Pioneer Divers of Australia, by Des Williams


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Pioneer Divers of Australia – Salvage& Shipwrecks of the 19th Century
by Des Williams

Critical to Australia’s remarkable transformation from penal colony to a vibrant young nation, were divers who worked underwater, building infrastructure for our cities to rival the capitals of Europe. Importantly, with ships being Australia’s only means of reaching the world from its remote location, they were the divers who salvaged and repaired the vessels that provided a vital lifeline.
Australia’s first commercial divers, were quick to invent their own diving apparatus and experiment with ways to overcome the ‘bends,’ which in the 19th century was still a mystery ailment for divers.
In Pioneer Divers of Australia, the author brings together the stories of over 70 colonial divers who toiled, often with inadequate or makeshift equipment, in deep, dark, and dangerous waters during the 19th century. Their work included salvage of many famous Australian shipwrecks, the recovery of bullion consignments, harbour works, flooded mines, bridge-building, body searches, underwater blasting, and even the search for a meteor. Such assignments were all in a day’s work for the 19th century diver.
The divers of this era were courageous, versatile workers, many with little knowledge of the physiological effects of diving in deep waters. There were many accidents and deaths which are also related in the text.
This publication covers the period 1810 to 1900, from convict breath-hold and bell divers and includes the introduction of the copper-helmeted standard dress apparatus in 1837, in Sydney. There is also a section on Australian inventions and experimentation with new deep diving apparatus patents in the late 19th century.

188 pages
B&W, illustrations and photographs – some in sepia and colour
210 mm x 297 mm (approx. 8.25 in x 11.75 in)
2023, Self-published, Des Williams, Melbourne

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Additional information

Weight 1.1 kg
Dimensions 31 × 24 × 3 cm