How Snorkeling Developed

Snorkeling pic
Snorkeling
Image: keywestsnorkelingtours.com

Since 2013, Allen Fitzsimmons has served as CEO of Transitioning Forward, a firm that works with clients to manage the divestment of their possessions. Away from work, Allen Fitzsimmons enjoys outdoor activities, including snorkeling.

Snorkeling is an accessible way to clearly see the world under the water using a face mask and a J-shaped breathing tube. Some snorkelers also wear fins on their feet to enhance their propulsion in the water, special vests to increase their buoyancy while snorkeling on the surface, or wetsuits to conserve body warmth when snorkeling in colder water.

Archaeological evidence suggests that thousands of years ago, hollow reeds were used as breathing tubes by sponge farmers who worked in the waters off Crete. Technological advances concentrated on providing underwater divers with supplies of air, whether in watertight balloons made from animal skins or large diving bells that trapped pockets of air that divers could breathe. These inventions were of limited utility, though, because they severely restricted a diver’s mobility.

Flexible tubes connected to the surface seemed promising until they learned that the water pressure prevented divers from drawing a breath when they descended more than a few feet. This problem was solved in the latter half of the 18th century with the development of air pumps. This line of research ultimately led to the modern self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, or SCUBA systems.

Despite all this research, modern snorkeling doesn’t differ greatly from the hollow reeds used millennia ago, with one important addition–the face mask, which permits divers to see clearly underwater. The masks used for snorkeling are the same as those used by scuba divers, with a shatter-resistant glass or clear plastic faceplate, a nylon or rubber skirt that creates a seal with the diver’s face to prevent water from seeping in, and a strap that holds it in place.

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