Curiosities from 150 years of The Engineer archive

This device, reportedly referred to by its inventor as the ‘self-swimmer’ was, wrote The Engineer, ‘intended to maintain the body at the surface of the water whether the person can swim or not’.

This strange-looking device, reportedly referred to by its inventor as the ‘self-swimmer’ was, wrote The Engineer, ‘intended to maintain the body at the surface of the water whether the person can swim or not and that without the necessity of a single movement’.

‘This is made possible,’ claimed the magazine, ‘by the particular shape of the apparatus, it being elongated at its superior part and gradually enlarged as it extends over the breast; terminating at the loins as a truncated or rounded cone.’

Although the article does not explain how the device would be used, it reports that the size of it can be varied — presumably according to the size of whoever is using it. ‘The apparatus may be divided in two, three, or more pairs, these parts being united by straps. The size of the apparatus varies according to the purpose for which it is intended; for salvage purposes taking the more developed form.’

Commenting on its construction, the article claimed that ‘the self-swimmer is composed of zinc, tin, copper or other metal; or it can also be made of India rubber, gutter-percha, etc. The straps which fasten the parts together are made of cotton, leather, India rubber, etc, or the parts can be made fast by metal chains. The belt, which fixes the apparatus to the body either by a knot or by means of a buckle, is made of the same materials as the straps above named.’