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In the height of water sports, scuba diving is a popular activity for many people. However, you may be wondering what SCUBA stands for. The word ‘scuba’ is an acronym- a word made up of letters that each mean something.
It stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.
SCUBA is an apparatus utilizing a portable supply of compressed gas (such as air) supplied at a regulated pressure. It’s used for breathing while swimming underwater.
The History of SCUBA
The Start, The Aqua-Lung
The apparatus we know today as SCUBA was originally known as the 'Aqua-Lung', a term still used by some today. The aqua-lung was first invented in 1943 by the famous, well-known diver, Jacques Cousteau during his exploits in the sea.
This device remains today relatively similar to it’s basic design back then. To no surprise, militaries from many countries saw the benefits of the aqua-lung and quickly began developing their own versions.
The ability to breathe underwater was seen as a major strategic advantage by many military forces, and thus they began working on improved versions. This is where the first prototypes were designed specifically for military use, at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School.
SCUBA was Coined
In 1954 Dr. Christian Lambertsen coined the acronym SCUBA while attending the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. He was working on the first prototypes of military equipment when he created the Lambertsen Amphibious Respiratory Unit, otherwise known as the Lambertsen Lung. He then gave these devices the military code name of S.C.U.B.A., because they were self-contained underwater breathing apparatuses.
Improved SCUBA Design
Dr. Lambertsen created the foundation for modern-day underwater breathing devices, and for the use of enriched-air nitrox. He, along with another, were the first to use these breathing units to exit an underwater submarine in 1948.
Lambertsen and his team of developers improved the original design of the aqua-lung quite drastically through the use of enriched-air nitrox. His dedication towards underwater breathing was ground-breaking at the time, which is why he’s known as the founder of scuba divers today.
SCUBA Uses Today
There are few pieces of equipment which have proven more useful to their intended users than that of the scuba apparatus. It’s a simple, yet versatile device which is used commercially, for militant forces, for leisure and for research teams.
People have been interested in traveling beneath the sea for centuries. Ancient manuscripts contain depictions of early divers, and century old artifacts imply that people dove for materials for jewelry such as pearls. SCUBA devices made even more possible.
The SCUBA apparatus made Scuba Diving what it is today. Without the device, diving was only possible for seconds or minutes at a time- for the best divers. After the development of this underwater breathing device, and the improvement by military forces, it quickly became a leisure and commercial activities available for anyone to try!
Fun SCUBA Facts
- The Finding Nemo art team didn’t leave anything to chance when making the movie. They took scuba diving courses in oceanography, marine biology and more to make sure every piece of the movie was as accurate as possible.
- Light is rapidly absorbed by water, which is why some scuba diving rookies might feel disappointed that the underwater world isn’t as vibrant as it looks on TV documentaries. This is possible through special lenses, etc. during filming.
- Oxygen becomes toxic under high pressure, which is why special gases with a lower concentration of oxygen are provided for dives deeper than 42 metres.
- On average a single SCUBA tank will last about 1 hour. The deeper you dive, the faster you consume air from your scuba tank. The average beginning diver’s air consumption in calm waters runs a tank close to empty in about 1 hour at 10 metres depth, compared to just a few minutes at 40 metres.
- Many people worry about sharks, because of a misunderstanding about the species. Sharks kill 8 to 12 people each year worldwide, while humans kill over 30 million sharks each year. Remember that we’re more of a threat to them, than they are to us.
- Once you go below 10 metres depth, you can no longer see red or yellow! Thus if you cut yourself, your blood will look blue.
- Children can start learning to dive at an age as young as 8, if they’re able to support the equipment and with the proper training. It’s a water sport for nearly all ages!
Through an innovative history developed by scientists in medical research and environmental conservation, the SCUBA apparatus was invented. Since, it’s been improved upon and used in many ways world-wide, from military uses to leisure and commercial uses.
Humans fascination with the sea goes back many centuries, and the SCUBA apparatus allowed the capabilities to do so in a larger capacity. When at one time we could only dive as long as we could hold our breath, we now have the ability to dive for much longer periods exploring the underwater world.
In exploring our seas, we gain a better understanding of the natural world living in the waters surrounding us, and hopefully a bigger love for it as well! The more we love our oceans, the more we’re willing to protect them and their inhabitants.
When scuba diving, remember to leave the natural world natural. Don’t touch everything, but observe and appreciate from a distance. Let the sea’s creatures live in peace, and simply enjoy being a part of it- if for only an hour at a time.
Do you have a favorite scuba diving location? Let us know in the comments below!
Megan Jones is the lead author of Seaside Planet. She is an avid surfer, scuba diver, and travel enthusiast who takes any opportunity she can to spend time in the ocean. You can learn more about Meg and the rest of the editorial team here.