One of the first modern Atmospheric Diving Suits, designed by Pop Peress in 1924.
Photo courtesy of Mike Humphrey.

The later version of the Peress suit, known as the Tritonia suit.
In 1935 the suit was used by Jim Jarett for a dive in 312 feet of water on the wreck of the Lusitania.

It was generally recognized in the early part of the 20th Century that the ordinary rubber diving dress was limited to the depth of operation it could safely bre used at.180 feet was the depth to which practical work could be carried out at and although some experimental dives were made to a depth of 300 feet often these were made with a loss of life.

What as the problem with the rubber diving dress? Well, as the diver descends deeper the depth becomes greater and the diver relies on compressed air inside the suit to counteract the pressure from the surrounding water.
The diver also has the effect of the nitrogen which is absorbed into the bloodstream to contend with as the body does not assimilate this unwanted gas. The solution to this problem was to encapsulate the diver in a rigid suit which could withstand the pressure of the surrounding water whilst the diver inside was at normal atmospheric pressure. Overcoming this problem would mean the diver could return to the surface without long spells underwater decompressing whist ascending.
The idea of the one atmosphere suit was not new . It had been tried in the USA , Italy, Australia and Germany but there was one major drawback, that of providing flexible joints to a rigid piece of equipment.

The ‘Tritonia’ Deep Diving Dress was to overcome this problem. Invented by Mr Peress of Byfleet, England its flexibility and adaptability placed it in a class of its own .
‘Pop’ Peress was to use one of nature’s solutions to the problem of friction in joints, which is to surround the joint in a fluid. The liquid whist being displaceable remains uncompressible and so the moving parts of the joints never come in contact with each other. The first test demonstrated the safe use of the Tritonia Equipment at depths of 440 feet but it is believed the equipment would function well at depths of 1000 to 1200 feet. In fact the inventor believed the Tritonia could be designed to work at depths of up to 2800 feet or half a mile.

Admiralty Trials – HMS Tedworth and The Tritona being lowered into the sea

After tank trials and high pressure trials on the joints to pressures experienced at 1380 feet the Tritonia was taken to Loch Ness on board the SS Recovery.
These trials were wholly successful. The Diver was James Jarratt and the year was 1930. The suit has oxygen cylinders and sufficient air for 10 hours and the diver is in constant communication with the surface. There is enough room inside the suit to withdraw the diver’s arms, eat, drink and take notes.
The Tritonia is very delicately balanced in the water so with little effort the operator can lie on the floor pick up items, tie knots etc… It is also highly moveable and in one experiment at Spihead the diver was able to walk against a current of 2 knots.

The inventor JS Peress explaining to the ships crew of the
SS Recovery the principles of the Peress Tritonia equipment
The Tritonia being lowered into the water at the early
stages of the Deep water Trial in Loch Ness in Scotland

In Conclusion JS Peress wrote the following:

Scope for Usefulness
Great research , as well as much ingenuity and labour (involving an outlay of more than £20,000) has been expended in bringing the Tritonia Dress to its present stage of perfection.

To summarise the position, the Dress can be used for the following purposes:-

For Naval requirements such as saving lives from sunken submarines, and for destructive work such as laying explosives.
For commercial salvage purposes such as the recovery of valuable cargoes and bullion.
For gathering marine products of commerce such as pearls, mother of pearl shells, sponges and corals
For scientific research
For submarine filming and photography.

Photograph of the JS Peress Tritonia suit and a Standard divers dress on board the SS Recovery in 1933

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Last update: 12th August 2009