Diving With A Vintage Aqualung

Last Saturday, I spend the day diving at Fantasy Lake.  I enjoyed two dives at 40-50 feet in the old quarry exploring a rock crusher, a metrobus, an airplane, and a glassbottom boat.  I also spent the second dive observing several green sunfish and striped bass.

The real treat was diving with a vintage early 1960’s Aqualung.  If you are unfamiliar, Aqualung was tied to Jacques Cousteau.  Actually it is a little more difficult than that.

in 1950, Rene Bussoz, owner of ‘Rene-Sports’ in Los Angeles, California,  became the exclusive U.S. distributor of the now famous “Aqua-Lung” diving regulator patented in 1945 by Jacques Yves Cousteau and Emile Gagnan (with all international patent rights assigned to the ‘Aire Liquide’ company, in France). Bussoz formed a new company called ” U.S. Divers Corporation” to administer the exclusive U.S.license – which had six year term.  The 1950 ‘Aqua-Lung’ regulator sold by U.S. Divers Corp. was the latest development of the original, French ‘CG45’ model of the Cousteau-Gagnan regulator and was assembled in Canada from French and Canadian-made parts. The regulator was a handsome unit, combining a satin chrome bottom case with a bright chrome top case, and sporting a black and chrome tag with the name “AQUA LUNG” prominently displayed.

The original Aqualungs were much different than today’s scuba equipment.  First, the regulator (the part you breath through) is double hosed. One hose delivers air from the tank to diver and the other moves your exhalation to a vent behind your head.  Modern regulators are single hosed, i.e. just bring air to the diver, and the exhalation is vented right from the regulator. Second, there is only one stage, i.e. the part that lowers the pressure of the highly compressed air in the tank so that you can breathe it. Modern systems have first, occurring at the tank, and second stages, at the regulator. Third and most interesting for the diver is you dive without a buoyancy compensation device (BCD).  The BCD is an inflatable vest attached to the airtank that can be in/defalted to adjust buoyancy.  With the old Aqualungs you took extra care to weight properly and buoyancy is controlled by breathing and controlling the air volume in the lungs.

I spent some considerably time trying to master the last one. Although to some extent, myself included, experienced divers with modern equipment still adjust depth by controlling lung air volume.  Usually this is just 10 feet or so.  I found mastering this over a range of 30 feet a bit difficult.  However, I found the minimal equipment, i.e. the lack of BC, and the venting of exhalation behind my head to feel freer underwater and more focused on the moment.

Feels like I will spending time in the very near future at Vintage Doublehose searching out my vintage rig..


Dr. M (1729 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, a National Science Foundation supported initiative. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web. His forthcoming book, Science of the South (http://www.scienceofthesouth.com/), connects cultural icons of South such as pecan pie with the science behind them.

3 comments on “Diving With A Vintage Aqualung
  1. Ok, now I’m really curious! I like the bubbles from the back, especially for photography! Cracking pressure? Trimix safe? Guess I have a bunch of reading ahead

  2. I own a 1 stage regulator that I bought back in the 60’s a few years ago I used it at a diving demonstration show and I had more people around me that I could handle, I ended up beeing the talk of the town.

    I sold all my gear since I can’t dive anymore but I keept the regulator, I’m thinking of selling it so if anyone is interested

    The regulator is in top shape and the hoses are a litthe dry but I would still use it (Lets be cautious and say in 5 feet of water)

    Gerald Boudreau
    Charny, Canada
    email: [email protected]

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