It looks like something straight out of a science fiction movie: an alien emerges from the deep sea, a huge, robotic figure bearing news of an underwater world and ready to take over land-based Earth.
Believe it or not, the suit is not science fiction. It’s an atmospheric diving suit (ADS), a human-shaped diving suit that creates a regular internal pressure for the wearer and allows them to deep-sea dive without being crushed by the pressure.
The man shown in the picture is named Chester E. MacDuffee (sometimes spelled MacDuffy or MacDuffie), an inventor in the early 1900s who took this proud picture with his deep-sea diving suit in 1911.
This particular suit could reach a water depth of 65 meters (214 feet), proven when the suit was put to the test in 1915 in Long Island Sound. The most innovative part of MacDuffee’s creation is its ball bearings used to give the joints movement. The suit is not watertight but instead has a pump that pumps water from the leg section into the sea. Then the used air, taken from the air supplied from the surface, expands into the suit so the diver can breathe.
Unfortunately MacDuffee’s design was not very successful, but he no doubt contributed to shaping ADS’s superior designs, helping them become what they are today. The most recent ADS design reached a new record when in 2006 the Chief Navy Diver Daniel Jackson reached 2,000 feet deep in the ADS 2000.