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Friday, July 30, 2010

The Diving Bell

My history buddy, John Yates, wrote about his childhood memories at the Steel Pier in the late 1950's and the 1960's in the comments section of this past Tuesday's Blog, "The Mysterious Artifact Revealed". Following are his comments about the Diving Bell.
I only went on the diving bell once, but knew the routine. My date didn't. So I quickly got in line and in the bell with her before she knew how it came back up. It was pulled to the bottom with steel cables, and when ready to surface they simply released the brakes on the cable and it would quickly bob to the surface. Many screams, including my date! And they had a microphone in it so all those at the top could hear it all.
The following photo from our Bass River History Photo Archives was taken during a trip of some New Gretna young folks to the Steel Peer. If you look very carefully, you will see a young Jean Shropshire Harris at one of the port holes - at least that is what I was told by her husband, Murray who took the photo.

Jean Shropshire Harris peers out of a port hole in the Steel Peer's Diving Bell. (Photo courtesy of Murray and Jean Shropshire Harris.)

The Diving Bell emerging from the water. I can almost hear the screams. (Photo courtesy of Google Images.)

Today the Diving Bell can be seen at the Atlantic City Aquarium at Gardner's Basin. Somehow it doesn't look so exciting or romantic away from the Steel Peer. Looks like a big porta potty to me.

The Diving Bell, today, at Gardner's Basin.
(Photo courtesy of Google Images.)

I wonder how many of our Blog readers went on or took a date on the Steel Peer's Diving Bell and what they saw under the water?

Pete S


  1. Pete,

    I googled the Steel Pier diving bell a few years ago, and recall that it was replaced at least once. (Just in case anyone comments on differences in the photos).

    But mainly I wanted to comment on your caption "crashing into the water". In fact, it was bobbing up from the bottom to the surface. Thus the water shedding from its roof. It would bob up and down a couple of times after the fast ascent from the bottom. Then they would engage to the cable again, and slowly bring it up to the deck to let the passengers off again. Today, fear of litigation would probably prevent such a trick!

    And lastly, you really only got to see muddy water down there. Unless you were the first trip of the day, and no guarantee then either I suppose.


  2. John,

    Thanks for your followup comments. I thought the Diving Bell now on exhibit at Garder's Basin didn't resemble the one ridden by Jean Shrophire Harris in the first photo. I hadn't realized there were different models.

    Also, I changed the caption of the second photo to reflect that the Diving Bell was emerging from the water, not "crashing into the water".

    Pete S