First Aqua-Lung dive
Last updated: June 4, 2018 at 19:00 pm
January 1943 — Jacques-Yves Cousteau tested the first Cousteau-Gagnan open-circuit scuba unit in the cold Marne River near Paris. Although the single-stage regulator worked fine when Cousteau swam horizontally, it free-flowed when he stood, and air flow stopped entirely when he positioned himself vertically with his head down (inverted). Mechanical modifications solved the problem and further testing was done in the Mediterranean during the first sea trials of the Aqua-Lung (known at the time as the détendeur Cousteau-Gagnan) at Bandol in June 1943. Philippe Tailliez and Frédéric Dumas waited on the beach while Cousteau dove alone under the watchful eye of his wife Simone as she snorkeled behind the villa owned by Tailliez at plage de Barry. At the first sign of trouble, Simone would have signaled Dumas—a renowned freediver—to rescue Cousteau.
The regulator underwent several modifications before being commercially marketed in France by Spirotechnique under the name scaphandre autonome Cousteau-Gagnan (a.k.a. CG45 ), and for export as the Aqua-Lung, in May, 1946.
“I conceived the importance bubbles were to have for us in the dives to come. As long as air boiled on the surface all was well below. If the bubbles disappeared there would be anxiety, emergency measures, despair. They roared out of the regulator and kept me company. I felt less alone.” — Jacques-Yves Cousteau | The Silent World
On October 26, 1997, a commemorative bronze plaque was unveiled during a ceremony attended by Philippe Tailliez and Jean-Michel Cousteau. Tailliez would remark that he had taken Cousteau’s eldest son diving at the very same location more than 50 years earlier.
The historic dive took place in a sheltered cove in order to conceal the activity from Italian occupation troops. Approximately one month later, on July 30, 1943, Georges Commeinhes dove to the record depth of 53 m (174 ft) with his GC.47 open-circuit scuba during a less discreet demonstration for the Marine nationale (French Navy) and the German Kriegsmarine. Commeinhes’ open-circuit scuba was invented before the Aqua-Lung.
The video posted below was filmed after the first test of the Aqua-Lung in the Mediterranean. Although Jacques-Yves Cousteau narrates that the first Aqua-Lung dive in the sea took place in 1942, it actually took place in June 1943.
Jacques-Yves Cousteau et Frédéric Dumas, Le Monde du silence, Éditions de Paris, Paris, Dépôt légal 1er trimestre 1954 – É. N° 228 – I. N° 741 (pp. 10-11)
Association du Musée Frédéric Dumas
EDITOR’S NOTE: The video posted below was filmed after the first test of the Aqua-Lung in the Mediterranean. Although Jacques-Yves Cousteau narrates that the first Aqua-Lung dive in the sea took place in 1942, it actually took place in June 1943.
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Jeffrey Gallant is the Editor-in-Chief and Records Keeper of the Diving Almanac. He is also a contributing editor of DIVER Magazine, and the scientific director of the Greenland Shark and Elasmobranch Education and Research Group (GEERG). Jeffrey started diving in 1982.