Diver hopefuls return historic dive helmet and pump to former glory

Published on Royal Australian Navy (author), ABIS Leo Baumgartner (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Penguin, NSW

Topic(s): Training, HMAS Penguin

Members of the ADF Diving School’s Initial Employment Trainee intake 005 with the Siebe Gorman diving pump and brass helmet they refurbished. (photo: ABIS Leo Baumgartner)
Members of the ADF Diving School’s Initial Employment Trainee intake 005 with the Siebe Gorman diving pump and brass helmet they refurbished.

Initial Employment Trainee (IET) intake 005 posted to HMAS Penguin in January 2019 in preparation for the Basic Clearance Diver Course.

During IET with the ADF Diving School, IET 005 had the privilege of refurbishing an old Siebe Gorman diving pump and brass standard diving helmet.

Over a six week period, the group worked as a team to completely strip apart the pump, sand it, replace the broken timber, polish, repaint, varnish and reconstruct it for display.

The Siebe Gorman pump design was used by the first trainee divers in the 1920s, who conducted diving operations off Hann’s Inlet wharf, HMAS Cerberus

In order for this pump to work, it required two operators to pump air through an umbilical cord to the diving helmet, which enabled the diver to conduct their task safely.

Unlike any design before it, this equipment significantly increased the safety and reliability of diving.

Thereafter, it was used extensively by the Navy and Army in a variety of operations, such as maritime Explosive Ordinance Disposal, salvage operations and Underwater Damage Repair.

This technique, along with the closed diving dress, diving helmet and pump served useful for the Australian Defence Force until engine and electric driven pumps replaced them.

Now polished and revamped, the diving apparatus is displayed at the entrance of the ADF Diving School, where it gives people an idea of how far diving equipment and techniques have advanced.

Warrant Officer Diver Darren Smith from the ADF Diving School said the refurbished nod to the past also speaks to the trust and teamwork required in a clearance diving unit.

“The operation of the apparatus captures the interests of people, because the critical task of hand pumping air to a diver highlights a connection between team members that encompasses the importance of professionalism, loyalty, integrity, courage, innovation and teamwork.

“This task has given the intake members an opportunity to complete something together as a team while they prepare for diving course, and then proudly return the heritage items back to the ADF Diving School,” Warrant Officer Diver Smith said.

IET 005 are busy developing military skills, learning how to scuba dive and increase their fitness in preparation for Clearance Diver Aptitude Assessment in July.

Once successful they will continue their specialist training together as Basic Clearance Divers 88.