Everyone has seen the stereotypical cyclops snorkel mask from years ago. It may seem like it has evolved effortlessly over time, but companies have put in many hours and dollars into making the mask what it is today.
You may be surprised to learn that the shape and design of the modern day mask have been attributed to drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, in the 1500s. He drew a suit made of leather that would allow people to go underwater to attack invading ships.
Even though the mask started its journey long ago, it wasn’t until the 1900s that it took a modern day shape. The first prototypes included material ranging from leather and bicycle tubing. It was in the ‘40s that masks entered mass production. Their single piece of oval shaped glass has been seen in movies like James Bond.
This first version of the mask was great for snorkeling at the surface but wasn’t the best at any depth. The materials it was made of couldn’t handle the increasing pressure produced by the water and would let water in. This spurred researchers to create a mask that would stand up to the rigors of mother nature and the sea.
Understanding the evolution of your mask will help you be able to select the best one for your next adventure. Ready to get started? Let’s go.
The original scuba mask was framed using a black rubber material. While this rubber did the job of binding the lens to the frame of the mask it also came with many downfalls. The dark material didn’t allow light through which made your view of the underwater world much dimmer. This also limited your range of view making it so that you experience some tunnel vision in the water.
The shortcomings of this rubber skirt went beyond cosmetics. This material was not very durable. Melting in the summer and deformation and shrinking in colder weathers shortened the lifespan of these masks. Losing elasticity, shrinking and other degradation made it so scuba masked often lasted a mere season. They also required much more stringent care and maintenance than modern masks.
Welcomed advancements in technology have led to a much more desirable silicone style mask. Much more durable than rubber, silicone has endless advantages. With better heat and UV resistance these masks have been found to last much longer. Originally, a cloudy silicone was used. This allowed light to enter but still limited some vision. The modern mask is made using clear silicone which completely eliminates tunnel vision and allows you to see with ease. Silicone when exposed to oxygen still becomes foggy but can be easy to fix.
Throughout the years the lens of a mask has changed significantly. It was first made from plastic or glass depending on the manufacturer. The issue was that this type of material (especially plastic) was prone to scratches that drastically affected the diver. Mask lens glass was made by a process that involved bonding two layers of glass with polyvinyl butyral in between. This would give the lens more durability and allow it to go in deeper water
It wasn’t until the ‘30s that tempered glass became the ideal type of glass. But that being said, it was expensive and not found on all masks. This only happened throughout the ‘70s as it was a safer and more durable type of glass. The only drawback was that companies infused iron into the lens which gave it a green hue. This was a pretty big complaint as it made it more difficult to see through.
You’d be surprised that it wasn’t until almost 2010 that a company figured out how to make tempered glass without this green color. You can still get lenses made from plastic, but still, have the same proneness to scratching they did back in the day.
Globo Surf Overview
The mask has developed nicely over the years. No longer do we need to strap a mask made with leather and bicycle tubing to our face. Instead of the limited depths of early masks, we can dive to our heart’s content today. There are still things we need to do to take care of our new mask, so be sure to properly prepare your new mask before your next trip. This will ensure you have an amazing time on your vacation.
- Leonardo De Vinci, Biography
Did you know the history of snorkel masks? Let us know if this information was useful to you in the comment section below.