THE MYSTERY OF THE DISAPPEARING RESPIRATOR
What happened to one of the most important early developments in underwater exploration?
“Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter”
– African Proverb
WALTER BENJAMIN famously said that “history is written by the victors”, and the truth of this mantra repeats throughout the inventing timeline over and over; take the unsung hero of the second industrial revolution, Nikola Tesla, whose work was stolen by Thomas Edison, or Daisuke Inoue who never made a million from his karaoke machine.
Time and time again, great inventors become overshadowed by corporations or people that take the credit for their work. What follows is just another tale in a library full of broken dreams: we bring you the mystery of the Ohgushi Peerless Respirator.
ONE OF THE FIRST SCUBA REGULATORS IS BORN – IN JAPAN
In 1904, Watanabe Riichi, Omura Clansman of Kyushu, Japan, graduated from the Tokyo Fisheries Institute, a university of marine science and technology. He quickly became engaged in fisheries research, and established the Takashima Cultured Pearls Enterprise in Nagasaki Prefecture, a first for Japan.
It was here that he began his first steps towards the invention of the mask-style respirator with the assistance of local blacksmith Ohgushi Kanezo, after whom the invention would later be named. Their aim was to design a self-contained diving system, using a similar mask design to that of the famous Ama divers, women who dived the Japanese waters bare-chested and harvested pearls. In 1916 Riichi went on to cooperate with Captain Kataoka Kyuhachi, to continue research and development for the respirator – it is here that Ohgushi Kanezo’s place in the story ends, and mystery surrounds his very own disappearance much like that of his eponymous invention.
By 1918, the first model of the
Ohgushi Peerless Respirator was patented in Japan, and put into production by the Tokyo Submarine Industrial Company; a firm which was established specifically for the purpose of marketing the
Ohgushi mask-style respirators, salvage works and for the business of collecting products from the sea floor, using this revolutionary new piece of technology
To prove that their equipment worked, they would have to risk their lives, diving an incredibly deep 60 metres to the murky, litter-strewn bottom of the harbour