You can’t visit the Turks and Caicos without enjoying our sublime diving opportunities. With private boat charters in the TCI so rewarding, it’s a great way to add to the experience. But whether you’re an old hand in the water, or you have your first beginner PADI-certified diving course booked with us, do you know the fascinating history of diving? The thrill of scuba diving can change your life forever. Today the Big Blue Collective team takes a look at the sport’s fascinating history.
A Planet Built of Water
Earth is, of course, over 70% water, so there’s little surprise that the sea has been stirring our spirits (and challenging adventurers) for millennia. Even today, the ocean feels like a place of mystery. Strange creatures flit by. Different life, brightly coloured and vivid, peers out from crannies along the coral reefs. It’s magical, mystical, and fascinating.
With our rash guards, wet suits, snorkels, tanks, and goggles, it’s a far cry from the days when the brave (or foolhardy) would hold their breath, jump in, and hope for the best!
Treasures of the Ocean
What would drive people to try to explore the depths of the ocean long before we could do so safely? As with many developments in human history, the answer is trade. For the Ancient Greeks, the first divers we have excellent records from, they particularly wanted sea sponges. And yes, they wanted them for bathtime!
Natural sea sponges are actually some of the oldest life forms we know of today, and may even be a common ancestor of all mammals. But their Greek popularity was much more mundane, for all they appear in Homer’s Odyssey, as well as the works of Aristotle and Plato.
So the warm and notoriously clear Aegean sea, especially the island of Kalymnos, was a haven for sponge divers. They would have to strip down (no lycra rash guards), take a deep breath, strap a heavy stone on for ballast, and dive in.
The Greeks even had some ‘military divers’, as we have records of ship sabotage thanks to people diving to cut anchor moorings or otherwise damage enemy ships.
Pearls, Seaweed, and Shellfish
In Ancient Japan, we instead had the Ama, the ‘women of the sea’, and another 2,000-year tradition. Stripped to loincloths, they would hunt the local seabed for precious commodities like pearls, seaweed, and shellfish. You can still spot Ama working today, although they use wetsuits and rebreathers now.
Bell of the Ball
One of the very first steps in ‘modern’ diving was the invention of the diving bell. You know how, if you plunge a glass straight down, there’s that air bubble that remains cosy and dry? That’s how the diving bell works. The trapped air was a reservoir for the divers to return to and breathe. It was first used in the modern sense around the 16th century.
The diving suit was slower to evolve. We see a prototype from John Lethbridge in 1715, but it wasn’t anything you’d want to swim in- it was more like a barrel with some armholes! It did, however, allow him to dive to shipwrecks and make a fortune from salvage, so it worked for him. It was over 100 years later that we saw some movement towards modern diving masks. However, the circumstances were frightfully different from what you might imagine.
John Deane, watching a farm in Whitstable burn to the ground, got the local fire brigade to run a hose into a helmet he salvaged from a suit of plate armour. Yep, mediaeval plate armour. This gave him air enough to combat the smoke, allowing him to evacuate the stabled horses. From here, this hastily assembled idea was developed into both an early dive helmet and a prototype fireman’s helmet. He then used it to dive to the wreck of the Mary Rose when she was rediscovered in 1836.
The First True Dive Suit
It was only once true breathing regulators could be invented, however, allowing for controlled oxygen inhalation, that actual scuba diving could become an art. Did you know that scuba stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, the U.S Navy’s term for the system invented by Major Christian Lambertsen during World War 2?
Once the means to safely breathe underwater was a reality, instead of Ancient Greece’s fever dream, it was inevitable an entire industry of fans and sportsmen would arise. Today, scuba diving is one of the most popular holiday sports in the world, far outclassing other wind- and watersports. In part, this is because it remains immensely accessible. While you do need to be decently fit and comfortable in water to learn to scuba dive, there’s no laundry list of physical metrics you must meet. You can learn to dive as a teenager, and still be diving joyfully decades later.
And with the bounty of the sea at your literal fingertips, who wouldn’t be tempted? Underneath the sea lies a seascape like nothing we can imagine on land. Intricate reefs packed with colourful, darting fish. Underwater predators met up close and personal. It’s an entirely new world to explore, well beyond the imagination of those first ancient divers.
Learn to Dive Today
Are you ready to dive the Turks and Caicos? The Big Blue Collective is proud to offer a wealth of PADI-certified courses, from beginner basics through honing your diving skills. We teach only in privates or small groups, allowing you to receive the attention and care you need to foster your confidence in the water. And with the exquisite waters of the Turks and Caicos unfolding around you, you too can learn the secrets of the deep ocean for yourself.
Why not take the plunge today, and join the Big Blue Collective under the beautiful waters of the Turks and Caicos?