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photograph: vintage divin helmet


The diver wiggles into a pre-WWII suit, morphing into a life-size version of the classic figurine you find in fish tanks. 

It's a balmy Saturday in March, and I'm photographing members of the Northwest Dive Equipment Group at Lake Stevens, about an hour's drive north of Seattle. Bradley "Mitch" Mitchell, a local collector of antique dive equipment, brought his gear to outfit the divers.

The U.S. Navy Mark V gear is called 'heavy gear,' because of its weight. When fully suited, Mitchell's vintage outfit adds 1.5 pound for each pound of body weight. His boots, 27 pounds each; helmet, 58 pounds; weight belt, 85 pounds.

This is clearly not a sport for claustrophobics.

"You're gonna do what's called a 'giant stride entry' ... says Tim King, co-owner of Smokey Point Diving.  "Don't look down at the water," he cautions, "or your face will meet the helmet."