One of the most unique ways to see the North Carolina coast is by partaking in the sport of scuba diving. Known for its countless shipwrecks and proximity to the Gulf Stream, the waters off the North Carolina coastline have attracted scuba divers from all over the world.
Whether the diver wants to encounter a sand tiger shark or simply dig for artifacts in wrecks that are up to hundreds of years old, it can be found in North Carolina.
With plenty of launching points and a variety of specialty dives to choose from, divers have many options available in all skill levels.
For newcomers, the sport of scuba diving might just present a new and exciting way to explore the North Carolina beaches - from the bottom of the ocean up.
The History of Scuba Diving
The history of scuba diving is surprisingly long. It originated thousands of years ago, and many civilizations throughout history have engaged in breath-hold diving, also known as free-diving. The evidence of early free-diving has been determined by the presence of sea items found on land, as well as ancient pictures of divers. Many ancient civilizations used free-diving to spearfish, as well as a form of entertainment. The Ancient Greeks are well known for being free-divers, as they free-dove to hunt for sponges, or to practice and strategize for the military.
Some of the early attempts in the history of scuba diving to dive with the use of air include snorkeling with hollow reeds using air-filled bags, and the use of diving bells. Diving bells were watertight chambers on cables, and the bell was designed to remain full of air as it was pushed under water, allowing a few divers to be transported down. These methods were not very efficient, however, and do not closely resemble scuba diving as we know it today. The reeds did not allow divers to go deep into the water, as the air-filled bags soon filled with carbon-monoxide as the air was exhaled, and diving bells did not allow the divers much mobility.
The first diving suits came along much later, first used in France and England. They were made out of leather, and air was pumped into them from the surface with manual pumps. Once it was discovered that metal could be used to make helmets, these suits were able to withstand greater pressure. With air manually pumped into these helmets, divers were able to enter deeper into the ocean, enabling scuba diving to take a big step forward.
It was not until the 19th century that the research was done to develop modern scuba diving as we know it today. Paul Bert from France and John Scott Haldane from Scotland conducted scientific research on water pressure and the human body's limits regarding safe compressed air diving. At the same time, new technologies allowed for the development of air pumps, scuba regulators and other specialized equipment for the sport. Throughout the world, scuba diving was becoming more prominent.
Throughout the 20th century, scuba equipment improved. Swim fins, masks and other scuba gear became available. In the 1950s, the public began to take interest in scuba diving as a recreational activity. Scuba gear shops began to open up and the first wet suit was introduced. Popular movies about diving and ships, including Titanic in 1997, continue to interest new divers and inspire veterans of the history-filled and adventurous sport of scuba diving.
In recent years, as the sport has grown and equipment has advanced, world records on depth and length of time in the water have been shattered. In 2003, Mark Ellvatt of Thailand set the world record of deepest dive, at 313 meters. The following year, Verna van Schaik of South Africa broke the record for deepest dive by a female, at 221 meters.
But, recreational divers do not have to test their limits or challenge international record breakers to enjoy the sport. With diving classes available throughout the East Coast, particularly along the North Carolina beaches, the sport is available to anyone who is willing to take the time and patience to learn.