Before we had ALVIN—or proper submarines for that matter—the best way to get to the seafloor was by using a diving bell. Originally made from recycled church bells, these diving apparatuses protected their passengers from the murky depths in a bubble of air. Our friends at Oobject have assembled nine of the best.
When you're done diving into these, check out a few decommissioned subs, their claustrophobic torpedo rooms, and these nine bathing machines.
James Gillray: Going down in a Diving Machine, 1801
McCann Rescue Chamber
Cutaway drawing of the device used to rescue 33 crewmen from the sunken submarine USS Squalus (SS-192) in May 1939.
Diving bell from 1700s
Divers stood inside this thing which literally looks like a bell and recovered 50 cannon from a sunken ship, without being able to see where they were going.
Edmund Halley's 17th Century Diving Bell
A kind of technology that is more Pirates of the Caribbean than Steampunk
Alexander the Great Diving Bell
A 16th century engraving of Alexander the Great being lowered in a glass diving bell.
Renaissance Diving Bell by Niccolo Fontana Tartaglia
From Tartaglia's 1551: methods for raising sunken ships, which includes several designs for diving bells
Diving Bell used by Brunel
Brunel used this to inspect his Thames tunnel
George Leybourne's great song : Down in a diving bell
An unlikely topic for a hit song.
1920s Diving apparatus
Not strictly a diving bell at this stage, since diving helmets and bells had diverged, but glass spheres in the same vein as those from Alexander the Great's time. This was an illustration from the Strand magazine for Conan Doyle's Atlantean adventure novel The Maracot Deep.