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South African Cave Diver Karen van den Oever Sets New Women’s Deep Cave Diving Record



Text by Nuno Gomes. Header image: Karen van den Oever with Theo van Eeden, who acted as a witness for Guinness World Records (GWR). Photos courtesy of Karen van den Oever.

Karen van den Oever is a science graduate from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she resides. She is a CMAS diving instructor, a former member of the Wits University Underwater Club, and was one of Nuno Gomes’ students. Van den Oever previously dived to 201 m/660 ft in the Bushmansgat sinkhole in South Africa’s Northern Cape province on February 27, 2020. The dive lasted 441 mins, of which only 11 minutes were spent descending. 

Oever after surfacing from her nearly seven and a half hour dive at Bushmansgat.

Oever decompressing on her record dive. What would O’Dive have to say?

On March 26, 2021, Van den Oever dived to 236.04 m/770 ft at Bushmansgat with a bottom gas of trimix 6/85, exceeding the previous woman’s deep cave diving record of 221 m/721 ft set by Verna van Schaik in 2004. The dive lasted seven hours and 18 minutes.

Adjusting for Bushmansgat’s altitude of 1550 meters/5085 ft, her dive was equivalent to a sea level dive to 283 m/928 ft. “This was a dive that I have been working towards for a long time. It was a challenging dive. You train not for the dives that go well but for when things don’t go well. I decided to turn at 236 m/774 ft, as my intuition told me that this was where I needed to stop,” she explained. You can find her on Facebook at Somewhere Out There Diving.

See: Diving Beyond 250 Meters: The Deepest cave Dives Today Compared to the 1990s.


Underwater Galaxy

Award winning Chinese filmmaker/photographer Fan Ping takes us on a magical journey through watery worlds less traveled.




Text, videos and images by Fan Ping. Images shot on RED Helium 8K.

Blackwater: Diving into the Underwater Galaxy

My most popular short film so far. It’s the BTS video of my friend Songda Cai, who is a Chinese underwater photographer based in Manila, Philippines, and specialized in blackwater photography. The film explained what blackwater is and showcased some of the equipment we use when taking photos, then takes the audiences on a journey with Cai into the unknown to discover the beautiful lives from the deep.

Tranquility – 平静(píng jìng)

Cave – 洞穴(dòng xué)

Show Reel 2019

Places I traveled back in 2019, mostly dark cold water, in 4K.

Diving – 潜水(qián shuǐ)

The Underwater Great Wall

One section of the famous Great Wall located in Hebei Province, China, which was built about 500 years ago in Ming Dynasty, submerged due to the government building a reservoir in 1970’s, and very well preserved in the cold fresh water.

History – 历史(lì shǐ)

Freedom – 自由(zì yóu)

Xujiayuan Village

A village as part of the Lion City, also from Ming Dynasty but 600-700 year ago, now submerged in Qiandao Lake(Thousand Island Lake) near Shanghai. The wood structures and some brick walls are still intact with all the traditional decorations. It’s just a small part of the city, could not film more due to bad conditions, will go back in the future.

Explore – 探索(tàn suǒ)

Unknown – 未知(wèi zhī)

Diving Kobanya

Kobanya, Stone Mine in Hungarian, located in the heart of Budapest. Was used as firearm factory and sanctuary during WWII, now partially flooded with a brewery on top. It’s very much like a maze down there, with a spooky but cool atmosphere from the mixture of metal and huge stones.

Happiness – 快乐(kuài lè)

Fan Ping

Fan Ping is a Chinese photographer and filmmaker currently based in Atlanta, USA, dedicated to showing the beauty of the underwater world to people through his lens.

He became a diving instructor in 2014 and found passion in underwater photography. As Baba Dioum said ‘In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.’, Ping believes that only a good story told with impressive images can influence people and be remembered. He is specialized in combining artistic elements with nature and complex lighting skills in overhead environment, and this personal style has brought him international acclaim, including awards from many major contests like the Underwater Photographer of the Year competition. Ping has also expanded his horizons to cinematography in 2016 in order to better tell the stories to conserve our environment, and with his short films being selected in many film festivals, he has been encouraging more and more people to step into the underwater world to learn what is happening to the planet we live on.

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