial shape."

    So the body of the mask is thicker where it retains the lens within a groove on the front edge and thinner where it is meant to fit snugly on the wearer's face. Masks with the thiinnest and hence most adhesive facial edges came to be known as models with feather edge skirts. The Nereo seems to have been discontinued before the end of the 1950s.

    And this is where we sign off for today. I shall complete the Pirelli Mirella (Nereo Junior) story next time. Until the weekend, stay well and safe.
     

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