A History of the Snorkel: 5000 Years Ago to Today


Last Updated on July 2, 2023 by Snorkel Ken

Snorkeling Hanauma Bay, Hawaii. Circa: A While back.

You may be surprised that snorkeling didn’t start out as the luxury water adventure that it has become today. In fact, snorkel history can be traced back over 5,00 years and as the technology evolved the equipment has become advanced compared to way back when.

As far back as 3000 B.C.E, there is evidence that people were “snorkeling”, though they weren’t doing so in an attempt to forge underwater memories on a nice vacation. These people were going after natural sponges off the coast of Crete and breathing through the world’s first snorkel tube…a hollow reed.

The Evolution of Snorkeling Through the Years:snorkeling-history

  • 900 B.C.E- Assyrian divers used animal skins filled with air in order to lengthen the time they could spend below the surface of the water.
  • 333 B.C.E Alexander the Great encourages divers to develop and use the first diving bell, a large bell shaped object to trap air at the top as the bell (and a person) submerge.
  • 1538- Greeks in Spain (Toledo) submerge themselves in large diving bell-like contraption to the bottom of the Tagus River only to emerge later with dry clothes and a still burning candle. The masses are amazed!

Of course, there were limitations. The diving bell was great for staying down but it wasn’t much in the way of being easy to maneuver or see anything.

Aristotle wrote about divers who used a tube from that led from the surface to the divers down below. The first snuba? Anyway, Ari likened the tubes to the trunk of an elephant. The consummate Renaissance Man, Leo Da Vinci had many designs that he called diving or underwater apparatuses. Some were simple, others were a little bit complicated…like the design for a self contained diving suit. The guy even sketched up some diving gloves with webbed fingers…so that’s where we get today’s snorkel fins…Da Vinci!

Then came the problem with the history of the snorkel that would soon need to be tackled. Even the strongest set of lungs is unable to take breaths when down more than 2 feet of water…the water pressure is too strong. The tube from surface to diver was very limited. Then in 1771 the air pump was invented by John Smeaton of good ole’ Britain! This allowed divers to go to depths never before thought possible and breath pressurized air.  Pretty soon, designs for pressurized suits and chambers were again feasible. This eventually led to the invention of the SCUBA system was invented, the Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.

Today, SCUBA and snorkeling equipment are much more advanced and the most basic of snorkel gear and diving tools are a modern marvel! Modern day rubber and plastics make equipment durable and comfortable while offering maximum safety. Even the most novice swimmer and youngest people can enjoy the wonders under the ocean surface with the use of snorkel masks, goggles, and snorkel fins. These materials and gear are able to stand up to the corrosive salt water, be stored for long periods, and still be operational for years.

Enjoy snorkeling and the underwater world! There were many throughout the history of the snorkel who would have given anything for what you have today.


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