People Under the Sea: History - Timeline
1774: Freminet devises a bellow powered surface air supply system
allowing divers to go to 45 feet for one hour.
1823: Charles Anthony Deane, an English inventor, patented a "smoke
helmet" for fighting fires. At some point in the next few years,
it was used for diving as well. The helmet fit over a man's head and was
held on with weights. Air was supplied from the surface through a hose
allowing allowing a diver to submerge up to 70 feet.
1825: Englishman William James invented first workable, full-time SCUBA.
It incorporated a cylindrical belt around the diver's trunk that served
as an air reservoir at 450 pounds per square inch (psi). A diver could
remain under water for up to 7 minutes at depths up to 11 feet.
1837: Augustus Siebe, a German-born inventor living in England, sealed
Deane's diving helmet (see 1823) to a watertight, air-containing rubber
suit. The closed diving suit, connected to an air pump on the surface,
became the first effective standard diving dress and the prototype of
hard-hat rigs is still used today. The suit allowed one to stay submerge
underwater for up to 30 minutes and to dive to depth of 65 feet.
1838: W. H. Talyor invents the first armored diving suit that allow a
diver to submerge to a depth of 150 feet.
1865: Frenchmen Benoit Rouquayrol and Auguste Denayrouse, a mining engineer
and naval lieutenant respectively, patented an apparatus for underwater
breathing. It consisted of a horizontal steel tank of compressed
air at about 250-350 psi on a diver's back, connected through a
valve arrangement to a mouthpiece. Patented as the "Aerophore,"
the device delivered air only when the diver inhaled, via a membrane
that was sensitive to outside water pressure. In effect, it was
the first demand regulator for underwater use. With this apparatus,
the diver was tethered to the surface by a hose that pumped fresh
air into the low-pressure tank, but the diver was able to disconnect
the tether and dive with just the tank on the diver's back for a
few minutes. The aerophore was a forerunner of modern scuba equipment.
1876: An English merchant seaman, Henry A. Fleuss, developed the first
workable, self-contained diving rig that used compressed oxygen rather
than compressed air. In this prototype of closed-circuit scuba, which
was the forerunner of modern closed circuit scuba units used by military
divers, carbon dioxide was absorbed by rope soaked in caustic potash,
so that exhaled air could be re-breathed, and no bubbles entered the water.
Although depths were limited to about 25 feet, the apparatus
allowed for relatively long bottom times, up to three hours.
1917: The U.S. Bureau of Construction & Repair first introduced
the Mark V Diving Helmet. When attached to a deep-sea dress and
umbilical, the Mark V became the underwater workhorse for decades
to come. It was used for practically all salvage work undertaken
during World War II.
1933: French navy captain Yves Le Prieur modified the Rouquayrol-Denayrouse
invention (see 1865) by combining a specially designed demand valve with
a high pressure air tank (1500 psi) to give the diver complete freedom
from restricting hoses and lines. The apparatus contained no regulator.
The diver received a breath of fresh air by opening a tap, while exhaled
air escaped into the water under the edge of the diver's mask. The apparatus
allowed a diver to journery underwater for upto ten minutes and to deepths
of 40 feet. In 1935, Le Prieur's SCUBA was adopted by
the French navy.
1942-43: Jacques-Yves Cousteau, a French naval lieutenant, and Emile
Gagnan, an engineer for Air Liquide (a Parisian natural gas company),
worked together to redesign a car regulator that would automatically
provide compressed air to a diver on his slightest intake of breath.
Cousteau and Gagnan attached their new demand valve regulator to
hoses, a mouthpiece and a pair of compressed air tanks. In January
1943, Cousteau tested the unit in the cold Marne River outside Paris.
After a modification, they patented the Aqua Lung. The Gagnan-Cousteau
regulator fundamentally altered diving. Its simple design and solid
construction provided a reliable, low-cost unit for diving. In October
1943, Dumas, in a carefully planned dive, descended to 210
feet in the Mediterranean Sea and experienced "l'ivresse
des grandes profondeurs," rapture of the great depths.
1947: In August, Dumas made a record dive with the Aqua Lung to 307
feet in the Mediterranean Sea
1962: Beginning in 1962, several experiments were conducted where people
lived in underwater habitats, using scuba equipment to leave the habitat
for exploration and returning for sleeping, eating and relaxing. The habitats
were supplied by compressed air from the surface. The first such experiment,
Conshelf (Continental Shelf) One, took place in September 1962. Under
the watchful eye of Jacques Cousteau and his team, Albert Falco and Claude
Wesley spent seven days under 33 feet of water near Marseilles
in a habitat they name Diogenes.
1963-1965: In 1963, eight divers lived in Conshelf Two under the Red Sea for
a month. Other habitats of this period were Sealab I (1964), Sealab II
(1965) and Conshelf Three (1965), in which former astronaut Scott Carpenter
and other divers spent a month at 60 meters off the coast
of southern France.
1968: On October 14, John J. Gruener and R. Neal Watson dove to 437
feet breathing compressed air off coast of Grand Bahama Island.
This record would not be broken until 1990.
1990: On February 14, 1990, Bret Gilliam dove 452 feet off
the coast of Honduras (Roatan). He descended in 4 minutes 41 seconds and
stayed at depth one minute 40 seconds.
1994: On March 18, 1994, Daniel J. Manion, M.D. dove to 510 feet on Clifton's Wall, Nassau, The Bahamas.