54["White Divers", The Northern Times (Carnarvon, WA), Saturday 17 August 1912, page 4]




Written for the "Northern Times".


The Minister of Works is reported making the following statement at Carnarvon:--

"Recently white divers had been brought out from England as an experiment. They were able by their methods to escape the dreaded divers' paralysis; their difficulty was to find where the shell was and those who professed to be assisting in the experiment were giving little assistance in this. When that was overcome the white diver would prove his superiority over the colored."

We hold no brief for the Asiatic diver, but we resent the latter part of the above statement by Mr. Johnson who, as far as we can ascertain, did not make any enxjuiries while in Broome from the men most particularly concerned in the experiment. We give you the whole facts in connection

the experiment up to date. On February 18th of this year there arrived in Broome nine white divers and three tenders, four divers for Mr. Sydney Pigott, two divers and one tender for Mr. Stanley Pigott, two divers and one tender for Messrs. Robison and Norman, one diver and diver and one tender for Messrs. Moss and Richardson. These men with the exception of Messrs. Robison and Norman's were got through Messrs. Siebe, Gorman & Co., Ltd., the largest submarine engineers in the world, who have over 300 divers on their books, and who employ Professor Hill as their expert,

The Greatest Living Expert,

in the science of deep water diving. He chose the men for the pearl fisheries, and lectured to them before they left for Australia. Messrs. Robison and' Norman got theirs through Heinke & Co., submarine engineers of London, who employ Lieut. Damant, an ex-naval expert, as their scientific adviser. He chose their men. The men were brought out under the following agreement: Divers, 3 per week and keep; if they secured 5 ton of shell in the year, a minimum of 250 for the year with their keep. Tenders, 6 per month and a lay on the amount of shell the diver got, with a percentage on all pearls iound. It was recognised by the employers concerned that these white divers, with all the knowledge of the science of deep water diving at their disposal, would be at their best in deep water that is, any depth above 15 fathoms. According to the system now in practice at home, it was found that the hand pump at present in use here for supplying the diver with air was inadequate, so

Oil-Driven Compressors

were specially imported and installed on the different boats at a cost of 230 each, to give the white man every opportunity of making a success of the venture Mr. Sydney Pigott, who had devoted a lot of time and attention to the principle of deep-water diving, found that, working on the tables of descent and ascent that are now standardised by the navy, and recognised all over the world, he could work four divers from the one boat working in depths from 18 fathoms upwards. He therefore bought the schooner Muriel, slightly bigger than the ordinary lugger, and put his

men to work in her, also sending an old Manila diver out with them to put them on to the shell grounds, the white divers preferring to take him rather than the local white diver Mr. Pigott had engaged to go out with them. The result after five months' work is that

Mr. Piggott Has Lost 500

over the experiment, besides his outlay in plant, etc. One of the divers is doing odd jobs round Broome; two of them have left for Fremantle, calling it a "dog's life"; the fourth is in the Broome Hospital suffering from divers' paralysis. Mr. Stanley Piggott's two divers are still at it; they have up to the present got 5 cwt. of shell. Mr. Piggott is 400 out of pocket so far, and both of his men have expressed their determination not to stop at it when their agreement is up--they call it "scavengers' work." Messrs. Robison and Norman's men have up to the present got 5cwt., and R. and N, are out 400. Both their men have also expressed their determination hot to stop any longer at it than the year. Messrs. Moss and Richardson's diver lost his life whilst working in 19 fathoms off Wallal; they have lost 300 over the experiment. This diver, Webber by name, was specially selected as one of the best deep water divers in England. The above particulars are by the way. The statement of Mr. Johnson that the men have not been shown where to get the shell is untrue in every particular, as in all cases the white divers have been sent out with the rest of the boats belonging to their respective masters, except in the case of Mr Sydney Piggott, who sent an old Manila diver out with his boat. They have worked the grounds with the

Asiatic Divers All Round Them

picking up shell, and we cannot do any more. We have put them wsere the shell is, and if they cannot learn to pick it up themselves we cannot teach them. As far as Broome is concerned, the whole experiment up the present has been a howling failure. Out of the nine divers sent out, there are four still at work, and whether they will make a success of it for the remainder of their term remains to be seen. It was the earnest desire of the different firms who entered on this experiment to make a success of it, for it meant so much to everybody concerned. It has been keenly watched by the pearlers of Broome, the majority of whom are firm believers in the White Australia policy and have no love for their Asiatic neighbor; but they recognise that, as far as pearling is concerned, they are necessary for the well-being of the industry. Under the special system of control which the External Affairs Department exercises as regards the importing and deporting of these men there is not the slightest chance of any of the indentured men escaping and settling in the country. If the experiment with white divers had been a success, they would have been imported by the hundred during the ensuing year. As it is now, there is not a pearler in Broome who would under the present conditions making the experiment any further.