Monday, April 20, 2009


When we examine the early history of diving, we can notice that it does not differ so much from the early history of snorkeling as both diving and snorkeling shared the same first steps in the way of discovering the underwater world. While it is so obvious that the goals are extremely different nowadays as diving is considered a more complicated way of discovering the underwater world.

We found that it is so interesting to give a history of the development, which has led to this revolution that we witness now in the field of scuba diving.

Starting from the need of collecting food to live on, the first man attempted to discover the underwater world using so primitive equipments as it happened when the sponge farmers in Crete used the hollow reeds to enable them breathing underwater.

Shifting to the period of Trojan War, we can notice a big importance of diving as a military duty, which divers had to do to achieve a victory on the enemy. They sabotage enemy ships by boring holes in the hulls or cutting the anchor ropes as well as they constructed underwater defenses, which were designed to protect ports from the attacking fleets. It is supposed that it was the period between 1194 and 1184 BC.

Afterwords, it is known that the Assyrians used the animal skin as equipment for diving underwater after filling it with air to breathe for a while. They filled their bags with air and carried it underwater.

In 1300 AD, the Persian divers were using diving rudimentary eye goggles with windows made of the polished outer layer of tortoiseshell. They thinly sliced and polished shells of tortoises.

Although all these attempts were done to discover the underwater world, we can plainly affirm that the history of scuba diving started to take a serious stage when the Italian Guglielmo de Loreno created the first diving bell to supply the divers with artificial air in 1535 AD. His device was designed to cover the top half of the diver's body with a glass port for observation. The diver could extend his hands from under the rim, which did not happen before as the diving bell covered only the top half of the diver’s body.

In 1583 AD, the air-trapping bell was somehow technologically advanced in the shape of a huge bronze bell, which allowed explorers remain dry underwater. In this year, two Greeks in Toledo, which is located in Spain, performed a demonstration in the presence of Charles the Fifth and other 10,000 curious citizens in the TagusRiver, using a large kettle to descend to the bottom of the riverbed. It was a great surprise to see them returning to the surface without their clothes get wet and with a burning candle in their hands after they spent 20 minutes under the water surface.

Once again, the idea of diving under the water surface started to be more exciting when a British engineer called John Smeaton developed plans for the first air pump in 1771 AD. The air pump preformed a specific procedure moving air through a hose was connected between the air pump and the diving barrel, allowing air to be pumped to the diver. It was amazing to get an apparatus to descend to the depth of water letting the air to be pumped to the diver without a need to come back to the surface because of its shortage. This situation happened when they used just the amount of air, which was trapped inside the barrel, to provide them with air, which, of course, limited so much the time of being underwater.

In 1825 AD, the English William James presented the world the first practical proposal for a self-contained diving dress when he used a copper helmet, which was attached to a watertight suit where the suit was sealed off at the waist and wrists with elastic cuffs. The watertight suit was an irony cylindrical belt around the diver's trunk that served as an air reservoir with 450 psi of air.Air was transported from the suit to the helmet via a hand-operated valve that was operated by hand. The diver inhaled through the nose and exhaled through the mouth.

The year 1843 witnessed the establishment of the first diving school by the Royal Navy.

In 1876, An English merchant seaman, called Henry A. Fleuss, developed the first workable self-contained diving rig in which he used the pure compressed oxygen; rather than using the compressed air as it happened before. In this prototype of closed circuit scuba, carbon dioxide is absorbed by rope soaked in caustic potash; so the exhaled air was re-circulated and hence re-breathed by the diver with no bubbles to enter the water. However, the device was so effective then, diving to a high depth was limited for the pure oxygen is toxic below about 25 feet of seawater. The apparatus allows for relatively long bottom times, up to three hours.

In an interesting event in 1880, the famous English diver Alexander Lambert entered a flooded tunnel and managed to seal a hatchway door uses Fleuss’ apparatus; the hatchway is 60 feet down and 1000 feet back into the tunnel.

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