History and usage now

History of swimming goggles

The history of swimming goggles dates back at least to the 14th Century when writers described Persian pearl divers using goggles with windows made of the polished layer of tortoise shells. That these goggles were possibly imported to Mediterranean countries can be deduced from the 16th Century illustration of Venetian coral divers using goggles (picture beside).

Venetian divers using diving goggles 16th century

Goggles mysteriously disappeared from use, possibly because enslaved American Indian and African divers, who did most of the world's commercial diving from the 16th Century onward, did not use goggles. Polynesian skin divers were known to use bamboo or goggles carved of wood. Originally, these wooden goggles had no lenses, but trapped air when the face was down, forming an air bubble over the eye that enabled the divers to see clearly when submerged. With the introduction of glass, the Polynesians added lenses.

Today these wooden goggles are still being used by indigenous ethnic groups in and around the Pacific. These divers hunt and gather sea creatures in up to 20m depth for their livelihood like seen in these videos. They are hereby also part of the roots for the new sport of freediving.

Usage of Wooden Goggles now

Wooden Goggles are still used all over the Pacific and it was a group of sea gypsies in the South of the Philippines where we made friends and got inspiration.

Picture of a dive tourist with a local freediver. Moalboal, Cebu, Philippines

Read this amazing article WATER BREATHERS about the life of Eldio A. Gulisan the imam of a Muslim community, who at his age of 52 is still going fishing nearly every day.

PHOTOGRAPHY by Francisco Guerrero

STORY by Kristine Fonacier