I went scuba diving once. It was a free lesson. In a pool. I guess that doesn’t really count. But it was fun strapping on the air tank and diving mask and submerging myself for five minutes without having to come up for air. I wished I could have seen a bit better, though.
Anyone who has ever gone scuba diving or snorkeling knows that being able to see clearly underwater is essential, especially in the ocean. In addition to seeing fish, coral and other marine life, divers and snorkelers need to navigate and steer clear of obstacles. Some divers wear soft contact lenses, but wearing eyeglasses underneath a diving mask isn’t practical. However, prescription dive masks are available from a few vendors.
To learn what goes into making these specialized optical devices, I turned to SeaVision, a Clearwater, Florida company that is a division of Icare Industries. Making prescription dive masks and swim goggles is all that SeaVision does, and they’ve been at it for about 25 years.
John Palange, customer service expert at SeaVision, told me it’s not easy to produce a prescription dive mask, which is why so few companies offer them. “The biggest technical challenge is frame size,” Palange explained. “Dive masks are so much larger than eyeglass frames, so we use a pretty large blank, around 83 mm. The blanks are made of standard plastic material.”
I had assumed special equipment was needed to create the prescription, but Palange said the lenses are surfaced using conventional equipment. However, he said the edgers are modified to accommodate the bigger blanks. “Sometimes, a little grinding wheel work is needed, but it’s automated,” he added.
Once the lenses are edged, they are inserted through the front of the mask. Then a retainer ring is snapped in around the edges to hold the lens in place. “It takes a little finesse and thumb strength,” noted Palange.
To see how lenses are inserted into dive masks, watch this YouTube video
Ordering a prescription dive mask from SeaVision is straightforward. Customers just need to supply their prescription and PD. They get a choice of single vision or round seg bifocal and two filters: magenta for vivid, natural colors and a yellow to enhance low light diving. Three different mask styles are available. The average turnaround time for an order is 10 to 14 days.
While researching and writing this article, I remembered that when I was about five years old I became fascinated by the idea that people could stay underwater for a while without having to come up for air. My curiosity was piqued by watching Diver Dan, a syndicated children’s show that aired in the early 1960s.
For those who never saw the show, Diver Dan was a friendly fellow who “explores a magical undersea world ‘peopled’ by talking fish and ruled by a beautiful and wise mermaid,” as imdb.com
notes. Here’s how the website describes it, “Much of the drama is fueled by the nefarious Baron Barracuda and his henchfish Trigger who, ‘dripping’ with evil intent, scheme to eliminate Dan and destroy the peace and serenity of the inhabitants.”
Those of us old enough to remember Diver Dan might also recall the show’s theme song:
Below in the deep there's adventure and danger;
That's where you'll find Diver Dan!
The sights that he sees are surprising and stranger
Than ever you'll see on the land!
Closing themeCover from Alpha Video's 2006 release of Diver Dan.
He moves among creatures
Of frightening features:
Flashing teeth, slashing jaws,
Flapping fins, snapping claws!
He protects and he saves
His friends under the waves
That's where you'll find Diver Dan!
Click here to watch an episode of Diver Dan.