Old School Scuba

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Recently saw an old movie made in 1954. It featured scuba diving off the coast of Mexico in which the divers encounter a sea monster. The credits state that it was filmed on location in the ocean. What intrigued me since I've only been diving for a couple years is that the divers basically used a tank with shoulder straps, a two hose regulator and a weight belt. No gauges, no BCD, no computers, no, depth gauges, no dive watches, no nothing.

Apparently diving back in the day was pretty simple. How did they control boyauncy? It didn't look like they went very deep in the movie, maybe 20-30 feet but still.
How did they control boyauncy?
1) they didn't worry about it nearly so much
2) they carried clip weights during descent, left them on the anchor line, put them back on as they got lighter.
3) touching the bottom was Ok then
Some people still dive that way for fun. Your lungs will get you a few pounds buoyancy swing from full to to empty, so if your weighting is right on, just controlling your breathing is enough to deal with the weight change from a full to empty steel 72. Put a J-valve on the tank, and it retains a 300 to 500 psi reserve until you pull the lever (dive until it starts breathing hard, pull the lever and end the dive).
You generally still want a timer, but most people will be hard pressed to get bent on a single 72. Timer and tables will definitely keep you safe, though.

I'm not saying anyone should dive this way, but it's liberating like you wouldn't believe!


Many years ago, I dressed up as Lloyd Bridges in vintage gear for an underwater costume contest. That was the exact rig I dove in.

Buoyancy was not too hard, breath control and hand paddling. But not having a gauge was different. I had used my SAC rate to predict how much air I would use over a 20 minute dive (72 cft tank). After the dive I put a gauge on the tank to check remaining air against what I predicted. I was embarassingly way off in my prediction. That's why they had J valves, lol.
I had used my SAC rate to predict how much air I would use over a 20 minute dive (72 cft tank).

It was simpler than that. The regulators of the day and well into the 1960s would start to breathe noticeably harder around 500 PSI. That gave you plenty of time to leave the bottom at 60'/minute, which was the USN ascent rate at that time, and get to the surface before you were unable to get any gas.
I've done the great majority of my dives, starting back in the 60s, with just a J valve and enough weight, learned through experience, to give me slightly negative buoyancy while wearing my 3/8 inch Sharkskin wetsuit. It was not until the mid-70s that I was able to get an SPG, and not until the 80s for a BCD. I lived in Jamaica for a year back in the 70s, dived almost every day with nothing but a J valve tank, my trusty Mk 5, fins, mask, and some weight. I did use a cheap dive watch on deep dives. I miss the feeling of freedom, that simplicity, that unobstructed ease. I see divers these days on head boats in the Caribbean festooned with more junk than an astronaut. I see local NJ divers doing inlet dives where the deepest point might be 30 feet using a computer. I wonder "what the hell?''
To be fair, I always use a computer.... But mainly for ease of logging. If the computer didn't make it that easy, I wouldn't keep a log!
OK, I see your point. I stopped keeping a log about 40 years ago, and so far so good. On shallow dives I use a small SPG. I wear a slim vintage Dacor depth gauge on my wrist only because I'm fond of the little thing. Takes me back. I really don't pay much attention to what it reads. I use my computer during tropical headboat dives, mainly because they require one. Otherwise I'd have to rent one of theirs.
Was it Creature from the Black Lagoon? I learned in the 70's with that gear except the new Aqualung single hose regulators were the in thing. I learned "harassment" diving...they would hold you under...remove your gear...turn off the valves....pull your weight belt off...rip your mask off and regulator out of your mouth....hold you down...etc...those damn navy instructors were no fun

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