The Physics of Scuba Diving: Swimming with the Fish

Topics: Underwater diving, Scuba diving, Scuba set Pages: 14 (4643 words) Published: October 8, 1999
The Physics Of Scuba Diving: Swimming with the Fish

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to swim with the fish and explore the underwater jungle that covers two-thirds of the earth's surface? I have always been interested in water activities; swimming, diving and skiing, and I felt that scuba was for me. My first dive took place while on a family vacation. I came across a dive shop offering introductory dives, which immediately caught my interest. After much convincing (my parents), with my solemn assurance that I would be careful, I was allowed to participate in a dive. I was ready, or so I thought. The slim basics such as breathing were explained and I was literally tossed in. Sounds easy enough, right!, well WRONG!!. From the moment I hit the water, my experience was much less than fun. I quickly sank to the bottom into a new world, with unfamiliar dangers. I really wasn't ready for this experience. I was disorientated, causing me to panic, which shortened the length of my dive, not to mention my air supply. Let's just say I would not do that again.

To start exploring the underwater world, one must first master a few skills. Certification is the first step of learning to dive. From qualified professionals one must learn how to use the equipment, safety precautions, and the best places to dive. This paper is designed to help give a general understanding of the sport and the importance that physics plays in it. Self- contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, or SCUBA for short, is a hell of a lot of fun. However, there is considerably more to Diving than just putting on a wetsuit and strapping some compressed air onto ones back. As I quickly learned, diving safely requires quite a bit more in terms of time, effort, and preparation. When one goes underwater, a diver is introduced to a new and unfamiliar world, where many dangers exist, but can be avoided with proper lessons and understanding. With this knowledge the water is ours to discover.

The Evolution of Scuba Diving

Divers have penetrated the oceans through the centuries for the purpose of acquiring food, searching for treasure, carrying out military operations, performing scientific research and exploration, and enjoying the aquatic environment. Bachrach (1982) identified the following five principal periods in the history of diving which are currently in use. Free (or breath-hold) diving, bell diving, surface support or helmet (hard hat) diving, scuba diving, and, saturation diving or atmospheric diving (Ketels, 4)


The development of self-contained underwater breathing apparatus provided the free moving diver with a portable air supply which, although finite in comparison with the unlimited air supply available to the helmet diver, allowed for mobility. Scuba diving is the most frequently used mode in recreational diving and, in various forms, is also widely used to perform underwater work for military, scientific, and commercial purposes.

There were many steps in the development of a successful self-contained underwater system. In 1808, Freiderich yon Drieberg invented a bellows-in-a-box device that was worn on the diver's back and delivered compressed air from the surface. This device, named Triton, did not actually work but served to suggest that compressed air could be used in diving, an idea initially conceived of by Halley in 1716. (Ketels, 9)

In 1865, two French inventors, Rouquayrol and Denayrouse, developed a suit that they described as "self-contained." In fact, their suit was not self contained but consisted of a helmet-using surface-supported system that had an air reservoir that was carried on the diver's back and was sufficient to provide one breathing cycle on demand. The demand valve regulator was used with surface supply largely because tanks of adequate strength were not yet available to handle air at high pressure. This system's demand valve,...

Bibliography: Company. 1975.
Resneck, John Jr. Scuba, Safe and Simple. New Jersey : Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1975.
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