Scuba diving is one of the best ways to explore the underwater world. It’s like going to an aquarium while having a chance to interact with the animals. Marine life is not shy—they are even curious about humans—and a scuba diver can often get close enough to touch them. Modern diving equipment has made the underwater world accessible to most people, but it is still an alien environment for humans. The equipment is important for surviving underwater so proper training is important.
Compressed Air Tank
Scuba diving requires a compressed-air tank, also called a cylinder or bottle, with a valve and a back pack or harness to hold it in place. Tanks are made from galvanized steel or aluminum, and better models have a vinyl coating in different colors. Since the tank’s inside can corrode due to moisture from the compressed air, better tanks have a nontoxic coating to prevent rust. Buoyant tanks that float when empty are best because they are easier to handle and easier for swimming. Different sizes are available from 72, 80 or 95 cubic feet of air. A valve on the neck of the tank provides the attachment for a regulator.
The regulator or demand valve is one of the most important pieces of scuba diving equipment because it delivers air from the tank to the diver by inhalation. The regulator has a mouthpiece attached to it. The regulator connects to the air tank on/off valve. The air in the tank is at a high pressure so the regulator reduces it to a safe pressure for breathing.
Scuba divers wear a mask because the human eye cannot focus in water. The mask traps a pocket of air in front of the eyes, which lets the diver see normally. Masks come in many designs, including the classic scuba mask with a single or double pane of glass inside a frame with a silicone rubber skirt and a strap or buckle to hold the mask in place.
Fins provide extra thrust in the water to overcome drag from the added weight of scuba diving equipment and to help the diver swim against a current. With fins, the diver only has to use the hands for minor adjustments of body direction. Fins are available with a close-fitting shoe attached to the fin or an open-heel design where a heel strap holds the fin in place.
Diving suits provide thermal protection or exposure protection while you are underwater. In warm tropical waters, you only need a “shortie” wetsuit made from neoprene with the arms and legs exposed. A full wetsuit made from neoprene provides more thermal protection for the arms and legs. A drysuit made from crushed neoprene is best for colder temperatures but is also harder to wear. It uses trapped air as an insulator.
Buoyancy Compensator (BC)
Scuba divers need a buoyancy compensator because humans do not have a way to adjust their ability to float while underwater. The BC is a jacket that can be inflated with air to control the diver’s buoyancy underwater and on the surface of the water. This jacket also serves as the harness for other equipment. The tank is usually attached to the BC.
About this Author
Based in Seattle, Greg Van Pelt has been writing technical documentation since 1997. His work has appeared in product documentation for various enterprise software companies from the Fortune 500. Mr. Van Pelt holds a Bachelor of Science in professional writing from the University of Houston.