The Mark V ‘Widow Maker,’ A. J. Morse, and Siebe Gorman Diving Helmets Come to Auction
Exploring the deep sea has always intrigued and excited those living on land. The history of diving dates back to the 5th century BCE. Old paintings even depict Alexander the Great descending in a glass vessel to discover the underwater world. But diving underwater comes with its fair share of challenges. Technological inventions have made underwater exploration a reality. Diving helmets, in particular, made exploring, studying, and working below water possible. They have an important place in the history of ocean exploration.
Nation’s Attic Inc. will present a selection of antique diving helmets in an upcoming auction this December. The auction house brings a Mark V ‘Widow Maker’ and other vintage diving helmets in its Diving Into History event. Auction Daily explores some notorious helmets highlighted in the auction before the bidding begins.
The Widow Maker – Mark V Diving Helmet
The notorious ‘Widow Maker’ diving helmet is also known as the helium Mark V. It was custom made for the United States Navy by Diving Equipment & Supply Company (DESCO) in March of 1972. The design originated back in the 1930s. The Mark V is a mixed gas helmet designed for extreme deep diving missions. It has a noticeably large brass tank at the back that contains an absorbent for Co2 produced by the wearer. However, this helmet carries a potential risk. When the absorbent at the back of the helmet is exposed to water, it turns into a dangerous gas that can be lethal. That is how the ominous helmet got its ‘Widow Maker’ nickname from US Navy divers.
Mark V helmets made for the US Navy, like this one, featured copper bodies coated with original tin to prevent saltwater corrosion. The coating gives this helmet its unique gray color. It also weighs an impressive 101 pounds. It is no wonder that the helmet scared wearers, particularly those who knew about the potential risk of being trapped underwater with it.
After its production, this helmet was sent to the USS Brunswick ATS-3, a salvaged ship from Pearl Harbor. It carries serial numbers that authenticate it as a Mark V helmet. This important historical helmet will come to auction with an estimate of USD 15,000 to $20,000.
A. J. Morse Diving Helmet From the 1900s
An antique diving helmet attributed to A. J. Morse & Son Inc. is available in the upcoming auction. The company produced diving helmets from 1837 to 2014. Established in Boston by Fletcher & Morse, the company was sold and changed names several times before DESCO acquired it in 2016. The available diving helmet dates back to approximately 1908. This impressive example has a patina look that only comes with age. It is a four-light 12-bolt model with matching serial numbers. It comes with an air control valve, tee wrench, Craftsweld communication radio, speaker, and a photo of the original owner. The winning bidder will receive the name and diving biography of the owner in the photograph. This lot has a presale estimate of $8,000 to $12,000.
Siebe Gorman Six-Bolt Admiralty Pattern Diving Helmet
The shiny round surface of the Siebe Gorman Six-Bolt diving helmet is a thing of beauty. Siebe Gorman was a British company that produced the first closed diving helmets in the 1830s. It designed helmets to fit full-length watertight canvas diving suits. The company continuously reinvented its designs as diving technology advanced. Nation’s Attic brings this classic English invention to auction with an estimate of $4,500 to $6,500.
Her Majesty’s Royal Navy teams used Admiralty Pattern diving helmets extensively throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, including during World War II. The original Siebe Gorman helmets, like the available example, feature a brass ID plate. The breastplate and neck ring of the bonnet carry serial numbers as well. It has oval windows on each side and a simple, clean round glass window in the front. The copper body gleams as one of the earliest examples of the British diving helmet.
The value of these antique diving helmets has only risen with time. There are more than 200 lots of diving equipment and collectibles in this Nation’s Attic Inc. event. Bidding begins on December 4th, 2021 at 11:00 AM EST. Register to bid and view each of the available lots on Bidsquare.