The Old Gentleman
The worlds's oldest known diving suit
"The Old Gentleman of Raahe" is a rare treasure. It is believed to be the oldest diving suit in the wold. The suit was donated to the museum by Captain Johan Leufstadius (1829-1906), master mariner, merchant and shipowner of the seaport of Raahe.
The captain's papers state that the suit dates from the 18th century and the material is calf´s skin. At that time Raahe - like several other ports on the Gulf of Bothnia - was a busy shipping and ship building center, where diving operations would certainly have been needed. The suit is undoubtedly Finnish. The foot parts are in fact traditional Finnish countryman's boots with the kind of upturned toes.
A clue to the suit's antecendents refers to a Swedish Admiralty sketch dating from 1727, which is kept in the Swedish States Archives. The sketch represents the diving suit made of metal plates and it has a certain resemblance to the Old Gentleman of Raahe, and it is possible that it was used as a model.
The conservator of Raahe Museum, Mr. Jouko Turunen, tailored a perfect copy of the old suit in 1988. The Young Gentleman of Raahe has been used as a diving suit several times. A video of the new diving suit being used in a test dive can be watched at the museum.