Aqualung - History of Aqualung

Aqualung

The aqualung was invented in Paris, France, in 1943. The inventors were an engineer named Émile Gagnan, and a French navy Lieutenant named Jacques Cousteau. The aqualung let people bring air with them when they went under water, without needing a hose to the surface. The modern name for the aqualung is SCUBA, meaning Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.

The aqualung works using a "regulator", or "demand valve". It lets a person breathe in and out through the same mouthpiece. The regulator connects to tanks of compressed air, and these attach to a vest the person can wear. SCUBA gear makes it possible to go far below the surface of seas and lakes, and stay there long enough to study sea life, explore shipwrecks and caves, or build underwater equipment.

  • Before the aqualung, the best tool to work underwater was the diving suit and helmet. They were heavy, and needed a hose that ran to an air compressor on land or a boat. These had been used for almost 100 years before Cousteau and Gagnan's invention.
  • Jacques Cousteau's father worked for a company in Paris that specialized in compressed gases. His father introduced Jacques to Émile Gagnan. Émile was an engineer who had been working on valve designs.
  • While testing their invention, they discovered the risks of deep sea diving. If they went too deep, they would get nitrogen narcosis, which caused crazy behavior. If they came up too fast, they would get "the bends", intense pain from expanding nitrogen bubbles in their blood.
  • Jacques Cousteau spent the rest of his life exploring the sea. He wrote books, made films, encouraged marine conservation, and showed the world the oceans in the television show, "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau".

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