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Myterious History of Freediving

Updated: Dec 5, 2021

Although there is some speculative information especially in the section of freediving and human evolution relations from very ancient times, you can find interesting information about the development and evolution of free diving systematically below. I hope you enjoy reading.


Scientists have come to believe that we humans have spent millions of years of our evolutionary development as a semi-aquatic being. Not as a half-human, half-fish creature with a gill, but as an aquatic ape. Standing upright on the shallows to breathe and escape from land predators, our ancestors used their hands to gather easily harvested foods high in protein and omega fats, which help facilitate brain development. As a theory, the idea of ​​aquatic monkeys is also claimed to help explain the layer of subcutaneous fat under our skin that keeps us warm; wrinkling of our fingertips after being in water for a long time, making it easier to hold objects underwater; and, of course, the famous "mammal diving reflex", which allows us to free dive deeper, safer and longer. Research also shows that if trained early enough, our eyes can adapt to seeing underwater, and that babies' eyes open when immersed in water, their epiglottis close, and they can "float" back to the surface. (We cover the mammalian diving reflex in another blog post. Check out the blog section.)


Ancient History


In terms of our more recent history, we know the fact that humans have been freediving for food for at least 8,000 years. Archaeologists investigating the mummified remains of the Chinchorian, an ancient people who lived in what is today Chile around 6,000 years ago, found that they suffered from exostosis, a condition in which ear canal bones begin to grow to help protect the ear canal. eardrum from repeated exposure to cold water. A condition known as "surfer's ear" in modern parlance, the Chinchorian and the like were freediving for food and goods, not for pleasure but for trade. Pearls and sponges were among the first underwater items to find value among land-based societies and those who did not have the skills to dive for them. In 332 BC, Alexander the Great famously used free divers to remove underwater booms that prevented his ships from entering the harbor during the siege of Tire.


Sponge Divers and the Birth of Modern Diving


In 1913, Greek sponge diver Stotti Georghios, combining war and trade, dived more than 60 meters to find the lost anchor of Regina Margherita, the pride of the Italian navy. Stotti was not a Greek god; weakened by pulmonary emphysema and half-deaf with perforated eardrums, he had sunk for more than three minutes, descending into the depths by clinging to a giant boulder and tying a rope around his waist so that he could be pulled back to the surface. It was a very primitive form of no-limit freediving, he managed to grab the anchor and was rewarded with a prize of £5, which was then the prince's, and a lifetime license to fish with dynamite…


Despite the story of Stotti Georghios making headlines, freediving in those days was not a recreational vehicle, especially due to the cold, restricted vision and equalization problems. In 1927, Jacques O'Marchal invented the first mask designed to cover the nose, and in 1938 Maxime Forjot developed a compressible rubber pouch to cover the nose, which allows divers to pinch their nostrils shut, making it easier to pinch the nostrils.


Another Frenchman, Louis de Corlieu, patented the pallets as "floating propellers" in 1933. Its design was later changed and mass-produced by an American, Owen Churchill. Seeing its potential for wartime use, Britain and the USA bought it in large quantities during the Second World War. In 1951, a physics student and diver named Hugh Bradner developed the first neoprene diving suits, and the US Navy snatched them up for use by sailors this time in the Korean War.


1949 was the birth of modern freediving as we know it, when the Hungarian-born Italian air force captain Raimondo Bucher dived 30m to the bottom of the sea near Naples on a bet. Scientists predicted he would die from the crushing pressure at that depth, but he returned to the surface unharmed and 50,000 lire richer.


Over the next two decades, freediving exploded in popularity, featuring the trio of Bob Croft, Jacques Mayol, and Enzo Majorca, offering a dizzying mix of competition, science and fun.


Modern Freediving


Bob Croft, a diving instructor in the U.S. Navy, spent 25 hours a week in a 30-metre-deep tank teaching submarines crashed soldiers how to evade submarines. There he began his breath-hold training and was soon able to hold his breath for more than six minutes. These incredible abilities followed him by working as a guinea pig for Navy scientists who wanted to explore whether the phenomenon known as "blood pooling" witnessed in diving mammals could also occur in humans. Croft also uses lung packing, which stores extra air in the lungs before a dive or holding a breath.


Encouraged by his colleagues, Croft set three depth records over an 18-month period, and in 1967 became the first person to dive beyond 64 meters (the depth that scientists believe is the physiological depth limit for freediving). He tried to reach a depth of 73m in 1968 before retiring from competitive freediving.


Enzo Majorca, an Italian, broke his first world record with 45 meters in 1960 and became the first person to exceed 50 meters in 1962. He continued to set records until 1974, when he collided with a scuba instructor while attempting to reach 90 metres. Upon surfacing, Majorca cried out her frustrations with a flood of swear words - this was captured by live TV cameras that were on hand to record her moment of victory. He was later banned from racing for 10 years. His official return to the sport in 1988 was a dive to 101 metres, his last before retiring. His daughters Patrizia and Rossana have continued to make Majorca proud by breaking several world freediving records.


Luc Besson's film Big Blue fictionalized the competitive relationship between Enzo Majorca and Jacques Mayol. Jacques, a Frenchman, was the first person to break the 100m barrier and also served as a test diver for science, demonstrating that during this dive his heart rate dropped from 60 beats per minute to 27 beats per minute. Science always found an explanation when it came to explaining the incredible feats of freedivers, and the CMAS, the governing body of the time, panicked as the depths Mayol and Majorca were descending more and more, so much so that in the early seventies, they had to approve records to deter further deep dives. decided to stop. However, this did not stop the record attempts, and in 1988, Italian Angela Bandini stunned everyone in the world with a 107-metre dive.


Freediving as a Sport


The competitive world of freediving brought many more divers to the fore in the nineties and continues to do so today. Apart from Tanya Streeter, Umberto Pelizarri, Natalia Molchanova, William Trubridge and Herbert Nitsch, many more legendary free divers have achieved success.


When Tanya Streeter started freediving in her mid-twenties, she immediately began breaking records, reaching 113 meters in a No Limit dive in 1998. As a fearless competitor, he has twice set deeper than men's records: the Unlimited dive to 160m in 2003 and the Variable Weight record of 122m unbroken for seven years.


In addition, Italian Umberto Pelizzari, who illuminated the world of free diving in the 90s, broke Free Diving records with Fixed Weight, Variable Weight and No Limit. He founded the freediving agency Apnea Academy, wrote a freediving guide, and today teaches and works as a TV presenter and university professor.


The late Natalia Molchanova set 40 world records to date and was still breaking records in her fifties. She holds the world record for every woman except for one No Limit variant she has never tried. Molchanova became the first woman to cross the 100 meters in the Constant Weight discipline and reach 101 meters in 2009. He set five new world records that year and took all five gold medals at the two AIDA individual world championships.


Double world record holder William Trubridge is the first person to dive 100 meters without a flipper in the Constant Weight discipline. (Until 2003, it was not even possible to reach this depth without pallets.)


Herbert Nitsch is an Austrian freediver who has set 32 ​​world records in each freediving discipline. He holds the current No Limit world record after descending to 214m - a depth that is unlikely to be beaten for many years due to extreme difficulty and risks.


As you can see, the standard of competitive freediving is rising every year, with the number of freedivers interested in such a great sport. There are now modern freediving schools that offer high-quality freediving courses that were unimaginable a decade ago.


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