Bev Morgan, Diving Industry Pioneer

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flyboy08

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Thank you for a very interesting thread!
 

JohnnyC

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That's quite the history! I'd love to have a couple hard hats just to have around, just to have the history from back when up to some of the new hats.
 

Oceanaut

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Friend and fellow abalone diver Dan Wilson had just completed a HeO2 test dive using the Purisima diving bell. Wilson used a freeflow mask made for Abalone diving that Bev Morgan and Ramsey Parks modified by adding a demand regulator (Scuba second stage).

When Bev went to work for Dan Wilson at General Offshore Divers (by then the West Coast division of Ocean Systems) the Purisima was still under construction.

The divers were to work out of the bell in Aquala dry suits and full-face masks. Wilson had bought two aluminum Widolf-Munroe masks which he and Del Thomason, who had left Associated Divers, redesigned to take a regulator and communications. Bev, with Thomason doing the solder work, and helped by Bob Christensen and Bob Ratcliffe, assembled them.

At Bev's suggestion, they connected the communications--devised by Ratcliffe -- to the earphones in the hood of the Aquala dry suit with an Electro-Oceanics connector, allowing the diver to plug in the communications after he put on the mask. As with Wilson's helium helmet, the masks had the disadvantage that the diver had to go off the mouthpiece to talk. According to Bev, they were also very hard breathing, although they served well enough for the first test dives from the bell.

Realising that the modified aluminum masks were inadequate, Bev proposed changing to a fiberglass mask. Years earlier, Marineland, the first seaquarium, had asked him to build a mask for its diving girls, with a large faceplate to allow the audience to see their faces. Bev did not want to build the mask, so he passed the job to Pat Curren, a surfer and abalone diver who owned a surf shop. Curren knew nothing about building masks or moulds; but Bev had learned about moulding from helping a friend build dune buggies, and with Bev's help and guidance Curren built a full-face, free-flow mask for the Marineland girls. Bev subsequently made a second mask from the Marineland mould, which he fitted with a Sportsways regulator for Neil Tobin, a diver in Hawaii.

When Wilson said he wanted ten fiberglass masks for the Purisima, Bev took a plug off the original mold and modified it to fit a Scubapro regulator. Wilson realized that Bev was a considerable asset. Seeing how much would be gained from paying him a salary to build masks for Ocean Systems, Wilson went to New York and put the proposition to Union Carbide, but without success. Union Carbide failed to understand the significance of a new type of commercial diving mask and they did not want to increase the overhead. Later, towards the end of 1965, Bev joined Bob Kirby and subsequently put an improved version of the mask into production as the Kirby Morgan Band Mask.
 

abnfrog

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Akimbo great history write up as always ...... a lot of years ago I met Bev and he told me of the us divers "talk" he had with them when they stole his idea then to make him go away said he could go in the warehouse and take all the gear that fit into (not above ) his pickup box ........love that story !
 

tennjay

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Good stuff. Thanks!
 

Oceanaut

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It is amazing what a small circle of people made all of this happen. When did Bob Ratcliffe develop the Rat Hat?

The Rat Hat dates to 1966 or 1967 when World Wide Divers in Morgan City, Louisiana called on Cal Dive—started in 1965 in Santa Barbara by Lad and Gene Handelman, Bob Ratcliffe and Kevin Lengyel—to assist with the inspection of a platform toppled by Hurricane Betsy. What World Wide lacked was the helium equipment and the deep-water experience to carry out the job. Cal Dive had both.

The platform World Wide had to inspect was lying on its side in 240 feet of water. Heavy gear, being made for going up and down, not horizontally in mid-water, was manifestly unsuited to doing a videotape inspection of a large Lego-like structure. The diver needed to be able to swim and he had to have good communications to describe what he was seeing.

Ratcliffe, Cal Dive's equipment designer, thought the Gulf Coast approach of putting a regulator and a microphone in a Desco or Scott mask was far from adequate. At Ocean Systems he had fitted the Widolf masks for the Purisima with what he considered the best two-way mask communications, but had concluded that a lightweight helmet with completely dry speakers was a better solution. In the sledge-hammer heat, high humidity and warm water of the Gulf, a mask had the further drawback that it left the ears exposed to the water, and thus to infections. Working 12-hour shifts, day in and day out, ear infections were a common complaint.

Ratcliffe's answer was a fiberglass helmet, the Rat Hat. The Rat Hat was closely preceded but not necessarily inspired by what is generally considered the first successful lightweight helmet, the Savoie, designed by Joe Savoie of Boutte, Louisiana. Fashioned from a plastic motorcycle helmet, the Savoie fitted close to the head, had a low displacement and was easy to swim in. In the original version, the diver could open the circular faceplate, which swung up like a visor. The most important innovation was that it attached to a metal neck ring incorporating a neoprene neck seal: a feature Ratcliffe and virtually all subsequent builders of lightweight helmets adopted.

With the Rat Hat the diver breathed from a regulator mouthpiece, the first stage being mounted at the back of the helmet. Initially the helmet was worn with a wet suit. Later, when the Rat Hat became Cal Dive's standard equipment, Ratcliffe adapted it to attach to a dry suit, including the Japanese nylon heavy gear dress. Over the years it underwent numerous modifications, such as the addition of a venturi-actuated breathing system that forced gas into the lungs at slight positive pressure to overcome the difficulty of increased density at extreme depths, and two types of compact gas-heaters on the first stage, one using hot water, the other a thermal regenerator.
 
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