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Milwaukee company makes classic diving suits for Hollywood

Posted at 5:24 PM, Sep 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-27 18:24:16-04

MILWAUKEE — For decades, a Milwaukee manufacturer has been making some of the best diving equipment in the world, working with everyone from the military to Hollywood.

“Oh I would say we had our helmets in I would guess around 20 some movies," Christian Koellner, the owner of the Diving Equipment and Supply Company (DESCO) said.

DESCO has been making diving equipment since 1937. They made 3,000 suits for the military during World War II, and still work with the military today. One of their specialties is making classic diving equipment like this for hobbyists, collectors and Hollywood. DESCO has provided movies with diving suits since the 70s. Some of those movies include The Deep and Men of Honor.

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These classic diving helmets cost anywhere from $6,000 to $14,000. The weight of a suit like this with the helmet, boots, and other accessories can weigh as much as 160 pounds. The weight and cost of the equipment are two of the aspects that separates this sort of diving from scuba diving. It takes a team of people to help put the suit on the diver, and they must remain with the diver as the person is underwater. Also, instead of swimming, the diver is walking along the floor of the body of water.

While this isn’t the modern way of diving anymore, DESCO is keeping the tradition alive.

“It's nice to be the caretaker of something like this," Koellner said.

For $100 this weekend at Discovery World, you can even wear one of these and walk the floor of Lake Michigan.

“We have one-hour increment dive slots, and as long as you have a scuba certification card, we'll get you just suited up in this and send you down," Koellner said.

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Outside of the classic diving equipment manufacturing and restoration, DESCO is known for making hazmat suits for diving into contaminated waters.

"All contaminated water diving, so if you’re going to dive in reactor chambers, in the cooling towers, or in pulp vats, or down in Jones Island in what that’s all about," Koellner said.

So the next time you watch a movie with an old suit in it, it likely was made in Milwaukee.

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