WICHITA, Kan. – A diving helmet known as the “Widow Maker” by the brave souls who wore it in hopes of surviving ungodly ocean depths is among the many incredible finds to surface at Nation’s Attic auction March 6.
The no-reserve auction features antique diving helmets and related equipment, vintage scuba gear, militaria, maritime antiques and other items all found exclusively on LiveAuctioneers.com
The auction features an incredibly rare and impressive U.S. Navy Mark V mixed gas diving helmet presented to Lieutenant Commander James W. Gibson by the USS Coucal crew (ARS-8) upon his retirement. Given the nickname the Widow Maker by Navy divers, the Mark V helium helmet is an impressive piece of diving technology. Weighing more than one hundred pounds, the helmet was designed for extreme deep diving missions. Sending a mixture of helium and oxygen to the diver allowed them to go depths more than the typical 100 to 150 feet.
Diving at such great depths could be extremely dangerous, thus the helmet’s Widow Maker nickname. Because of their cost, advanced training required for use, and the limited number of missions that required such a helmet, few helium Mark V helmets were made. Fewer yet survive. The helmet up for auction, made May 5, 1945, by Diving Equipment & Salvage Company (DESCO), represents the pinnacle of underwater diving technology from World War II.
The auction also includes a unique bronze diving helmet called the “Divinhood” made in 1915 and possibly used in silent movies. A US Navy helmet made on D-Day, June 6, 1944, is also an exceptional helmet that will soon find a new buyer. Rare equipment, books and posters related to military and commercial diving adventure make up over half of this sale.
In addition to hard-hat diving memorabilia, the sale also has a wonderful selection of early Scuba diving equipment from the 1940s onward. Rare equipment from the famed diver Hans Hass is of particular interest. Hass, a marine biologist and underwater filmmaker, was among the first to introduce worldwide audiences to the beauties of coral reefs, stingrays, octopuses and sharks — especially sharks, which he considered the most beautiful and most maligned ocean creatures.
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One of the very first scuba regulators made from surplus WWII aircraft equipment is a remarkable piece. A movie camera housed a homemade clear housing from the 1950s and used at the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco is another noteworthy piece of diving history being sold at no reserve.