Deep Sea Diving

DESCO's Commercial Dive Product History

Diving Equipment & Supply Company Catalog coverThis page will cover non-technical product history such as production numbers, and shipments. Any tidbits of historical interest we find about our products will land here.

DESCO Commercial Catalogs

1949 DESCO Commercial Equipment Catalog (click HERE to download pdf)

DESCO Water Sports Catalogs

 1955 DESCO Water Sports Catalog cover  1956 Water Sports Catalog cover  
1949 to 54 DESCO Water Sports Catalog (click HERE to download pdf) 1955 DESCO Water Sports Catalog (click HERE to download pdf) Note this catalog is missing pieces. Only copy we have. 1956 DESCO Water Sports Catalog (click HERE to download pdf) 1957 DESCO Water Sports Catalog (click HERE to download pdf

USN Helium Helmets (45 units), Serial Numbers 74-100 and 113-121

DESCO had been supplying the USN Mark V and USN Helium Helmets to the Navy since WWII. In the early 1970's the U.S. Navy was building two classes of vessels which would depend heavily on the ability to conduct deep diving operations. The two classes were the Edenton Class ATS Salvage and Rescue ship, and the Pigeon Class ASR Submarine Rescue Ship. DESCO's connection to these ships is in providing them with USN Helium helmets.

Edenton Class

USS Edenton ATS-1, USS Beaufort ATS-2, USS Brunswick ATS-3

Three Edenton Class ships were built by the Brooke Marine shipyard in the UK for the US Navy. As each ship was brought into service DESCO provided nine USN Helium Helmets.

Ship Desig. Commissioned Builder Helium Helmets
USS Edenton ATS 1 March 23, 1971 Brooke Marine UK 74-82
USS Beaufort ATS 2 January 22, 1972 Brooke Marine UK 92-100
USS Brunswick ATS 3 December 19, 1972 Brooke Marine UK 113-121

Currently USS Edenton was transferred to the US Coast Guard and after refitting became the USCGC Alex Haley and serves in Alaska.

The USS Beaufort and USS Brunswick were sold to the nation of South Korea in 1996.

Pigeon Class

USS Pigeon ASR-21, USS Ortolan ASR-22

Two Pigeon class ships were built by the Alabama Dry Dock & Shipbuilding Company. Designed for submarine rescue USS Pigeon and USS Ortolan supported the U.S. Navy's Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicles, and carried the McCann Rescue Chamber. The Helium helmet proved it's worth on the salvage of the USS Squalus in 1939 and was an integral component it submarine rescue since. Each ship received nine Helium helmets.

Ship Desig. Commissioned Builder Helium Helmets
USS Pigeon ASR 21 April 28, 1973 Alabama Dry Dock 83-91
USS Ortolan ASR 22 July 14, 1973 Alabama Dry Dock 101-103, 107-112

Currently USS Pigeon is mothballed in the Reserve Fleet in California. USS Ortolan was sold for scrap in 2009.

Some of the above information comes from wikipedia and Navsource

Historical Diving Society Commemorative Helmets

Over the years we have done three limited edition commemorative helmets for the Historical Diving Society USA. The first helmet issue was 20 U.S. Navy Mark V Helmets commemorating it s 80th anniversary (1915-1995). The second was 20 Abalone helmets in honor of DESCO's 60th anniversary (1937-1997). The third was 26 USN Helium Helmets commemorating the raising of the USS Squalus in 1939. The 26 helmets were in honor of the 26 souls lost in the sinking.

Historical Diver Magazine
#5 Summer 1995

Historical Diver Magazine
#11 Summer 1997        

Historical Diver Magazine
#56 Summer 2008

Desco Diving Equipment in The Movies

DESCO manufactured much of the genuine equipment used in the film "Men of Honor". The helmets used were not actual U.S. Navy Mark V helmets. The films production company chose to use a Commercial helmet top mated to a Mark V breastplate. If you look closely at the helmets in the diving scenes you will note the side windows are oval, and the front door is a screw in (Commercial) type. The Helium Helmet depicted was not a genuine Mark V Helium Helmet. It was made by the film company. Pay close attention to the front door assembly.

For the movie The Deep DESCO made several custom Jack Browne Masks. They were molded in Blue rubber instead of the standard Black. The frames were painted Blue to match. Robert Shaw's character specifically mentions 'DESCO gear" in the film.

We did some work for the independent film The Lost Treasure of Sawtooth Island starring Ernest Borgnine and Seth Bernard. Mr. Borgnine was kind enough to send us one of our catalogs with his autograph. He and his wife Tova were a mainstay of the annual Great Circus Parade in Milwaukee each summer.

Desco Diving Equipment Research and Development

Over the decades DESCO has undertaken research and development projects. Sometimes these projects were to improve existing products, other times to develop new products.

Lightweight Helium Helmet

These two photos in our files are the only record we have of this helmet. It is obviously a model very similar to the Bob Kirby Associated Helium helmet and follow on Yokohama model.

The Original Browne Commercial Diving Helmet

Again we are forced to rely on a few photos in our file cabinet. This helmet has a tall bubble shell and is fitted with Abalone windows, streamlined air inlet elbow, commercial comms, and Abalone exhaust valve.

The breastplate appears to be a hand made one off. The front seems deeper and narrower than a Mark V and the back shape is similar to, but narrower than a Commercial.

The date on the tag is 10-1-45. This may have been an attempt to make a helmet to different enough from the Mark V to spur some sales in a surplus equipment filled market. We aren't believing the 81000 serial number.