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By Michael Menduno
Thanks to our readers, I was able to update the chart of the now 30 deepest tech shipwreck dives (as of 2018), adding 17 wrecks that were not on the original 20 deepest shipwrecks list. Note that I also extended the list to the 30 deepest wreck dives from the original 20.
Ironically, the original list left off the deepest shipwreck dive, that being the Milano lying at a depth of 774 ffw/236 mfw in Lake Maggiore, Italy, conducted by Pim van der Horst, Mario Marconi, and Alessandro Scuotto in 2008. Deep diving pioneer Nuno Gomes was a consultant and witness on the dive.
The average depth of the 10 deepest wrecks as of 2018 was 576 ft/176 m, a full 229 ft/70 m deeper than the average of the 10 deepest wreck dives from the 1990s. The average bottom time was 15 minutes (compared to 16.7 minutes in the 1990s), but the average runtime was 374 minutes (6 hours and 14 minutes), more than double the average of 185 minutes of runtime (3 hours and 5 minutes) from the 1990s. None of the 10 deepest dives from the 1990s made the deepest 10 when viewed from today.The average bottom time was 15 minutes (compared to 16.7 minutes in the 1990s), but the average runtime was 374 minutes (6 hours and 14 minutes), more than double the average of 185 minutes of runtime (3 hours and 5 minutes) from the 1990s. None of the 10 deepest dives from the 1990s made the deepest 10 when viewed from today.
Also, I’d like to make a note on depth, which shipwreck explorer Mike Barnette brought to my attention. The depths listed on the table should be considered as relative metrics. In most cases, the depth indicates the depth at the bottom of the wreck. In some cases, divers actually dived to the bottom. In other cases, the depth indicates the depth that divers actually reached. In other words, the depth numbers are a bit fuzzy.
Also interesting, 9 of the 13 wreck dives in the deepest 10 today (some shipwrecks were at the same depth) were conducted on rebreathers vs. four on open-circuit scuba. All 10 of the deepest shipwrecks in the 90s were conducted on open circuit.
Sincere apologies to Massimo Domenico Bondone and teammate Ciro Osimo for leaving out their important accomplishments. The amazingly prolific Bondone and team accounted for 6 of the dives in the 20 of the 30 deepest shipwrecks! Wow! He is followed by Irish tekkie and photographer Barry McGill, his colleague Stewie Andrews, and their various teams who were responsible for three of the deepest dives shown on the table, as were Ken Clayton and Gary Gentile (from the 1990s).
Apologies also to Rizia Ortolani and her teammates Edoardo Dody Pasini, and later Louise Trewavas and Steve Brown, for leaving out their 2003/2004 dives on the submarine Velella, located near Salerno, Italy. Ortolani’s 2003 dive set the then record for the deepest female shipwreck dive, as featured on the cover of Trewavas’ Dive Girl magazine, issue 13, in 2004.
She may still hold the record (does anyone know?).
Note that we corrected and have expanded the original accompanying footnotes with the chart. One correction to the original: Terrance Tysall and Mike Zee’s 1995 dive on the Edmund Fitzgerald (529 ffw/162 mfw) was NOT a sneak dive. The pair obtained a permit, but it did not allow them to tie into the wreck. They ended up using the drop camera umbilical as a downline, and left a plaque on the “Fitz” to commemorate the sailors that were lost. They were only able to make a single dive due to the weather.
The HMS Britannic is now the 28th deepest wreck dive as viewed from today, the SMS Ostfriesland (380 ft/116 m) dived by Clayton and Gentile in 1990 on heliox and neox is now the 30th deepest. Not on the chart was wreck #31, the Princess of The Orient (377 fsw/115 m) in Manilla Bay, Philippines, reportedly first dived in 2000 by John Bennett and Ron Loos.A team led by Karl Hurwood with GUE instructor Ali Fikree recently completed the first circumnavigation of the 640-ft/195-m- long wreck in April 2018 with 30 to 35-minute bottom times at 115 m, and 285-minute runtimes. As I have said before, we are an extraordinary tribe!
Top Image: HMS Curacoa Bridge – Diver: Stewart Andrews, Photo by Barry McGill.
Top 10: Average depth: 576 fsw/176 msw, Avg. Bottom Time: 15min, Avg. Run Time: 374 min
*The Jolanda sits vertically from 70-150 msw. According to M. Ellyat, Gregory ‘Banan’ Dominik found and dived the deep bit of the Yolanda in Sharm 3 years before Mark Andrews and Leigh Cunningham.
** According to M. Ellyat When he found the Victoria in 2004 it was almost intact in 156m. Subsequent dynamite fishing has blown the inner decking down to the seabed making it appear 144m.
***Rizia Ortolani set the then Deep Wreck Female record on this dive.
**** Scuttled in Operation Daylight, Operation Deadlight Type VII.
*****Denlay & Tysall’s first dive in 1995 was to 361 fsw/110msw on the shallow stern of the Atlanta. They returned in 1997/98 where they made their deepest dive to the bow.
****** The wreck had been dived previously in September 2000 by Richie Stevenson, Chris Hutchison and Dave Greig but only as a bounce w/ 2 min bottom time. Subsequent dives with BT: 15 min were made with Trimix 14/54. The team deco’d in a bell. Greek commercial diver Kostas Thoctarides followed Cousteau in 1995 making a solo 20-min dive, and returned in 2001 with a submersible.
********Clayton dived Neox mix (O2 and Ne) for their last dive on Ostfriesland to 340 f/104 m with 20 min BT.
Michael Menduno is InDepth’s executive editor and, an award-winning reporter and technologist who has written about diving and diving technology for 30 years. He coined the term “technical diving.” His magazine “aquaCORPS: The Journal for Technical Diving”(1990-1996), helped usher tech diving into mainstream sports diving. He also produced the first Tek, EUROTek, and ASIATek conferences, and organized Rebreather Forums 1.0 and 2.0. Michael received the OZTEKMedia Excellence Award in 2011, the EUROTek Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 and the TEKDive USA Media Award in 2018.
Opinion: Don’t Break That Record
The recent death of 41-year-old technical diver, Sebastian Marczewski, aka “Iron Diver,”
during a failed attempted world record scuba dive to 333 m/1093 ft in Lake Garda, Italy, highlighted the dangers of deep diving record setting. The tragedy occurred just after GUE instructor Dimitris Fifis had penned an opinion piece for InDepth exploring the nature and motivation of deep diving record setting. Fifis explained that he wrote the post in order to get a better personal understanding of what motivates divers to set deep diving records. His post was motivated in part by the deaths of two other technical divers attempting deep records. Here are his thoughts and suggestions.
by Dimitris Fifis
It has always been in the nature of human beings to fly higher, to explore further, to dive deeper. It is this instinct that has been behind some of the most amazing explorations and discoveries. It is what pushed us forward to a better understanding of our planet, of our body and much more, and it will surely never stop. There will always be people trying to push further than before, people who are willing to bet their lives so that the rest of us may benefit from their discoveries.
The truth is I have the utmost respect for these underwater explorers who have offered us so much. On the other hand, I am sometimes deeply saddened by the loss of life of those in the pursuit of what they think is record-breaking and pushes the boundaries. That is especially true in our beloved activity diving.
We have suffered many meaningless losses in our community. Losses that made us wonder why. Why did they do it? This is particularly the case when it involves breaking a record that has already been broken.
This is the “why” that I am trying to discover through writing these thoughts.
What drives someone to risk so much in order to break a record that has already been broken? What is the point of seeing your name in a world record book when you know it has been done before? Well, maybe not by a woman. Or, perhaps by a solo diver, but not by a team, or maybe by someone using a rebreather. But what difference do those things really make?
One reason for doing it might be vanity, although I don’t think this is the main reason for most aspirant record breakers. Was is it really vanity that drove Guy Garman aka Doc Deep to attempt a record-breaking dive to 370 meters/1209 ft., though he had only been a diver for four years? Or was it the result of a culture that glorifies deep dives for its own sake, or for hopes of financial gain?
Perhaps the reason may simply be trying to stand out and survive in our unfortunately highly competitive diving community and even more competitive professional diving industry. With the number of instructors constantly rising while the number of potential students continues to fall, it is perhaps normal for any dive professional to try to find ways to attract more students. Unfortunately, the strategy of lowering course prices and shortening course times is simply not sustainable and has helped create the problem in the first place.
Becoming a “diving hero” sounds like a good idea to attract more people that will surely want to get trained by the world record holder.
What is not a good idea is to try to perform “record-breaking” deep dives when ill-prepared physically and/or mentally. Also unwise is trying them without adequate financial support, allowing the diver to avoid cutting corners on safety in order to meet the budget. Most importantly, it is not a good idea to proceed without a team that can support the attempt and be able to help in case Murphy sneaks in.
Of course, as educator Gareth Lock, The Human Diver points out, “Nobody shows up for a dive thinking what a nice day to die”. I am sure that is not what Theodora Balabanova, a Bulgarian technical diving instructor, thought prior to her fatal attempt to dive to 233 meters in hopes of becoming the deepest woman diver, but also the deepest couple, as her husband Mihail, who was critically injured, was diving with her. Theodora had much more diving experience than Guy, but still, the risks are always there, especially on a dive beyond the usual “envelope.“
It is only through knowledge, experience, meticulous planning, and a team of expert advisors and support divers that the risks of such dives can be reduced to a sensible level, if at all. Unfortunately, most of the time, these factors are simply replaced by bravado and peer pressure, which reflects a lack of understanding of the real risks.
What is more unfortunate is the fact that even if all goes well and the “record” is broken, the positive effects and advertisement will only be temporary. You see, as easy as it is to become famous on social media these days, it is just as easy to be replaced by the next social media celebrity, and the achievement quickly was forgotten.
So, what can instructors do instead?
Simply, take a slower path to success. Increase the quality of your teaching, choose a training agency that shares your values, study and gain deeper knowledge on the topics that you are teaching, and practice your diving and presentation skills. Carefully and honestly analyze the way you teach and try to improve in every course. Take courses from other experienced instructors and learn from them. Increase your experience by participating in demanding exploration projects, and actively participate in conservation initiatives. Finally, respect your students, yourself, your instructors, and the training agency you are teaching for.
Respect them by delivering the best possible course you can, and they will respect you back by choosing you as an instructor, by recommending you to others, and possibly even by making you an instructor trainer. They will respect you for what you do, not for how deep you once managed to go.
This article is not about pointing fingers, disrespecting, or criticizing people who made mistakes and paid a very high price for them. On the contrary, this article is meant to remember and honour these fallen diving heroes and, more importantly, to emphasize the most valuable lesson learned from them. I am sure both Guy and Theodora would agree that no record is worth dying for.
Born in Athens, Greece, Dimitris Fifis started diving in 1991 and became an instructor in 1998. In 2009, after 23 years of service in the Greek Navy (most of them in the aviation branch), he retired and decided to pursue a full-time career in diving. Since then he has managed diving operations in various diving centers in Greece as well as on mega-yachts. Dimitris discovered GUE in 2007 and never looked back. He currently lives and works in Dubai, and is involved in various wreck exploration and underwater filming projects in the area. Because of his strong interest in increasing dive safety through quality education, he also produces training videos for GUE.
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