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Title: Life and Adventures of Frances Namon Sorcho - The Only Woman Deep Sea Diver in the World
Author: Captain Louis Sorcho Great Deep Sea Diving Co.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber’s Notes.

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      Further notes at the end of the book.

Captain Louis Sorcho Great Deep Sea Diving Co.




The Only Woman Deep Sea Diver
in the World.


    There’s wondrous wealth to man unknown
          At the bottom of the sea,
    Where stately ships on Neptune’s throne
    Are rotting where the sun ne’er shone
    In silent grandeur there alone,
          At the bottom of the sea.
    Mermaids dwell in caverns bright,
    Jewels unknown flash their light,
    And untold gold is hid from sight,
          At the bottom of the sea.

    Huge anchors lie buried in golden sand,
          At the bottom of the sea.
    Sunken junks from China’s strand
    ’Mid old ship’s splendid timbers stand,
    Destruction dwells on every hand,
          At the bottom of the sea.
    Sightless fishes swim about
    The bleaching bones, and in and out
    The skulls of men, once brave, no doubt,
          At the bottom of the sea.

    The countless thousands sleeping there,
          At the bottom of the sea.
    The sailor, lover, maiden fair,
    Who in the depths her jewels wear,
    Now rest in peace without a care,
          At the bottom of the sea.
    Some are there well sewn in sail;
    Ancient warriors clad in mail;
    But one returns to tell the tale
          of the bottom of the sea.

    The diver, a mortal, like those that sleep
          At the bottom of the sea.
    An humble hero of the deep,
    In sunken vessels’ hulls doth creep
    To wrest the golden treasure heap,
          From the bottom of the sea.
    In armor, helmet, shoes of lead,
    She braves those awful depths of dread,
    The living ’mongst the million dead,
          At the bottom of the sea.

        Dedicated to FRANCES NAMON SORCHO

                              By E. D. H.


To the average individual unacquainted with the art of deep sea diving
and the mysteries of the ocean away down beneath its surface, divers
are sort of super-human creatures often read about but seldom seen. How
they exist in the ocean’s depths, the queer costume they are compelled
to wear, the strange sensations they experience, the wonderful sights
they see, the desperate risks they take, and the manner in which they
work beneath the water, have, heretofore, all been a sealed volume to
the general public.

In presenting this little book to our patrons, it is our object to
enlighten them on these subjects, and give them some idea, at least, of
the life of a diver.

Mrs. Sorcho is the only woman deep sea diver in the world, and is the
only woman alive to-day who has ever donned a sub-marine armor and
descended into the ocean’s depths to work.

The example of intelligent daring is never lost on the world. The
mastery of human beings over the material world is evident on every
side, but too often are they themselves slaves to lesser things. With
skill and courage, with caution and daring, with full knowledge of
the danger, but with complete control over herself, this lady has
accomplished what no other woman has ever dared to attempt. Fears,
what are they? Coward thoughts. See Richard cowering in his tent.
See infants crying in the dark. See here a woman, who has braved the
thousand deaths that await the diver; who has calmly, yet courageously,
ventured in the ocean’s depths, with only the fishes and the thousands
awaiting the day when the sea shall give up its dead for companions;
kept herself in perfect control and invaded the mystic depths as a
conqueror, mistress alike of element and herself. Heroism is a medieval
thought, daring a classic record. To-day society languishes, passion
chills, the spirit of adventure dies, the glory of arms is stilled
by peace congresses, and human beings dwindle into a part of simple
mechanism. Four-fifths of the dangers of life are as trifles, if met
with courage, resolution and common sense.

Mrs. Sorcho is ready at any and all times to dive deeper and remain
under water longer than any other female, or forfeit $10,000.

Our armor is of the latest improved pattern, with telephone, electric
search-light, and many other up-to-date attachments invented and used
exclusively by us. The scenes presented are exactly as they occur in
the diver’s life at the ocean’s bottom, and the exhibition cannot fail
to instruct and amuse both the old and young.

Trusting it may meet with your kind approval, we are,

  Very sincerely yours,

        _Deep Sea Divers_.


Just how far back the art of sub-marine diving dates, is a matter of
conjecture, but until the invention of the present armor and helmet in
1839, work and exploration under water was, at best, imperfect, and
could only be pursued in a very limited degree. The armor of to-day
consists of a rubber and canvas suit, socks, trousers and shirt in one,
a copper breastplate or collar, a copper helmet, iron-soled shoes, and
a belt of leaden weights to sink the diver.

The helmet is made of tinned copper with three circular glasses, one
in front and one on either side, with guards in front to protect
them. The front eye-piece is made to unscrew and enable the diver
to receive or give instructions without removing the helmet. One or
more outlet valves are placed at the back or side of the helmet to
allow the vitiated air to escape. These valves only open outwards
by working against a spiral spring, so that no water can enter. The
inlet valve is at the back of the helmet, and the air on entry is
directed by three channels running along the top of the helmet to
points above the eye-pieces, enabling the diver to always inhale fresh
air, whilst condensation on the glasses is avoided. The helmet is
secured to the breastplate below by a segmental screw-bayonet joint,
securing attachment by one-eighth of a turn. The junction between
the waterproof dress and the breastplate is made watertight by means
of studs, brass plates, and wing-nuts. A life or signal line enables
the diver to communicate with those above. The air-pipe is made of
vulcanized india-rubber with galvanized iron wire imbedded.

The cost of a complete diving outfit ranges from $750 to $1,000. The
weight of the armor and attachments worn by the diver is 246 pounds,
divided as follows:--

Helmet and breastplate, 51 pounds; belt of lead weights, 122 pounds;
rubber dress or suit, 19 pounds; iron soled shoes, 27 pounds each.

The greatest depth reached by any diver was 204 feet, at which depth
there was a pressure of 88½ pounds per square inch on his body. The
area exposed of the average diver in armor is 720 inches, which would
have made the diver at that depth sustain a pressure of 66,960 pounds
or over 33 tons.

The water pressure on the diver is as follows:--

   20 feet       8½ lbs.
   30  ”        12¾  ”
   40  ”        17¼  ”
   50  ”        21¾  ”
   60  ”        26¼  ”
   70  ”        30½  ”
   80  ”        34¾  ”
   90  ”        39   ”
  100  ”        43½  ”
  110  ”        47¾  ”
  120  ”        52¼  ”
  130  ”        56½  ”
  140  ”        60¾  ”
  150  ”        65¼  ”

The limit

  160 feet      69¾ lbs.
  170  ”        74   ”
  180  ”        78   ”
  190  ”        82¼  ”
  204  ”        88½  ”

The air which sustains the diver’s life below the surface is pumped from
above by a powerful pump, which must be kept constantly at work while
the diver is down. A stoppage of the pump a single instant, while the
diver is in deep water, would result in his almost instant death from
the pressure of the water outside. Only persons of perfect health and
physique can pursue the calling of a diver. It would be suicidal for a
human being not of perfect health and physique to attempt the feat.


From a Photograph.]


From a Photograph.]

Before a man attempts diving he should be examined by a physician or
medical officer. Men coming under any of the following classifications
should not, under any circumstances, attempt a dive. Men with short
necks, full-blooded, and florid complexions. Men who suffer from
headache, are slightly deaf, or have recently had a running from the
ear. Men who have at any time spat or coughed up blood. Men who have
been subject to palpitation of the heart. Men who are very pale,
whose lips are more blue than red, who are subject to cold hands and
feet, men who have, what is commonly known as, a poor circulation.
Men who have blood-shot eyes and a high color on the cheeks, by the
interlacement of numerous small blood-vessels, which are distinct. Men
who are hard drinkers and have suffered from any severe disease, or who
have had rheumatism or sun-stroke.

The dangers of diving are manifold, and so risky is the calling, that
there are only a few divers in the United States. The cheapest of them
command $10 a day for four or five hours work, and many of them get $50
and $60 for the same term of labor under water.

The greatest danger that besets the diver is not, as would doubtless be
supposed, the monsters of the deep, such as sharks, etc., or of getting
his air-hose entangled or fouled so as to cut off his air supply. It
is the risk he runs every time he dives of rupturing a blood-vessel
by the excessively compressed air he is compelled to breathe. Many
divers have been hauled up dead in the armor from no apparent cause,
when they had been plentifully supplied with air. In each case the
rupture of a blood-vessel in the brain by the air pressure, had caused
a fatal stroke of apoplexy. Divers have also died of fright in the
armor. In one instance a diver at work in the hold of a sunken vessel
got his air-hose so fouled, it was impossible to haul him up. Plenty
of fresh air, however, was supplied to him, but he was held prisoner
five hours, until another diver was procured to go down and free him.
When he was hauled up he was a corpse. Fright had killed him. The diver
is also subject to attacks by sharks, sword-fish, devil-fish and other
voracious monsters of the ocean’s depths. To defend himself against
them, he carries a double-edged knife, as sharp as a razor, which
screws into a watertight brass sheath, but is always ready for instant
use. It is the diver’s sole weapon of defense.



“As a girl in a quiet little home in Virginia, I little thought I would
ever become a diver. In fact I didn’t know what a real diver was.

“When I first saw the queer rig I shuddered, but now the grotesque
costume is as natural to me as is my tea-gown, and perhaps I feel a
little more at home in it.

“Only arms, limbs and a body well trained muscularly can walk about
in shoes that weigh 27 pounds apiece, supporting an armor with copper
helmet and breastplate, and leaden belt of weights which tip the
scale-beam at 246 pounds. Therefore, the commencement of my education
as a diver consisted of a year’s training in a school of physical
culture. When it was completed my muscles were as hard and springy
as steel, and I felt no fear on the score of physical strength as I
contemplated my first visit to the ‘bottom of the sea.’

“My first dive was off the southern coast of Florida, not far from
Clear Water Harbor. My husband was at the time engaged in the business
of collecting rare shells and coral for several Northern Universities.
I well remember how I felt when I first donned the armor. Fear and
curiosity were so closely blended that I hardly know which I felt
the most of. At any rate, my husband was waiting, and almost before
I realized it the queer canvas armor had been adjusted and the
breastplate had been slipped over my head. A thick pad or collar had
been put on my shoulders to take the weight off the breastplate and
helmet, which alone weigh 56 pounds; but even then the plate felt
quite heavy, and as the metal gaskets were being screwed down with
thumb-nuts and a wrench, I felt as if I were being screwed up in my
coffin. But there was little time for such gruesome reflections, and a
stout leather belt holding the sub-marine knife was next girded about
my waist.

“This knife, a double-edged affair, sharp as a razor, screws into a
watertight brass scabbard. It is the diver’s only weapon, and with it
he must protect himself against sharks and other sub-marine monsters.
The shoes come next. How heavy and awkward they looked, with their
soles of cast-iron two inches thick, and how clumsy they felt when I
tried to walk in them for the first time!

“The life-line--that all-important half-inch manilla rope--was then
knotted about my waist, and the belt of leaden weights was strapped
about me under the arms, and I was told to step over the railing of the
boat on to the short ladder that had been suspended over her stern. I
did so, mechanically I fear, and when I had managed to get down a few
steps, the helmet was slipped over my head and by a deft turn locked.

“The queer headpiece was much larger than my head, and admitted of
considerable freedom of movement inside it.

“‘Now recollect,’ said my husband, ‘if you want to come up quick in
case anything happens, give one jerk on the life-line. If you want more
air give two jerks, or less air three jerks.’

“I expected to shoot to the bottom like a lump of lead, owing to all
the weight I had on me, but I sank gradually instead, so buoyant was
the inflated armor. I was on the bottom with five fathoms of water over
my head almost before I realized it.

“I felt a sensation of pressure on the chest, and in my ears and
head, which was quite painful. The first thing that I noticed, was a
boiling of the water about me for which I was unable to account, until
I happened to think of the foul air escaping through the valve in the
back of the helmet.

[Illustration: CAPTAIN AND MRS. SORCHO.]

“I found, also, to my surprise, that I could see quite well some
distance about me, and observed a number of little fishes, which
finally swam quite close to me and appeared to gaze in the glass front
of the helmet with their little bead-like eyes, as though wondering
what sort of a fish I was. I felt strangely light and buoyant, and
found that with the slightest upward movement I would shoot surfaceward
several feet. The armor also felt so stiff and hard that I could
scarcely move in it.

“The next time I went down was not on a pleasure trip, but to work,
and for several weeks my husband and I took turns diving for shells and
curios. We finally completed our contract.

“Recovering a dead body is the task a diver dislikes more than any
other kind, and although I have recovered quite a number, the work is
yet horrible to me.

“The first dead body I ever brought to the surface was that of a man
who was supposed to have been murdered and thrown into a lake near
Atlanta, Ga. I searched the entire bottom of the lake, and finally in a
deep hole found the body.

“It was shockingly mutilated and disfigured, and was almost
unrecognizable, but we never found out whether the man had been
murdered or not.

“When I came to the surface with that bloated, disfigured corpse,
strong men were made sick and turned away, and to tell the truth I
felt a little squeamish myself; but it was a matter of business, not
sentiment, with me, so I doffed the armor and pocketed the reward that
had been offered.

“The exploding of sub-marine torpedoes is dangerous work, and you can
take my word for it that one does not feel very comfortable groping
about with five or six pounds of dynamite in her hand, not knowing what
minute it may take a notion to go off and blow her into kingdom come.
Diving is fascinating, but it is dangerous, and there are very few
women who would care to engage in it even if they had the nerve.”




Millions of dollars worth of property has been recovered from the
ocean’s depths by divers. One of the greatest achievements in this line
was by the famous English diver Lambert, who recovered vast treasure
from the _Alfonso XII_, a Spanish mail steamer belonging to the Lopez
Line, which sank off Point Gando, Grand Canary, in 26½ fathoms of
water. The salvage party was dispatched by the underwriters in May,
1885, the vessel having £100,000 in specie on board. For nearly six
months the operations were persevered in, before the divers could reach
the treasure-room beneath the three decks. Two divers lost their lives
in the vain attempt, the pressure of water being fatal. Mr. Gorman
recovered £90,000 from the wreck, and got £4,500 for doing it.

One of the most difficult operations ever performed by a diver, was the
recovering of the treasure sunk in the steamship Malabar off Galle. On
this occasion the large iron plates, half an inch thick, had to be cut
away from the mail room, and then the diver had to work through nine
feet of sand. The whole of the specie on board this vessel--upward of
$1,500,000--was saved, as much as $80,000 having been got out in one

It is an interesting fact that from time to time expeditions have been
fitted out, and companies formed, with the sole intention of searching
for buried treasure beneath the sea. Again and again have expeditions
left New York and San Francisco in the certainty of recovering tons of
bullion sunk off the Brazilian coast, or lying undisturbed in the mud
of the Rio de la Plata.

At the end of 1885, the large steamer Indus, belonging to the P. & O.
Co., sank off Trincomalee, having on board a very valuable East India
cargo, together with a large amount of specie. This was another case
of a fortune found in the sea, for a very large amount of treasure was

Another wreck, from which a large sum of gold coin and bullion was
recovered by divers, was that of the French ship _L’Orient_. She
is stated to have had on board specie of the value of no less than
$3,000,000, besides other treasure.

A parallel case to _L’Orient_ is that of the _Lutine_, a warship of
thirty-two guns, wrecked off the coast of Holland. This vessel sailed
from the Yarmouth Roads, with an immense quantity of treasure for the
Texel. In the course of the day it came on to blow a heavy gale; the
vessel was lost and went to pieces. Salving operations by divers,
during eighteen months, resulted in the recovery of $400,000 in specie.

Another remarkable case of recovery of specie is recorded, when
sixty-two chests of dollars, amounting to the value of about $350,000,
were recovered from the _Abergavenny_, sunk some years previously at
Weymouth, England.

A very notable case--not only for the amount of treasure on board, but
also for the big “windfall” for the salvors--is that of the _Thetis_,
a British frigate, wrecked off the coast of Brazil, with $800,000
in bullion on board. The hull went to pieces, leaving the treasure
at the bottom in five or six fathoms of water. The admiral of the
Brazil station, and the captains and crews of four sloops-of-war, were
engaged for eighteen months with divers in recovering the treasure.
The service was attended with great skill, labor and danger, and four
divers’ lives were lost.

A remarkable case of money having been recovered deserves a passing
notice. It was that of the finding of 3,800 sovereigns under a pier at
Melbourne, part of 5,000 missing from the steamer _Iberia_.


From a Photograph.]

Some Danish speculators are reaping a harvest of golden grain from
the depths of the sea which washes the coast of Jutland. Some years
ago, the British steamship Helen, laden with copper, foundered. All
her cargo has been recovered. The steamer Westdale, laden with 2,000
tons of iron, went down off the Danish coast in 1888. Nearly the whole
cargo, her machinery, and a great part of her fittings, have been
saved by Jutland divers.

Dredging operations carried on at Santander, Spain, resulted in the
discovery of the well-preserved wreck of a warship of the fifteenth
or sixteenth century. She must have been in her present position for
four hundred years, and was partly covered by a deposit of sand and
mud. Divers brought up guns which bore the united arms of Castile and
Aragon, the scroll of Isabella, or the crown and initial of Ferdinand.
The ship was probably employed as a transport, and inasmuch as some of
the arms are of French and Italian make, it is supposed she formed part
of the fortunate expedition against Naples under Gonzalo de Cordoba.


      *      *      *      *      *      *

Transcriber’s note:

  Page 15: Have removed the extraneous word ‘feet’, used twice.

  Page 16: Have italicized L’Orient in keeping with the other time
    it was mentioned.

  Have added a full stop to all chapter headings where they are missing,
    to keep consistency.

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