Scuba Diving

History of Scuba Diving Equipment

Dr Pandula Siribaddana's image for:
"History of Scuba Diving Equipment"
Image by: 

Scuba diving has become one of the favorite past times in the world and many organizations and governments have recognized it as an attraction for tourists in certain parts of the world. However, the enthusiasm for scuba diving evolved over centuries and this article will trace back the history of scuba diving equipment, which is the mainstay of any scuba diving activity.

What is the importance of scuba diving equipment?

The word ‘scuba’ is an acronym for ‘self-contained underwater breathing apparatus’ and it emphasize that the diving practice is essentially dependent upon the breathing apparatus that provided the divers with breathable oxygen and other gases. The modern day breathing apparatus used for scuba diving originated in the 1940’s and was invented by French engineer Emile Gagnan and underwater explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Their invention, which was later named as the ‘aqua lung’, revolutionized scuba diving allowing divers to dive deep and remain underwater for a prolonged period.

What is the first recorded use of an underwater breathing apparatus?

According to historians, the first snorkel developed to enhance the underwater stay was a cut hallow reed. Later on, during the 16th century, there is evidence to suggest that people used wooden barrels to store air while they dive deep and this device seems to be the first instance where humans were able to dive without having to hold their breath. However, such devices did not allow more than few breaths to be taken during their underwater stay, which lasted only few seconds.

What is the first self-sustained underwater breathing apparatus?

The next advancement in the development of an underwater breathing apparatus was the invention of an air pump, which was connected to a diving barrel through a hose. The British engineer, John Smeaton in the year 1771, made the ‘air pump’ to be used in diving. In the following year, another modification was made to the diving barrel as it was turned into a self-sustained breathing apparatus, which can recycle the exhaled air into breathable air. However, it was not possible for such apparatus to provide enough oxygen for a prolonged stay and the inventor, Sieur Freminet, found this the hard way as he died during the experiments when he attempted to stay more than 20 minutes under water using the same device.

When was the first closed circuit oxygen apparatus developed?

In the following decades, inventors made many changes to the diving apparatus and as with Sieu Freminet, some had to give away their lives in the name of scientific research. One such person is the English inventor Henry Fleuss, who invented a closed circuit oxygen rebreather in 1876, which can last longer and facilitate deeper dives than what was possible using earlier diving equipment. Unfortunately, Fleuss also lost his life during an attempted 30 feet dive using his invention although his death was attributed to pure oxygen inhalation, which is also toxic to the human body.

What is the first deep-sea diving suit?

As the technology and the know-how improved over the years, inventors were striving hard to reach the deep seas and remain underwater for a lengthier period. It is such desires, which gave rise to the rigid diving suit invented by Rouquayrol and Auguste Denayrouze in the year 1873. While the suit and the oxygen supply remained safer than the previous underwater breathing apparatus, its weight made it less usable for everyday practice and recreational deep sea dives.

When was the demand regulator invented?

As mentioned earlier, the modern breathing apparatus used for scuba diving, which is termed as a ‘demand regulator’, functions by supplying fresh air to the diver as he or she breathes. Gagnan and Cousteau made the invention in the year 1942, which later became popular as the ‘aqua-lung’. However, there were changes made to the initial design of two-tank oxygen and nitrogen system with two hoses in later years and in this regard, the design made by Ted Eldred which made use of only a single hose is perhaps the most influential.

What are the other important developments with regard to scuba diving equipment?

Developments in the diving suit also parallel the developments in the breathing apparatus and work done by Berkeley physicist Hugh Bradner, U.S. National Research Councilor Lauriston Marshall and Oceanographer Willard Bascon have contributed immensely to its modern outlook.

The developments in diving fins should also be mentioned when discussing the history of scuba diving as it enabled divers to easily carry the scuba diving equipment as they swim. Thus, the inventions done by Owen Churchill and Louis de Corlieu in the 1930’s are considered highly important in this regard.

More about this author: Dr Pandula Siribaddana

From Around the Web