Diving is considered to be any action that takes a human being underwater beyond 10 feet. At this point the effects of water pressure on the human lungs begins to take effect. The first divers in the world were free-divers, indeed on frigates during the Napoleonic Wars ship’s engineers spent many hours diving into flooded areas on board ship in order to complete repairs, often times attached to a rope to facilitate both return to entry point and body retrieval in case of death by drowning. The first dive bells were used in the mid 16th century. In the first third of the 19th century, two Canadian inventors developed the idea of using oxygen reservoirs for divers designed to be worn on the back which carried oxygen condensed to a certain depth. In the mid 19th century Austria-Hungary began research and development into underwater diving chambers for use on a submarine. The first patented diving suits were introduced in 1882. And in the Mediterranean islands and the islands of Japan divers have been, archaically, free-diving to depths of 50 feet or more in search of pearl oysters.
Modern recreational diving can be attributed to two men; Jacques-Yves Coustea and Emile Gagnan. Both Frenchmen, they capitalized on many different variations in regulator and cylinder design from the U.S. Navy frogmen (now better known as U.S. Navy Seals) and British Commandos. In 1946 they produced a commercially marketable product, which caught on quickly with the recreationally diving community. It was called The Aqua Lung. Recreational dive clubs began to form post World War II, and popular films chronicled the adventures of “frogmen” and British Sea Commandos. Recreational SCUBA diving was born.
SCUBA originally stood as only an acronym meaning Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. But today in the English language it is also used as a noun and adjective. For the most part today SCUBA diving is recreational. Very few commercial divers today use SCUBA, instead using surface supplied diving techniques and equipment allowing them greater depth and ability to function and work underwater. Closed circuit SCUBA equipment or “rebreathers” are commonly used by scientific divers or militaries trying to maintain stealth and/or duration within the environment they are diving in. “Rebreathers” recycle compressed gas inside the cylinder rather than exhausting it (which creates the bubbles that recreational SCUBA divers are famous for).
Free-divers (also called apnea) are essentially SCUBA divers, with one catch; no tank. Free-divers dive to many of the same depths that SCUBA divers will achieve; only free-divers remain at depth for very limited times. There are societies and organizations that support the advancement of free-diving. And many free-divers also SCUBA dive as well. It is simply a matter of preference. Free-divers wear essentially the same mask, fins, snorkel, and exposure suit that SCUBA divers wear. Minor differences exist in the types of snorkel and the length of the fins, but essentially the practices of equalization are the same, and the dynamics of movement while underwater are the same.
Unlike free-divers, SCUBA divers use smaller fins (although they are capable of using 33″ or longer fins if desired), and wear a BCD (buoyancy compensator device), that allows the diver to attain and maintain neutral buoyancy through the use of inflated air pockets, and weights (which may be integrated into the BC or on a belt or both). Most BCs today have weight integrated pockets.
For more information on diving you should contact your local dive shop. If you don’t know where your local dive shop is located you can visit these websites which support the recreation of SCUBA and Free-Diving and its’ continued advancement and the education of divers.
- Scuba Schools International: www.divessi.com
- Professional Association of Diving Insructors: www.padi.com
- National Association of Underwater Instructors: www.naui.org
- Diver’s Alert Network: www.diversalertnetwork.org
- Technical Diving International: www.tdisdi.com
- Association Internationale pour le Développement de l’Apnée (International Association for the Development of Apnea): www.aidainternational.org
Although there are many other organizations dedicated to SCUBA and Free-Diving; these are internationally the most recognizable associations, and will help you as you begin your adventure. Also be sure to follow our contributors as they post and write articles, we truly hope that the information on GoScubaCandy.com is beneficial to divers of all experience levels.