Divers have an intimate connection to our equipment. But the history, evolution and hidden inner workings of many integral pieces of our collective kit might be a mystery to many of us. Check out these 13 curious details, historical head-scratchers and surprising facts, including why dive watches glow and what the heck is the “Bends-O-Matic?”
1. One of the earliest “dive computers”, the SOS Decompression Meter, was completely mechanical and simulated the process of gas absorption in the body. Its sketchy performance earned it the nickname “Bends-O-Matic.”
2. The first decompression tables, and the basis for modern dive computer algorithms, were published in 1908 by John Haldane. They were based on simulated dives using a hyperbaric chamber. The test divers were English goats.
3. Depth ratings for extreme deep dive watches have exceeded the known depth of the oceans. The Sinn UX is rated to 12,000 meters, more than 1000 meters deeper than the Marianas Trench.
4. Tritium, a radioactive material safely used in tiny quantities to make illuminated markings in many dive watches, is also used as a “booster” in multi-stage hydrogen bombs.
5. The rhythmic, mechanical breathing of Star Wars’ Darth Vader is iconic. It’s the amplified sound of a scuba regulator.
6. Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Emile Gagnan invented the Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus in 1943. It was based on a diaphragm regulator design first developed more than a hundred years before.
7. Last year, Allen Sherrod, a dive instructor from Florida, spent 48 hours and 13 minutes breathing from a regulator while submerged off Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida. It was a world record time for a saltwater dive.
8. Many warm-water divers use their octopus as a defense against stinging jellyfish. A brief purge beneath an oncoming assailant will gently lift it out of the diver’s way.
9. An ancient bas-relief dating back to 900 B.C. shows Assyrian divers using animal skins filled with air, which they carried with them to increase the length of their dives.
10. Before the standard power inflator came along, horse collar BCs incorporated small CO2 canisters to provide emergency inflation when needed, just like many personal floatation devices do today.
11.The popular backplate-and-wing BC design came as a cave diving innovation and improvement over “belly bags,” which uncomfortably sandwiched divers between an air bladder and a pair of heavy steel tanks.
12. No welding is used in making a typical aluminum scuba tank. Instead, a 32-lb. aluminum slug, 7-inches across, is pressed into shape by 2,500 lbs. of pressure in just 20 seconds.
13. Everyone knows LED lights are more efficient than incandescent models. But how efficient? Tests have shown burn times may average 30 times longer using identical battery power.