“Oh! They’re just Scuba divers”

Movies and documentaries depict them all the time. Either it’s a hero trying to sneak into an enemy’s yacht (James Bond et al.) Or researchers trying to study aquatic life (Deep blue sea; Nat Geo). We often see these men and women wearing funny costumes. Spandex body suits with fin-like feet. And the most intriguing part; A tank is hitched to their back with flexible pipes sticking out all over to the nose and mouth. They dive inside water and are able to move underwater for minutes. After some time you begin to notice bubbles at the surface. Many times, we flippantly say: “They’re scuba divers” or “It’s just scuba diving”.


Diving into scuba diving

Easy to say, but have you ever really thought about what scuba diving involves? What does that rectangular tank contain? Why do bubbles come up to the surface when they’re underwater? How do they survive in the water for that long? (If you think staying underwater is not a big deal, try staying submerged in your bathtub for 3minutes).

This post will try to answer these questions in some basic and relatable ways- you, however, will definitely need to do a little further reading.

The Basic Basics

SCUBA is actually an acronym for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Well, the name actually says a lot. Scuba diving is an activity (or sports or profession or field of study, depending on the participant) in which an individual (or individuals) is/are able to live, move and survive below the surface of water (at various depths) for a (varying) period of time using a portable and self-contained apparatus (without the need for air from external sources).

That was pretty easy, wasn’t it? Now to the tough part, how do they breathe and survive underwater? Your guess is right, the secret is in that famous tank.

What’s in that tank?

It’s called an autonomous compressed air equipment and its purpose is basically to enable underwater breathing. Well, you may want to think of it as giving you temporary fish abilities (this may be cool or demeaning depending on your perspective). The reason for this is that for breathing to be successful, you need to have access to the kind of oxygen that is fit for human breathing. Underwater, oxygen is dissolved for aquatic life. You can’t breathe that kind of oxygen, so you need to bring along your own oxygen (like taking your lunch to work because you don’t want to eat unhealthy junk). The tank holds the oxygen you need to breathe in sufficient quantities so you can last underwater and return to the surface alive.

Where do the bubbles come from?

It’s simply the carbon dioxide being exhaled by the diver that’s piped out into the water through an exhaust valve. It’s when the CO2 breaks the surface that bubbles appear.

Great! These are the basics, but you are by no means ready to start SCUBA diving. Be on the lookout for subsequent blog-posts to learn more.