Posts Tagged ‘British’

1979 – OMAS SPIDER Atmospheric Diving Suit – Graham Hawkes (British)


1979 –  OMAS SPIDER Atmospheric Diving Suit.

Spider.5JPEG-x640   gidrokostum-x640


Underwater World – 1978, Volumes 1-2 – Page 43
A new atmospheric diving suit called OMAS has recently been developed by Vickers Slingsby, and two of these are already in use by the Aberdeen-based diving and underwater engineering company, Wharton-Williams. Nicknamed 'Spider' by Wharton-Williams, this is the fifth A.D.S. to have been developed, the others being Oceaneering's 'JIM' and 'Sam', and OSEL's 'Wasp' and 'Mantis'.
OMAS (alias 'Spider') is guilt of glass reinforced plastic (GRP) and operates to a depth of around 600m. Handling problems sink hopes of Lloyd's certification for Omas, the Vickers-Slingsby one-man diving submersible OMAS,

Plastics and Rubber International – 1979, Volumes 4-6 – Page 7
OMAS (One Man Atmosphere Submersible) is the latest underwater development from Vickers-Slingsby. Constructed from BP Chemicals Cellobond A2785 CV glass reinforced polyester resin (GRP), the 2.2 metre long OMAS is tethered during operations to a mother-ship via an umbilical cord through which power is supplied. OMAS is shaped like a rigid space suit.


01/01/2001. Source: here.
The Spider, owned by Silvercrest Submarines, has emerged after many years of dormancy. The Spider, built in the 1970s, has unique features not in use on other suits, including hydraulically operated manipulators and vectored thrusters that allow some lateral movement. The Spider is rated to a water depth of 610 meters. Alan Whitfield of Silvercrest Submarines, current owner of the two working Spiders said "the units are presently in Hawaii, in support of a scientific research program. The water depth in the area is 1,500 ft. In November 2000, it is expected that both suits will move to a facility on the US mainland for a maintenance program. After that time, the two units will be available for charter." It remains to be seen if the Spider will effectively compete in the ADS industry.  


Interior view showing the divers seat and some of the controls. A view of the divers depth gauges etc. Scrubber units can be seen in the base of the vehicle and the auto pilot can be seen near the diver's head position.

The SPIDER had hydraulically operated manipulators. An adjustable pressure relief valve permitted varying the grip pressure.

One Man 1 Atmosphere Submersible, also known as OMAS SPIDER.

Source: here.

The Spider 'Atmospheric' Diving Suit was produced in the 1970s for exploration and maintenance work in the North Sea. The Spider had a depth rating of 2000 feet and was used in many deep operations mainly from drilling rigs. It had an eclectically insulated GRP body and a Plexiglas hemispherical dome. The diver could operate articulated arms with powered claws capable of various tasks. Six variable direction motors and thrusters provide propulsion . For static operations there are suction pads for gripping smooth surfaces.

Atmospheric Diving Suits normally work in pairs for safety reasons to help release the trapped vehicle should this occur. This also enables round the clock operations.
The Spider was easily moveable and could be deployed very quickly. Apart from work in the Petrochemical industry it could be used for salvage and rescue work. The diver in the vehicle breathes normal air so could work for long periods sometimes eight hours a day without costly saturation diving systems. It was used until 1982 when it was replaced by the Draeger-Newt suit suit, designed by Dr Phil Nuytten from Canada.

Technical specification:
Height:     2,2 Metres
Width:     1.5 Metres
Displacement:     1200kgs
Depth rating:     610 Metres
Propulsion:     6 x 1 hp motors
Umbilical:     12 Tonne breaking strain
TV System:     Low light/colour /real time recording
Emergency power:     24 V 8 Ah for emergency communications

The Spider was completely self contained with power packs and oxygen supply on board giving up to 72 hours of emergency life support systems.

Spider-x640 The SPIDER (Self-Propelled Inspection Submarines DivER) was developed in the 1970's, in answer to the WASP. The basic design was very similar to the WASP, in that it had segmented ball and socket arm joints, a hemispherical pressure vessel for the legs and a 360° viewing dome (Wharton, 1979). One of the SPIDER's unique features were the two hydraulically operated suction pads, 'sticky feet', located in the equipment package that were intended to allow the SPIDER to attach itself to any relatively smooth surface, that is if you can find one in the barnacle encrusted sea. Additionally, rather than the 'standard' mechanical advantage manipulators found on other atmospheric diving suits, the SPIDER had hydraulically operated manipulators. An adjustable pressure relief valve permitted varying the grip pressure. Like the WASP, the SPIDER also has variable ballast control. Two SPIDERs, owned by Silvercrest Submarines, are currently operating in Hawaii in support of a scientific research program.


Stamp showing the SPIDER.

See other early Underwater Robots here.

1978 – WASP Atmospheric Diving Suit – Graham Hawkes (British)


WASP – A mid-water unit using thrusters and a tubular lower body section rather than articulated legs.

wasp - copy-x640

Wasp, built by OSEL, Offshore Submersibles Ltd., U.K. The Wasp may be regarded as the next development step in that it maneuvers by the use of four hull-mounted thrusters. Essentially it is a one-atmosphere, armoured diving suit without legs. The Wasp has a depth capability of 610 m and has been used for drilling support since 1978.

WASP Dive Suit TYPE 1-x640

Graham Hawkes inside a WASP suit.

See Wasp 1:24 into clip.






WASP Dive Suit TYPE 2A-x640 WASP Dive Suit TYPE 2-x640  wasp-diag-x640 wasp-inspection-x640 wasp-jack-x640  WASP-JIM-x640 WASP-oceaneering - copy-x640 Wasp-scotland-x640

The Manipulator/Limbs are aluminium construction, fully articulated, fluid-supported flexible arms with direct acting manipulators.


Models of WASP.

15018151-x640 ads-wasp-nat-geo-jul83-x640 genwasp-x640 Oceaneering-WASP-diving-suit-x640 psmay83-wasp-jim-3 - copy-x640  
WASP – The WASP is a new-comer to the ADS Service line and essentially comprises a standard ADS upper body and vision dome system with tubular lower body. The unit is fitted with rotatable thrusters and "flys" in a manner similar to the most maneuverable of the current crop of small manned submersibles. The unit is fitted with the type 3 SAM arms and manipulators. Since WASP in not as widely known as "JIM", it may be appropriate to discuss the design and working concept in some detail.
The WASP unit nay be viewed as a hybrid between a very small submersible and the standard ADS articulated system. WASP is designed to work at depths up to 2,000 feet and receives power for its thrusters through a small diameter surface umbilical. A unique feature is the on-board battery system which acts as a buffer to allow spurts of full power that the umbilical would not be capable of supplying. In addition, the battery system acts as a safety device in that it provides for self-contained operation for nearly one hour, should the umbilical be severed. The umbilical can be detached from inside the WASP and the operator can surface using thruster power, or make a buoyant ascent by jettisoning ballast.
The WASP unit can alter buoyancy and altitude and is able to assume virtually any position by use of the rotating thruster. Since the operator has his arms occupied during work tasks, the unit is designed to be controlled by foot pedal motions similar to those used in driving a motor vehicle. WASP was designed by Graham Hawkes, an engineer who worked extensively with the JIM systems.

Note: The article was written by Phil Nuytten, co-founder of Oceaneering International. Nuytten later left Oceaneering and set up another company to build the HARDSUIT and EXOSUITs.

wasp (2)-x640

Oceaneering's Wasp was originally designed by Graham Hawkes and built by Osel Ltd in the mid-1970s. Currently, there are seven Wasp 2As in service, and two under development, to be known as the WASP 3.

See other early Underwater Robots here.

1978 – “Mantis” Submersible – Graham Hawkes (British)


1978 – "Mantis" Submersible.


Sylvia Earle and Graham Hawkes.

Mantis, built by OSEL, U.K., designed by Graham Hawkes is the latest [c1978] development in the tethered submarine field. It is fitted with eight or ten electric thrusters and has two seawater hydraulically operated manipulators. The Mantis was built in 1978 and has been used for rig inspection and debris clearance operations.




Mantis Submersible-x640


See other early Underwater Robots here.

1974 – CUTLET Unmanned Underwater Vehicle – (British)


DEPTH: 1,148'
DIMENSIONS (LxWxH): 180" x 67" x 83"
WEIGHT: 2,536 lbs
SPEED: (Max Surface) NA
(Max Current) NA
STRUCTURE: Open metal framework with ring-stiffened tanks for buoyancy.
PROPULSION: Three 10 hp, reversible, electric thrusters (2 long, 1 vert). Maneuvering accomplished by independent control of thrusters.
INSTRUMENTATION: Two CCTV cameras on p&t units, mag compass, depthometer, altimeter, torpedo locator, obstacle avoidance sonar, transponder, hydraulic manipulator with circular-type (torpedo grasping) claw.
POWER REQ: 440V, 60Hz, 38.
SHIPBOARD COMPONENTS: Power supply, cable tray, winch.
SUPPORT VESSEL REQ: Crane rated for vehicle weight, deck space: 12.8' x 9.8' x 8.9' for control van.
BUILDER: Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment, Portland, Dorset DTS 2J5, England


CUTLET is another unmanned vehicle under development. It is a recovery vehicle broadly based on CURV and is being developed by the UK Ministry of Defence at the Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment in Portland. Design information has not been made available publicly. It is known that trials of the partially completed system were carried out in Autumn 1974 and that work is continuing. Source: AD-A018 474 – PROCEEDINGS OF THE UNDERSEA MEDICAL SOCIETY WORKSHOP (7TH) ON MEDICAL ASPECTS OF SMALL SUBMERSIBLE OPERATIONS HELD AT SUBMARINE DEVELOPMENT GROUP 1, SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA ON 19-20 NOVEMBER 1974
D. A. Hall, et al
Undersea Medical Society
Prepared for: Office of Naval Research

See other early Underwater Robots here.

1969 – JIM Atmospheric Diving Suit – Mike Humphrey, Mike Borrow, Richard Tuson and Joseph Salim Peress (British)

Deep Sea Diving

1969 –  JIM Atmospheric Diving Suit by Mike Humphrey, Mike Borrow, Richard Tuson and Joseph Salim Peress.


The original Peress Tritonia suit is in the middle, surrounded by type 2's with type 3 arms, then standard type 2 JIM suits on the outer. Image from

The Canadian Diving Symposium
31 October – 1 November 1977
Technical Report – D.J. Fullerton

By Mr. Phil Nuytten
Can-Dive Oceaneering
North Vancouver, B.C.

Note: No images appeared in the original article.

Enter "JIM"
Personalising the ADS by giving it the name "JIM" was done somewhat tongue-in-cheek by DHB Construction Ltd., although it was meant as a genuine tribute to "Pop Peress's" first test diver, Jim Jarrett.
A problem, more physiological than technical, is the fact that the suit gets all the credit rather than the operator. The press seldom say, "John Doe, wearing an ADS, set a new depth record", but "Jim sets new record"–very demoralising for the operator!
Another problem that arose is a familiar one in the aeronautics or aerospace industry. From "JIM's" progeny sprang names "JIM 2", "SAM 1", "SAM 2", "WASP 1" and with it the difficulty of determining precisely what model is being discussed.
ADS Terminology
Basically, the ADS is discussed in-house, using the following terminology:
a. Type 1 (JIM) – The original prototype "JIM" utilizing a cast magnesium alloy body.
b. Type 2 (JIM) – A modified version of the Type 1, but using the same material for the body casting.
c. Type 3 (SAM) – Sam is a smaller, more compact version of JIM and uses a fabricated aluminum body and a re-configured joint system.
d. Type 4 (SAM) – SAM 4 is a redesign of SAM 3 using a fibreglass body shell.
e. WASP    – A mid-water unit using thrusters and a tubular lower body section rather than articulated legs.
Type Description


Original restored Peress "Tritonia" suit, now designated as "JIM Type 1" at the London Science Museum. See also separate post on Peress Tritonia suit from the 1930's.

Type 1 (JIM) – The original "JIM" prototype is not used operationally but serves as a design-change and accessory test platform in the Alton Plant.

thumb_jim1 thumb_jim3 jim jim2 JIM-NS7jun1973-1 - Copy jim-suit-1
Type 2 (JIM) – The type 2 is the configuration most familiar to the public because of extensive press and trade journal coverage. The type 2 has a body section of cast magnesium alloy with operator entry through a hinged head dome. The limbs utilize a patented semi-sphere joint system originally designed by "Pop" Peress so further modified by UMEL designer, Mike Humphries. The joints use a fluid bearing and allow flexion extension as well as rotation. The elbow and hand pods, the boots and the leg spacers are made of both magnesium alloy and glass reinforced plastic. Vision is through four optically-ground ports in the head dome section.

[cyberneticzoo:  There appears to be a hybrid version of a type 2 body with type 3 arms – see pics below.]

jim-suit psmay83-wasp-jim-2-x640

Source: Popular Science, May 1983.


Sylvia Earle – Source: The New Yorker, 3 Jul 1989.

An informal portrait of the Jim suit, a scuba diving contraption Jim-hybrid-x640 JIM ADS hybrid Suit TYPE JimPrototype

SAM-suit-single-viewhole SAM_ADS_Dive_Suit sammike

Type 3 (SAM) – The type 3 SAM is a somewhat smaller version of JIM and has its operator entry through a hinged mid section. The body is fabricated of aluminum rather than magnesium alloy which results in a reduction of depth rating but allows a such shorter building time and a drastically decreased post-dive schedule. A major change from JIM is the limb system. The type 3 limb uses a joint design, perfected by Mike Humphries that allows a significant increase in the articulation range with a decrease in physical size. Although the type 3 joint is essentially a modification of the currently patented type 2 joint, it is different enough to be the subject of an additional series of pending patents.
The operator's viewing system is also altered and a single semispherical port replaces the four port system in the type 2 JIM. The hand manipulators have been re-designed from the original parallel-jaw grip to an opposed digit manipulator that allows angular deflection as well as rotation, relative to the hand pod. It should be noted that all the manipulators have been designed to fit any ADS in the series so that no particular manipulator is standard to a suit type, but rather can be fitted for either general use or specific task functions. These changes on the type 3 SAM ADS result in a more compact unit that closely follows the lines of the human body. Wearing the type 3, the operator feels more "man-in-sea" than in the JIM unit and the increased mobility heightens the effect.

JAM-suit--x640 JAM JAM_ADS_Suit JAM2Some images sourced here.
Type 4 (SAM) – SAM 4 is essentially the same as the type 3, but has a body shell fabricated from a high density re-inforced plastic material. The result of this change will be to increase the rated working depth to a level even greater than the original JIM systems as well as virtually eliminate the troublesome post dive maintenance. Because of the materials used in the JIM series, corrosion has always been a serious potential problem. Avoidance of this problem has entailed rigid specifications on coating materials and applications as well as a routine post dive inspection of virtually every square inch of the suit surface. The non-metallic type 4 will not require the same rigorous post dive procedure. [ cyberneticzoo:This suit, I believe, is also referred to as a JAM suit.]

WASP – See here.

DHB Construction Limited was formed in 1969 by Dr David Dennison, David BL Hibbert and Mike Borrow and was based in Alton, Hampshire. DHB was formed to enable Underwater and Marine Equipment Limited (UMEL) to receive the finance it required to develop an atmospheric diving suit or ADS (also referred to as an articulated or armoured diving suit). Atmospheric diving suits are made of rigid material which protect the diver from high external pressures, allowing divers to work at greater depths – up to 2500 feet or 758 metres – without undergoing decompression treatments. The articulated joints on the suits allow divers to complete a range of tasks underwater, many of which could not be completed by remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).

UMEL and DHB's ADS design was based on a suit developed by Joseph Salim Peress (1896-1978) in the 1920s. Peress' armoured 'Tritonia' diving suit used a patented hydraulic joint and was used to locate the SS Lusitania off the Irish Coast in 1935. Although Peress' suit was tested by the Royal Navy, there was little interest in the use of the suit by the Navy or commercially at the time. By the late 1960s the expansion of the offshore oil and gas industry had created a potential market for atmospheric diving suits, and UMEL and DHB received a grant from the British Government through the National Research Development Corporation (NRDC) to support the design and construction of their ADS. The majority of the initial design work was carried out by Mike Humphrey, Mike Borrow, Richard Tuson and Salim Peress. The suits were named after the diver on the Lusitania dive, Jim Jarrett, and Peress's original suit became known as the ADS Type I or JIM 1.

JIM 2, completed in November 1971, was tested in the diving tank of the Royal Navy's experimental diving unit at Portsmouth, HMS Vernon and the pressure chamber at the Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment (AUWE) before undergoing sea trials from HMS Reclaim, the Navy's salvage vessel, on the West Coast of Scotland. Test dives of 1000 feet were achieved at AUWE and the suit reached 400 feet in the Reclaim test, and was only prevented from reaching deeper depths by the limitations of the Reclaim' support divers. Additional trials were completed with BP, the AUWE and the Royal Navy Physiological Laboratory between 1972 and 1974. A second model, JIM 3, was constructed and tested in 1972, and later models were constructed in fibreglass (the JAM suit) and aluminium or reinforced plastic (the SAM suit). The JIM suit was first used commercially in 1974, carrying out work for Retrasub in the Canary Islands and an attempted well head recovery for Occidental in the North Sea. Oceaneering acquired the rights to licence the suits in 1975, which led to an increase in their use for deep sea diving in the oil industry. By 1981 there were over 19 suits in existence.

Source: here.

JIM suit Experience:

In the late 1960s—with North Sea diving booming—two Britons, Mike Humphrey and Mike Borrow, formed Underwater Marine Equipment. They'd decided to build their own atmospheric diving suit. Through their research, they found their way right back to Joseph Peress and the Tritonia suit [from the 1930’s], tracking it down in Glasgow and refurbishing it. Legend has it that the Peress himself, who was born in the 19th century, tested the restored suit.

In 1971, the inventors finished their own version, the JIM suit, named after Jim Jarrett [sic]. They formed a company called DHB Construction to commercialize their invention. And they hired a very young engineer named Graham Hawkes.

"One of the things that's very different from scuba is that you're breathing normally and there are no bubbles. You are very aware of your breath. This is gonna sound a little strange, but: You can't see water. There is no splashing. There's no nothing. It just felt like I was standing on an alien planet. I felt like I was on the surface of the moon. The water was so clear, it looked like a hazy atmosphere," Hawkes told me about standing on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in a JIM suit.

"There were small creatures burrowing. What we know as sediment was drifting away—it looked exactly like smoke. I was just wrestling with all of these images which nothing can prepare you for," he said. "I was an adult at that point but there is no precedent for it. Everything looks alien and all you want to do is let your jaw hang slack and just stare and try to absorb stuff."

"It was the first time I'd ever dived in the ocean. I'd never scuba dived. I'd never even really snorkeled. I'd been in all kinds of Navy tanks testing these things, but never in the ocean," Hawkes said. "It was a commercial operation with a JIM to try and salvage some things, which were in the Atlantic. And I ended up jumping in the JIM suit and standing on the seafloor at 300 feet. I was supposed to be walking around looking for supertanker anchors, big massive chains. There was supposed to be one near me."

"But what happened was, I was stunned by the sea life. I must have been this great big alien that just landed there, but nobody cared. If you go into a forest, all the animals kind of flee. Here they were all just carrying on, and there are things crawling around on the sea bed and fish and things flapping past me. And they were not fleeing. I ended up turning around and around and around just staring at the sea life. I was just in awe. In turning round and round, I ended up digging a hole. I dug such a hole that by the time I came out of my reverie, I asked the top side to lift me up and they just dragged me all the way out of there," Hawkes concluded.

Hawkes is not describing the moment in the photograph that inspired this story. He is, instead, talking about his first experience with a JIM suit in the ocean.

He spent a lot of time in these suits in those early years. While the JIM suit had its advantages over saturation diving, the user experience was not pleasant.

The JIM suit's leg mobility max, from a US Navy report.

As one descended, the viewports were designed to slide in a bit, but they didn't slide in smoothly. They'd pop into place and Hawkes says it was like having a rifle go off in your face … as you're descending hundreds of feet into the abyss. Saltwater and oil from the joints would pool around one's feet. And as he moved the limbs of the suit, they tended to "grab a piece of flesh and bite you," Hawkes put it.

The mobility of the suits was limited and required a lot of strength. The legs, such as they were, could not bend at the knee, so the people testing them had to swing their legs out to do any kind of locomotion. Imagine walking on stilts. It took the some getting used to.

Lieutenant Robert C. Carter of the US Navy evaluated the JIM suits in 1976. Their maximum walking speed was about 50 feet per minute, a small fraction of a regular person on land. Among the tasks JIM suit divers tried, they found "the type of short, gross movement exemplified by sawing" to be the suit's forte.

One of them shows up in the 1981 James Bond movie, For Your Eyes Only, worn by a bad guy who attacked Bond. This is the JIM suit guy delivering a slow-motion underwater blow to 007's face. I imagine that this is about as realistic as a Michael Bay sequence in Transformers.

A JIM suit in For Your Eyes Only

Because of these limitations, Hawkes and his colleagues were eager to improve on the suit. But by that time, a company [Oceaneering] providing subsea services (mostly saturation diving) to the oil industry had purchased DHB and all the rights to its technology.

Source: here.

Patents used in the JIM suit variants:


A flexible joint for use with apparatus subjected to an internal/external pressure differential such as used in submersible diving apparatus. The joint comprises an annular male member movably housed within an annular female member. The male member has an annular piston which moves in a closed annular cylinder carrying a sealing liquid in the female member and sealing means are carried on the cylinder walls which engage and seal the walls of the annular piston.

Publication number    US3759550 A
Publication type    Grant
Publication date    Sep 18, 1973
Filing date    Aug 30, 1971
Priority date    Sep 4, 1970
Also published as    CA959086A1
Inventors    Peress J
Original Assignee    Peress J




Publication number    US3754779 A
Publication type    Grant
Publication date    Aug 28, 1973
Filing date    Aug 30, 1971
Priority date    Sep 4, 1970
Also published as    CA941858A1
Inventors    Peress J
Original Assignee    Peress J

A flexible joint for use with apparatus subjected to an internal/external pressure differential for example, submersible diving apparatus. The joint comprises an annular female member into which a relatively angularly movable annular male member can extend and which members are coupled together by an annular connecting member. The couplings between the female member and the connecting member, and between the connecting member and the male member each include an annular piston located within a part-spherical closed annular cylinder filled with fluid.

The Ken Humphrey patents. The original patents were British: GB1524033A and  GB1526400A .

Published here are the US equivalents.


Articulated joint

Publication number    US4077218 A
Publication type    Grant
Application number    US 05/643,285
Publication date    Mar 7, 1978
Filing date    Dec 22, 1975
Priority date    Dec 19, 1974
Inventors    Kenneth Michael Humphrey
Original Assignee    Underwater And Marine Equipment Limited

A joint, subject to a pressure differential between inside and outside, having two tubular members flexibly joined by couplings comprising an annular piston sliding within an annular cylinder containing an incompressible fluid, a fluid reservoir connected to and at a higher pressure than the cylinder interior and valve means responsive to fluid loss from the cylinder allowing fluid flow from reservoir to cylinder. The valve may comprise two semi-circular arms pivoted at their ends to each other and to the piston or cylinder, the arms operating on opposite ends of a rocker plate attached centrally to a valve plunger. A differential piston maintains the high reservoir pressure. The valve is adjustable to operate at a predetermined value of cylinder fluid volume.


Flexible tubular joint

Publication number    US4369814 A
Publication type    Grant
Application number    US 06/229,071
Publication date    Jan 25, 1983
Filing date    Jan 28, 1981
Priority date    Nov 27, 1980
Fee status    Lapsed
Also published as    CA1153781A1
Inventors    Kenneth M. Humphrey
Original Assignee    Underwater And Marine Equipment Limited

A joint which may be used in a diving suit includes a plurality of annular members each having a piston and cylinder portion which are coupled together whereby the connecting members are connected in series. The piston and cylinder portions define chambers which are filled with oil and each connecting member has valves which enable communication of the oil between adjacent connecting members as the joint is flexed. A slidably anchored gimbal mounting is provided for each valve in order to preserve the flexibility of the joint without impeding valve action and in order to prevent pullout of the adjacent piston and cylinder portions. The piston and cylinder portions each include inner and outer annular walls and the inside surfaces of the annular walls of the cylinder portions are spherically curved. The annular walls terminate in respective circular rims which are oppositely staggered. This facilitates assembly on the annular connecting members. A further arrangement ensures that the oil chambers in the serial chain on connecting members each receive an adequate supply of oil.

Some images and some further history on JIM suits see divingheritage.

I haven't credited every image use in this post. Let me know if credit for your image is required.

See other early Underwater Robots here.