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Heinke SCUBA harness

Date: 1950s
600 x 390 x 220 mm
Medium: Rubber, canvas, metal
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Lee Graham
Classification:Tools and equipment
Object Name: Harness
Object No: 00040465

User Terms

    This SCUBA harness manufactured by Heinke and Co has a rubber backplate with five canvas adjustable straps attached and two steel rings which hold the SCUBA tank in place.
    SignificanceCE Heinke and Co Ltd was submarine engineers and manufacturers of diving equipment for nearly 100 years. In that time the company built up an enviable reputation for innovation and reliability. But changes in underwater technology, diving equipment and the inability of the company to compete and adapt to these changes saw its demise. The Heinke backplate and harness, manufactured in London between 1951 and 1961, is a symbol of that change of the new technology sweeping away the old. (Maynard, 2002)
    HistoryGotthilf Frederick Heinke, a coppersmith by trade, arrived in London from Prussia as a refugee from the Napoleonic Wars in 1808 and by 1818 Heinke was operating a small tin and copper manufacturing business. Heavily influenced by the work of the Deane Brothers on smoke and diving helmets, in 1844 Heinke exhibited an 'improved diving helmet' in London. A year later Heinke's son Charles Edwin had the company’s new helmet design patented with the London Board of Trade. (Maynard, 2002)

    Gotthilf Frederick Heinke and his two eldest sons, Charles and John, quickly expanded the diving side of the business into an international firm, providing standard dress suits to the Royal Navy as well as salvage and construction divers. With the death of Heinke senior and his two eldest brothers, the firm was taken over by Henry Heinke in 1871 who continued the expansion of the diving company until it ranked as the second largest in the world after Siebe-Gorman. The design of the Heinke units, being lighter in weight, easier to operate and with clearer viewing ports than Siebe-Gorman, favoured the pearling industry, with many hundreds of the units - often called 'Pearler Style' being used by pearlers' in Western Australia and the Torres Strait by the early 1900s.

    The English firms of C E Heinke and Co and its main rival Siebe Gorman dominated the manufacturing of diving equipment until the early 1940s when a series of inventions and innovations in France, America and Australia threatened their dominance of the market. In 1942 two French navy divers Emile Gagnan and Jacques Cousteau invented the first open-circuit SCUBA (self-contained underwater breathing equipment) tank and regulator which they called the 'aqualung'. It consisted of a high pressure diving cylinder and a twin hose diving regulator that supplied the diver with breathing gas at ambient pressure (i.e. equal to the pressure of water around them), via a demand valve.

    With the end of WWII in Europe, Gagnan and Cousteau 'Aqualungs' went on sale in Europe and America and diving as an expensive recreational hobby commenced. In 1953 The National Geographical Society Magazine published an article about Cousteau's underwater archaeology at Grand Congloué Island near Marseille, and in French-speaking countries a diving film called Épaves (Shipwrecks) came out. This publicity started a massive public demand for aqualungs and diving gear, and in France and America the diving gear makers started making them as fast as they could.

    The popularity of the 'Aqualung', their lightness and ease of use and there small cost when compared to Standard Dress diving units, saw them quickly being adapted for military and salvage application. With their market under threat Heinke and Siebe Gorman quickly began to manufacture SCUBA units either under license to Gagnan and Cousteau (now U S Divers) or of their own design.

    Changes in the dive manufacturing industry and the increasing costs of their own products in relationship to those of its rivals saw C E Heinke taken over by its rival Siebe Gorman in 1961. For a few years after that date the companies names were merged to form 'Siebe-Heinke' but eventually the name disappeared.


    Maynard, Jeff, 'Divers in Time - Australia's Untold History', (Glenmore Productions, Hood Street, Yarraville, Victoria), 2002.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Heinke SCUBA harness

    (not entered): Heinke SCUBA harness

    Related People
    Manufacturer: Heinke

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