Free diving, where you take a few last breaths of air on the surface and stay down underwater for as long as your lungs hold out is where it all started out. Advancing on from this style of diving came the idea of the basic snorkel. Divers first used hollow reeds to allow them to keep their heads held under the surface. From there it was a step in the right direction to air filled bags and simple diving bells to increase duration under water.
Diving bells were great for actually pumping air to the guys under water, but very cumbersome and difficult to move around. The next step was to connect the air pump directly to the diver’s helmet and supply the air from the surface, with a few guys pumping the air down. Still very cumbersome and liable to kill the diver if any of the lines became entangled or the pump broke down and air wasn’t getting to him. The first helmets for this style of diving were of leather and soon changed to metal to allow more pressure bearing, hence deeper access for the diver.
Eventually divers had the ability and technology to fill a small cylinder with cleaned air, feed it to their lungs at a safely reduced pressure and to stay under water and actually swim freely, rather than walk around weighted down by heavy lead boots in a restricted fashion.
At first divers knew and worried little about problems such as the bends, which every diver now takes actions to prevent. It was all very hit and miss with some divers exceeding what are now considered to be the safe limits and getting away with it whilst others were less fortunate. Experience and research by naval divers eventually produced the diving tables that we now work to. Although even these should be considered work in progress.
Scuba diving has progressed along the years. Half a century ago buoyancy was totally down to the skill of the diver before basic manually inflated buoyancy jackets were introduced, to many divers’ horror. Blamed for many accidents, these tricky to use jackets soon gave way to today’s BCDs and even wings, which are supposed to distribute buoyancy in the water better, but are more tricky at the surface.
The sport which started off simply to serve fisherman in a basic fashion has progressed to other trades such as Naval divers and archaeologists. Now many people consider diving to be one of their regular preoccupations and many others like to give it a first try whilst on holiday.
If you are about to venture abroad, read our diving reviews before you travel to find yourself some suitable diving centres abroad to get you back safely and enjoyably from your trip.
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Keith Lunt writes diving reviews for GoDiving.org, covering scuba diving Mexico" and many other popular destinations.
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