Man has been breath-hold diving since the beginning of time and he has been diving out of bells or buckets with an entrapped air supply from before the time of Christ.

Surfaced supplied diving, as we know it, began in about 1800 with the development of air pumps. During the next 100 years or so, an incredible amount of useful work was accomplished under water by thousands of divers who, almost to a man, were completely without the slightest understanding of the physiological laws they were daily transgressing.

click here to view a larger version As far back as 1777 there was an insatiable curiosity about cave diving, exploring the unknown, with the first known cave dive made in France in 1878. Dives were also made in Britain, Switzerland and Austria in the final year of the century. In 1934 a 90-metre dive was made in Switzerland and the following year the initial chambers of Wookey Hole (England) were explored to 50 metres. All these were made with "Standard Diving Equipment" with its familiar globe-shaped helmet and sturdy air pipes fed by surface pumps. The first cave dive on air: Nitrogen and Oxygen was done at Wookey Hole in December 1956.

Normal cavers were tackling short flooded sections of passage using rudimentary homemade equipment. After the war "Frogman" equipment was used by British and Italian divers while the "aqualung" was employed by the French. It was the latter, with compressed air, that has steadily developed to become todayís "standard cave- diving equipment". The first self-contained aqualung attempt was made on a cave in August 1946 the site chosen - Fontaine de Vaucluse the diver - Jacques Yves Cousteau. Since the 60's cavers have adapted diving skills to explore the turbid sumps of inland systems.

click here to view a larger version Open water divers were concentrating on the spacious, clear water passages of France, the West Indies, Australia, United States, and South Africa. Each group brought their technical know-how to solve the problems of visibility, distance, temperature and depth in ever more challenging flooded cave networks. During the past twenty-years the physiological dangers of prolonged underwater activity at depth have been steadily mastered. The sport has become international with ideas and technologies now rapidly circulated. The depth record has been pushed around 282metres in South Africa and Mexico while the longest dives, often assisted by underwater scooters, are now reaching distances in excess of 5000 metres in France and the United States, the latter at depths of around 90 metres. Yet the sport remains hazardous, itís dangers manageable only by excellent training, high-quality equipment, skilful planning, monitoring and judgement and an iron nerve. Its eventful history will surely be of interest to all adventure sport people who will surely identify with the disciplines needed to explore this daunting underwater world.

Technical diving is the use of advanced and specialised equipment and techniques to enable the diver to gain access to depth, dive time, and specific underwater environment, beyond accepted sport diving limits, more safely than might otherwise be possible.