Legends of Diving Articles
Birth of a Sport
The Early Regulators
diaphragm operated demand regulator was developed in France
by Benoit Rouquayrol, a mining engineer, and August
Denayrouse, a naval lieutenant during the period 1863 to
The unit consisted of a volume tank made of copper,
approximately 20 inches long by 10 inches in diameter. This
was mounted horizontally across the diver's back. Attached
to the top was a single stage, lever operated, demand
regulator. On the end of the cylinder a shut off valve
connection was provided for attachment of a surface supplied
Working pressure of the cylinder was limited to 250-350 psi
at that time, providing only a short duration of air as a
back-up if the surface air supply was cut off.
Patents were obtained in 1865 on the entire unit as well as
the regulating devices in a single stage and two stage
concept. The unit was called the "Aerophore " and saw use by
the French Navy for a period of 7 years. In addition, it was
introduced to the sponge fishing industry. Later, a rubber
suit and full face mask was added to the design for more
Jules Verne in 1870 equipped his divers in his novel "TWENTY
THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA" with the Aerophore
In 1875, a triple tank unit was offered, mounted upright on
the diver's back with the regulator attached at an angle to
prevent hitting the back of the diver's head. This was
introduced in the field with a higher pressure air supply
allowing more useful time under water.
In 1926, Commander Yves Le Prieur and Maurice Femez
developed a hand controlled free flow unit using a 38 cu.ft.
1,800 psi cylinder. In 1927 a full face mask was added by Le
Prieur. Classes and demonstrations were conducted in the use
of the apparatus in swimming pools and the open ocean.
In December 1942, with the occupation of France, the French
Navy became inactive and a young Naval lieutenant found
himself pursuing a dream of a completely automatic breathing
device. Jacques-Yves Costeau made contact with Air Liquide
CIE, the major gas equipment company in Europe. There he was
introduced to a young Canadian gas engineer, Emile Gagnan.
Together they took an existing butane gas regulating device
and reworked it for underwater use. The initial concept had
only one hose and a Fernez mouth piece. Unfortunately, it
free flowed air in certain position underwater. In February
of 1943, the initial two hose regulator concept was born
with a flapper type exhaust valve located at the diaphragm
level. Later a patent was granted on the two hose concept
and exhalation system.
In 1946, La Spirotechnique was formed to produce the first
regulators in Europe. The "Aqua-Lung" regulator became a
Icorn, international dive legend, presents this article in the dive
legends series. Icorn attended the first instructor's course in the
United States at Scripps Institute in 1953. From there he has gone on to
an illustrious career in diving with many awards. Read more on
Nick Icorn, a legend at the Third Annual International Legends Festival
at the Portage Quarry in August, 2008.
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