A Slice of Diving History

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” – Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

Karr was a famous French 19th century journalist, who penned this epigram in 1849. This letter, written by Commander G.A. Converse to Lieutenant Commander Uriel Sebree, affirms how many divers, both military and commercial, can be slow to embrace change.

The letter offers some insight into the advent of voice communications between the diver and topside, and the feeling that it would not be welcomed because it would just add another line in the water and increase the chances of the diver getting fouled.

The author also cites that the present form of communication (line-pull signals) is more than adequate and that the divers would not want to be bothered with directions from topside personnel who don’t know the details of a job that they can’t see firsthand. Of course, by today’s standards this is unheard of. However, we still see vestiges of resistance to change with the introduction of equipment improvements.

Also, take note of the lines-pull signals and how much they evolved from the 1890’s to the current U.S. Navy line-pull signals. From the cost of the diving gear to the mention of the development of a handbook on diving, the letter offers the reader a real slice of diving history.

Enjoy the letter and its historical perspective on diving.

More information on both the Commander and Lieutenant Commander can be obtained through a simple web search.

Special thanks to Robert Cembrola and the Naval Historical Collection at the Naval War College and to Dr. Sally Bauer, President and Co-Founder of the History of Diving Museum. I want to also thank Bill Crowley, ADCI Past President and Tom Galloway for their insight.

To read the full letter, click here.

Phil Newsum
Executive Director, ADCI