Mankind is continuously pushing through the final frontier. Today we’re exploring space, but years ago we couldn’t even dive into our deep blue waters. Until the recent centuries, a large part of the underwater world was unfamiliar to us, however, we people, having an unstoppable curiosity, found ways to dive into the deepest of depths and see what’s down there.
In order to evolve into being the safe and exciting activity we so much love, diving underwent quite a long journey. Thanks to many early inventions, today we get to have sophisticated scuba packs which help us to dive deep for hours on end. Today there’s a state-of the-art scuba gear consisting of a mask, wetsuit, fins, air tank, regulator and BCD. But that was not always the case. Let’s see how scuba packs have evolved.
Since the dawn of time, men have entered water to collect food, so it’s impossible to pinpoint when exactly the first dive took place. But then the advent of commerce made diving an activity that people can profit from. The demand for precious pearls caused the first “professional” oyster divers to appear 4 500 years ago. Historical records show the Greeks of Thebes and the Chinese had a thriving pearl-diving industry supplying the then known world.
The most famous known divers of antiquity were the Greek father-daughter duo Scyllis and Hydna. Thanks to her incredibly diving abilities, Hydna played an important role in the destruction of the Persian navy in 480 B.C. From some ancient paintings it’s also thought (although not proven) that Alexander the Great used an early model of the diving bell during the Siege of Tyre in 332 B.C.
The Middle Ages to Industrial Revolution
Ancient diving gear was rudimentary and consisted mainly of hollow sticks which did not allow a man to remain underwater for a lot of time. However, in the Middle Ages there was a leap in the diving technology. During the 1300s, Persian divers used diving goggles made of tortoiseshell which allowed them to conveniently see. In the 12th century, an Egyptian named Ahsan-ul-Ghawasin came up with the first diving apparatus made from a bellows and weighted by a heavy stone.
With the Renaissance focusing on scientific research and invention, the diving gear underwent a significant transformation. Leonardo da Vinci first mentioned the idea of air tanks which will allow a person to artificially breathe underwater. He even sketched the first prototype of diving fins. Then, in 1535, Guglielmo de Lorena created what is thought to be the first modern diving bell. This allowed divers to reach the bottom of the ocean and perform salvage operations on shipwrecks.
The Dawn of Modern Diving Gear
In 1826 Charles Anthony and John Deane patented a firefighting helmet which was supplied with air through a hose. Later, they modified it for diving by adding weighted shoes to counter the buoyancy effects. In the late 19th century, high-pressure air and gas cylinders appeared, which prompted inventors to design compressed air breathing sets, or in other words – the first scuba tanks were born. And finally as the 20th century rolled in, the looks of scuba packs started to be slowly transformed into what they look like today. The final pieces that completed the diving gear puzzle were the regulator (1937) and the BCD (1971). Today, all of these important pieces allow divers to spend hours underwater and reach incredible depths without needing to resurface.
It’s important to understand where we’ve been to fully appreciate where we are now. It took centuries of trials and failures to complete the 100% safe scuba packs we have today. Appreciate this and try diving, it’s an incredibly profound and one-of-a-kind experience.