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Perhaps my most obscure question yet... Before Sean reds me again for being lazy, I have had a look round for this and haven't found anything. I know (or I think I know) that Aqualung had the first twin hose regulator, which I presume used a diaphragm first stage, since all of the current Aqualung ones are, and that Poseidon had the first single hose reg, but who had the first piston first stage?

Cheers, James.

P.S. Before you ask, no I haven't got a girlfriend yet :)
 

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American Chronicle | The Evolution of Modern SCUBA Gear – an International Effort.


The Evolution of Modern SCUBA Gear – an International Effort.
Virtual Library of Sport
August 24, 2007
The development of modern SCUBA is something which evolved worldwide, and has almost come ‘full circle’. It began prior to WWI with the German introduction of practical oxygen rebreathers for use by sport and military divers. The divers used simple dry suits adapted from helmet diving. Ninety years later the most qualified technical divers are again using dry suits and rebreathers.

Wars both interfered and assisted in the development of diving apparatus. Rebreathers first found their niche with combat swimmers attacking war ships. Between the wars, spear fishing became popular in Europe, with the introduction of first, the swimmer’s goggles and then the face mask. The mask allowed the diver to exhale through his nose to compensate for water pressure and to expel water if needed. This allowed divers to go deeper. Spear fishing itself was not new, as it had been a source of food for Polynesians for centuries. However, their bamboo goggles only trapped air when the face was down and were fragile, as they had no glass to enclose their eyes.

The French and the Italians were the most prolific divers. Frenchman Rene Cavelero’s marketing of spear guns, face masks and the American Olympic swimmer Owen Churchill’s swim fins. In November 1941, the Italian 10th Light Flotilla became famous with its frogman attack on two British capital warships, in Alexandria Harbor. The British were also attacked at Gibraltar, but counter-attacked the Italian frogmen with their own clearance divers. At war’s end, the public was well aware of frogmen, but it took the promotional genius of French Captain Jacques Yves Cousteau to bring the underwater world to those who had waited to join the adventure.

Basic air breathing apparatus was a device already in use as mine and fire fighting apparatus. Georges Commeinhes of France converted his father’s product into the first air SCUBA, the CG42 ‘Amphibie’, during the war, but this ended with his death in combat. Cousteau remained in unoccupied Vichy, France. With his Navy career interrupted, he had the time to work on his first love, filming underwater. For this he needed a breathing apparatus. His father-in-law was a director of the commercial gas giant L’Air Liquide, which opened the door to gas engineer Emile Gagnan. A demand valve needed for this SCUBA, was developed by Gagnan, to provide ‘cooking gas’ for automobiles. The Germans had taken away most of the gasoline, and this alternative was needed. Oxygen, when used at too great a depth, resulted in CNS poisoning, so air was a logical next step. The Commeinhes’ apparatus required some manipulation of a full face mask exhaust valve. Cousteau and Gagnan soon discovered the problem was more acute with their valve, but between the two of them, the problem was solved with the addition of a return hose. Cousteau was given 1% of the new company formed to make the new double hosed SCUBA. Cousteau furthered popularity by making films to promote his product. His film The Silent World won an Academy Award. He also established the first SCUBA school, which taught equipment maintenance as well as diving.

At war’s end, the new French company, La Spirotechnique, could not make enough units to meet demand. They licensed manufacturing and sales to Commonwealth countries to British standard diving maker, Siebe Gorman. Again, Siebe Gorman could not meet demands. Another Frenchman, Rene Bussoz, who operated a sporting goods shop in Los Angeles, began to import SCUBA from Canada, where the L’Air Liquide had relocated Gagnan. Bussoz coined the name Aqua Lung and called his company with the official sounding name of U.S. Divers. With the help of advertising in the new magazine Skin Diver, U.S. Divers was very successful. Cousteau’s company was not happy with only sharing in the large profits created by U.S. Divers, so they refused to renew Bussoz’s contract, but instead bought out the company. Their product had become known only by Bussoz’s trade marked name.


In 1949 Australian gas engineer Ted Eldred was working on a rebreather, trying to make it safe for sport diving. Like Cousteau, Eldred soon realized his oxygen device was not practical. Encouraged by the demand for SCUBA, he turned to compressed air, just as Cousteau had done. However, the Cousteau-Gagnan valve was protected by a US Patent CG45. Eldred consulted with a patent attorney, and then developed the single hose SCUBA, which is in use today. As Eldred’s company was small, he could not afford a patent and copies soon followed. Eldred’s SCUBA was known as the Porpoise and over 12,000 were made and marketed, with the first model sold in early 1952 (See picture). With the help of Royal Australian Navy diver, Commander Maurice ‘Batts’ Batterham, Eldred started the first diving school to teach with single hose SCUBA. The Air Dive company, owned by Jim Ager in Australia, was first to copy the single hose design, and by 1955 their Sea Bee SCUBA was on the market too. Jim remains the longest continuous producer of single hose SCUBA.

Eventually, in 1960, with money gained from American sales, Cousteau bought out Ted Eldred’s company. Eldred worked for the Frenchman for a few years, but depressed over being forced to sell the company he founded, he left, without even a single sample of his invention.

While the dry suit was the first underwater protective garment, they were hard to use, as the divers suffered from squeeze caused by water pressure. Soon the dry suit gave way to the wet suit. It was made of a new material, foam Neoprene, which became available in the late 1950s.

The American war surplus Mae West life preserver was the first attempt at buoyancy control. Later, Mae West’s came with air fillers from the regulators, and were called BCDs. Dry suits soon followed when the same fillers. This eliminated the problem of squeeze. The rebreather has again found some acceptance, coming back like the dry suit. Modern electronics now allow divers to monitor the gas mixture they breathe and to change it’s composition as needed by changing depth.

Sport diving owes much of its early popularity to two television shows. The first was Sea Hunt, starring Lloyd Bridges. Its 155 episodes first aired in the USA in 1958. In Europe, Austrian Hans Hass’ “Diving to Adventure” was aired with the help of the BBC. Technology has improved these early designs, but these pioneers made it all happen.

For more background reading see Sportsvl.com's section on Scuba Diving History.

Written by Stephen K Taylor, BSc, Dip Crim, MA, an American who learned to dive in 1960 Australia. He is the Librarian for Scuba Diving History on the Virtual Library of Sport and writes for the Historical Diving Society and collects vintage diving equipment.
 

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Perhaps my most obscure question yet... Before Sean reds me again for being lazy, I have had a look round for this and haven't found anything. I know (or I think I know) that Aqualung had the first twin hose regulator, which I presume used a diaphragm first stage, since all of the current Aqualung ones are, and that Poseidon had the first single hose reg, but who had the first piston first stage?

Cheers, James.

P.S. Before you ask, no I haven't got a girlfriend yet :)
I think Sherwood.
 
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