SCUBA is the acronym for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus and scuba diving is the practice of diving underwater and staying there for an extended period of time facilitated by the scuba unit – a gas-filled (usually air) cylinder – divers carry on their backs.
With the assistance of equipment such as scuba masks, breathing regulators, buoyancy devices, fins, and gauges, scuba divers can explore the underwater world at their leisure. Modern scuba diving is very safe and easy to learn. Training is provided by a large number of qualified CFT clubs based all over the country. Comhairle Fo-Thuinn (CFT), also known as the Irish Underwater Council, has more than 80 clubs affiliated to it and one is sure to be based near you (see http://diving.ie/scuba-diving/join-a-club/).
CFT is also affiliated to the international recreational diving organisation, Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques (CMAS), also known as the World Underwater Federation (www.cmas.org), whose standards we implement and abide by. A CFT qualification is also a CMAS one, and is recognised worldwide should you go on a diving holiday abroad.
Whether it’s for the thrill and adventure or the serene experience of beauty and discovery, scuba diving is open to everybody. All that is required is a normal degree of health and fitness and a desire to have fun, make new friends and discover a new world that is only a few short feet from your coast line. Make no mistake, the underwater world is the last great wilderness on the planet. It has not been full mapped yet and, in fact, Ireland has become a pioneer in mapping its undersea territories (see www.infomar.ie).
It is commonly claimed that more is known about the moon’s surface than the ocean depths. Even along the Irish coastline, you may come across virgin territory and be the first human ever to set eyes on stunning underwater features, amazing sea creatures and colourful plant life.
You will also develop confidence in dealing with all things maritime, learning new boat-handling skills and related activities like knowing sailor’s knots, reading weather charts, and finding out how the tides work. Above all, you will develop a respect for the sea and an appreciation of the beautiful but fragile eco-systems that it supports while making new friends both within your club and through inter-club activities.
History of scuba diving
Humans have been diving for as long as they have lived in coastline communities and looked for pearls, engaged in salvage or hunted for shellfish. That form of activity, known as free diving, involves little or no equipment. As a sport, the free diver usually wears a wet suit, mask and fins.
The first custom-made (leather) suits for diving were developed in the 16th century and developed into the classic form of diving activity where the diver wore weighted shoes, a suit and a diving helmet that had air pumped into it from the surface. Today, divers operating at relatively shallow depths and doing, for example, underwater archaeology work, still use a pumped-air system.
Scuba diving, where divers breathe gas – usually air – from a tank they are carrying, developed in the 1930s in France, when navy captain Yves Le Prieur incorporated a demand valve with a high pressure air tank and early systems were pioneered during the war. The Aqua-Lung became the most popular of these early systems, developed by Jacques Cousteau and Émile Gagnan in France. It allowed air to be taken from the bottle on a twin-hose system by simply breathing in and activating a non-return valve. However, the precursor to today’s single-hose regulators is generally regarded as being the ‘Porpose’ regulator invented by Australian Ted Eldred in 1949.
Jacques Cousteau became a household name due to his pioneering underwater documentaries and he is a founder member of CMAS, which was inaugurated in 1959 as an international organization representing 15 national ones. Today, it represents more than 130 such organizations.
Cousteau in his lifetime also formed the Cousteau Society as a conservation organization (www.cousteau.org), which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2013.
The ideals of Cousteau, who was passionate about undersea conservation, continue to be part of what CMAS and CFT are about. “Take nothing but memories; leave nothing but bubbles” is a common sentiment that underlines the respect CFT divers should have for the underwater environment.