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Cousteau Wetsuit

Discussion in 'Vintage Equipment Diving' started by Tickler, Oct 29, 2013.

  1. J.DANI

    J.DANI Angel Fish

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    Hello, David!.
    Cousteau photo is 1954 ( Medas Islands , Spain . I facilitate another image of the same day). Really , the wetsuit is of rubber , neoprene not . The other pictures to come from my blog, and wetsuit "Tarzan" is from my collection . But I want to fix a silver wetsuit " Rediscovery of the World".

    Thanks, and best regards!!

    12987133_488574328012053_3124057751163376653_n.jpeg cousteau_buceo-633xXx80.jpg
     
  2. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    Thank you for a great blog with such a wonderful collection of vintage images. Keep up the good work! As well as the welcome focus on Cousteau, it's great to see credit being given to pioneers such as Frenchman Georges Beuchat for his early place in the history and development of the wetsuit, using foam rubber instead of neoprene to construct the garments. Early 1950s wetsuits were also made in England using either foam or sheet rubber:
    img010.jpg
    I've recently been researching diving equipment in Soviet-era Russia, where sponge-rubber was the material of choice for manufacture of the country's "Neptun" wetsuit:
    Neptun.png
     
  3. J.DANI

    J.DANI Angel Fish

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    Photo for your collection: the french. FRÈDÈRIC DUMAS with a wetsuit Pirelli Worl War II.
    I guess it is impossible to reconstruct silver foil wetsuit...
    In USA there is any company that can do this job ??

    12525158_480486918820794_2238254500590389815_o.jpeg
     
    trapezus likes this.
  4. John C. Ratliff

    John C. Ratliff Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Beaverton, Oregon
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    J.Dani,

    A couple of those suits were dry suits, including the one from Cousteau in the 1950s and Dumas in the post above.
    What is interesting about this post of Frèdèric Dumas is that he is using an oxygen rebreather, and not an Aqualung. As a part of the French Navy's Undersea Research Group, they did a lot of research and some probably served in clandestine activities, with some of the French Navy serving in the French-Indochina War, which was actually referred to somewhere in Cousteau's The Silent World (I cannot find it right now).

    SeaRat
     
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  5. John C. Ratliff

    John C. Ratliff Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Beaverton, Oregon
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    You asked if any of us had actually dived these old suits. Yes, I have in the late 1950s and early 1960s. These suits were foam neoprene, and in varying thicknesses. Here, we used U.S. measurements of 1/8th inch, 3/16ths of an inch, and 1/4 inch. Since I was diving in Oregon, it was cold water diving, and we wore 1/4 inch suits (see the photos below). These were very warm suits, and were built without zippers. But they were also fragile, as there was no nylon backing at that time. We needed either talc powder or corn starch to get into these suits, but once in they were very warm. I would dive in freezing water (just above 32 degrees) in rivers, or in the ocean in summer in the 55 degree F range, and stay warm for an hour of diving. We also free dived, for spearfishing (again, see the photo).

    Unfortunately, because of their fragile nature, these suits rarely lasted five years. Getting into them was difficult, and frustrating when they ripped and we needed to repair them. The seam tape (yellow stripes) actually were there to strengthen the seam, which was only glued with neoprene cement. Cousteau was the one who started using yellow seam tape, and then we emulated him as that made us much more visible. Cousteau used yellow seam tape for his photography and movies, whereas we used it to be seen when spearfishing in limited visibility (ever come up to a diver with a speargun head-on in five foot visibility?).

    I liked these old suits, and immensely disliked the nylon-two-side suits, as these early suits leaked terribly through the sewn seams (before they did blind stitching), and were much, much colder than the early suits.

    'Hope this helps.

    SeaRat
     

    Attached Files:

    trapezus likes this.
  6. John C. Ratliff

    John C. Ratliff Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Beaverton, Oregon
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    Corn starch does this trick, and it won't hurt your lungs breathing it. Talc also does the trick, but is not good to breath. We did not use Physohex, but did use dishwashing soap occasionally, but it is pretty cold when the weather is freezing.

    SeaRat
     
  7. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    John is right that Dumas is wearing a Pirelli drysuit in the rebreather picture. Pirelli's drysuits were retailed throughout the 1950s and there was more than one model, three of them displayed below in an image from the excellent vintage diving website DiveScrap.com:
    DrySuits.jpg
    John also mentions the "constant volume" suit, which was a different type of drysuit at a time when every other drysuit had "variable volume". Here is an image of Cousteau posing in the constant volume drysuit he invented and patented:
    ConstVol2.jpg
    It certainly looks as though Cousteau tried out many different kinds and makes of diving suit!
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2016
  8. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    Returning to the subject of neoprene versus natural rubber as a diving suit material, the first British suit to be made out of neoprene was Heinke's Delta drysuit featured in the 1957 catalogue of Lillywhites' sporting goods store in London:
    Delta_neoprene.jpg
    A neoprene wetsuit first appeared in Lillywhites' 1959 catalogue. Before 1959, European wetsuits were made out of sponge/foam rubber (e.g. Beuchat, Typhoon, Siebe-Gorman) or sheet rubber (Heinke Dolphin). The late adoption of neoprene in Europe may have had something to do with the fact that the US Dupont company had developed the material and would have asserted proprietary rights over its availability. Foam rubber continued to be used to manufacture Russian wetsuits throughout the Soviet era.

    Modern freediving wetsuits often have open-cell neoprene on the inside, which reduces water entry, increases warmth but necessitates the use of shampoo or even women's tights to ease the process of donning the suit.
     
    trapezus likes this.
  9. J.DANI

    J.DANI Angel Fish

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    Thank you very much , John and David , for all the information . It has been very interesting!!!!!
     
  10. JMBL

    JMBL Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: France
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    I enjoyed reading that thread very much. Thanks a lot guy ! Brought up nice memories : I grew up in front of a TV set in the 70's, when Cousteau's Odyssey was broadcast non stop.
     

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