The Time Before Life Jackets
According to history, there were no life jackets before because ships are composed of wood. Whenever there’s a shipwreck, wood will float, and you can use the remains as a floating device. As boats or ships became more metal in composition, they didn’t work. So drowning deaths increased, and life jackets became necessary.
The cork vest, or as we call it Life Jacket, was invented by Captain Ward. According to the records, he was an inspector for the Royal National Lifeboat Institute of England. Crews wore this cork vest for weather protection and buoyancy way back in 1854. And he typically credits the current life jacket.
Earliest Floating Devices
- Way back in 870 BC, Assyrian soldiers were illustrated in a marble carving. They were holding inflated animal skins while swimming. Inflated bladders or hollow gourds are also among the most ancient examples of primitive life jackets for support when crossing deep streams and rivers.
- A cork life jacket was offered for sale in The Sports Magazine in 1804. Until the early 19th century, personal flotation devices were not part of the equipment provided to naval sailors. It was not until the development of life-saving facilities that boat crews’ safety of boat crews’ sea conditions.
- A jacket made out of cork sheets attached with a strap that went through the legs was advertised by Mallison’s Seaman’s Friend and Bather’s companion. It was the first modern life jackets that were used by sailors as floating devices. These floating devices were filled with either wood or corks, which are usually balsa.
- In 1900, Gustave Trouvé, a French electrical engineer, patented a portable life jacket powered by batteries. To inflate the jacket and power a light to send and receive SOS messages and start a distress flare, it integrated thin, rubber-insulated maritime electric batteries.
Before these Life Jackets were regulated, a tragedy happened to one of the world’s most famous ships. Surprisingly, no one requires the use of Life Jackets on ships before the Titanic sank. Because of this tragedy, a motion was recommended in the SOLAS (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea) convention. They called it the “life-saving appliances.” It was proposed in 1914, a bill that requires a life jacket to be available for everyone on the ship. This convention was the start of the creation of the International Maritime Organization in 1948. It now consists of 172 member states.
Life Jacket Design Improvement
From the RAF Aviation Medicine and a physician, Dr. Pask developed a hybrid and inflatable buoyancy jacket. They called it Mae West. The chest part of the life jacket was described as the bosomy curves of an actress. Luftwaffe from Germany also improves the design of life jackets after a pilot lost in the North Sea. He developed dependably inflatable life jackets.
Over the years, the life jackets’ materials changed from cork and balsa to kapok, a plant fiber, foam, and elastic to foam-coated nylon. But the purpose of it remains the same. Modern standards for life jackets are designed to flip you face-up within 5 seconds and keep your nose above water. In several navies that fought in World War II, Kapok buoyancy was used.
The University of Victoria developed Thermo Float PFD (Personal Floating Device). It provides superior protection from immersion hypothermia. Quality life jackets always offer greater buoyancy than the buoyancy aids alone provide. Buoyancy aids are designed to allow freedom of movement while providing the requisite buoyancy for a user. Those are also intended for minimal maintenance and are only made from foam that can be cost-effectively mass-produced, making them among the popular types of PFDs.
Personal Floating Device for Pets
PFDs are also implemented for pets. They are mostly designed for dogs and cats. USCG (United States of Coast Guard) does not certify animal personal flotation devices. Several manufacturers produce life jackets for dogs and cats. Some study shows that dogs and cats die from drowning, either because they do not know how to swim, or because they are exhausted from over-exposure or old age, or because they have a medical complication, such as a seizure because they become unconscious.
Even with these developments, the Lifesaving Society studied that deaths caused by drowning have decreased since 1994; It shows that as of 2016, there were still 1.4 deaths in Canada in every 100,000 people.
Nowadays, people still need to be convinced to wear life jackets. Some say they are uncomfortable wearing one or most likely to be under the influence of alcohol. If only they will listen to people who care for their safety, then life jackets may prevent those drowning deaths. With that, we should be grateful for those men who develop safety devices such as life jackets that we could use in our everyday life.