Taming the Depths: A History of Diving

Historical dive suit with a steel and copper dive helmet
Historical dive suit with dive helmet

The Ocean, specifically under its surface, is one of the most hostile habitats on earth to humans. The average person can only hold their breath between 30-90 seconds, but despite this inherent danger we have been drawn to the ocean throughout history. Over the past few thousand years, humans have been inventing devices that would allow them to explore beneath the waves for longer periods of time. One of the oldest recorded instances of humans using external devices to aid in diving comes from Aristotle, who described the use of a diving bell in the 4th century BCE. Diving bells functioned by capturing air on the surface and when submerged it would create a temporary air pocket, allowing the diver to breathe. The diving bell remained the primary mode by which divers received air while underwater until the 1600s when the first air pump was invented. These pumps were used to provide divers with a continuous supply of oxygen from the surface. However, under this system the depth and movement of divers was limited by the length of the air hose. This challenge was overcome by the early 1900s when inventors were able to produce the first functional self-contained diving system. While this was a tremendous advancement in the world of diving it was not until the 1940s when modern diving began to take shape. In 1943, Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnan patented the aqualung, the design for which most modern SCUBA systems are based on. The invention of the aqualung paved the way for advances in underwater exploration, scientific diving, and recreational diving too.

Every year around 1 million people become newly certified scuba divers and have a whole new world open up to the