Your Guide to the History of Diving Museum in Islamorada

You may not know this about me, but I’m terrified of drowning in deep water! I can swim, but the thought of deep water–especially deep ocean water, scares me! My dad, on the other hand, was a SCUBA diver in his younger years. He has told my brothers and me stories of his escapades, one of which actually inspired one of my books! So when I saw that Islamorada is home to the History of Diving Museum, I had to take a look.

Quick Facts

The essentials:

  • Northbound or Southbound: Southbound side of the road
  • Parking: Yes
  • Restrooms: Yes
  • Admission: $15 per adult
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Hours: Daily 10-5, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day
  • Great for: Kids, adults, divers, snorkelers, history buffs, people who need an air-conditioned activity, people who need a rainy-day activity, etc.
The History of Diving Museum is hard to miss with this signage!
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Highlights of the Museum

This is a pretty small museum, but they have so many fascinating artifacts on display! Whether you’re a SCUBA diver, snorkeler, marine biologist, or innocent bystander, I’m pretty sure you’ll find something interesting here. Take a look at some of the highlights.

The Library

You’ll start in the library where you’ll watch a short video about the museum and its founders. Diving goes back in history much further than you may realize! The video is about 15 minutes and gives you a good starting point for the rest of the museum. Can’t make it in person? Take a Virtual Tour on their website!

Diving Helmets of the World
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Diving Bells

What’s a diving bell? Have you ever put a cup open-side down in a pool of water? The air inside keeps the water from coming in until you tip it to one side or the other. That’s the concept for the diving bell. Divers used to take one under water with them, and either put it on their head so they could keep breathing, or duck their head under to get air before returning to the water until the bell ran out of oxygen. Diving bells have been used for centuries!

Sorry for the glare! This is an example of a diving bell that’s glass so the diver can see around him under water.
This is me with an example of a larger diving bell, designed by Halley (as in, Halley’s Comet) in 1691!
More here: Virtual Tours of Museums All Over the World

Sea Women of Japan (Ama Divers)

This part was near and dear to my heart because I was able to watch ama, or women divers, in action when I lived in Japan in college. They can hold their breath for several minutes at a time while they search for oysters. I saw them harvesting pearls at Mikimoto Pearl Island in Toba, not far from where I lived! They have been diving this way since at least 268 B.C., and while goggles have been added since then, not much else has changed!

Ama divers still work to harvest pearls in Japan the same way today!
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Diving Helmets and Masks

I know, I know, we’re all tired of masks! But no worries. These are a different kind of mask that you would definitely want and need under water! Some don’t look so great, while others seem so secure they would make me claustrophobic! Some of the early helmets were based on the same design as a medieval knight’s helmet, while others look like something out of the space age.

They have quite a collection from all eras of dicing history!
Helmets of all shapes and sizes.
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Breathing Apparatuses (Apparati?)

From dive tanks to hoses attached to boats above water, breathing underwater is a bit of a challenge! Check out some of these breathing apparatuses. I’m not sure if some of them are designed to operate like gas masks, or if gas masks were designed to operate like these breathing apparatuses.

Which came first? The dive mask or the gas mask?
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Diving Suits

Whether it’s deep sea diving, arctic ocean diving, or simply pleasure diving, you need to be wearing something, right? Dive suits have changed a lot throughout their history, and that is reflected in the museum. I was surprised at how futuristic some of the suits from the 1930s looked!

Authentic, historic diving suit.
This 1930s suit weighs an actual ton!
What will they come up with next?
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Have you visited the History of Diving Museum? Comment below!

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