Free diving facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Junko-Kitahama Apnea-Monofin cropped
Freediver with monofin, ascending

Free diving is diving underwater (usually in the ocean) without using a breathing apparatus (air carried in tanks on their backs). Free divers practice holding their breath for long periods of time so that they can stay underwater a long time.

Usually free divers stay underwater for about 45 seconds. That allows them to explore 30 feet underwater, which is where most marine life lives.

Free diving equipment includes a mask, snorkel, fins, wetsuit and weightbelt.

Dangers of free diving include:

  • becoming panicked
  • passing out because of lack of oxygen
  • possible death from drowning if you are not trained well and if you go too deep into the water

History

Sponges
Natural sponges have been harvested by freedivers near the Greek island of Kalymnos since at least the time of Plato.

Underwater diving was practised in ancient cultures to reclaim sunken valuables, and to help aid military campaigns. In ancient times free diving without the aid of mechanical devices was the only possibility, with the exception of the occasional use of reeds and leather breathing bladders. The divers faced the same problems as divers today, such as decompression sickness and blacking out during a breath hold. Because of these dangers, diving in antiquity could be quite deadly.

Underwater diving for commercial, rather than recreational purposes may have begun in Ancient Greece, since both Plato and Homer mention the sponge as being used for bathing. The island of Kalymnos was a main centre of diving for sponges. By using weights (skandalopetra) of as much as 15 kilograms (33 lb) to speed the descent, breath-holding divers would descend to depths up to 30 metres (98 ft) for as much as 5 minutes to collect sponges. Sponges weren't the only valuable harvest to be found on the sea floor; the harvesting of red coral was also quite popular. A variety of valuable shells or fish could be harvested in this way creating a demand for divers to harvest the treasures of the sea, which could also include the sunken riches of other seafarers. The Ama Divers from Japan began to collect pearls about 2,000 years ago.

The Mediterranean had large amounts of sea base trade. As a result, there were many shipwrecks, so divers were often hired to salvage whatever they could from the seabed. Divers would swim down to the wreck and choose the most valuable pieces to salvage. These salvage divers faced many dangers on the job, and as a result, laws, such as the Lex Rhodia, were enacted that awarded a large percentage of the salvage to the divers; in wrecks deeper than 50 feet, divers received one third of the salvage and in wrecks deeper than 90 feet they received half.

Divers were also used in warfare. Defenses against sea vessels were often created, such as underwater barricades aimed at sinking enemy ships. As the barricades were hidden under the water, divers were often used to scout out the sea bed when ships were approaching an enemy harbor. Once these barricades were found it was divers who were used to disassemble them, if possible. During the Peloponnesian War, divers were used to get past enemy blockades to relay messages as well as supplies to allies or troops that were cut off by the blockade. On top of all that these ancient frogmen were used as saboteurs, drilling holes in enemy hulls, cutting ships rigging and mooring.

Overview

Freediving is a technique used with various aquatic activities. Examples of recognized freediving activities are (non-) competitive freediving, (non-) competitive spearfishing, freediving photography and mermaid shows. Less recognized examples of freediving include, but are not limited to, synchronized swimming, underwater rugby, underwater hockey, underwater hunting other than spearfishing, underwater target shooting and snorkeling. The discussion remains whether freediving is only a synonym for breath-hold diving or whether it describes a specific group of underwater activities. The term 'freediving' is often associated with competitive breath-hold diving or competitive apnea.

Competitive

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Monofin freediver holding his breath and swimming underwater

Competitive freediving is currently governed by two world associations: AIDA International (International Association for Development of Apnea) and CMAS (World Underwater Federation). Most types of competitive freediving have in common that it is an individual sport based on the best individual achievement. An exception to this rule is the bi-annual World Championship for Teams, held by AIDA, where the combined score of the team members makes up the team's total points. There are currently nine disciplines used by official governing bodies and a dozen disciplines that are only practiced locally. In this article, the recognized disciplines of AIDA and CMAS will be described. All disciplines can be done by both men and women and, while done outdoors, no differences in the environment between records are recognized any longer. The disciplines of AIDA can be done both in competition and as a record attempt, with the exception of Variable Weight and No limits, which are both done solely as record attempts.

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