From Reeds To Regulators: The History Of Scuba

As divers, we frequently take our equipment for granted. If we stop to think about it, though, that we’ve found a way to transcend our physical limitations and breathe underwater is truly remarkable.

The History of Scuba

When it comes to the history of scuba, although equipment produced specifically for the sport has been around for less than a century, the practice of diving, whether to find food, as a military tactic, or just for sheer pleasure goes back many millennia. The history behind the equipment that we use today is a long one, and documents humanity’s fascination with the ocean, and with finding a way to survive beneath the waves. That we are able to dive as we do today is a testament to the bravery and persistence of a long line of inventors, explorers, innovators and adventurers. The history of scuba begins in the ancient world.

Underwater Explorations of the Ancient World

Records dating to 500 BC speak of rudimentary underwater breathing apparatus. According to legend, a Greek soldier held captive on board an enemy ship during Greece’s war with Persia escaped into the water and then launched a stealth attack on his captors’ fleet, using a hollow reed to breathe as he dived to cut the ships loose. A few centuries later, Aristotle chronicled an event in the life of Alexander the Great, whereby the famous king used an upside-down barrel as a kind of diving bell in order to remain undetected beneath the water during the Siege of Tyre. Early diving records by no means belonged solely to the Greeks and the Macedonians, however. In Persia, ancient skin-divers developed goggles using thin slivers of polished tortoiseshell, while in China, divers used a curved pipe to funnel air from the surface in the style of a modern-day snorkel.

Underwater Housing Project - middle 19th century

The Quest For Autonomy Underwater

As early as the 16 th century, men were using diving bells in an attempt to spend more time underwater. These early bells worked by trapping air beneath the curved dome of an open-bottomed wooden structure, from which skin divers would be able to replenish their air supply underwater. Unfortunately, the diving bells of the 16 th century did not significantly increase dive times, as the oxygen in the trapped air depleted after a few breaths, forcing divers to return to the surface. Progress came in leaps and bounds in the 18 th century, however. In 1715, English inventor John Lethbridge created the first underwater diving machine; although the design was not much more complex than an airtight oak barrel, Lethbridge successfully used his machine to salvage valuables from a number of shipwrecks. His invention made him quite wealthy: one of the ships was a Dutch vessel with over three tons of silver onboard. In 1771, Englishman John Smeaton invented an air pump that allowed air to enter the diving barrel via a hose. Frenchman Sieur Fréminet created the first diving dress that same year, which utilized a reservoir of compressed air that dragged behind the diver as he swam.

Scaphandrier - Diving Suit Project - Taucheranzug - end 18th

Improvements continued apace into the 19 th century. In 1825, English inventor William James created a dive helmet that got air from a reservoir in the form of a cylindrical iron belt that held 450 psi. The helmet was made from either thin copper or leather, had a viewing window, and provided enough air for seven minutes underwater. The Royal Navy created the first diving school in 1843, and in 1865 Benoît Rouquayrol and Auguste Denayrouze invented the first diving suit, complete with compressed-air tank, helmet and demand regulator. Despite weighing in at almost 200 pounds, this suit was such a significant step forward in the pursuit of independence underwater that it won the gold medal at the 1867 World’s Fair. Rouquayrol and Denayrouze’s invention became famous in popular culture too, when Jules Verne wrote about it in his novel 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Although the suit can be considered the earliest iteration of modern-day dive equipment in terms of its ability to supply air on demand, the valves’ inability to cope with high pressures meant that the suit had to draw air from a surface supply via a hose. In 1878, Henry Fleuss invented the first closed-circuit oxygen rebreather, which was first used to close a submerged sluice door in the Severn Tunnel, and thereafter to rescue workers from flooded mines.

While inventors raced to create the perfect underwater breathing apparatus, physicians started to investigate the effects of diving on the body. Dr. Andrew Smith first studied decompression sickness in the 1870s, but it wasn’t until 1878 that Paul Bert proposed that the condition was triggered by the formation of nitrogen bubbles in the blood. It was Bert who proposed recompression as a possible method of treatment for afflicted divers. In 1908, John Scott Haldane, Arthur Boycott and Guybon Damant produced the first dive tables based on extensive research on the correlation between depth and time spent underwater. In 1912, the U.S. Navy tested the accuracy of those tables, and their findings provided the basis for the recreational dive tables that we use today.

scuba gear

The Emergence of Modern-Day Scuba

Frenchmen Yves Le Prieur and Maurice Fernez designed the first open-circuit scuba system in 1925. The two men used Michelin cylinders filled with three liters of compressed air to replace the surface supply that all previous inventions had relied upon, offering divers a new freedom. Demonstrated first in a Parisian swimming pool in 1926, the cylinder featured a regulator that supplied a continuous flow of air and two gauges. The world’s first dive clubs in California and Paris, which were founded in 1933 and 1935 respectively, used the invention, and the French Navy adopted it as standard. Le Prieur also pioneered the full-face mask to alleviate the mask squeeze that resulted from using goggles. In 1933 another Frenchman, Louis de Corlieu, patented the first scuba fins. By this time, all of the basic elements were in place for Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Emile Gagnan to change the face of scuba forever, with their invention of the aqualung in 1943. The aqualung combined the autonomy of the Fernez-Le Prieur air-supply system with an improved version of the demand regulator developed by Rouquayrol and Denayrouze in 1864. Thanks to them, underwater breathing apparatuses became accessible to the masses, and recreational scuba was born.

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In 1952, Australian Ted Eldred refined the regulator design from twin hoses to a single hose, with a two-stage system that delivered air at the same pressure as the water around the mouthpiece. From then on, the improvement, refinement and streamlining of scuba equipment grew in proportion to the sport’s increasing popularity. The first version of the buoyancy control device appeared on the market in the 1960s, in the form of a jacket inflated by a separate cylinder. In 1971, Scubapro improved on this design by adding an inflator hose to the regulator first stage, allowing divers to control their buoyancy using air from their cylinder.

As popular culture became obsessed with the idea of underwater exploration and the world was mesmerized by the documentaries of adventurers like Cousteau, more and more people began diving as a form of recreation. In an effort to standardize diving techniques and reduce accidents, dive-training organizations were formed all over the world, including BSAC in 1953, NAUI in 1960 and PADI in 1966. Today, the dive community is still expanding, with hundreds of thousands of new participants gaining access to the underwater world every year. As of 2013, PADI alone had issued over 22 million certifications throughout its history, proving that the quest for autonomy underwater has brought us a very long way from its origins with a Greek soldier and his reed in 500 BC.

Share this:

Originally from England, I first learned to dive so that I could go cage diving with great whites off Guadalupe Island, Mexico, in 2008. From that first shark encounter onwards, I have been utterly hooked on the underwater world, and particularly on the issue of shark conservation. Whilst studying for my degree in London, I worked at London Aquarium, before going to Mozambique to research whale sharks off Tofo. I completed my PADI Instructor’s course while living in South Africa, and spent nine months teaching and guiding on Aliwal Shoal, where I set up a tiger shark ID project and began writing for the conservation organisation Shark Angels. After a seven month trip teaching around South East Asia, I’m heading back to Africa to explore the incredible dive sites of Tanzania.

From Reeds To Regulators: The History Of Scuba

As divers, we frequently take our equipment for granted. If we stop to think about it, though, that we’ve found a way to transcend our physical limitations and breathe underwater is truly remarkable.

The History of Scuba

When it comes to the history of scuba, although equipment produced specifically for the sport has been around for less than a century, the practice of diving, whether to find food, as a military tactic, or just for sheer pleasure goes back many millennia. The history behind the equipment that we use today is a long one, and documents humanity’s fascination with the ocean, and with finding a way to survive beneath the waves. That we are able to dive as we do today is a testament to the bravery and persistence of a long line of inventors, explorers, innovators and adventurers. The history of scuba begins in the ancient world.

Underwater Explorations of the Ancient World

Records dating to 500 BC speak of rudimentary underwater breathing apparatus. According to legend, a Greek soldier held captive on board an enemy ship during Greece’s war with Persia escaped into the water and then launched a stealth attack on his captors’ fleet, using a hollow reed to breathe as he dived to cut the ships loose. A few centuries later, Aristotle chronicled an event in the life of Alexander the Great, whereby the famous king used an upside-down barrel as a kind of diving bell in order to remain undetected beneath the water during the Siege of Tyre. Early diving records by no means belonged solely to the Greeks and the Macedonians, however. In Persia, ancient skin-divers developed goggles using thin slivers of polished tortoiseshell, while in China, divers used a curved pipe to funnel air from the surface in the style of a modern-day snorkel.

Underwater Housing Project - middle 19th century

The Quest For Autonomy Underwater

As early as the 16 th century, men were using diving bells in an attempt to spend more time underwater. These early bells worked by trapping air beneath the curved dome of an open-bottomed wooden structure, from which skin divers would be able to replenish their air supply underwater. Unfortunately, the diving bells of the 16 th century did not significantly increase dive times, as the oxygen in the trapped air depleted after a few breaths, forcing divers to return to the surface. Progress came in leaps and bounds in the 18 th century, however. In 1715, English inventor John Lethbridge created the first underwater diving machine; although the design was not much more complex than an airtight oak barrel, Lethbridge successfully used his machine to salvage valuables from a number of shipwrecks. His invention made him quite wealthy: one of the ships was a Dutch vessel with over three tons of silver onboard. In 1771, Englishman John Smeaton invented an air pump that allowed air to enter the diving barrel via a hose. Frenchman Sieur Fréminet created the first diving dress that same year, which utilized a reservoir of compressed air that dragged behind the diver as he swam.

Scaphandrier - Diving Suit Project - Taucheranzug - end 18th

Improvements continued apace into the 19 th century. In 1825, English inventor William James created a dive helmet that got air from a reservoir in the form of a cylindrical iron belt that held 450 psi. The helmet was made from either thin copper or leather, had a viewing window, and provided enough air for seven minutes underwater. The Royal Navy created the first diving school in 1843, and in 1865 Benoît Rouquayrol and Auguste Denayrouze invented the first diving suit, complete with compressed-air tank, helmet and demand regulator. Despite weighing in at almost 200 pounds, this suit was such a significant step forward in the pursuit of independence underwater that it won the gold medal at the 1867 World’s Fair. Rouquayrol and Denayrouze’s invention became famous in popular culture too, when Jules Verne wrote about it in his novel 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Although the suit can be considered the earliest iteration of modern-day dive equipment in terms of its ability to supply air on demand, the valves’ inability to cope with high pressures meant that the suit had to draw air from a surface supply via a hose. In 1878, Henry Fleuss invented the first closed-circuit oxygen rebreather, which was first used to close a submerged sluice door in the Severn Tunnel, and thereafter to rescue workers from flooded mines.

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While inventors raced to create the perfect underwater breathing apparatus, physicians started to investigate the effects of diving on the body. Dr. Andrew Smith first studied decompression sickness in the 1870s, but it wasn’t until 1878 that Paul Bert proposed that the condition was triggered by the formation of nitrogen bubbles in the blood. It was Bert who proposed recompression as a possible method of treatment for afflicted divers. In 1908, John Scott Haldane, Arthur Boycott and Guybon Damant produced the first dive tables based on extensive research on the correlation between depth and time spent underwater. In 1912, the U.S. Navy tested the accuracy of those tables, and their findings provided the basis for the recreational dive tables that we use today.

scuba gear

The Emergence of Modern-Day Scuba

Frenchmen Yves Le Prieur and Maurice Fernez designed the first open-circuit scuba system in 1925. The two men used Michelin cylinders filled with three liters of compressed air to replace the surface supply that all previous inventions had relied upon, offering divers a new freedom. Demonstrated first in a Parisian swimming pool in 1926, the cylinder featured a regulator that supplied a continuous flow of air and two gauges. The world’s first dive clubs in California and Paris, which were founded in 1933 and 1935 respectively, used the invention, and the French Navy adopted it as standard. Le Prieur also pioneered the full-face mask to alleviate the mask squeeze that resulted from using goggles. In 1933 another Frenchman, Louis de Corlieu, patented the first scuba fins. By this time, all of the basic elements were in place for Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Emile Gagnan to change the face of scuba forever, with their invention of the aqualung in 1943. The aqualung combined the autonomy of the Fernez-Le Prieur air-supply system with an improved version of the demand regulator developed by Rouquayrol and Denayrouze in 1864. Thanks to them, underwater breathing apparatuses became accessible to the masses, and recreational scuba was born.

In 1952, Australian Ted Eldred refined the regulator design from twin hoses to a single hose, with a two-stage system that delivered air at the same pressure as the water around the mouthpiece. From then on, the improvement, refinement and streamlining of scuba equipment grew in proportion to the sport’s increasing popularity. The first version of the buoyancy control device appeared on the market in the 1960s, in the form of a jacket inflated by a separate cylinder. In 1971, Scubapro improved on this design by adding an inflator hose to the regulator first stage, allowing divers to control their buoyancy using air from their cylinder.

As popular culture became obsessed with the idea of underwater exploration and the world was mesmerized by the documentaries of adventurers like Cousteau, more and more people began diving as a form of recreation. In an effort to standardize diving techniques and reduce accidents, dive-training organizations were formed all over the world, including BSAC in 1953, NAUI in 1960 and PADI in 1966. Today, the dive community is still expanding, with hundreds of thousands of new participants gaining access to the underwater world every year. As of 2013, PADI alone had issued over 22 million certifications throughout its history, proving that the quest for autonomy underwater has brought us a very long way from its origins with a Greek soldier and his reed in 500 BC.

Share this:

Originally from England, I first learned to dive so that I could go cage diving with great whites off Guadalupe Island, Mexico, in 2008. From that first shark encounter onwards, I have been utterly hooked on the underwater world, and particularly on the issue of shark conservation. Whilst studying for my degree in London, I worked at London Aquarium, before going to Mozambique to research whale sharks off Tofo. I completed my PADI Instructor’s course while living in South Africa, and spent nine months teaching and guiding on Aliwal Shoal, where I set up a tiger shark ID project and began writing for the conservation organisation Shark Angels. After a seven month trip teaching around South East Asia, I’m heading back to Africa to explore the incredible dive sites of Tanzania.

How Long Can a Scuba Diver Stay Underwater

How Long Can a Scuba Diver Stay Underwater

There’s no reason not to explore the deep blue when our world is made up of 70% water. There’s so much more down under than what we can imagine, from different species of animals and plants to architectural ruins and possibly hidden treasures.

And what’s a more terrific way to experience this part of the world than scuba diving?

Whether you’re a beginner at scuba diving or a curious lurker with a neat interest, it’s typical to wonder how long a scuba diver can stay underwater.

How Long Can a Scuba Diver Stay Underwater?

With a limited amount of air, the time a scuba diver lasts underwater usually depends on their scuba tank. A standard diver using a standard tank of 80 cubic feet at a medium depth can last from 40 to 60 minutes.

When you reach this mark in a recreational dive of 40 feet or less, you should already be preparing to ascend to the surface to avoid running out of air.

Meanwhile, a more experienced scuba diver may be able to stay longer. This can be because they have further knowledge of what tanks to use and how to manage their air consumption.

However, there are more factors that influence your time underwater. Some of these factors relate to you as a diver, and some of them are equipment-based.

Factors that Can Influence How Long A Scuba Diver Stay Underwater

If you’re aiming to go beyond the average amount of time in scuba diving, you first need to understand the factors surrounding the activity.

From proper mindset, scuba gears, and the environment itself, here are the things that can influence the duration of your scuba diving:

1. Breathing Frequency

It’s a common mistake for beginners to underestimate the need to know the proper ways to regulate breathing when scuba diving. Oxygen tanks supply you with air while underwater, but the air consumption is still not the same as it’s on land.

You’ll have to avoid quick and shallow breaths if you don’t want to end your dive too early. A rapid breathing pattern will instantly get you to the safety limit (500 PSI or 50 bar), which will run you out of air.

Instead, breathe in deep and slow patterns. While submerged, you’ll have to conserve as much oxygen as possible in the tank. A steady breathing technique will help you with this, resulting in a longer underwater experience.

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2. Tank Efficiency

The scuba tank is usually the first gear people picture when they hear about the sport of scuba diving. This is because it’s essentially your underwater breather.

The cylinder, typically steel or aluminum, acts as storage that keeps highly pressurized gases. The amount of these gases contributes to how long a scuba diver can stay under the surface. The larger the tank, the higher volume of air it carries.

Instead of the common 80-cubic foot size, a diver who aims to go for a deeper dive may choose a larger tank to last longer underwater.

At times, you may notice how there are technical divers that carry two tanks behind them. These two cylinders have individual regulators each so that if one tank malfunctions, a diver can easily access the other, resulting in more air to breathe and a faster reaction time while in the deep.

3. Scuba Equipment

Besides the tanks, using the right scuba equipment can determine how long divers can stay underwater. For example, some gears can help you compensate for positive buoyancy and may enhance your control of maintaining neutral upthrust when diving.

There is also an apparatus that can regulate the scuba tank to turn the pressurized gas into breathable air. Meanwhile, having a gauge will tell you how much air you have left in your tank.

The more specialized gear you use, the longer you’ll be able to your stay underwater.

4. No-Decompression Limit

A no-decompression limit (NDL) pertains to the maximum amount of time a scuba diver can spend at a particular depth.

As you dive deeper, your NDL will become shorter. Once you’ve reached your no-decompression limit, you need to ascend and make safety stops to finalize your dive.

It’s advisable not to exceed your NDL if you have no specialized decompression training. This is so you can avoid the risk of decompression sickness. However, if you’ve exceeded, you’ll need to perform decompression pauses while ascending to gradually release the absorbed nitrogen as you end your dive.

Your NDL varies on how deep you dive and how frequent your air consumption is. A dive computer is an excellent gear to have if you want to calculate your NDL. It can also assist you in tracking when and how long you should be doing your decompression stops while ascending.

5. Diving Distance

The depth of the dive can affect the length of the scuba diver’s stay underwater. This is because as you dive deeper, the water pressure will influence the air that leaves the tank. This is why you’ll have to use more air at the bottom than when you’re on shallower parts of the dive.

Diving deeper will make your body absorb nitrogen quickly. This will cause your no-decompression limit to become shorter, leading to less time spent underwater.

6. Water Temperature

The continuous change in water temperature can shorten the underwater time. Although the appropriate exposure suits should be able to block the temperature changes, the fact remains that our bodies aren’t designed to stay underwater for a long time.

The possibility of the cool temperature decreasing your body heat can prevent your plans of staying submerged for a long time. This can also accost the risk of hypothermia.

This is why it’s the best choice to pause your diving activity once you start to feel a bit too cold, even if you still have enough air in your tank.

7. Planned Maximum Dive Time

A planned maximum dive time is required for scuba divers. They should plan to explore enough depth within a specific pace.

You’ll typically encounter this when you join an organized scuba diving trip, with a DM monitoring the diving activities. However, you can still incorporate this even if you’re solo diving.

Despite the many reasons for imposing a planned maximum dive time, the limit mainly focuses on the safety of the divers.

If there’s a collaborative agreement on the time when everyone should already be at the surface, then the DM can be alerted if something’s gone wrong. This is to manage a quick response to the possible risks of the sport.

8. Experience

It’s only natural for a veteran scuba diver to stay underwater longer. Experience is the most obvious factor that affects someone’s ability to remain submerged over time.

This is because they’ve already been trained on the ins and outs of buoyancy control, proper breathing techniques, and gear selection.

In other words, the more you dive, the more you can stretch your diving time.

9. Comfort and Enjoyment

The comfort you’ll find while underwater also plays a huge part in how long you can stay under the surface. This can refer to both physical convenience and mental ease.

If you experience physical discomfort with your suit or equipment, you’ll naturally want to return to the surface faster. Meanwhile, feeling anxious and too excited can cause your heart rate to increase, which in turn speeds up your breathing and your air consumption.

Not enjoying the dive due to the discomfort will prompt you to choose a shorter dive. However, following the training and procedures and keeping a calm mindset will let you enjoy the lengths of the underwater dive even more.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Staying Underwater for a Longer Period

A great advantage of staying underwater for a longer period of time is the exploration of a world different from ours and seeing something particularly exciting.

Aside from that, scuba diving sport itself provides you with exercise that will enhance your health. These benefits include:

    Cardiovascular and muscle work-outs

Meanwhile, the disadvantages of staying underwater too long are the cost, the cold, dehydration, and hunger.

A longer underwater stay is equivalent to bigger tanks, which is far from cheap. However, the biggest disadvantage is the cold.

You wouldn’t be able to control the discomfort of the cool water unless you ascend to the surface. Furthermore, the length of your stay and the exhaustion of diving will eventually lead you to thirst and hunger.

Wrapping Up

The thought of staying long underwater while scuba diving is fun and thrilling. However, getting to the exciting part of the sport means you’ll have to understand the factors that can limit your time underwater.

It can be dangerous and unpredictable. Performing dive after dive will help you improve your techniques until you are experienced enough for a long underwater stay.

Source https://scubadiverlife.com/reeds-regulators-history-scuba/

Source https://scubadiverlife.com/reeds-regulators-history-scuba/

Source https://diving-info.com/how-long-can-a-scuba-diver-stay-underwater/

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