Rare diving helmet on display at Museum of Tropical Queensland

10 December 2010

A rare heritage diving helmet manufactured in the 1840’s is now on display at the Museum of Tropical Queensland, Townsville.
The ‘A. Siebe’ helmet, named after its manufacturer Christian Augustus Siebe, is believed to be one of the earliest examples of standard diving dress helmets and was recently donated to the Queensland Museum by private collectors Greg and Helen Langley of Hobart.
Museum of Tropical Queensland Director Peter McLeod said the Queensland Museum is privileged to have an object of such significance in its collection.
“The Langley family donated their entire collection of heritage diving helmets and other diving apparatus to the Queensland Museum in 2008 and the collection has become a very popular exhibit in Townsville,” said Mr McLeod.
“This particular helmet represents the earliest phase of diving helmet development in the world.

“It was one of the first helmets attached to a fully sealed (closed) suit which reduced the risk of the helmet flooding and the diver drowning, contrasting with the earlier open-dress helmet where excess air would escape from around the diver’s waist.

“The donation of the object firmly establishes the Queensland Museum’s collection as one of the leading international collections of diving technology in any public or private institution,” said Mr McLeod.
Museum of Tropical Queensland Maritime Curator Ed Slaughter said Siebe, who was earlier a Lieutenant in the Prussian army which fought against Napoleon, migrated to England in 1816 where he initially worked as a watchmaker.
“By 1819 Siebe had established an engineering company and by the1830’s he was pioneering diving technology,” said Mr Slaughter.
“This helmet is similar to those which were famously used in the salvage operation of the HMS Royal George in 1840.
“Augustus Siebe produced helmets from 1849 -1870 under his own name, before the company evolved into Siebe Gorman, famous for supplying equipment to navies and diving operators around the world.
“They were the precursor to the industry standard in use until the 1950s - the Siebe Gorman 12 bolt helmet - examples of which can also be viewed at the Museum of Tropical Queensland,” said Mr Slaughter.
Entry to the museum is free for locals through the Council Community Pass, supported by Townsville, Burdekin, Charters Towers and Hinchinbrook councils.
The ‘A. Siebe’ helmet was donated to the Queensland Museum by the Langley family through the Federal Government’s Cultural Gifts Program.
The Museum of Tropical Queensland, part of the Queensland Museum, is open from 9.30am - 5pm daily except Christmas Day.
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                                Stephen Wilson  4726 0604 or 0431 334 583