The hold of Sir Edmund C. Roberts’ ship, Baci Finale, was chock-a-block full of gadgets and inventions when they departed English waters, many of them late to be roused and utilized. An example of which was the Morse Mark I Naval Diving Helmet, Suit and Air Pumping Apparatus Roberts cajoled the British Admiralty to allow him to utilize for “scientific purposes, undisclosed”. They knew full well the folly he pursued, but acquiesced regardless, his vast fortune greasing the normally recalcitrant government ways. Further, it was in point of fact on loan to the Admiralty from the United States Navy, and no one of British rank was likely to attach significance whatsoever to anything “those dammed colonials” thought worth sharing.
The whole of that contraption was at last brought on deck off the California coast, uncrated assembled and prepared for the eccentric explorer’s descent into the warm Pacific waters. After much experimentation and laughable trial and error Roberts got the hang of donning the ungainly rubberized canvas suit with the help of two ham-handed sailors, they then strapping on the huge lead soled boots and finally bolting the cumbersome brass helmet into place.
From Roberts perspective once submerged was the remarkable bad odor that inevitably filled the suit. At first the young explorer thought it was his own flatulence, but close monitoring indicated that it was not of his own making. Next he suspected foul (truly) play on the part of the top side air pumping crew but constant rotation of those persons convinced him that was not the case. (He cleverly pair individuals who never in all of the time cooperate with one another to the extent of perpetrating a prank, yet the smells continued.) What he neglected to consider was the set of triplet children, Sara, Sue and Marie (whom he referred to collectively and also individually as Sara-Sue-Marie). It was indeed they who leaned their bums to the air intake besides the pumping gear and let fly to the howls of laughter of all nearby. There was not a crewman aboard his ship unaware of their game and not one who would dream of betraying the little girls’ game. Even the naturalist Dr. Marie Gebeaux rolled her eyes and smiled secretly when observing the girls in action.
So Roberts finally it was some devilish quirk in the material of the suit itself, or in the long rubber air hoses or indeed deep in the inner workings of the clanking hand operated air pump that produced the gases so nauseous he did never completely relish his descents; though he enjoyed the limited freedom of movement the suit allowed compared to his diving bell.
It was during one of his first descents that he alighted with the fabled Roberts family good fortune on a trove of sunken treasure. Lost in amazement he tipped open a chest and withdrew near perfect gold and jeweled artifacts unaware all the while of the sea maiden slowly circling the warm waters above him. It was not until she swam to just before him and reached out to touch the reflective glass on the front of his helmet that she startled him to near apoplectic reflex. His abrupt reaction so frightened her she turned and disappeared into the gloom.
His journal reads: Visited by a Sea Maiden whilst subaquatic, she is beautiful but apparently timid.