A vow of silence has protected the mystery behind an ingenious invention for nearly 500 years. The secrets behind Guglielmo de Lorena’s amazing diving bell, a technical marvel, would have remained an engineering puzzle if not for the attentions of a curious maritime researcher.
The article “Guglielmo’s Secret: The Enigma of the First Diving Bell Used in underwater Archaeology” as written by researcher Dr. Josheph Eliav and published in International Journal for the History of Engineering & Technology, hypothesizes a solution to the longstanding mystery of how two men in the 1500s were able to remain deep underwater for hours at a time in order to examine ancient wrecks and return to the surface with amazing artifacts.
Italian Guglielmo de Lorena is credited with inventing the first one-man diving bell. It boasted a revolutionary air-supply mechanism which would exchange the air inside while maintaining pressure, allowing the diver to remain underwater for hours.
In July 1535, set on exploring a sunken Roman vessel in Lake Nemi, Guglielmo de Lorna and partner Francesco de Marchi used the invention to examine and document sunken barges which had lain at the bottom of Lake Nemi. These wooden barges had once reputedly served as floating platforms for infamous Roman emperor Caligula in the first century A.D.