Diving has been around since primitive man was forced to collect food from the seas. How do we know this? Because scientists have found many undersea artifacts on land that prove man has been diving the seas for thousands of years. Ancient swimmers used cut hollow reeds to breathe air, the first rudimentary snorkel used to enhance our abilities underwater. Around 1300, Persian divers were making rudimentary eye goggles from the thinly sliced and polished shells of tortoises. By the 16th century, wooden barrels were used as primitive diving bells, and for the first time divers could travel underwater with more than one breath of air, but not much more than one.
4500BC – Coastal cultures such as those found in Greece, Mesopotamia, China, and probably many other parts of the world, engage in diving as a form of food-gathering, commerce, or warfare.
1194 – 1184BC – Divers are involved in military operations during the Trojan Wars. They sabotage enemy ships by boring holes in the hulls or cutting the anchor ropes. Divers are also used to construct underwater defenses designed to protect ports from the attacking fleets.
1000BC – The writings of Homer mention Greek sponge fishermen who plummet to depths of almost 30 meters (100 feet) by holding a heavy rock. They knew little about the physical dangers of diving. To try and compensate for the increasing pressure on their ears, they poured oil into their ear canals and took a mouthful before descent. Once on the bottom, they spit out the oil, cut as many sponges free from the bottom as their breath would allow, and were then hauled back to the surface by a tether.
500BC – A Greek diver named Scyllias and his daughter Cyana use diving reeds to cut the mooring lines of the Persian King Xerxes fleet.
414BC – The first account of diving used in warfare is found in the narration of the siege of Syracuse by the Greeks, written by the historian Thucydides. He tells of Greek divers who submerged to remove underwater obstacles from the harbor in order to ensure the safety of their ships.
360BC – Aristotle mentions the use of a sort of air-supply diving bell in his Problemata: “…in order that these fishers of sponges may be supplied with a facility of respiration, a kettle is let down to them, not filled with water, but with air, which constantly assists the submerged man; it is forcibly kept upright in its descent, in order that it may be sent down at an equal level all around, to prevent the air from escaping and the water from entering….”
332BC – Alexander the Great, in his famous siege of Tyre (Lebanon), uses demolition divers to remove underwater obstacles from the harbor. It is reported that Alexander himself made several dives in a crude bell to observe the work in progress.
100BC – Salvage diving operations around the major shipping ports of the eastern Mediterranean are so well organized that a scale of payment for salvage work is established by law, acknowledging the fact that effort and risk increase with depth.
77 – Plinius the Elder mentions the use of air hoses by divers.
200 – Peruvian vase shows diver wearing goggles and holding fish.
1300 – Persian divers were using underwater eye-goggles, made from the polished shells or tortoises
1500s: Leonardo da Vinci designs the first known scuba. His drawings of a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus appear in his Codex Atlanticus. Da Vinci’s design combines air supply and buoyancy control in a single system, and foreshadows later diving suits. There is no evidence that he ever built his device. He seems, instead, to have abandoned scuba in favor of refining the diving bell.
1535 – Guglielmo de Loreno developed what is considered to be a true diving bell.
1650 – Von Guericke developed the first effective air pump and used it to study the phenomenon of vacuum and the role of air in combustion and respiration.
1667 – Robert Boyle observed a gas bubble in the eye of viper that had been compressed and then decompressed. This was the first recorded observation of decompression sickness or “the bends.”
1691 – Edmund Halley patented a diving bell which was connected by a pipe to weighted barrels of air that could be replenished from the surface.
1715 – John Lethbridge built a “diving engine”, an underwater oak cylinder that was surface-supplied with compressed air. Water was kept out of the suit by means of greased leather cuffs, which sealed around the operator’s arms.
1771 – British Engineer, John Smeaton invented the air pump. A hose was connected between the air pump and the diving barrel, allowing air to be pumped down to the diver.
1772 – A Frenchman, Sieur Freminet invented a rebreathing device that recycled the exhaled air from inside the diving barrel, it was the first attempt at a self-contained air device, however it was a poor design and the inventor died from lack of oxygen after being in his own device for only twenty minutes.
1776 – First authenticated attack by military submarine – American Turtle vs. HMS Eagle, New York harbor.
1788 – John Smeaton refined the diving bell by incorporating an efficient hand-operated pump to supply fresh compressed air and a non-return valve to keep air from going back up the hose when pumping stops.
1824 – Charles Anthony Deane patented a “smoke helmet” for fire fighters. This helmet was used for diving, too. The helmet fitted over the head and was held on with weights. Air was supplied from the surface.
1828 – Charles Deane and his brother John marketed the helmet with a “diving suit.” The suit was not attached to the helmet, but secured with straps.
1837 – Augustus Siebe produced the first diving helmet and dress, based on Edwards’ design. The young and clever engineer George Edwards, after using the Deane gear for over a year, he suggested safety improvements.
1840 – Seibe’s helmet was used by the Royal Navy on salvage operations of the wreck of the Royal George. The diving team, lead by Colonel Pasley, was very satisfied with Siebe’s helmet. The “Siebe Improved Diving Dress” is adopted as the standard diving dress by the Royal Engineers. Pasley too suggested some improvements to the helmet. He suggested to seperate the bonnet and the breastplate by means of an interrupted thread facility. Siebe took over the advice and thus the basic design for all later diving helmets was born.
1843 – The first diving school was established by the Royal Navy.
1865 – Benoit Rouquayrol and Auguste Denayrouse patented an apparatus for underwater breathing. It consisted of a horizontal steel tank of compressed air on a diver’s back, connected to a valve arranged to a mouth-piece. With this apparatus the diver was tethered to the surface by a hose that pumped fresh air into the low pressure tank, but he was able to disconnect the tether and dive with just the tank on his back for a few minutes.
1876 – Englishman Henry A. Fleuss developed the first workable, self-contained diving rig that used compressed oxygen.
1878 – Paul Bert published “La Pression Barometrique,” a book length work containing his physiologic studies of pressure changes.
1908 – John Scott Haldane, Arthur E. Boycott and Guybon C. Damant, published “The Prevention of Compressed-Air Illness,” a paper on decompression sickness.
1909 – The Draeger company of Lübeck, Germany a manufacturer of gas valves, firefighting equipment, and mine safety devices plunges into making dive gear. The company creates a self-contained dive system combining a “hard hat” style helmet with a backpack containing compressed oxygen. Over the next few years, Draeger will win numerous patents for diving equipment.
1910 – Dr. John Scott Haldane, a British physiologist, confirms that caisson disease is caused by the release of dissolved nitrogen when surfacing. To enable divers to avoid “the bends,” Haldane develops a procedure that calls for gradually staged “decompression.” His pioneering research culminates in publication of the first dive tables.
1910 – Sir Robert Davis, a director of Siebe, Gorman, refines the Fleuss system and comes up with the Davis False Lung. His reliable, compact, easily stored, and fully self-contained rebreather is adopted (or copied) throughout the world for use as an emergency escape device for submarine crews.
1912 – Germany’s Westfalia Maschinenfabrik markets a hybrid dive system that blends scuba and surface-fed components with mixed gas technology.
1915 – An early film of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea marks the first commercial use of underwater cinematography. Cast and crew use modified Fleuss/Davis rebreathers and “Oxylite,” a compound that generates oxygen through a chemical reaction. (Oxylite explodes if it gets wet, a trait that tends to limit its popularity as a scuba component.)
1917 – The U.S. Bureau of Construction & Repair introduced the Mark V Diving Helmet. It was used for most salvage work during World War II. The Mark V Diving Helmet became the standard U.S. Navy Diving equipment.
1924 – First helium-oxygen experimental dives were conducted by U.S. Navy and Bureau of Mines.
1930s – Guy Gilpatric pioneered the use of rubber goggles with glass lenses for skin diving. By the mid-1930s, face masks, fins, and snorkels were in common use. Fins were patented by Louis de Corlieu in 1933.
1930 – William Beebe descended 1,426 feet in a bathysphere attached to a barge by a steel cable to the mother ship.
1933 – Yves Le Prieur modified the Rouquayrol-Denayrouse invention by combining a demand valve with a high pressure air tank to give the diver complete freedom from hoses and lines.
1934 – William Beebe and Otis Barton descended 3,028 feet in a bathysphere.
1941-1944 – During World War II, Italian divers used closed circuit scuba equipment to place explosives under British naval and merchant marine ships.
1942-1943 – Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Emile Gagnan design and test the first Aqua-Lung. They redesigned a car regulator to create a demand regulator that would automatically provide fresh air when the diver breathed. This device is a vast improvement on earlier SCUBA devices and will completely change the sport diving community over the next decade. Early testers of the first prototypes included Philippe Tailliez, Frédéric Dumas, Simone Cousteau, Philippe Cousteau, and Jean-Michel Cousteau.
1946 – Cousteau’s Aqua Lung was marketed commercially in France. (Great Britain 1950, Canada 1951, USA 1952).
1947 – Dumas made a record dive with the Aqua Lung to 307 feet in the Mediterranean Sea.
1948 – Otis Barton descended in a modified bathysphere to a depth of 4500 feet, off the coast of California.
1950s – August Picard with son Jacques pioneered a new type of vessel called the bathyscaphe. It was completely self-contained and designed to go deeper than any bathysphere.
1951 – The first issue of “Skin Diver Magazine” appeared in December by Chuck Blakeslee and Jim Auxier, the magazine soon became the central source for information on the industry.
1953 – “The Silent World” by Cousteau was published chronicling the development of the Cousteau-Gagnan Aqua Lung.
1954 – Georges S. Houot and Pierre-Henri Willm used a bathyscaphe to exceed Barton’s 1948 diving record, reaching a depth of 13,287 feet.
1954 – Al Tillman and Bev Morgan develop the first public skin and scuba diver education program in the United States. The Los Angeles County program quickly becomes the template for all programs that were to follow.
1958 – The first segment of Sea Hunt aired on television, starring Lloyd Bridges as Mike Hunt, underwater adventurer.
1959 – YMCA began the first nationally organized course for scuba certification.
1960 – Jacques Picard and Don Walsh descended to 35,820 feet in the bathyscaphe Trieste.
1960 – The National Diving Patrol was renamed the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) and it was incorporated as a non-profit educational organization. Al Tillman became the first President and Hess became Executive Secretary.
1962 – Capt George F Bond, Jacques Cousteau and Ed Link conduct several underwater experiments whereby divers lived in underwater habitats, times varied from 14 hours – 1 month.
1965 – Al Tillman creates, the Underwater Explorers Society (UNEXSO) in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island. UNEXSO becomes a prototype for the complete destination diving resort. This is the first time people had a place to go the catered only to divers and provided, in house, everything needed for both in-water and out-of-water activities.
1966 – John Cronin and Ralph Ericson found the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI).
1968 – John J. Gruener and R. Neal Watson dove to 437 feet breathing compressed air.
1970s – Important advances relating to scuba safety that began in the 1960s became widely implemented in the 1970s, such as certification cards to indicate a minimum level of training, change from J-valve reserve systems to non-reserve K valves, and adoption of the BC and single hose regulators as essential pieces of diving equipment.
1970 – Bob Clark founded Scuba Schools International (SSI).
1977 – The first Diving Equipment & Marketing Association (DEMA) trade show convened in Miami, Florida in 1977. The show established itself as a neutral ground where individuals representing various areas of the dive industry could meet to share ideas and discuss the current issues surrounding recreational diving.
1980 – Divers Alert Network (DAN) was founded at Duke University as a non-profit organization to promote safe diving.
1981 – Record 2250 foot-dive was made in a Duke Medical Center chamber.
1983 – The Orca Edge, the first commercially available dive computer, was introduced.
1985 – The wreck of the Titanic was found.
1990s – An estimated 500,000 new scuba divers are certified yearly in the U.S., new scuba magazines form and scuba travel is big business. There is an increase of diving by non-professionals who use advanced technology, including mixed gases, full face masks, underwater voice communication, propulsion systems, and so on.
1999 – SSI merged with the National Association of Scuba Diving Schools (NASDS) and created a new synergy in the dive industry. The sales and marketing expertise of NASDS, when joined with the renowned educational products of SSI
2001 – John Bennett breaks his own world record by diving to an amazing 308 meters.
May 2002 – The FBI issued a nationwide alert saying that it has received information about a possible terrorist threat from underwater divers. The threat was serious enough for the agency to contact several scuba shops, seeking information about students and customers.
November 2002 – “Skin Diver” magazine ceased publication.
July 2003 – John Cronin, co-founder of PADI, died.
July 2003 – Tanya Streeter, a world champion freediver, broke both the men’s and women’s variable ballast freediving world records. She descended 400 feet (122 meters) to capture the variable ballast record and become the first person to ever break all four deep freediving world records.