Charles E. Heinke

Charles ‘Edwin’ Heinke (1818-1869) was the second son of Gotthilf ‘Frederick’ Heinke who was an immigrant coppersmith from Prussia. Gotthilf ‘Frederick’ Heinke started the family business around 1818 and had a shop at 103 Great Portland Street, London. Later on (around 1844), Charles E. Heinke was steering the family firm in a different direction towards submarine engineering. About 1845 Charles Heinke manufactured his first commercial diving apparatus and worked to improve upon the helmet designs of A.Siebe. One noticeable difference of many Heinke helmets is a square pattern, cast bronze (‘gunmetal’) breastplate instead of a beaten copper one which was introduced in 1845. This square pattern corselet became popular in the pearl industry as it enabled a diver to bend forwards more easily to pick up pearl shells from the seabed. This corselet shape and the slightly ‘forward-down facing’ windows (which remained unguarded for improved visibility) of the Heinke bonnet became known as the ‘pearler’ style helmet. It was later copied by many other manufacturers including Siebe Gorman, the Japanese TOA Company and Russian diving apparatus manufacturers. During WW2 the ‘pearler’ style helmet was manufactured by the Australian ‘Robison’ Company of Melbourne. The reason for this is not clear but perhaps it was not possible to supply the Australian military with Heinke apparatus during the war period. The Heinke Company was bought by Siebe, Gorman & Co Ltd. in 1961 and for some time spare parts for the Heinke apparatus were supplied by Siebe, Gorman with some was marked using the combined ‘Siebe-Heinke’ name.

Above: a diver dressed in a Heinke equipment at work in the ‘Willem’ locks in Amsterdam. The picture was taken during the flood of 1916. Photographs David L.Dekker collection

Photograph David L.Dekker

The Heinke ‘pearler’ helmet shown above is the identical model as the helmet shown in an old postcard from 1916. However, I bought this helmet on one of my ‘hunting trips’ in Burma during the 1990s.

Since discovering the helmet I have also found the shoes, the belt with knife and ‘pipe-holder’ and a Heinke air-pump (not shown here). While I was in Istanbul last year I was lucky enough to discover an original set of Heinke weights (see photo below). All I now require to complete the set is an original Heinke ‘pearler’ suit ... (if anyone knows of a Heinke suit for sale, please contact me). ( June 2012: suit is found! The set is complete now. Now all I hope to find is a set of new red rubber cuffs for it )

Photograph David L.Dekker

Photographs David L.Dekker

The Heinke ‘Harbour’ helmet

From the mid-1950s onwards, diving equipment design was developing as new technological advances and innovation took place. This can be seen in the pioneering ‘CG45’ regulator and HP scuba tanks developed by Jacques Cousteau. Until then diving equipment had been expensive and was only affordable by the larger diving companies. However when Cousteau developed his regulators and dry-suits at much lower costs (using either scuba tanks or with surface demand), underwater work became more affordable and more widespread among a new generation of divers. Following this new trend Heinke developed a lighter ( cheaper ) diving equipment, the ‘Harbour Dress’. The helmet design was copied from the Denayrouze 3 bolt system but for some reason the helmets flanges were mounted in reverse when compared with the original french design.

When the Heinke company was sold to Siebe Gorman & Co Ltd around 1960 this helmet design was taken in production by Siebe Gorman in a slightly different version: Siebe Gorman gave the helmet the front window of the MRS helmet ( see the chapter ‘1839 Augustus Siebe 2’ ) The 3 photographs here above show the Heinke ‘Harbour Dress’ in action: I received these nice old photographs from HDS SEAP ( Historical Diving Society South East Asia and Pacific ) member Stephen K.Taylor, thank you very much Steve.

Currently identical helmets but with a Siebe. Gorman & Co Ltd company badge are being sold in Europe which are reproductions. See for more info the ‘Fake Helmet Alert’ chapter.


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