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History of Diving

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415 B.C.

Greek divers are deployed to attack ships in Syracuse.


± 360 B.C.

Aristoteles writes his Problemata about divers using containers filled with air to stay under water. In the same text he describes a diving bell which was supposedly used by Alexander the Great during the siege of Tyrus (in present day Lebanon).



Plinius the Elder mentions the use of air hoses by divers.

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Leonardo da Vinci designs the first SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus). There is no evidence that Da Vinci ever actually built this SCUBA. In the end, he seems to have concentrated on refining the diving bell.


± 1531

Guglielmo de Lorena is one of the first to use a diving bell to complete a one-hour dive.



The English physicist Robert Boyle studies the physical properties of compressed air, resulting in Boyle's Law. This law describes the influence of pressure variations on the volume and the density of gases. As pressure varies greatly under water, this law is very important for divers.



The Italian physicist Giovanni Borelli designs a rebreather, a system in which chemicals are used to convert the exhaled air into air that can be inhaled again.



Edmund Haley (better known for Haley's comet) designs a diving bell that is considered the predecessor of the modern diving bell. In this diving bell he remains under water for 90 minutes.

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John Lethbridge is one of the first successful salvage divers. Using a diving bell he salvages numerous treasures from ship wrecks off the coasts of Great Britain and South Africa.


± 1772

In France, Dr. Freminet completes a dive in a leather suit with a copper helmet. This "machine hydrostatergatique" further consists of an air container that is connected to the helmet via hoses.



Benoit Rouquayrol and Auguste Denayrouze design the first working breathing apparatus with demand system, the predecessor of the Aqualung. The system is also used by captain Nemo and the crew of the Nautilus in Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.



In New York the Brooklyn Bridge is built. Many labourers get symptoms after spending a long time in high pressure caissons that are placed in the riverbed. Their disease is called "caisson disease". In 1880, the French physicist Paul Bert determines the cause of caisson disease.



Louis Boutan takes the first underwater pictures in which he also uses artifical light. He publishes a handbook for underwater photography, La Photographie Sous-Marine.

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J.S. Haldane develops a procedure to prevent decompression illness (caisson disease) and publishes the first five dive tables.



The Williamson brothers shoot the first underwater film, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It takes them 1,5 years to create this silent film. The film is shot on the Bahamas.



William Beebe and Otis Barton complete several dives in the Bathysphere. In 1930 they reach a depth of 427 meters near Bermuda, in 1932 they reach 661 meters, in 1934 925 meters.

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Jacques Yves Cousteau shoots his first underwater film, Par Dix-Huit Metres De Fond. The film is shot using snorkeling equipment, without scuba gear.
In 1943 Cousteau develops the "Aqualung", a breathing apparatus with a demand system. The Aqualung is the basis of all modern diving equipment. From 1945 onwards, the Aqualung is taken into production in France.

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Jacques Yves Cousteau buys the research vessel Calypso. In 1951, he leaves on his first expedition, to the Red Sea.



Dr. Hugh Bradner develops and introduces the so-called "wet suit" made of neoprene.



Al Tillman and Bev Morgan develop the first official training program for recreational divers.



Jacques Yves Cousteau is awarded the Golden Palm at the Cannes film festival for his film Le Monde Du Silence (The Silent World).



Ralph Erickson and John Cronin found the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), an organisation that specializes in recreational dive training.

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After 15 years, the growth in the dive industry comes temporarily to a halt as a result of Steven Spielberg's film Jaws. The film causes such a fear of sharks that a lot of people stay out of the water. The sequels, Jaws 2 in 1978 and Jaws 3 in 1983, also have a negative influence on the dive industry.



Craig Barshinger, Karl Huggins and Jim Fulton introduce the first commercial dive computer. This computer makes registering depth, dive time and decompression time a lot easier.



The dive industry is positively influenced by films such as Splash and Cocoon, which display a new, more positive image of the underwater world.



The recreational dive industry continues to develop, with more and more emphasis on underwater photography and video. Dive trips become more and more popular. Equipment is developed and improved further with regards to comfort, durability and efficiency. In dive training, the emphasis is more and more on training, safety and protection of the underwater world.


Source: PADI Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving, multimedia version.


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