Scuba History According to The Scuba Guy
A Scuba Timeline From 332
B.C. to 2008 A.D.
Completely re-edited with additional original material:    © Copyright 2003-08    Bill Jones    World Rights Reserved
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332BC

Aristotle's Book of Problems (Problemata) describes a diving bell used by Alexander the Great at the siege of Tyre, a Phoenician town on the Mediterranean coast, now known as Lebanon.  He claimed to have seen "green sea monsters".

200AD

Artwork on a Peruvian vase depicts a diver wearing goggles and holding a fish.

1535

Guglielmo de Loreno develops the first modern diving bell.

1622

A Spanish treasure fleet is destroyed by a hurricane near the Florida Keys.  Some of the treasure is salvaged with a diving bell, but most of it will remain lost in the sea  and become the stuff of dreams and fantasy for treasure hunters and divers.
See also:  1967, 1986

1650

Von Guericke develops the first air pump.

1667

Robert Boyle observes decompression sickness when he notices gas bubbles in the eyes of a snake (viper) undergoing decompression.

1691

Astronomer Edmund Halley (Halley's Comet) patents another diving bell  with weighted barrels and an air pipe connected to the surface.

1715

John Lethbridge builds an underwater cylinder that is supplied with compressed air from the surface. Greased leather prevents water entering the cylinder at arm holes.

1776

David Bushnell builds the first submarine used in battle.  The sub "American Turtle" unsuccessfully attacks the British flagship HMS Eagle moored in New York harbor.

1808

Friedrich von Drieberg develops the "Triton" apparatus. The diver obtains air from the backpack reservoir supplied from the surface through a valve by nodding his head.

1823

Charles & John Deane patent a smoke helmet for fire fighters.

1825

William James develops the first self-contained underwater system with tanks of compressed air and a full diving dress with a helmet.

1828

Lemaire d'Augerville patents an inflatable "swimming belt" designed to enable divers to swim in mid-water and ascend or descend as needed.

1836

The Allen brothers, land developers from New York, survey a mosquito infested swamp along Buffalo Bayou and incorporate it as Houston More Houston:  1960

1837

Augustus Siebe sealed a smoke helmet (Deane brothers) to a watertight diving suit and became the standard suit for many dive expeditions.

1843

The British Royal Navy establishes the first diving school.

1865

Benoit Rouquayrol and Auguste Denayrouse patent a steel tank filled with air connected to a valve and a mouth-piece. The tank is strapped to the divers back and supplied from the surface by a hose that pumps fresh air.  The diver is able to disconnect the hose and continue diving for a few minutes.

1869

Construction on the Brooklyn Bridge begins.  Workmen emerging from high-pressure caissons become crippled by "caisson disease".  Reporters dub it the bends because those afflicted seemed most comfortable bent in a fetal position.

1873

Jules Verne publishes 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea popularizing the concept of self-contained diving by specifically citing the Rouquayrol/Denayrouse system and theorizing about the inevitable next step of eliminating the surface-supplied air hose.

1877

Henry  Fleuss builds the first workable self-contained diving system using compressed oxygen.

1878

Hullam Jones builds the first glass-bottom boat allowing everyone to enjoy the magic of underwater life in Silver Springs Florida.

1893

Louis Boutan invents the first underwater camera.

1900

6,000 die as a Hurricane hits Galveston, the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history.  

1902

Snapper fishermen discover the northernmost living coral reefs on the continental shelf of the United States.  Seeing the "garden" of coral and sponges as shallow as 50 feet, the fishermen dub it The Flower Gardens.
See also:  1972, 1992, 1996   Read more about it:  The Flower Gardens

1908

John Scott Haldane, Arthur E. Boycott and Guybon C. Damant publish the first detailed study on the cause and symptoms of decompression sickness.  Haldane produces the first dive tables.

1911

Draeger of Germany introduces an oxygen re-breather.

1912

1,517 people die when White Star's RMS Titanic sinks in the North Atlantic enroute between Queenstown, Ireland and New York City.  Scientists and Treasure Hunters will search 73 years before the wreckage is found.  See also:  1985

The U.S. Navy test decompression tables published by John Scott Haldane, Arthur E. Boycott and Guybon C. Damant.

1916

First movie based on Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is released to theaters marking the first commercial use of underwater cinematography.  Cast and crew use modified Fleuss/Davis® rebreathers and "Oxylite" (a compound that produces oxygen by chemical reaction).  Oxylite explodes if it gets wet making it not very popular as a scuba component.   20,000 leagues is equal to 69,000 miles!

1917

The U.S. Bureau of Construction & Repair introduces the Mark V Diving Helmet.

1921

Harry Houdini patents diving suit that can be removed without assistance of others.

1923

W. H. Longley shoots the first underwater color photographs.

1924

The U.S. Navy and Bureau of Mines conduct the first helium-oxygen experimental dives.

1925

Yves Le Prieur introduces the self-contained underwater breathing unit.

1930

William Beebe attaches the Bathysphere to a barge with a steel cable and descends to 435 meters.

Guy Gilpatric develops rubber goggles with glass lenses.

1933

Yves Le Prieur develops a demand valve connected to a mask with a high pressure air tank for the purpose of recreational scuba diving.

Louis de Corlieu patents swim fins in France.

1934

William Beebe and Otis Barton descend to 924 meters in a Bathysphere.

1938

Marine Studios opens in St. Augustine Florida becoming the first oceanarium creating underwater windows for the public to view the cetacean world.  It will become the location for shooting aquatic films and the Florida underwater set for SEA HUNT.

1941

Italian Navy divers use closed circuit scuba equipment to place explosives under British naval and merchant marine ships.  The British and Americans will use an improved version of this gear to guard Gibraltar later in the war.

The acronym SCUBA (self contained underwater breathing apparatus) emerges from the Navy Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) also called the Navy Warriors.

1942

John Wayne stars as a hard-hat salvage diver in Cecil B. de Mille's Reap the Wild Wind.  A giant squid not only kills the Duke, but also wins a special effects Oscar.  The film has no importance in the evolution of Scuba.

1943

Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Emile Gagnan design and test their first regulator/tank system and will market it as Aqua-Lung®

Cousteau and Dumas finish their first movie Sixty Feet Down.   Some shots are made with a camera housed in a fruit jar.  Because of war motion picture film shortages, Dumas splices pieces of still film together to make the movie film reel.

1946

Mar-Vel Underwater Equipment is founded and becomes an early source for skin and scuba diving equipment.

1947

Dumas dives 94 meters in the Mediterranean Sea with an Aqua-Lung® regulator.

1948

Rene's Sporting Goods in Westwood California import 10 Aqua-Lung® regulators (manufactured by L'Air Liquide through their subsidiary Le Spirotechnique) to the USA.   Hollywood discovers this new gadget, interest in scuba skyrockets, and divers begin buying the new regulator.  Today, hundreds of divers claim to own one or more of these first 10 regulators.  (Rene Bussoz is a Cousteau relative by marriage).

Lloyd Bridges plays a hard-hat diver in the Irving Allen movie 16 Fathoms Deep.  Bridges portrayal of Ray Douglas in the film that will inspire Ivan Tors to cast him as Mike Nelson in Sea Hunt.  Read more about it:  Sea Hunt Sparked Interest in Diving See also:  1956, 1958, 1998

1949

A dozen stores across the country are selling Aqua-Lung® regulators including Richard's Sporting Goods and Abercrombie & Fitch.

1950

The International Underwater Spear Fishing Association holds the first national skin diving competition at Laguna Beach, California.

1951

Richard Widmark and Dana Andrews star in The Frogmen, a film about Navy Underwater Demolition Teams.  This is the first movie credited with creating public interest in Scuba diving and Navy UDT's increase recruits.

The first nationwide Scuba publication "The Skin Diver" is created by California spearfishing enthusiasts Jim Auxier and Chuck Blakeslee.  See also:  2002
Read more about it:  Skin Diver Magazine is Out of Air!

The first Reserve Valve is manufactured by Le Spirotechnique.

Hans Hass publishes "Diving as Adventure" inspiring many to become divers.

1952

Cousteau, Duman, and Dugan publish "Silent World" which becomes one of the most influential books in bringing new people to the sport of SCUBA diving and many skin divers decide to buy an Aqua-Lung® because of this book..

1953

Robert Wagner, Richard Boone, Peter Graves, and a big rubber octopus star in Beneath the 12 Mile Reef.   A forgettable film about diving for sponges earns Edward Cronjager an Academy Award nomination for underwater cinematography.

E.R. Cross publishes "Underwater Safety".

The July issue of Popular Science® publishes instructions for modifying surplus Air Force oxygen systems for use as scuba regulators.

U.S. Divers publishes a catalog that includes a reserve valve and designates it as item "J" on the page.   The next item in the catalog is a common on/off tank valve and it is labeled "K".  Today, these valves are commonly known as "J" & "K" valves.

1954

Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Paul Lukas, and Peter Lorre star in Walt Disney's popular remake of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Richard Carlson and Julie Adams dredge up the Creature from the Black Lagoon becoming the first 3-D underwater motion picture.

Zale Parry breaks the female depth record diving 209 feet / 64 meters and she stars in Kingdom of the Sea airing on U.S. television.  Her appearance sends a strong message that diving is not limited to men only.  Read more about it:  More Sea Hunt Trivia.

The National Cooperation in Aquatics publishes "Science of Skin and Scuba Diving" and it becomes the main textbook for diver education.

Frank Scalli writes the first scuba instruction program for the YMCA.

Marineland of the Pacific opens in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.  The park will become a popular site to shoot underwater close-ups for movies and TV shows and will becom the primary close-up underwater shooting location for SEA HUNT.

1955

Jane Russell, Richard Egan, and Gilbert Roland star in Underwater!   Another Howard Hughes film focused on Jane Russell's figure.  The movie is loaded with erroneous technical details about diving, the bends, and treasure and has no apparent importance in the advancement of recreational diving.

Sam Davison, Jr., introduces the "Dial-A-Breath," a double-hose, double-diaphragm regulator with variable breathing resistance starting his own equipment manufacturing company Dacor®.

The first formal instructor certification program is created by Al Tillman and Bev Morgan.

United States launches the first nuclear powered submarine the USS Nautilus

1956

Jacques Cousteau and Louis Malle win the Golden Palm Award at the Cannes Film Festival for Le Monde Du Silente ("Silent World"). The documentary introduces worldwide audiences to Cousteau's research ship and floating film studio Calypso.

The University of California fails at an attempt to design a new type of artic thermal underwear using a neoprene foam manufactured by Rubatex.   The underwear does not work but does become the first practical wetsuit and is manufactured by Edco and marketed by the Beaver company of La Jolla, California.

U.S. Divers sales rep Ted Nixon begins the first national product distribution of  the red and white Divers Down Flag designed by D. J. "Doc" Dockery and his wife Ruth.

USNR Commander Francis Doug Fane and Dan Moore write a book titled "The Naked Warriors" about the Navy Underwater Demolition Team.  Ivan Tors begins pre-production on "The Underwater Warriors", a feature movie based on Fane’s book.  Tors is also framing in his mind the hero character Mike Nelson for a new television series that will be loosely based on Fane's military life with a post military story.
Read more about it: Sea Hunt Trivia: Fane See also:  1948, 1958, 1998

1957

The Houston Underwater Club is founded furthering sport diving and activities relating to man’s involvement in the underwater environment.

Bob Soto opens the first successful Cayman Island full-time dive center.

1958

The first episode of Ivan Tors' Sea Hunt (starring Lloyd Bridges as Mike Nelson) is syndicated to television stations around the country inspiring hundreds of thousands to become Scuba divers in the following years.
Read more about it:  Sea Hunt Sparked Interest in Diving See also:  1948, 1956, 1998

Sherwood Manufacturing announces the piston regulator.

1959

Mermaids, another rubber octopus, and Jerry Lewis using Scuba gear give the diving industry a case of the bends in the movie Don't Give Up the Ship.

YMCA organizes the first national scuba diver certification program.

1960

Al Tillman and Neal Hess create the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI).   72 of their best candidates and 8 instructors descend on the Shamrock Hilton Hotel in Houston and take a 6 day course with only 53 of the candidates graduating.  This is the first international instructor certification course marking a whole new era in sport diving education.  More Houston:  1961

1961

The National Association of Skin Diving Schools (NASDS) is founded by John Gaffney.

A great and mostly un-credited Bay Area Houstonain W. J. Jones heads the economic development team at the Houston Chamber of Commerce that convinces the U.S. Congress to locate the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) at Clear Lake City in Houston More Houston:  1962

1962

The National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) breaks ground at Clear Lake City in Houston for site of the MSC More Houston:  1963

President John F. Kennedy inaugurates the first Navy SEALS.
1963

Chuck Conners and Luke Halpin star in Flipper, a movie about a bottle-nosed dolphin.  The film will be credited for changing attitudes toward marine mammals and the oceans.

Dick Bonin and Gustav dalla Valle create Scubapro®.  Gustav will later become internationally famous as one of the premier wine producers in the world.

Divers at the Manned Spacecraft Center at Clear Lake City in Houston create the Lunarfins dive club.  More Houston:  1965

1964

The S.S. Minnow leaves a tropic port and becomes the tale of a fateful trip.  The tiny ship is tossed when the weather starts getting rough on a three hour cruise.  Seven stranded castaways are shipwrecked on an uncharted deserted isle.

1965

Tied with a Voit® Scuba product promotion, a movie causes a second major surge in new diver interest when Sean Connery is James Bond in Thunderball.  Dive centers are stormed with customers that want dive gear just-like 007's.

The Scuba Guy buys his first mask & fins at Foley's and they are just-like 007's.

Astronaut & Aquanaut Scott Carpenter spends a month at 60 meters off the coast of southern France in Sea Lab II when the Mission Control Center at Clear Lake City in Houston links him with Gordon Cooper in a Gemini spacecraft marking the first Undersea-to-Space radio communications See also:  1995   More Houston:  1974

Al Tillman opens UNEXSO in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island which becomes a prototype for the all-in-one destination diving resort promoting undersea hunting with a camera instead of a spear gun .

1966

The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) is founded by John Cronin and Ralph Erickson.  Read more about it:  JohnCronin

Lloyd Bridges plays Dr. Doug Standish in Around the World Under the Sea. In this Scuba Diver "must-see" flick, the crew of a five-man submarine travels the world oceans planting sensors on the ocean floor to warn scientists of any impending earthquakes.

1967

Elvis Presley is a former Navy UDT frogman diving for treasure to solve all of his problems in  Easy Come, Easy Go.  A real bottom-feeder in the movies about Scuba.

Mel Fisher, Burt Webber, Kip Wagner, and Fay Feild, are finding pieces of the scattered treasure from 350 year old wrecks of Spain's fleet in the Keys and are creating new technology for wreck and treasure hunting.  See also:  1622, 1986

1968

John Gruener and Neal Watson  dive to 133 meters using compressed air.

PADI begins processing the first certification card with a diver's photograph eliminating the practice of loaning cards to untrained divers for equipment rental and air fills.

1970

Jim Miller would select five women scientists including Sylvia Earle to man the Tektite II underwater lab.  Because the group was all women, the press would dub the women as aqua belles, aqua chicks, aqua babes, aqua maids.

Scuba Schools International (SSI) is founded by Bob Clark.

1971

Scubapro introduces the Stabilization Jacket, the forerunner of modern BCD's.

1972

U. S. Congress passes the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act which is the framework by which The Flower Gardens will be protected 20 years later.
See also:  1902, 19921996  Read more about it:  The Flower Gardens

1974

Divers in the Houston Bay Area create the Bay Area Divers dive club.
More Houston:  1990

1975

Fifteen consecutive years of growth in the recreational diving industry abruptly ends when Stephen Spielberg's blockbuster movie JAWS bytes a hole in new diver interest.

1977

First DEMA trade show opens in Miami.

1979 Sylvia Earle is the first person to make a 1250 foot solo dive in a one-atmosphere suit.

1980

Divers Alert Network (DAN) is founded at Duke University to promote safe diving.

1981

A dive to 686 meters is made at the Duke Medical Center decompression chamber.

1982

International Diving Museum, renamed the Museum of Man in the Sea opens in Panama City, Florida becoming one of the most comprehensive diving collections.

1983

Orca Industries' "The Edge®" is the first commercially available dive computer.

1985

Jean-Louis Michel spots the wreck of White Star's RMS Titanic on a video monitor during a Robert Ballard expedition using IFREMER's state-of-the-art side-scan sonar.
See also:  1912

1986

The Living Seas opens at Walt Disney World's EPCOT® Center integrating a walk through diving timeline museum, a multimedia ecology lesson, and a six million gallon salt-water aquarium wrapped in the futuristic fantasy theme of Sea Base Alpha that could only be created by the magic of the imagineers at Disney.

Mel Fisher's team finds the Atocha, a 1622 wreck with its fabled $400 million in gold, silver, emeralds, and priceless historic artifacts marking the ultimate fulfillment of the diving treasure hunter's fantasy.  Much of the total treasure is not completely recovered.  See also:  1622, 1967

Diving Science and Technology (DSAT) funds dive table research to produce the world's first decompression model specifically for recreational divers.

1990 Lloyd Bridges receives the Gold Award at the Houston International Film Festival for his stirring narration of the award-winning Earth Trust educational TV production "Whale Song".  More Houston:  1992

1992

President George Bush (41) signs the order that designates The Flower Gardens as a National Marine Sanctuary.  See also:  1902, 1972, 1996   Read more about it:  The Flower Gardens

DEMA trade show in Houston features an "Environmental Pavilion" with displays and information provided by many of America's leading marine environmental organizations.  See also:  2004  More Houston:  1995

1994

Technical Diving International (TDI) is founded by Bret Gilliam and Mitch Skaggs.

1995

The Endeavor Space Shuttle and the La Chalupa lab (Jules' Undersea Lodge) are linked by the Mission Control Center at Clear Lake City in Houston for history's second Undersea-to-Space radio communications.  See also:  1965   More Houston:  1997

1996 The President signs order to protect Stetson Bank as a National Marine Sanctuary.
See also:  1902, 1972, 1992   Read more about it:  The Flower Gardens
1997

The Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory begins operation on Ellington Field (EFD) at Clear Lake City in Houston as Scuba divers assist Astronauts in "weightless" training for the International Space Station.  More Houston:  2004

1998

Lloyd Bridges death at his home in Malibu makes no apparent difference in 40 years of his continuing influence to bring millions of new divers into the hobby.
Read more about it:  Sea Hunt Sparked Interest in Diving See also:  1948, 1956, 1958

Scuba Diving International (SDI) is founded by Bret Gilliam and Mitch Skaggs and NASDS merges with SSI.

2000

PADI buys Sport Diver magazine and takes over publication.
Read more about it:  Skin Diver Magazine is Out of Air! PADI 

2002

Skin Diver magazine prints final issue.  See also:  1951
Read more about it:  Skin Diver Magazine is Out of Air! 

Scuba divers locate a World War II-era Boeing B-29a Superfortress in 260 feet of water at the bottom of Lake Mead, 60 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
Read more about it:  Scuba Divers Find Mysterious B-29a

2003

PADI issues its 12,000,000th diving certification.

PADI founder John Cronin dies at his home in Temecula California of natural causes.
Read more about it:  John Cronin

2004

Zale Parry makes an appearance at DEMA at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.   See also: 1992  More Houston:  1836

Based on True Events, a tour boat leaves two divers behind in the middle of the ocean when Lions Gate Films presents Open Water opening in selected cities on August  6.

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