Exploring the ocean and breathing underwater independently has had a long, but slow history. 5,000 years ago reeds were used. Aristotle records divers using a tube looking like an elephant’s trunk for breathing underwater.
However, the actual word snorkel only surfaced in the 1930s and then in relation to submarines. The invention of the “schnorchel”, an air tube, provided German submarines with fresh air. In English the Navy used two words “snort” and “schnorkel” to describe a sort of huge periscope which allowed submarines to remain submerged for longer periods. It was used to take fresh air on board without resurfacing .
It did not take long for this meaning to catch on for individual scientific and leisure swimming. Popularised by Jacques Cousteau, it had become standard use in English by the early 1950s. All that was required is a mask and a tube of about 40 centimetres long. And of course ideal conditions – sun, small waves and mild weather – this makes for a good diving experience, with good visibility and easy swimming.
It was the German word which caught the imagination and is used internationally, e.g. in French and Italian as snorkelling and Spanish as esnórquel. Sounds a lot better than going snorting.
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