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These images were taken after the flotation collar was mounted and inflated by the frogmen. Also the raft was inflated. The divers jumped off a helicopter before, no rescue ship was present. Camera position was directly above the water surface.

So the camera had to survive the jump of the diver photographer from the helicopter down to the water. The camera should be small, lightweight, compact and robust and to be used under and above water. Conventional cameras within a special underwater case would have been too heavy and bulky.

So I guess the Navy frogmen used a Nikonos underwater camera for 35 mm film?

Images from ALSJ.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ These are fantastic photos. Thanks for bringing them to our attention! (Even though they bring up my personal dislike for the fact that all the Apollo capsules were "cleaned up" and made museum presentable by removing the non-burnt pieces of mylar/kapton and any of the charred layers... It totally changed their character/appearance!!) $\endgroup$ – user2705196 Jul 21 '20 at 12:34
  • $\begingroup$ @user2705196 The removing the non-burnt pieces of mylar/kapton may have begun after the recovery of the CM to the ship. Some could could not resist to take a souvenir. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Jul 21 '20 at 12:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Uwe yes, I understand that may have happened. At least several questions here refer to souvenirs taken by Navy sailors... But the museum versions are completely cleaned up and have a very different appearance. Plus, I am at least a bit skeptical of those souvenir claims. I can imagine some bits of foil being collected that simply fell off during transport. But I would assume that the capsules themselves were strictly off-limits on the ships once "parked". Maybe I'll ask that as a question later to see how they were stored! $\endgroup$ – user2705196 Jul 21 '20 at 13:00
  • $\begingroup$ @user2705196 Here are nice mylar photos for you : history.nasa.gov/alsj/a16/ap16-S72-36397.jpg history.nasa.gov/alsj/a17/ap17-S72-55886.jpg $\endgroup$ – Uwe Jul 21 '20 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Uwe Thanks, they look great! It also appears that some of the removed foil was officially prepared as souvenirs to be handed to VIPs... apolloartifacts.com/2007/02/apollo_11_mylar.html (I don't believe this was the motivation for the removal though. I'd bet there was a protocol in place to strip the foil and then the decision was to use that foil as souvenirs.) $\endgroup$ – user2705196 Jul 21 '20 at 13:51

The answer is on this National Geographic page about the best pictures from NASA's official photographer Bill Ingalls:

If you love space, odds are you’ve admired the work of Bill Ingalls. He has been NASA’s senior contract photographer for 30 years, a job that has taken him across the world—but not yet beyond it—to cover major moments in space exploration.

His stash includes two Nikonos underwater cameras, which, Taub told Ingalls, "were used by frogmen during Apollo splashdown recoveries."

In this DOD Pdf about Apollo Recovery Operational Procedures equipment furnished by NASA is mentioned. Underwater cameras, 1 or 2 per recovery diver team and 3 per primary recovery ship.

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Nikonos model II image from this Nikonos Story page.

The size of the camera was: 129 mm × 99 mm × 47 mm (5.1 in × 3.9 in × 1.9 in), the weight 495 g (17.5 oz). The Nikonos was marketed as an all-weather camera. Photos below and above the water's surface are possible, also in heavy rain.

An Apollo 12 image ap12-S69-22265 from ALSJ:

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A Navy diver helps Al Bean into the recovery raft. Pete Conrad is at the far right and Dick Gordon is at the center. Note the diver in the water to the left of the raft taking pictures. Photographs are also being taken from the helicopter. 24 November 1969. Scan by Ed Hengeveld.

So at least two divers were equipped with Nikonos cameras, the diver shown with camera and the diver who has taken the image.

Taking pictures by Navy divers during recovery has a tradition:

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Navy divers prepare to retrieve the Gemini 6A crew on16 December 1965. Green dye was released by the spacecraft on splashdown, making it easier to spot them from the air. Credit: Courtesy of NASA

Image and text from amateurphotographer.

But the Nikonos I was introduced in 1963, so it might have been used only for the last Mercury flight.

Bold font enhancement within block quotes by me.


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