jim suit



In 1976 JIM 5 carried out approximately 15 hours of work on or near the bottom of Panarctic Oils Ltd's Hecla M-25 well which had been drilled in 915 ft (279 m) of water off Melvill Island. The test dives demonstrated that it is possible to work in depths of up to 1,500 ft (457 m) without the need for decompression. The joints developed for the next generation of 1 ata diving suits were also tested at the time and proved to be successful.

The Dives

There were four dives in total, the first lasted one minute short of 6 hours and was made by the superintendent of the operation, Walter Thompson of Oceaneering, London, setting a record for the longest working dive below 490 ft (150 m). This was followed two days later by another three dives, all on the same day; one lasting from 09:00–11:25 (carried out by Tony Moore, DHBC Ltd, Alton, England), one lasting from 12:25–17:10 (again carried out by Walter Thompson) and one starting at 23:19 and lasting for 1 hour 40 minutes (carried out by Pete McKibbin, DHB operator/technician). The elapsed time for all four dives was 14 hours and 48 minutes. Phil Nuytten, president of Can Dive Oceaneering (which provided the support crew from Vancouver), estimated that a minimum of 8 days tedious and costly decompression would have been required for divers using a conventional aproach.


The first dive demonstrated the following:

  • In order to work effectively JIM needed a platform to stand on.
  • The low temperature did not cause issues with the work or influence the amount of time that could be spent on the bottom.
  • The time limit for work on the bottom was determined only by the fatigue of an individual diver.
  • JIM was less effective with intricate operations because of the lack of a sense of touch.
  • In deep water JIM can arrive on the bottom 24 hours earlier than conventional divers.

The second dive was designed to test walking on the bottom. The suit sank up to a foot with each step on the soft and uneven surface making walking difficult, but still achievable. However, it was felt that increasing the surface area of JIM’s feet might make walking easier.

The third dive was designed to test work on the BOP (blow out prevention) stack. However, only part of the work was completed due to the lack of a platform.

The fourth dive tested the ‘snowshoes’, (aka ‘mudshoes’) that were attached to JIM’s feet to increase the surface area. These were, indeed, found to make walking easier.

NB: the new joints developed for SAM were also tested at the Hecla M-24 well and were found to give the diver greater freedom of movement.


Anon. (1976) JIM sets a record in the Arctic: works 14¾ hours at 900+ feet! Ocean Industry, GPC. May, no page numbers.


Well, almost ...

The RMS Lusitania sank on 7 May 1915 in around 320 ft (98 m) of water just off the Irish coast having been torpedoed by a German submarine. The liner went down in just 18 mins with the loss of approximately 1200 lives, including around 130 American civilians.

In 1936 Peress’s chief diver Jim Jarrett made a series of dives to the Lusitania, unacknowledged by the Admiralty.

While the JIM suit was being developed John Pierce and Barry Lister, two salvage experts from Wrexham North Wales, were concentrating on perfecting new salvage techniques and the wreck of the Lusitania seemed like a good opportunity to try them out. The Germans claimed it was carrying arms and war supplies as well as its complement of affluent and influential passengers. The British denied the claim and declared the disaster as being a German outrage against a defenceless passenger ship. This proved to be a major factor in the consolidation of US public opinion against the Germans, hastening their entry into WWI.

As time went on Whitehall maintained the official line that there had been no munitions aboard and that it had ‘always been public knowledge that the Lusitania’s cargo included some 5,000 cases of small arms ammunition ’.

So, in 1982, Jim was due to make a series of recovery dives with a view to resolving the ongoing controversy about the sinking of the Cunard luxury liner. Pierce and Lister made a detailed survey of the wreck using the latest side-scan techniques and cameras which were mounted on a ROV.

Which leaves two questions: ‘did JIM actually do the dive?’ and ‘what were the findings of the salvage operation?’. The answer to the former is ‘in the end, no – but the ROV they used instead was SEAPUP’. The answer to the latter is ‘821 brass fuses for six-inch shells’. The bigger question, it seems, is destined to remain a mystery.


Simpson C. (1982) Big Jim from 007 transformed into deep sea detective. The Sunday Times. 16 May p.5.

Travis, A. (2014) Lusitania divers warned of danger from war munitions in 1982, papers reveal, The Guardian, 1 May. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/01/lusitania-salvage-warning-munitions-1982 Accessed: 7 Oct 2021.