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North East Diving Equipment Group, The Story...

The history of NEDEG from 1987 to the present day

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THE FIRST "OFFICIAL" FUNCTION of what is today the North East Diving Equipment Group was the first Working Equipment Rally on the Labor Day Weekend of 1993. The beginning of the group, however, dates back to 1987 with Lakeland Divers scuba shop in East Hanover, New Jersey. Lakeland's general manager, David Sutton, who was a trained and experienced commercial diver, found a group of local scuba divers interested in diving commercial gear. Dave purchased a complete Mark V hardhat rig and began offering a series of “recreational hardhat diving” courses through the Lakeland Divers shop. The courses were equipment familiarization only and offered no formal certification.

With the success of the MkV diving experiences, Dave expanded the courses to include a variety of lightweight commercial surface-supplied gear. The courses were advertised nationally and brought in students from all across the country. (below: Dave Sutton and his Mark V hardhat setup)

Sutton Picture

SOME OF SUTTON'S STUDENTS bought their own gear and assisted in the Lakeland courses. One of the first was Jim Boyd, who bought this Aquadyne AH2 free-flow air hat that was mated it to an inexpensive but custom made Aquala drysuit. (below: Jim Boyd in the Lakeland pool).

Aquala and Aquadyne

Sutton's MkV course involved a Friday evening classroom lecture, a Saturday dive in the Lakeland indoor pool, and a Sunday open water dive (BELOW) at the Willow Springs Quarry Park, about 100 miles to the west in Richland, Pennsylvania.

Sutton at Willow Springs1987 Diving Picture1987 Diving Picture

WHEN DAVID LEFT LAKELAND in 1991 to pursue a career as a commercial airline pilot, a handful of his students (Fred Barthes, John Melnick and Jim Boyd) purchased the surface supply equipment and continued to dive the heavy gear. One of Sutton’s students, Paul Schenk, put the group in touch with the newly formed Historical Diving Society-USA, and the rest, as they say, is history (pun intended).

The Historical Diving Society - U.S.A. gave the group a network through which to communicate with other divers around the world with similar interests. Because of insurance liability potential, they never became officially associated with or endorsed by the HDS-USA, and the group became known as the “Northeast Diving Equipment Group.” All NEDEG activities were conducted locally by volunteer members who supplied their own equipment and dive gear.

The NEDEG has an informal coordinating committee, which holds diving opportunities twice a year on Memorial Day and Labor Day holiday weekends. It also assures that equipment and diving is done safely and responsibly.  It maintains the communications equipment, compressor, air station, and umbilicals needed for surface supplied diving. The group is also supported by donations from participants, and the sale of T-shirts at the dive rallies

Jim Boyd was honored in 1994 by the HDS with its first "E.R. Cross Award" for service to the society for promoting HDS-USA activities and membership, even though the NEDEG has remained independent of any formal association with the HDS-USA.

Historical Diving Society (USA)


The NEDEG’s first organized activity was the “Working Equipment Rally” at Willow Springs Quarry Park in Pennsylvania over the 1993 Labor Day Weekend. The Rally was actually just an expanded version of the “quarry dives” the group had been doing a couple of times a year since the late 1980s. Through the HDS network, many new people became aware of the diving activities and wanted to participate. Jim Folk, manager of Scuba Venture Dive Center in nearby Sinking Spring, Pa. attended an early Rally with his 1944 Desco Mark V helmet, which later became part of the first NEDEG logo. original NEDEG logo

The revised 2014 NEDEG logo (designed by Harrison Balthazar) shows a Mark V helmet against a diver-down flagNEDEG logo with MkV helmet

Jocking the helmet diver

"JOCKING THE DIVER" is a fun part of dressing a MkV rig:

The jock on the weight belt must be very tight on the surface so that it will keep the helmet seated on the diver's shoulders in the water.

Here, Gary Smith (left) and Jim Folk (right) work on setting up diver Wayne Jones.

Over the years, a large number of working commercial and military divers have attended the Rallies and observed the equipment and safety techniques. The group has received high marks for "professionalism" from these visiting divers while maintaining a pleasant social atmosphere on the dive site.

In addition to Working Equipment Rallies, the group has displayed at numerous shows such as the Beneath the Sea scuba expo in New Jersey each March, and have presented Summer dive demos at the Long Island Seafood Festival and Middlesex County Fair.


Founding NEDEG member Jim Boyd sadly passed away on December 2010. His enthusiasm for historical diving is greatly missed, but his legacy continues with the ongoing activities of NEDEG.

Jim Boyd Picture Jim Boyd Bench

The first wooden MarkV setup bench used at NEDEG

On November 19, 2018, Gene Ritter sadly passed away at the early age of 59. Gene was a commercial diver from NY who has had a long time involvement with NEDEG activities. He also organized a historical group (Cultural Research Divers) that searched for marine artifacts in the NY area.

Gene Ritter picture

On February 7, 2024, Bob Rusnak sadly passed away.  Bob was a long time supporter of NEDEG events and Historical Diving Society.  Bob was an avid dive gear collector whose equipment was often seen at dive shows such as Beneath The Sea and Our World Underwater.

Bob Rusnak Picture

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