Underwater diving in popular culture

Movies, novels, TV series and shows, comics, graphic art, sculpture, games, myths, legends, and misconceptions. Fiction in general relating to all forms of diving, including hypothetical and imaginary methods, and other aspects of underwater diving which have become part of popular culture.



TV series

  • Sea Hunt  American action adventure television series from 1958 to 1961
  • Assignment: Underwater  American adventure television series from 1960 to 1961
  • Diver Dan  A series of 104 seven-minute live-action shorts made for children's television
  • H2O: Just Add Water  2006 children's television show from Australia
  • Man from Atlantis  American science fiction television series
  • Sealab 2020  Television cartoon series by Hanna-Barbera Productions
  • Sealab 2021  American animated television series (2000-2005)
  • Stingray  British children' Supermarionation television series}}




One of several illustrations of Alexander the Great being lowered into the sea from a boat inside a transparent cylinder, interpreted as a glass diving bell. The style of the illustration varies with the era and culture of the artist, but the basic subject remains much the same.

Political cartoon depicting Grover Cleveland.

Mural art showing an underwater scene with scuba divers,

Early 20th century whimsical advertising illustration.

Painting on ceramic commemorating a North Sea commercial offshore diving incident in 1979.



  • Subnautica - a 2014 open-world survival action-adventure video game
  • Subnautica: Below Zero - a 2019/2020 open-world survival action-adventure video game (sequel to the 2014 title Subnautica)

Awards and events



The 1951 movie The Frogmen used three-cylinder aqualungs, as shown on the DVD cover. At the time DESCO were making three-cylinder constant flow breathing sets that lacked the demand valve of the aqualung, but they were rarely deployed in the war, and the preferred system in the US armed forces was the rebreather developed by Christian J. Lambertsen.[1]

The 1958 film The Silent Enemy with Laurence Harvey as Lionel "Buster" Crabb, describes his exploits during World War II. It was made following the publicity created by Crabb's mysterious disappearance and likely death during a Cold War incident a year earlier.

The 1955 film Above Us the Waves, based on the 1953 book of the same title, includes a reenactment of Operation Title, the attempted attack by British frogmen on the Tirpitz in 1942. The film is notable for the efforts made to be historically accurate.[2]

The 1965 James Bond film Thunderball depicts an extended underwater battle, featuring frogmen.[3]

In the 1966 sci-fi film Fantastic Voyage and its accompanying novelization by Isaac Asimov, the character of former navy veteran and now government agent Charles Grant is referenced as a communications expert and experienced frogman.[4]

The film Submarine X-1, made in 1969, loosely based on the real Operation Source, depicts British World War II frogmen's equipment inaccurately. The breathing sets shown are open-circuit and are merely a very fat cylinder across the belly, with a black single-hose second-stage regulator such as was not invented until the 1960s. Also shown were ordinary recreational scuba weight belts and diving half-masks with elliptical windows. The frogmen in the real war operation mostly used Sladen suits and an early model of Siebe Gorman rebreathers with a backpack weight pouch containing lead balls releasable by pulling a cord.

The 1972 movie Tintin and the Lake of Sharks featured some frogmen among Mr. Rastapopolus's conspiracy.


Sea Hunt was an American action adventure television series that aired in syndication from 1958 to 1961 and was popular in syndication for decades afterwards. The series originally aired for four seasons, with 155 episodes produced. It stars Lloyd Bridges as former United States Navy frogman, Mike Nelson.

Derivative word usages

Some scuba diving clubs have an entry class called "Tadpoles" for younger children who want to start scuba diving.

Errors about frogmen found in public media

Incongruences in fiction

Many comics have depicted combat frogmen and other covert divers using two-cylinder twin-hose open-circuit aqualungs. All real covert frogmen use rebreathers because the stream of bubbles from an open-circuit set would give away the diver's position.

Many aqualungs have been anachronistically depicted in comics in stories set during World War II, when in reality at that time period aqualungs were unknown outside Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his close associates in Toulon in south France. Some aqualungs were smuggled out of occupied France during the war (these may have been Commeinhes regulators).

The movie The Frogmen, similarly, depicted frogmen using three-cylindered aqualungs, including on its movie poster. DESCO were making three-cylinder constant flow sets that lacked the demand valve of an aqualung, but they were rarely used in the war, and the preferred system was the rebreather developed by Christian J. Lambertsen.

Ian Edward Fraser V.C. in 1957 wrote a book Frogman V.C. about his experiences. Its dust cover depicted on it a frogman placing a limpet mine on a ship, wearing a breathing set with twin over-the-shoulder wide breathing tubes emitting bubbles from behind his neck, presumably drawn after an old-type aqua-lung.[5]

Drawing and artwork

There have been thousands of drawings (mostly in comics) of combat frogmen and other scuba divers with two-cylinder twin-hose aqualungs shown with one wide breathing tube coming straight out of each cylinder top with no regulator,[6][7][8] far more than of twin-hose aqualungs depicted accurately with a regulator, or of combat frogmen with rebreathers.

Twin-hose without visible regulator valve (fictional)

This type is mentioned here because it is very familiar in comics and other drawings, as a wrongly-drawn twin-hose two-cylinder aqualung, with one wide hose coming out of each cylinder top to the mouthpiece with no apparent regulator valve, much more often than a correctly-drawn twin-hose regulator (and often of such breathing sets being used by combat frogmen): see Frogman#Errors about frogmen found in public media. It would not work in the real world.[9]




  • In the film Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Tom Cruise plays super spy Ethan Hunt fighting the forces of evil, and goes freediving in a scene to expose the villains.
  • The Pearl by John Steinbeck (1947) is a novel about a poor pearl diver, Kino, who finds the 'Pearl of Heaven', which is exceptionally valuable, changing his life forever. The novel explores themes of man's nature as well as greed and evil.
  • In South Sea Adventure (1952) by Willard Price the Hunt brothers, marooned on a coral island, use free diving to collect both pearls and fresh water.
  • In Ian Fleming's (1964) James Bond novel You Only Live Twice, the character Kissy Suzuki is an ama diver. This connection was also mentioned in the film version.
  • Man from Atlantis was a 1970s TV series which featured a superhero with the ability to breathe underwater and freedive in his own special way.
  • The Big Blue (1988) is a romantic film about two world-class freedivers, a heavily fictionalized depiction of the rivalry of freedivers Jacques Mayol and Enzo Maiorca.
  • In the movie Phoenix Blue (2001), protagonist Rick is a musician who freedives competitively.
  • The children's novel The Dolphins of Laurentum by Caroline Lawrence (2003), which takes place in ancient Rome, describes the applications of freediving (sponge and pearl diving) and its hazards, as one of the principal characters, as well as the main antagonist, try to beat each other to a sunken treasure.
  • The Freediver (2004) is a film about a talented female freediver who is discovered and brought to an island, where she is trained by an ambitious scientist to break a freediving world record currently held by an American woman.
  • In the film Into the Blue (2005) starring Jessica Alba, a group of divers find themselves in deep trouble with a drug lord after they come upon the illicit cargo of a sunken airplane in the Caribbean. Jessica Alba is an accomplished freediver, and did much of the underwater work; some other stunts were performed by Mehgan Heaney-Grier.
  • In Greg Iles' novel Blood Memory (2005), the main character Cat Ferry is an odontologist and a freediver.
  • H2O: Just Add Water Series 3 added a freediver (Will Benjamin played by Luke Mitchell) as a regular. Freediving is featured in some episodes.
  • The Greater Meaning of Water (2010) is an independent film about competitive constant weight freediving, focusing on the 'zen' of freediving.
  • In the Canadian television series Corner Gas, the character Karen Pelly (Tara Spencer-Nairn) competed in static apnea, ranking fifth in Canada with a personal best of over six minutes.
  • In the American television series Baywatch episode "The Chamber" (Session 2, Episode 17), the character Mitch Buchannon rescues a diver trapped 90 feet below the ocean surface, but almost dies while suffering the effects of decompression sickness; decompression sickness is highly improbable following freediving exposure to this depth.


Common errors of fact and misunderstanding of the physics and physiology of diving in journalism and popular culture.

  • Use of "oxygen" as a breathing gas: Most recreational scuba diving uses air or other gas mixtures. reports in newspapers referring to the diver running out of oxygen may be technically correct, as it is hypoxia that kills the drowning victim, but references to "oxygen cylinders" are usually wrong, excepting in rare cases of oxygen rebreathers. In many cases it is obvious from the context that the breathing gas was air and the diver ran out of air, not oxygen.


  1. Vann RD (2004). "Lambertsen and O2: beginnings of operational physiology". Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine. 31 (1): 21–31. PMID 15233157. Retrieved 2009-03-25.
  2. Levine, Philippa; Grayzel, Susan R (2009). Gender, Labour, War and Empire: Essays on Modern Britain. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 160. ISBN 978-0230521193.
  3. "Production notes for Thunderball". MI6.co.uk. Archived from the original on 18 December 2007. Retrieved 30 December 2007.
  4. Asimov, Isaac (1966). "4 : Briefing". Fantastic Voyage (PDF).
  5. book: Frogman V.C., publisher: Angus & Robertson, London, 1957
  6. http://d1466nnw0ex81e.cloudfront.net/n_iv/600/809545.jpg This image of a comic page has an example of this error.
  7. Examples at ,
  8. "Frogman (Hillman) - Comic Book Plus". comicbookplus.com.
  9. Examples, and variations, at , ,
  10. "Ocean Men: Extreme Dive (2001)". IMDb. IMDb.com, Inc. 31 August 2001. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.