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Vintage Scuba – Fake Scuba Tanks

Vintage Scuba - Fake scuba tanks

Hey, guys. It’s Alec Peirce with Vintage Scuba! We’re having a laugh here, Kevin and I, about these scuba tanks. I said there’s no hydro stamp on this so I don’t know how old it is. Just judging from the logo, this is a white 50-cubic-foot white steel Voit tank with a half-inch valve. I’m guessing this is from the early ‘60s. It’s a pretty popular tank, and this size was popular particularly for smaller divers: for ladies; kids wore these an awful lot. These tanks were very visible: they were white (which was unusual since tanks were almost all grey) and had an attractive and distinctive big Voit “V” on them; Voit was a large company in the ‘50s and ‘60s. This specific take is a phony. It’s a fake. What I mean by a fake is that it looks like a tank, smells like a tank, works like a tank, but it’s not a scuba tank.

Let me show you what I mean. Let’s take this valve off the top. This is a genuine valve: a half-inch, tapered pipe thread valve. Out it comes. It’s a standard valve. This tank is made of balsa wood – it looks like a tank but it’s not a tank. Well, what the heck is it? It’s painted with the logo and the whole darn thing. This is a prop. Think of all the movies, television ads, TV: by the ‘50s and ‘60s there were TV shows that used scuba tanks. Some were shot underwater, and many had smaller divers. Often these folks were standing on a beach for an ad.

These were quite common, and that brings to mind another interesting aspect. It has been for many years, a bit of a myth or conspiracy theory that in a lot of TV series and movies like Thunderball or Sea Hunt, that the tanks used were balsa wood to make it easier for the actors. On more than one occasion, Mike Nelson came out of the water and he climbed a wooden ladder, a vertical wooden ladder. Specifically, in one episode, “The Birthday Present”, (my favorite episode of all 155 Sea Hunt episodes), Mike Nelson climbed a very long (I’m gong to guess 30 or 40-foot-long) vertical wooden ladder. He had in one hand a bicycle: a bicycle from the ‘50s that weren’t like they are today: they weren’t made of carbon fiber or titanium; they were made of steel. I had one, and they would weigh 50 or 60 pounds.

He had this bicycle in one hand, and he had twin tanks, doubles, on his back – and he had his fins on! He had this mask on his forehead, and he one-handed this wooden ladder 30 or 40 feet to get up to the dock to give the bicycle to this little boy who lost it on his birthday. (It’s a great episode and you should watch it.)

Mike Nelson in “The Birthday Present”

Mike Nelson (Lloyd Bridges) was in incredible shape in those days. He was almost 50 years old but was incredibly strong and very fit. I wouldn’t doubt for one minute those twin tanks on his back were real steel. He certainly struggled up that ladder as if they were real; but he was a very good actor. I can’t say for sure. I don’t think anyone knows anymore. That myth has persisted, and here is a balsa tank that was used in the movies in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

I have another tank to show you as well. This tank is a more standard sized 72: the standard tank used by scuba divers for years and years. This also has a half-inch valve in it. You can see this tank is even lighter than the balsa wood, and there’s a reason for that. This tank is hollow and made from plastic or a very early form of fiberglass – it might weigh two pounds. There’s a 72 cubic foot tank, just to prove that in some cases (don’t ask me when, where, or why) in those underwater movies and episodes, tanks like this were used.

Interesting enough, the last two Sea Hunt events in Silver Springs, Florida that myself and the Sea Hunt group puts on, we had a fake scuba tank. Alan, one of our senior members, asked me to make a scuba tank on my wood lathe. We used it to shoot pictures of the kids holding Sea Hunt gear. It was pretty neat.

Alec’s tank

There you go. Vintage Scuba with fake scuba tanks used in Sea Hunt and underwater films in the ‘50s and ‘60s. I thought you might get a kick out of it.

Hope you enjoyed that. Alec Peirce Scuba. Talk to you again real soon.