Old News – Diver Training

A hundred years ago World War I is still going. The Brockport newspaper printed this letter that was from one of the local soldiers that was being trained to be a diver.

The Brockport Republic

Thursday, July 4, 1918

Soldiers Being Taught Diving

Few Brockport people know that some of our boys are getting training in deep sea diving. the following interesting letter on the subject is from Kenneth Coleman, son of Mr. and Mrs. A. G. Coleman. June 19, 1918.

“I guess that I have been here long enough to tell you so you uou’ll understand the duties of a diver. I will try as near as possible to give you our daily routine. The first and hardest thing to do is getting up in the a.m. Then the easy part and the part tat I like best comes next – eating my breakfast. At 8 am. we report for work and the man who is next to “take a dip” starts preparing for an “Annette Kellerman” over the side.

First of all he crawls into his dress which is like a union suit without holes in the feet. He has two men to help him getting dressed, as his suit is very heavy when completed. Then comes the cellar which is made of steel and covers the chest as well as the neck. Next in order are the overalls. They are not to keep the dress clean, but to prevent it from tearing. The “dancing pumps” are then drapped on his feet. There is no change in the style of these shoes from season to season. The weight of them is thirty-nine pounds each. You are then ready to get on the ladder, and lay on your stomach, until your belt has been adjusted. It is not put on to hold up your trousers, but to hold you down. Last but not least is your steel derby. the derby is screwed tight to your collar which means about fifty pounds more .

Four of the boys than take their turn at the pump and it is well to be on good terms with them or they might forget to pump.

The water here ranges from twenty to thirty feet in depth and is about the color of “Lion Coffee.” It is impossible to see more than three feet.

There is seventeen of us leave tomorrow on a diving launch for Whitestone where we have to go down one hundred and ten feet. When you go down that far, it takes half an hour to go down and half an hour to come up. If you come up without stopping you will get the “bends.” That is a disease I know very little about and am glad that I don’t. It is caused from not properly decompressed (Deep stuff, isn’t it?).

If I see any mermaids down there, shall I tell them you send your best regards?”