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You can now download “The Little story of the Underwater Cutting” in one single printable document at: https://www.academia.edu/24883704/The_Little_Story_of_the_Underwater_Cutting
And with our English colleagues?
It is difficult to say who made the first underwater gas burning torch in England.
What is certain is that in 1919 two underwater oxyacetylene torches arrived in England following the acquisition by the Maritime Salvors LTD Company from New Haven of two salving vessels the Restorer and Reliant brought to the US Navy. The trademark of these torches is not clear but they were part of the equipment and items sold with boats (83).
In the early twenties, Siebe Gorman began designing an underwater cutting torch and to do so the firm decided to test several including the second generation Picard AD-8 cutting torch which was tested in November 1924
Photo n° 42: Cutting test with the 2nd generation Picard AD-8 torch in the Siebe Gorman tank in 1924 (84)
Photo n° 43: Cutting test with the 2nd generation Picard AD-8 torch in the Siebe Gorman tank in 1924 (84)
Photo n°44: Cutting test with the 2nd generation Picard AD-8 torch in the Siebe Gorman tank in 1924 (84)
Apparently the French torch seduced since the model they will create incorporates their principles that is to say, the combustion chamber and the pilot flame.
Figure n° 17: Sketch of the first Siebe Gorman underwater burning torch (85)
In 1933 another oxy-hydrogen torch is marketed by the firm Underwater Cutters LTD (86) and in 1938, an article published in "The Electrical Journal" (87) mentions that this torch was used to cut 30 meters of sheet piles at 3 meters depth.
Photo n°45: Underwater Cutters LTD torch (88)
Figure n° 18: Underwater Cutters LTD arrangement (89)
Then comes the torch made by B.O.C & Siebe Gorman. It was a very powerful torch with which the diver could have a cutting speed of 60 cm per minute.
As can see from the photo n° 46, the company has removed the pilot flame and the combustion chamber she had used on her first torch and this time uses the principle of the air bubble as used on US torches.
A first mention of the use of this torch is reported in an article describing one of the most famous oxy-hydrogen cutting in history (90).
Photo 46: B.O.C & Siebe Gorman torch (91)
This one takes place in 1944 on the British warship H.M.S Valiant. This battleship which was engaged in the battle against the Japanese fleet had suffered some damage that had forced her to go into dry dock in Ceylon, but following a false move during the dry setting the dry dock breaks and sinks.
Fortunately, the H.M.S Valiant remained afloat but during the sinking the end of the dock severely damaged one of her rudders two of her inner screws as well as the cast iron A frames holding them to the hull.
As there were no other dry dock installation likely to receive a vessel of this size in the Pacific it was decided to send her to Alexandria. Despite her damage, the battleship could still navigate but only at the reduced speed of 8 knots because the vibrations generated by the inertia of the two central propellers were enormous.
Arriving in the Suez Bay, Commander in Chief Sir John Cunningham called one of his good acquaintances the Lt Commander Peter Keeble, a salvage expert an experienced diver and asked him how to eliminate this problem. It's simple; Peter Keeble replied cut and drop the defective parts on the harbor floor.
Cunningham did not take long to decide and gave Keeble a week to perform this job (92).
Figure n°19: Stern of the H.M.S Valiant (93)
Him in turn contacted the petty officer Nichols another underwater work specialist, and between them they will undertake this cutting job which is far to be simple.
It must be said that the total weight of each items to be removed weighted around 26 tons.
During 2 days Nichols beefed up the existing torch and gave it an awesome strength. Then once ready he volunteered to do the first dive.
Sitting astride on the starboard shaft he began the cutting at 1.5 m from the gland. Four hours later he is forced to come to the surface because of a technical problem.
Then wanted to go down again despite a burned thumb but his chief took over and finally 6 hours later the first shaft was through.
A little bit too long we may think? Certainly not if we know that these shafts were 47 cm (18, 5 inches) in diameter.
It remained to cut the A frame that in section were 107 cm (42 inches) wide and 36 cm (14,5 inches) thick.
Nichols cut the first side of the port A frame in 4 hours.
Keeble cut the other side for about 70 cm (27 inches) and then stopped when he realized that the cut began widening. For security it was decided to cut the remainder of the metal with a plaster charge of 7.5 kg.
Bang! The entire starboard assemblage fell on the harbor bottom. It remained to do the same thing on the other propeller which took about the same time.
Figure n°20: Removal of the starboard side (94)
Finally thanks to the cutting the vibration completely disappeared and the dry docking wasn’t necessary anymore.
Figure n° 21: British Gas and Torch (95)
Photo n° 47: B.G.T underwater torch equipment (96)
As shown in Figure n° 21 a submarine oxyacetylene gas torch was also manufactured by the British Gas and Torch Company from Camberley but no reference is found regarding the date of manufacture.
1945 saw the arrival of the Seafire (97). It is a small oxy-hydrogen torch where the diameter of the mixing nozzle is reduced which has the advantage of using significantly less gas and makes it very convenient for small cutting jobs.
Photo n° 48: Seafire torch (98)
The handle comprises two valves for the supply of the heating flame and a trigger for the cutting oxygen supply. The head is connected to the handle by 4 tubes. The top tube that leads the cutting oxygen, the lower tube the shield oxygen, the left tube the hydrogen fuel, and the right tube the heating oxygen.
Figure n°22: Seafire description (99)
The head is provided with an outer removable nozzle in which the flame burns.
The particular design of the chamber allows an additional supply of oxygen to the base of the flame, thereby promoting combustion. The mixture of the two gases is done in the same nozzle of the torch.
Two models with head orientation at 45 ° or 90 ° are available.
Photo n°49: Diver with a Seafire torch (100)
And finally in 1968 (101) we find the Vixen Kirkham M2, which was the last torch being manufactured by our English friends.
As can be appreciated, with the exception of the locking system of the trigger this torch resembles the model of the Seafire.
Photo n°50: Vixen Kirkham M2 torch (102)
Other countries also had their torch, but like everywhere else these have gradually been abandoned in favor of the electric cutting.
One of the main reasons is due to the fact that learning this technique is longer and more difficult.
Photo n° 51: Loosco Dutch torch (103)
Photo n° 52: Hungarian torch from the twenties (104)
Figure n° 23: Hungarian torch (105)
Photo n° 53: Italian torch with the automatic gas control unit (106)
The problem with the underwater gas burning torches is that they sometimes need to be turned off (or sometimes go out from themselves) for a few minutes.
If the diver is working in shallow water, this does not pose much problem because all he had to do is ascend a few meters to reignite.
But this can quickly become annoying or impossible to do on deeper sites. As we have seen, Mr. Corné Mr. Picard and the Fabbrica italiana d'apparecchi per saldatura, Milano had solved this problem by inventing the pyrotechnic igniter and the pilot flame.
Elsewhere the electric ignition was privileged. In the early twenties (1920) two ignition systems appeared.
The American system that worked from a 110 volts DC power source and the English system that was rather using a 12-volt battery.
The implementation was more or less identical. When the diver wanted to light his torch, he first settled the length of the gas bubbles and then once done asked for juice. This depending on the system caused a spark which in turn lit the torch. Once it burned correctly the current was cut at surface and the cutting could start.
Figure n° 24: American ignition system (107)
Figure n° 25: English ignition system (108)
Photo n° 54: Modern ignition system (109)
As seen through the first three articles, underwater cutting torches helped make huge service and have greatly facilitated the work of divers.
They were intensely used until the fifties then gradually abandoned in favor of new cutting processes easier to use.
Currently, there is only one (real) underwater gas burning torch on the market: The PVL a Dutch manufactured torch that uses MAP gas or other by product. The torch is designed around the mixing nozzle of the P9 Picard torch making it therefore an EXCELLENT tool whose performances are identical to its model of reference.
Photo n° 55: PVL torch (110)
Photo n° 56: Cutting course with the PVL (111)
Apart from this Dutch torch some (rare) manufacturers still offer the possibility to use their common torch under water by adapting a special cap on their head.
Photo n° 57: Pyrocopt combustion chambers (112)
Photo n° 58: Petrogen cutting torch (113)
Photo n° 59: Harris underwater cutting adapter (114)
To follow: The other cutting techniques
My special thanks go to David L.Dekker and Lévai Miklós for their information supplied in the references n° 84, 85 (David) and 95,96,104-106 (Lévai).
(84) « Everything for the diver » « Everything for Submarine Operations » Siebe Gorman and Company,Limited / « Neptune » works, London, S.E.1 page 86-87
(85) « Everything for the diver » « Everything for Submarine Operations » Siebe Gorman and Company,Limited / « Neptune » works, London, S.E.1 page 88
(86) Shipbuilding & Shipping Record 1933 vol 41 page VI
(87) The Electrical Journal volume 120 page 308
(89) DYKKEHISTORISK TIDSSKRIFT Nr 50-17 Argang 2013 page 4
(90) Deep Diving and Submarine Operation by Robert H.Davis /Siebe,Gorman & Company LTD CWMBRAN, GWENT 175 Anniversary edition / page 221
(91) Deep Diving and Submarine Operation by Robert H.Davis /Siebe,Gorman & Company LTD CWMBRAN, GWENT 175 Anniversary edition / page 222
(92) Marine Salvage by Joseph N. Gores 1972 David & Charles page 288-289
(94) Deep Diving and Submarine Operation by Robert H.Davis /Siebe,Gorman & Company LTD CWMBRAN, GWENT 175 Anniversary edition / page 223
(95) Buvarismeretek by Ugray Karoly 1953 page 73
(96) Buvarismeretek by Ugray Karoly 1953 page ??
(97) http://www.mcdoa.org.uk/RN_Diving_Magazine_Vol_15_No_2.pdf page 12
(99) The Professional Diver’s Handbook by John Bevan Submex 2005 page 118
(101) http://www.mcdoa.org.uk/RN_Diving_Magazine_Vol_15_No_2.pdf page 12
(102) The Master Diver and the Underwater Sportsman by Capt. T.A.Hampton 1970 David & Charles page 144
(104) Buvarismeretek by Ugray Karoly 1953 page 70
(105) Buvarismeretek by Ugray Karoly 1953 page 72
(106) Buvarismeretek by Ugray Karoly 1953 page 74
(107) Underwater Work by Cayford Cornell Maritime Press 1966 page 112
(108) The Master Diver and the Underwater Sportsman by Capt. T.A.Hampton 1970 David & Charles page 102