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THE MILITARY OBJECTS THAT MADE DIVING

During World War II underwater equipment was often adapted for military purposes to assist in assault operations. Those same military instruments evolved further in subsequent years, becoming essential objects for civilian use and recreational diving activities.

Until the 1940s equipment for military frogmen was as strong and heavy as armor. When fully dressed, they would wear weighted diving boots to walk on the ocean floor and heavy metal helmets. Of course, the bulky equipment prevented full mobility during operations.

Nimble fins and light diving masks came to be only after Luigi Ferraro, an Italian World War II hero and recipient of a Gold Medal for Military Valor, outfitted frogmen from head to toe. Ferraro dedicated his entire post-military life to developing the underwater tools for which he is still considered a trailblazer. He is largely responsible for the fins and masks we recognize today.

 

That other indispensable diving tool, the wetsuit, also experienced significant upgrades during the first half of the 20th century. Its story began when Italian frogmen started wearing rubber wetsuits. It was the uniform of deep-sea divers: heavy, stiff and barely able to provide protection from frigid water.

Angelo Belloni, a Navy commander, pioneered critical diving equipment innovations. He improved the performance of the wetsuit by making modifications to its fabric, construction and stitching. Belloni’s technical contributions were so effective that wetsuits now protect and insulate skin in any water temperature, allowing for comfortable and long-lasting dives.

 

It is just as important to recognize that 75 years ago the cord was definitively cut. When Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnon invented the aqualung history was forever changed. The revolutionary device prompted decades of innovation and facilitated countless discoveries by making the underwater world accessible to man.

For the first time in human history anyone could plunge into the sea using a self-contained air supply rather than oxygen from above. Without a long hose connected to the surface, without assistance from a support boat, humans became free to explore the deep abyss of the sea.

 

The innovation forever revolutionized the perception of diving and gave birth to scuba diving.

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