Editors note: We thank Mark Ryan of the Historical Dive Society and the Maritime Archaeological Association of Victoria for submitting this story on Ted Eldred an how we came to all use the single hose regulator.
Porpoise – The Ted Eldred Story
by guest reporter Mark Ryan (as plagiarized from Stephen K. Taylor)
Ted Eldred was born in Melbourne Austarlia in 1920. He lived on the Mornington Peninsula. In the late 1940s he designed a sport diving oxygen rebreather. When Ted decided that rebreathers were not suitable for general sport use, he shifted his focus to developing the world’s first single-hose open-circuit scuba. Ted said he had never dived with the Cousteau-Gagnan model of the Aqua Lung, but knew of it’s existence and it’s principle. The Aqua Lung was protected by patent and difficult to obtain in Australia. Siebe Gorman had the license to manufacture for Commonwealth countries but could not meet demands. The Eldred invention, named the Porpoise, first appeared on the market in 1952 after four years of development in workshops in North Melbourne and Fitzroy – the Porpoise CA (a prototype), was the world’s first single hose regulator. Ted referred to the French model as the Gagnan Aqua Lung, as designer Emile Gagnan was the Frenchman who actually designed the device for Jacques Yves Cousteau. Ted’s new design was far superior to the Aqua Lung, and did not violate any of the existing patents. Although his regulator was never patented as his small business could not cover the expense. The first production model was designated the CA-1. (C A for compressed Air, 1 for single cylinder) It was sold as a complete single cylinder, single hose SCUBA early in 1952. The cylinder was inverted so the diver could reach the innovative regulator mounted reserve. Ted also made the CA-2, which was a double cylinder model. However, about three quarters of all the Porpoises made were surface supplied ‘hookah’. The ‘hookah’ was the device which started the demise of the standard dress helmet diving equipment.
Ted’s company was called Breathing Appliances Pty Ltd and located at 70 Abbotsford St., North Melbourne. Marketing was done by his friend Bob Wallace-Mitchell. It was difficult for Wallace-Mitchell to market the product in those early days, as compressed air was
not readily available. His first task was to locate a compressor with a sales point in each of the Australian capital cities. Once this was done, dealers could stock his SCUBA and were able to refill the cylinders. In 1958 Ted also created the Porpoise Universal, which had a high supply rate of over 300 litres per minute, which became his flagship model. Ted also made a cheaper model, called the Sportsman. The Sportsman was a very compact regulator with innovative features now found on regulators of today. It was made of plastic and had an unbalanced first stage. Market needs made this model necessary, although Ted did not like it.
The Porpoise single hose SCUBA found it’s initial international praise in Arthur C. Clarke’s 1955 book Coast of Coral, about the Great Barrier Reef. The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) supported Ted’s efforts and adopted the Porpoise Universal for military use. The RAN became the worlds first navy to be equipped with single hose scuba. When Ted’s diving school was established by RAN Commander Maurice “Batts” Batterham, GM. It was the first SCUBA diving school in Australia and the first in the world to teach with the single hose regulator — it was located at the Melbourne City Baths. It was a course designed to promote the new Porpoise, however, in later years other brands of scuba were also used. In 1960 the French firm L’Air Liquide, which also owned U.S. Divers Corp., and the patent to the Aqua-Lung, bought the rights to the Porpoise from Ted, under threat of flooding his market with their products. The Porpoise continued to be marketed under the name Australian Divers Spiro Pty. Ltd. where Ted worked for a time, but eventually left the SCUBA diving scene discouraged by the L’Air Liquide experience. Later Australian Divers Spiro ceased production of all of the Porpoise models, but had to continue to supply the RAN due to an existing contract. The last Porpoise sold was the RAN variation of the Porpoise Universal in 1976. About 12,000 Porpoise units were produced, but only a few dozen of all models are known to exist today.
The Air Dive company, owned by Jim Ager in Australia, was the first to copy the single hose design, and by 1955 their Sea Bee SCUBA was on the market too. Jim sold Air Dive early in 2010 at this time he was longest continuous producer of single hose SCUBA. Ted Eldred was recognized in later life, by the Historical Divers Society SEAP, as the inventor of the first successful commercially produced single hose SCUBA. Ted made his last dive with his grandson Adam, at an event in Ted’s honor. The single hose SCUBA is the type in use around the world today. Ted was presented the first “Ted Eldred Award” for significant contributions to diving by the Historical Diving Society SEAP.
Ted Eldred passed away at his country home at Yark, Victoria in August of 2005.