- Escape set
An escape set (in German "Tauchretter" = "diver rescuer") is a
breathing set, which lets its wearer survive for a time in an environment without (sufficiently) breathable air, in particular underwater, primarily or originally intending mainly to survive long enough to reach safety where the air is breathable.
The escape set was developed from such respirators and used to escape from a submarine submerged so long that its onboard air supply ran out, and for technical or military reasons the submarine could not surface. Escape sets were also used ashore, e.g. in the
In language nowadays in German as in English, "tauchen" = "
diving" only means in water. Until the middle of the 20th century the German word "tauchen" = "to dive" also meant "to stay in unbreathable atmosphere". Thus around 1900 a water-cooled fire protection hood with air supply for firefighters was called in German a "Feuertaucher" (= "fire diver"), and still into the 1940's in German a man with a breathing apparatus for use in unbreathable atmosphere was called a "Gastaucher" (= "gas diver"). But as escape sets were used more for rescue from sunken submarines and as light diving equipment, the German word "tauchen" was restricted to underwater meanings.
Normal breathing air contains about 20%
oxygen. In normal breathing the body uses about 4% and replaces it with carbon dioxide. A certain volume of air can be "breathed deeply" several times, until its oxygen portion is exhausted. However, each breath becomes heavier, since carbon dioxide accumulates and oxygen is used up. Therefore this accumulating carbon dioxide must be removed from the breathing cycle.
For the general function of this sort of breathing set, see
The absorbent used is nearly always
sodalime, or a material based on sodalime, but in former times slaked limeor quicklimeor caustic sodawas sometimes used.
Submarine escape sets had a mouthpiece, so the user had to also wear a
noseclipto avoid breathing water through his nose. The working time of an escape set depended upon depth of submersion, between 15 and 45 minutes.
Use during submarine rescue
If an emergency made exit from a submarine necessary, first the crew had to wait until the air inside the submarine was compressed by pressure of entering sea water until the remaining air pocket was at the same pressure as outside. The lower end of the escape hatch had therefore to be low enough so that the remaining air inside the submarine could not escape when the hatch was opened. Then the crew could step out. The set's user had to breathe continually to avoid
pulmonary barotrauma. Escape sets are used in these films:-
Das Boot" (Johann das Gespenst stops water from breaking in under a dieselengine).
Haie und kleine Fische" (controlled exit from a sunk submarine).
Development of the first militarily useful
submarines before the First World Warraised briefly the question about rescue possibilities if the submarine sank. First, often deadly attempts were started with simple "breathing bags", which were useful as a very short-period assistance, but often did not contain enough oxygento survive the whole ascent. Robert Henry Davisand Henry A. Fleussdeveloped a rebreather, which was useful in the miningindustry and under water.
Siebe Gormanstarted to make this breathing set in England; in the years afterwards it was improved, and later was called the Davis Submerged Escape Apparatus.
*1905: An important innovation: metering valves to control the supply of oxygen. This was promptly adopted by other companies which made escape sets.
*1907: Draeger of
Lübeckinvented the "U-Boot-Retter" = "submarine rescuer".:Both systems were based on oxygen supply from a high-pressure cylinder with simultaneous absorption of carbon dioxideby an inserted cartridge filled with sodium hydroxide.
*1916: The Draeger model DM 2 became standard equipment of the
*1926: Draeger displayed a rescue breathing apparatus that the wearer could swim with. While the previous devices served only for ascending to the surface and were designed also to develop lift so that the wearer arrived at the surface without swimming movements, the diving set had weights, which also made it possible to dive down with it, to
searchand rescueafter an accident.
Hans Hassdeveloped from the escape set a type of rebreather with its bag on his back and two breathing tubes but no backpack box. These sets appear much in his movies and books.
Further developments of the escape gear
Later developments contained a suitable breathing mixture, automatically proportioned by a valve, instead of an
oxygenor compressed aircylinder, which makes possible deeper use possible of these diving breathing sets. Oxygen rebreathers are technically simpler than mixture breathing sets, but limits use to shallow water. Oxygen cycle devices are much liked by combat divers and underwater photographers, as they make far fewer bubbles than aqualung-type ( open circuit) sets, and those bubbles could betray the diver.
Another operational area is fire protection, for instance in
chemical industryor rescue in the miningindustry, where need for a long use duration forbids use of compressed air sets. Advancements in rebreatherdesign include special more-or-less complex gas proportioning and control devices, allowing use even deeper and even longer, for work divers, than emergency breathing sets and the type of sport divingcalled technical diving. Today's escape sets are combined with lifejackets and protection hoods to protect the head and breathing organs from being overpowered by water. They are used with thermal protection suits similar to the well-known scuba diving drysuits. Use is nevertheless limited to comparatively small depths; escape capsules and rescue submarines and emergency lift devices and droppable ballast provide safety in deper water.
The original German model of escape set from the
Second World Waris still used now in Leopard 2tanks, as emergency safety devices in operations submerged in rivers.
A (very) special form of escape set is the (standard) escape capsule of the
Space Shuttle. It is a spherical textile covering holding internal pressure and isolating an astronaut, equipped with an escape set very similar to an underwater escape set, and can be carried by another astronaut (who is in a spacesuit) to a suitable rescue spacecraft.
*Hermann Stelzner, Tauchertechnik - Handbuch für Taucher / Lehrbuch für Taucheranwärter. Verlag
Charles Coleman, Lübeck1943
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