Helmet diving is a fairly unique activity. It’s offered in Bermuda and at just a few other locations around the world. It’s fairly close to the experience you’ll get while scuba diving but doesn’t involve all the training and expense. It’s probably all a mystery to you so we’ll explain the procedure in detail.
You’ll first travel by boat to the dive site. Once there, the participants will be split into groups of six or seven. When it’s your group’s turn to dive, you’ll get into the water by climbing down a ladder on the side of the boat. Once the water is at your shoulders, a helmet will be place on your head by the guide. It’s pretty large and looks like something out of the 1954 film 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. It’s heavy too, but once you get underwater it feels almost weightless.
A compressor on the boat pumps air into the helmet via a hose, allowing you to breathe completely normally. The resulting pressure prevents water from entering and keeps your head totally dry. If you wear glasses or contact lenses it’s perfectly fine to wear them throughout the dive.
After you’ve got the helmet on, you continue descending the ladder until you’re standing on the ocean floor (at a depth of around 10 feet). Once the group is assembled, you’ll explore the reef, accompanied by the guide, and see some wonderful marine life. The hose not only supplies air but prevents you from wandering off and getting lost. The weight of the helmet stops you floating up to the surface (quite unlike scuba diving where you need to need to regulate your buoyancy to maintain stability).
The water in Bermuda is pretty warm (over 80 F in July, August, and September) so there’s no need to wear a wetsuit. In the summer underwater visibility averages around 100 feet, so you’ll be able to clearly see a considerable amount.
Several years ago there were three helmet diving operations in Bermuda; Peppercorn Diving at the Grotto Bay Beach Resort, Bermuda Bell Diving in Flatts, and Hartley’s Helmet Diving. Today, only Hartley’s Helmet Diving is in business. They used to be based at Watford Bridge in Sandys Parish, but now operate out of Royal Naval Dockyard.