THE EVOLUTION OF DIVE EQUIPMENT
By: Bob Murphy, PADI Course Director
The Background Story
It is by no means a coincidence that we find ourselves scouring the internet for the latest SCUBA regulator that breathes the easiest, is the lightest or is super technical. Or the dive computer that does the most or is the most user-friendly, or full colour, or has the largest memory. It is a testament to the determination, imagination and innovation of those that came through the industry before us. It is through their experiences both good and bad that we have the pleasure of what we do today. (PADI Equipment Speciality)
Who Invented SCUBA Diving?
With respect to much of the modern SCUBA system it is Commander Jaques Cousteau who we can thank for many years of research and development (since the 1940s) that allowed the recreational SCUBA diver to buy his own “Aqua Lung” and enjoy the wonders of the deep. Since then, inventors and innovators have redesigned and improved diving equipment such that it would be almost unrecognizable to its very own father. In the 1940s they had twin-hose regulators, no gauge for tank contents, no alternate air source, no buoyancy jacket. Reliant on correctly weighting yourself to enjoy your dip beneath the waves. Diving using a simple waterproof watch and a dive table to ensure you did not get “The Bends”. Using a valve on your tank that would shut off your air when it got low as a warning that you end your dive.
Thankfully as time passed and more people took an interest in this new sport, SCUBA, more companies saw the opportunities this emerging market. The twin hose regulator was replaced by a single hose version (much like we use today), the submersible pressure gauge was born, making it easy to monitor your remaining gas and not relying on the previous shut-off warning. SCUBA divers then started to show a little more concern for their buddy and a second regulator became common-place lest your buddy should run out of air (buddy breathing was the norm before this). The heavy, solid rubber, fins that were the only available propulsion method were slowly overtaken by plastics and lighter- weight alternatives. Fashion and style became almost as important as function in one of the fastest growing sports at the time. We now have fins of all colours, weights, shapes and sizes.
Meanwhile the lack of any flotation was being addressed, the pioneers (having started with nothing at all) who were now wearing some form of life jacket whilst diving, adding air by manually blowing into it, could now buy a purpose-built vest that you could inflate from your regulators. Things were starting to get comfortable. The heavy rubber suits morphed into lighter, warmer neoprene, now evolving into complex modern fabrics that are neutrally buoyant. The oval frogman mask became a more streamlined, colourful, perhaps even stylish item catering to all types of divers, differing facial shapes, varying eyesight.
Thankful For Dive Computers
In the early days they had depth gauges, compasses, timing devices (all worn upon the wrist), this arrangement quickly revised when the submersible pressure gauge arrived on the scene, divers now had a place to carry their depth gauge and compass and the divers console was de rigueur for some years. In these times we wear sometimes just one computer to fulfill all of these tasks, some even adding gas consumption. A simple check of your wrist mounted computer will inform you of your depth, time, direction, remaining gas and the temperature of the water. Beyond the wildest dreams of Cmdr Cousteau I am sure. Dive computers are invaluble during the PADI Deep Speciality Course.
Some of us are now diving strange configurations and places that were undreamed of at the birth of this sport, sidemount, caverns, caves, remarkably deep wrecks. SCUBA enthusiasts have branched off into their own niches and interests, all thanks to this amazing equipment available to us.
As we move forward in the world of SCUBA, where we currently have closed circuit rebreathers (CCRs) that are capable of continuously mixing and remixing your breathing gas so that you can dive to almost unimaginable depths whilst leaving no trace of bubbles, carrying little more gas than the average SCUBA diver. You would be forgiven for wondering “What comes next?”. Well, I have my SCUBA,
Enjoy your diving, buy the cool stuff, get the latest fashion or the latest technology, hey! Get both! Or just relax with the basic things that you need and dive to accomplish your dreams.
© Crystal Dive Koh Tao