Whatever Happened to the Oval Scuba Diving Mask?
Why the Oval Scuba Mask got replaced with modern designs
Scuba diving equipment today looks a lot different than it has in the past. The scuba mask has been one of the most evolved pieces of scuba equipment. Many people may think that the air tanks and regulators are more important but without access to your eyes and nose, you would never get past the first atmosphere of pressure.
The History of the Scuba Dive Mask
Protecting the eyes of a diver started with crazy full helmets that attached to dive suits. Before that, divers simply braved the elements. Many people would surface after diving with horrible red eyes. Can you imagine trying to keep your eyes open under the sea?
When the scuba mask, as we would recognize it hit the market, it was called a proto-mask. It was a simple piece of glass that used rubber to create a seal around the eyes and nose. By the early 1900’s we start to see the oval single lens scuba masks that feature a more traditional scuba diving look.
The problem with these oval masks was that there was no way to equalize the ears. The nostrils were not accessible from outside of the mask. These medium profile masks would have to be lifted; you would equalize your ears. After this you had to clear mask. Talk about a hassle, especially if you’re not the best at clearing your mask or if you have to equalize often.
If they didn’t choose to equalize their ears in the oval mask that way, they would wear nose clips to keep their nostrils closed the whole dive. The nose clips allowed divers in oval masks the ability to clear their Eustachian tubes without flooding their mask. The only problem was that the nose clips were very uncomfortable. If you couldn’t tolerate these, you had to figure something else out.
It took until 1952 that Cressi introduced a mask with a dedicated nose pocket. The Cressi Pinocchio mask made it possible to equalize when diving which was a major innovation to scuba masks and scuba diving itself. The mask is produced until this day and you can still purchase it at Amazon!
Around 1959 US Divers Catalogue released their first equalizer mask. They called this mask the Aqua-Pressure. It featured indentations in the rubber that allowed you to pinch your nose.
Even with the oval masks evolving to allow for equalizing the ears, there were still many problems for scuba divers. Oval masks had limited fields of vision because of the space required to house the nose within the lens. There was also a high volume of air, meaning when the mask flooded they were hard to clear.
Moving the nose outside of the lens solved these problems for the scuba divers. Not only did they minimize the volume of the mask, but they also solved the problems previously encountered with equalizing.
The evolution in materials also changed the shape of scuba masks. Silicone allowed for clearer sides and lower profile goggles. There were also introductions of things like prescription dive lenses or lens clips for prescription vision lenses.
Advantages of modern diving masks vs. oval scuba masks?
A lot of people like the retro look of the oval scuba diving masks, and you may have seen one or two of them on your last dive trip. With these relics making a comeback, you may be wondering what the advantages of modern diving masks are?
- Easy equalizing
- Low Mask Volume
- Wide Field Of View
Frequently equalizing the ears is one of the most important tenets of scuba diving. Not equalizing your ears can result in a rupture of the eardrum and even permanent hearing loss. It’s not surprising that the best advantage of the modern diving masks is the easy equalizing provided by the enclosed nostril space.
Every scuba diver has had to clear their mask at depth at least once in their lifetime. Especially if your no fog stopped working halfway through a dive. Having a low volume mask makes clearing your mask easier. New diving masks are low volume, and they are much easier to clear than the oval masks.
Finally, the field of view on modern scuba masks is much better. Being able to look down and have sight is excellent when descending. The peripheral vision is also a great benefit to divers. This can help with the enjoyment of your diving experience. Also, the increased field of vision reduces disorientation and motion sickness that can occur for people at depth.
Whether you are considering an oval diving mask for looks or fun, it may not be the most practical piece of diving equipment you will own. They are not user-friendly, as a modern diving mask. Equalizing in an oval mask will take a lot of practice. Finally, may find yourself quickly switching back to your modern diving mask.