1923-1938. The 3 bolt Denayrouze helmets made at the EPRON Diving Institute

Following the Russian revolution of 1917, diver training (which had been established at Kronstadt in 1882) was moved to several locations before finally settling at Balaklava ( situated near Sevastopol on the Black Sea ) In 1923 the OGPU, or Russian Secret Service ( later called NKVD and the KGB ) established a diving institute called EPRON ( which translates as ‘Expedition of Special Purpose Underwater Works’ ) The motivation for the establishment of this diving institute was treasure ... rumors had gone around that near Sevastopol an English ship had sunk during the Crimean War ( 1853-1856 ) and it had been carrying a large quantity of gold to pay the British army which was fighting in the Crimean war. But the ship never reached its destination. Good money was being made diving for valuable cargoes from sunken vessels by other diving nations and the Russian Secret Service had its own plans to join in. A Russian salvage fleet was built to find the wreck of the Prince which was reputed to be carrying the gold, but the wreck first had the be located. It took two years to locate, then months of salvage work followed, only to find there was no gold onboard. Apparently the precious cargo had been loaded to another ship somewhere during the voyage to Sevastopol. To save their reputations, the Russian officials involved in this expensive treasure hunt were sent with their salvage fleet to look for ships sunk during the 1917 Revolution. This time they had far more success: many ships were raised and brought back into service. In 1931 EPRON became independent from the secret service and developed into a training school, research center and workshop where diving equipment was manufactured. The helmet shown below is a rare EPRON diving helmet which was built in Balaklava during the late 1930's. Older versions had the telephone connection on top of the helmet. Photographs David L.Dekker.

The EPRON helmet shown above is an extremely strong helmet and is over-engineered: I have not found another helmet built of copper as thick as on this helmet. The serial numbers are matching. Photographs David L.Dekker.

1923-1938. The 12 bolt Heinke helmets made at the EPRON Diving Institute

The EPRON helmet in use, as illustrated in the above painting ‘At the bottom of the sea’ by Y.Y. Klever. Postcard by the ‘Russian State Art Publishers’. David L.Dekker collection.

The EPRON helmet shown above is a 12-bolt version with the square shape breastplate, similar to the Heinke helmets imported into Russia during the 19th century. This helmet was made during the early 1930's as its telephone connection is still placed high up on the back of the helmet. Photographs David L.Dekker.

An identical 12-bolt EPRON helmet on the cover of a 1933 Russian diving book called ‘DIVER and his Work’. Book, David L.Dekker collection.


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