Diving equipment

Man’s desire to dive has probably existed since the dawn of mankind, but what was needed was a safe means for breathing underwater. From hollow reeds to modern, state-of-the-art diving equipment, the aim was one and the same – to facilitate the period spent under water, whether for purposes of hunting or discovering sites, for military purposes or simply to see life in the undersea world.

The means to achieving this end required extensive trial-and-error research, which lead to the discovery of new techniques and the introduction of modern diving technology. As the environment divers were entering was biologically unpredictable, it was evident that appropriate equipment and supplementary tools were necessary. Although breathing through hollow reeds made it possible for only a small segment of the undersea world to be seen, even this was enough to open a window into a new world full of wonders and beauty yet to be discovered.

In his search for solutions, man tried inflated air pillows, invented the first diving bell masks into which air was pumped, but diving only became safe after it had been scientifically established how changes in pressure affected the human body. Diving as we know it today, only began in the late 1960s with the advent of an autonomous diving apparatus known as SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus).

Depending on the type of diving, compulsory diving equipment for a safe and enjoyable dive includes the following: mask, fins, suit, gloves, buoyancy compensator, tanks, instruments, knife, weighting system, underwater lamp, boots.

A Diving Mask is a prerequisite for an enjoyable dive. A good mask should sit firmly on the face and prevent water from seeping in. There are separate types of masks for free diving and for Scuba diving. The major difference is size and air volume. There are also fullface masks that cover the entire face of a diver and enable normal breathing through the nose, which also incorporate a system that facilitates communication between divers and between the diver and the surface crew. This type is primarily used in professional diving.

A Snorkel is an indispensable means of breathing below water. Although it is primarily used when diving with a mask and fins (snorkeling), it is an essential part of basic diving equipment, as it is used before and after dives in place of an aqualung, and especially during bad weather conditions at sea.

A Diving Suit protects the diver from injuries, stings, abrasion and heat loss. During long dives, or at greater depths, the body is exposed to low temperatures, so suits are a prerequisite for a safe and enjoyable dive. There are two types of suits – wet suits and dry suits. Wet suits are made of neoprene and are a tight-fitting suit that helps to sustain a constant body temperature. It allows for the entrance of some water, which is why it is called a wetsuit, but the water is quickly warmed up and becomes a heat insulator. Dry suits are completely waterproof and may be inflated, serving as an additional buoyancy compensator. An undersuit is worn beneath the dry suit as thermal protection. Although dry suits are better thermal protection than wet suits, a specialist course needs to be taken to ensure that they are used properly.

Regulators – an essential part of diving equipment. Regulators are two-staged. The first stage reduces pressure in the tank to 9 bar. The second stage is self-regulatory and reacts to outside pressure, allowing the diver to breathe normally. Diving equipment should be serviced regularly, espe-cially its most sensitive part – the regulator.

A Buoyancy Compensator is used to decrease the use of fins and ensure buoyancy. It consists of an air pocket for adjusting buoyancy and is connected to the regulator, so that it can be inflated at all times. It also has a deflation system and safety valves to prevent-over-inflation. Generally, it comes in the form of a jacket to which the tank, regulator, alternative tank and various additions are attached, alongside a weighting system of some kind.

Tanks are filled with compressed gas mixtures by means of a compressor and need to be checked regularly. They should always be stored in an upright position and gas pressure should be between 10 and 20 bar. In this way, the quantity of oxygen is decreased, and the erosive effect of corrosion.

Divers have a weighting system to adjust the upward/downward force caused by additional equipment (suit and tanks). Mostly, this is a belt with weights buckled round the waist and easy to release in case of danger.

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