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Scuba Diving History

scuba diving history - main

Scuba diving history is short; basically, it starts with the invention of the SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus), in the mid-20th century.

However, humans have needed to submerge since ancient times, but bodies are limited in the aquatic environment: they need air to survive. What an inconvenience!

Thankfully, we are a creative and incredibly stubborn species. So, some human brains started to work to fill this need. Impossible! They said. But we couldn’t fly either, and there we are, crossing the sky with metal birds weighing tons.

It is scuba diving history.

Diving History: Origins

What is the History of Scuba Diving?

A. First Technical Approaches

B. The Precursors

How Did Scuba Diving Start?

  1. Who Was the First Person to Ever Scuba Dive?

Diving History Timeline

  1. First Steps
  2. Adolescence
  3. Maturity, And the Birth of Technical Diving
  4. What Can We Expect in the Future?
scuba diving history - traje de buzo

Scuba Diving History: Origins

The history of scuba diving begins with the first explorers of the deep sea.

They were already aware of the riches hidden there, above all, food, and survived by diving into the sea with harpoons to catch fish, octopuses, and mollusks.

They would take a big breath of air, two, three…, with their lungs full of fresh air, they would descend in apnea to chase fish or treasure.

When they felt their lungs burning, they would ascend and repeat the operation until they reached their goal.

Archaeological remains made of shells and pearls, dating back to 4500 BC in Asia Minor and Babylon, attest to this.

Plato already mentioned in his writings that they used sponges. In that time, divers obtained them by ballasting themselves with “skandalopetra,” a marble or granite stone, with which they descended up to 30 meters.

Homer, for his part, in the “History of the Peloponnesian War” of 460 B.C., tells how the divers eliminated the underwater defenses placed to prevent the Greeks from taking Syracuse.

There is no doubt; human beings have wanted to dive since the beginning of time, but since genetic evolution did not adapt to this environment quickly enough, we sort it out for ourselves.

scuba diving history - diving bell

What Is the History of Scuba Diving?

A. Scuba Diving History: First Technical Approaches

Yes, we humans needed to dive, but apparently, we were not in a hurry to find solutions. We had to wait for Codex Atlantic, written by Leonardo da Vinci in the 15th century, to find the first mention in history about cylinders with air.

In 1535, Guilineo de Loreno developed the first immersion bell. A bell immersed in water kept air inside. So, the diver took a puff, went out to dive, came back for another puff, and continued. A simple mechanism? Yes, and dangerous too, but it was used for 200 years, in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Edmond Halley, who in addition to discovering comets was a sea lover, thought of a mechanism to bring air to the bell from the surface through tubes. We are in the year 1690.


B. Scuba Diving History: The Precursors

Technical advances were divided into two branches. One focused on pumping air from the surface to the diver.

Augustus Siebe reduced the size of the canopy to a helmet into which air was pumped from the surface. But he did not stop there and invented a waterproof suit. He called it diving suit. With it, the classic diver was born in 1837.

On the other hand, the first attempts were made to compress air in cylinders so that divers could carry them.

The quest for autonomy during the 19th century produced some inventions. Such as the regulator invented by Benoît Rouquayrol in 1860 and adapted to diving by Auguste Denayrouze in 1864. Although these advances were not very effective, they laid the groundwork for two young Frenchmen to combine a cylinder filled with compressed air and a regulator.

How Did Scuba Diving Start?

“We wanted breathing equipment, not so much to go deeper, but to stay longer, simply to live a while in a new world.” (Jacques-Yves Cousteau, The Silent World).

  1. Scuba Diving History, Who Was the First Person to Ever Scuba Dive?

The history of scuba diving is about to begin, but first, we tell you who was the first person to ever scuba dive and how he did it.

In 1942, World War II was at its peak. Germans, who occupied France, confiscated gasoline. So, the young engineer Émile Gagnan came up with the idea of taking the Rouquayrol-Denayrouze regulator, reducing it, and attaching it to automobile engines.

Nobody knows how threads of fate work!

The young Emile worked at Air Liquide. Henri Melchior was the owner of this company specialized in compressed gases. Melchior had a daughter, Simone, who was married to Jacques-Yves Cousteau. He was trying to create an effective underwater breathing system. Introducing them was the natural consequence.

Émile Gagnan and Cousteau met in December 1942, and by February 1943 they had developed a prototype. It failed, but they were very close to finding the solution.

In June 1943, Gagnan sent a package by express mail to his friend Cousteau in Bandol in the south of France. It contained the second finished prototype. That same morning Jacques-Yves tested it with the help of his wife and two friends. The four of them were on a beach hidden from the eyes of the German enemy. While Cousteau dived, the rest of the crew stood in tension, ready to jump into the water if anything went wrong.

The wait was tense; minutes seemed like hours until they saw the first bubbles rising. At last, the head of the most famous diver of all time appeared. When he got rid of the equipment, his face left no doubt. They got it!

The world’s first open-circuit diving regulator was a reality. They called it the Aqua-Lung. The history of scuba diving had begun.

diving history - suit
Diving History Timeline
  1. Scuba Diving History, First Steps

With an unlimited new world open before him, Cousteau found a new passion: underwater films and photographs. In the ’50s, people fed up with the war horrors loved Cousteau’s films. More and more people were becoming interested in diving, and the “Aqua-Lung” began to have competitors.

In 1955, Al Tillman, director of sports for the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, felt compelled to teach people to make diving as safe a sport as possible. Thus, he promoted the first Underwater Instructor Certification Course (1UICC) and the creation of the first civil diver training agency in the world.

In 1960, The National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) held its first Instructor Certification Course at the Shamrock Hilton Hotel in Houston with 72 candidates. Cousteau was part of the advisory board.

Scuba diving innovations came very quickly now. The dual hose regulator gave way to single hose regulators. The first wetsuits appeared in the ’50s and the first buoyancy control devices (BCDs) in 1965.

As far as the love of diving grew, so did awareness of the need for training to manage the risks of diving. Thus, the first scuba certifications appeared. However, it was still an activity that only an elite could afford.

  1. Scuba Diving History: Adolescence

While diving equipment advanced rapidly, training stagnated. It was a problem until John Cronin, who worked for a well-known diving brand, and Ralph Erickson, a diving instructor, inaugurated the PADI Professional Association of Diving Instructors. With it, they professionalized dive training and business practices. Recreational diving was gaining momentum.

  1. Scuba Diving History, Maturity, And Technical Diving Birth

The more thorough and regulated dive training became, the safer the sport became. The media contributed to its popularity, making diving more widely known and arousing the curiosity of more and more people for this sport that allows you to breathe underwater.

Among the many names that have helped increase diving safety are:

Andrea Zaferes, is one of the most renowned diving instructors specializing in rescue and recovery.

Butch Hendrick is a Diving instructor known for being an innovative equipment designer, safety standard creator, and contributor to the diving and in-water rescue/retrieval communities.

Thus, it became popular by leaps and bounds. It ceased to be a sport for crazy daredevils. Now even children practice it.

In addition, those who were always looking to break the limits (more time underwater, deeper, reach more complicated places) were in luck. The first technical diving disciplines emerged as a separate modality from recreational diving.

  1. Scuba Diving History: What Can We Expect in the Future?

The history of scuba diving is still short. We are talking about a very young discipline. It has many things to offer as a recreational sport and in terms of scientific progress.

We can expect that new information technologies will leave their mark on the diving history. It is easy to imagine how the next generation will see front displays on diving masks as a matter of fact. They will be able to control the data provided by their computer, communicate with their dive buddies, and have a panoramic view of the underwater environment.

Diving history is still at its beginning. And here we are, divers, looking forward to what the future holds.


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