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Celebrating Wes Skiles

This month we explore and celebrate the extraordinary life and work of cave diving pioneer, explorer, conservationist, and underwater cinematographer/ photographer Wesley C. Skiles.

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Text by Michael Menduno, graphic design by Amanda White. Header image from the cover of National Geographic August, 2010 by Wes Skiles: The Cascade Room leads divers deeper into Dan’s Cave on Abaco Island (see details below).

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“I was adding it up recently, and I have surpassed 500 miles of virgin exploration in my career. I’ve been in, and laid line—the first line ever—in 500 miles of virgin cave. That’s a lot of going places no human has been before. In a world where almost everything on the planet has been explored, it’s like discovering a state the size of Florida and being the first person on Earth to walk its entire length from the Panhandle to the Florida Keys. I’ve done this underground, under water.”—Wes Skiles, Currents, May 2010

This month we explore and celebrate the extraordinary life and work of cave diving pioneer, explorer, conservationist, and underwater cinematographer/ photographer Wesley Cofer Skiles, who was born March 6, 1958, in Jacksonville, Florida. He died July 21, 2010 at age 52, in a rebreather diving accident in 18m/60 ft of water near Boynton Beach, Florida, while on assignment for National Geographic filming scientists feeding Goliath Groupers. His tragic death resulted from what could be described as a perfect storm of human factors.

The last picture taken of Wes shortly before his death. Photo courtesy of David Concannon

Skiles not only had a seminal impact on the development of cave diving but was also instrumental in helping scientists and policy makers see and understand the importance and role of underwater springs in the workings of the Florida aquifer, as well as to shed light on public awareness of the underwater world. 

Working through his company, Karst Productions, the prolific documentarian produced over 100 films and TV shows including Nullarbor Dreaming (1989), which documented the harrowing escape of 15 entombed cave divers from a flooded Australian cave—the film inspired James Cameron’s film Sanctum; Journey into Amazing Caves (1990) with award winning documentary filmmaker Howard Hall, and Ocean Spirit (1995), which chronicles Skiles’ 3,500 mile ocean trek aboard a 110-ft sailboat with Grateful Dead drummer cum scuba diver Bill Kreutzmann. There’s also his Emmy-winning, four-part PBS documentary series, Water’s Journey (2003-2006) about the Florida springs and Everglades, and four conservation stories for National Geographic (NatGeo) beginning in 1999. These led to his first and final NatGeo cover story, “Bahamas Blue Holes” that was published August, 2010, days after Skiles death. He never saw the printed copy. 

Hooked on Cave Diving

You could say that Skiles’ life work and passion was set in motion in 1971, when the then-13-year old surfer and newly-certified YMCA scuba diver conducted his first cave penetration dive and simultaneously took his first underwater photograph at Ginnie Springs in High Springs, Florida. He used a Nikon camera that an onsite photographer handed him to try while his older brother Jim piloted a prototype underwater scooter built by his science teacher. “Everyone told me, “Don’t go in the cave,” Skiles recalled. “But I went in the cave. I got this shot of my brother scootering past the entrance and the shot came out really good. I was hooked from that point on.”

Wes Skiles dropping into Devil’s Eye Spring—one of the last shots taken of Wes underwater shot by Jill Heinerth for the book “Side Mount Profiles,” which she coauthored with Brian Kakuk. “Even when he acting as a model, it was hard to tear that camera out of his hands,” explained Heinerth. 

In less than a decade, Skiles, who first completed his open water instructorship, became a cave diving instructor with the National Speleological Society-Cave Diving Section (NSS-CDS) and took a job managing Gene Broome’s Branford Dive Center. There he met Lamar Hires in 1979 and saved his life by gifting him a copy of Sheck Exley’s Blueprint for Survival after Hires barely survived running out of air making a cave penetration with a single cylinder. Skiles took him under his wing and taught him cave diving.

Skiles, and soon after Hires were engaged in building their own diving equipment such as dive lights—there were no cave diving manufacturers at the time. Later, they both worked with Woody Jasper, Tom Morris and others to develop sidemount diving equipment. Hires, of course, continued to invent and build gear, and went on to launch Dive Rite in 1984. Skiles left Branford to become manager at Ginnie Springs in 1983, and the following year also became the training director for the Cave Diving Section (CDS) at the tender age of 26, a position he held for five years. He launched his production company, Karst Productions in 1985. 

Wes channeling his inner troglodyte. Notice the teeth. Photo courtesy of Terri Skiles

Not surprising, with legendary cave diver Sheck Exley as his mentor, Skiles was passionate about cave exploration and produced a series of maps and of his explorations of Little River, Rock Bluff, Jug, Bonnet, Cow Springs, and more, which were made available through the CDS. As hydrologist and fellow cave diver Todd Kincaid recalled with a chuckle, “Wes’s philosophy was to try and not leave anything for the next generation to explore.”

Skiles published a prescient article, “The Scientific Future of Cave Diving,” in the Vol 14, #3 May, 1987 of Underwater Speleology (UWS). The article outlined the potential role of citizen scientist cave divers in data collection and detailed numerous methods i.e., field surveys, dye tracing, water chemistry, biological and geological collection. The article goes on to outline the basic arguments for nitrox and mixed gas diving, and the use of decompression bells, all of which would be needed, argued Skiles, if cave divers are to go deeper and stay longer. 

His insights were not lost on caver and fellow Exley protégé Bill Stone, who launched his ground-breaking Wakulla Springs Project—arguably the equivalent of a technical diving moon-shot—that Fall. Skiles was both a member of and worked with Stone’s US Deep Caving Team and documented the Wakulla Project expedition, Stone’s 1994 San Agustin expedition to Sistema Huautla in Oaxaca, México—an exploration project that continues to this day under Stone’s leadership—and his return expedition to Wakulla, dubbed Wakulla 2, in 1998, with then fledgling explorer-in-the-making, Jill Heinerth. Skiles was also involved in the filming of Mike Madden’s Nohoch Nah Chich project, and the race between competing cave groups to connect Nohoch to Dos Ojos in the mid-90s.

Wes at work. Photo by Jill Heinerth

Where Does The Water Come From?

Skiles was the first to show geologists, hydrologists, and policy makers what underwater springs actually looked like and presented data regarding water movement. At the time, scientists thought that the role of the springs in the aquifer was insignificant; in fact, initially some believed Skiles’ underwater video was faked. Nevertheless, Skiles was enlisted and served as a member of the state’s Florida Springs Task Force where he spent years lobbying for spring conservation. The year after his death, the state of Florida renamed Peacock Springs State Park the Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park.

NatGeo published 15 of Wes’s images in its story, “Unlocking the Labyrinth of North Florida Springs,” in March 1999, which brought attention to the plight of the Florida’s springs. This led Skiles, while working with protégé Jill Heinerth, to create the Water’s Journey documentary series for PBS (2003-2006) several years later. 

1992/93: Selfie of Wes and his son Nathan Allan “Nate” Skiles (age 4-5). Nate worked on and off with Wes growing up and was one of the divers featured on Wes’s 2010 National Geographic cover. aquaCORPS archives.

Skiles went on to contribute images for NatGeo’s December 2001 story, “Islands of Ice,” with help from NatGeo’s legendary deep sea photographer Emory Kristof, who had met Skiles through Stone’s Wakulla Springs project. He worked with Jill and Paul Heinerth and Bill Kurtis, and was the first human to stand on the B-15 iceberg, which was the largest known iceberg at the time. Jill Heinerth wrote about the expedition in Ice Island, published in Advanced Diver magazine, and later Skiles, Kurtis, Heinerth, and Kristof produced the Ice Island documentary.

In 2003, Skiles supplied 17 images for NatGeo’s Oct 2003 story, “Watery Graves of the Maya.” He later worked on the magazine’s Blue Holes cover story with environmental anthropologist Kenny Broad, Heinerth, and explorer Brian Kakuk. In his Editor’s note, editor-in-chief Chris Johns said of Skiles, ”He set a standard for underwater photography, cinematography and exploration that is unsurpassed. It was an honor to work with him, and he will be deeply missed.” In 2011, NatGeo named both Skiles and Broad, “Explorer of the Year.” 

Self portrait of Wes on one of his motorcycle trips a couple of years before his death. 

I met Wes in the early 1990s, after starting my magazine aquaCORPS Journal. He penned a piece, “Deep D(r)iving Motivations: A Personal View,”  on deep air diving for our Winter 1991 issue #3 DEEP (Feeling lucky?) and was always generous with his time and photos. His images graced the cover of aquaCORPS #11 Underground Xplorers (OCT/NOV 1995) issue. I was also fortunate to attend one of Wes’s legendary backyard bonfires. That night he pulled out his harmonica and played, while someone accompanied him on acoustic guitar. 

I last interviewed Wes over the phone for a DIVER magazine story a month before his passing. The story was about the She-P and diver urination systems, and I asked Wes how he and fellow Wakulla drysuit divers peed during those long ten to twelve hour dives—this was before condom caths. There was a moment of silence. “Us manly men were too stupid and or embarrassed to slip on diapers,” he told me in his Floridian drawl. Instead, they held their bladders until they could pee out the habitat doorway just before changing depths, which would act as a flush. Note, Exley stuck with his wetsuit and chemical heaters.

Seeking Skiles

Wes and Lamar Hires at Devil’s Ear in 1984 preparing to swim to the end of the line. Photo courtesy of Lamar Hires

In this issue of InDepth, we offer you a curated selection of stories both old and new about Wes Skiles, beginning with this 2002 long form interview by Fred Garth, Wes Skiles: Cave Dweller,” which was immortalized in Gilliam’s book, Diving Pioneers and Innovators. Next, we offer an excerpted chapter, Water Boy, from Julia Hauserman’s 2018 book, Drawn to the Deep, the Remarkable Underwater Explorations of Wes Skiles, which tells the story of Skiles’ first cave dive and underwater photo. Stoned: The Adventures of Wes Skiles and the US Deep Caving Team, features a selection of Skiles’ iconic images from Wakulla Project 1987, the 1994 San Agustin expedition, and Stone’s 1998 Wakulla 2 expedition, along with a tribute from Stone. 

Wes filming in Bermuda with the Museum of Natural History. Photo by Jill Heinerth

We also have stories from three colleagues who worked with Skiles; Wesley C. Skiles: Extreme Cool by Emory Kristof, To Wes: A Tenacious Advocate Committed To Protecting Florida’s Springs by Skiles’ contemporary, hydrologist and cave diver Todd Kincaid, who discusses the impact of Skiles’ work on Florida water conservation, and The Inimitable Wes Skiles, which presents a set of unique photos of Skiles and a sentiment from Jill Heinerth, that appeared in TEKDive USA’s Pushing the Envelope historical tech photo exhibit.   

The August, 2010 cover of National Geographic

We have included a selection of key Skiles’ Films and Videos, for you to dive into; Nullarbor Dreaming, Ice Island, the Water’s Journey series and more, along with several In Memoriam videos and a recording of the memorial services held for Wes at Ginnie Springs 28JUL 2010. In addition, there are links to important Articles by Skiles and others, including a selection of NatGeo (subscriber content)

The NSS-CDS has also graciously provided the special issue of Underwater Speleology V 37 No. 4 OCT/NOV/DEC 2010, Remembering Wes Skiles (1958-2010) which includes a dozen tributes from his peers. There’s also information on how to participate in The Wes Skiles Legacy Project, organized by Wes’s daughter Tessa Skiles.

We want to offer special thanks to David Concannon, NatGeo’s Image Archivist and Rights Manager Rebecca Dupont, UWS editor Barbara Dwyer, Fred Garth, Bret Gilliam, Larry Green, Howard Hall, Julie Hauserman, Jill Heinerth, Lamar Hires, Todd Kincaid, Emory Kristof, Gareth Lock, Fan Ping, Brian and Marcia Skerry, Terri and Tessa Skiles, Bill Stone, and the NSS-CDS board for their help pulling together this remembrance. 

We celebrate you, Wes Skiles!

Header image: The Cascade Room leads divers deeper into Dan’s Cave on Abaco Island. Photo by Wes Skiles. The original was composed from three images taken 24m/80ft beneath the surface and was cropped for the NatGeo AUG 2010 cover, and for InDepth as shown above. The full image presented in the magazine was NatGeo’s second-ever tear-out, fold-out photograph.

Wes Skiles: Cave Dweller

by Fred Garth and Bret Gilliam

Water Boy

An excerpt from Drawn to the Deep: The Remarkable Underwater Explorations of Wes Skiles

By Julia Hauserman

Films and Video

NSS-CDS: Nullarbor Dreaming, the amazing story of a cave diving team in far west Australia  trapped underground by a storm that caused a passage collapse. Produced by Andrew Wight, photography by Wes Skiles. 1989

MacGillivray Freeman Films (1990): Journey into Amazing Caves You can find the film on Amazon Prime

Entertainment Tonight (1995): Ocean Spirit

New Explorers with Bill Curtis (1995): The Most Dangerous Science.

Wes Skiles and Jeffrery Haupt for the PBS series New Explorers featuring the Nohoch Cave Diving Team and their connection of the Nohoch cave system to the sea.

Ice Island Expedition (2004)

The Ice Island expedition gave our team the opportunity to test some remarkable new technology. Wes Skiles brought the beauty of High Definition cinematography to the film, using it in some of the most extreme environments one can imagine. I brought advanced closed-circuit rebreathers to the diving operations that allowed us to physically penetrate caves inside of massive, moving icebergs. It was some of the most challenging and dangerous diving ever conducted, and bringing home the images in the glory of HD detail was something that will not likely be repeated!—Jill Heinerth, Producer/Exploration Diver

Water’s Journey: Hidden Rivers of Florida (DEC 2003)

Over eight billion gallons of water a day bursts forth from Florida’s springs – the most unique concentration of springs on the planet. At one time, it was thought to be an endless supply, but now the demands of man are starting to exceed availability. We join a team on a daring journey into the Floridan Aquifer to find out what’s going wrong. As the team follows the connective path of water through the landscape, their discoveries lead viewers on a thrilling adventure about the miraculous course that water takes, and the places we don’t want to believe it goes. Buy a DVD here: Water’s Journey

Water’s Journey: The River Returns (OCT 2005)

Utilizing some unusual views high above and deep within the earth, a team of explorers completely immerses themselves in the mechanics of a river system on a quest to define the nature and source of its powerful flow. Their adventures reveal the stunning beauty of a wild and scenic land and the difficult issues facing the populace as they grapple with the reality of inevitable growth. The River Returns inspires hope that the great watersheds of our planet can be saved, and that environmental protection and sustainable growth can coexist in a new paradigm of cooperation. Buy a DVD here: Water’s Journey

Water’s Journey: Everglades: Restoring Hope (DEC 2006)

Twenty-two million people call it home. Millions more travel to Florida for recreation, beaches and theme parks. Few know Florida is home to one of the greatest ecosystems on earth – The Florida Everglades. But this masterpiece has reached its limit to absorb mankind’s ever-growing impacts. Although people may not always agree about how to restore balance to the Everglades, one thing is clear. Humanity needs wetlands. They are the foundation of a fragile ecosystem that extends from inland waterways to the ocean wilderness. Can we achieve the delicate balance that protects humanity and the environment? Will the largest restoration plan ever attempted… succeed? Join our team of scientists and explorers as they follow the flow of the great river of grass, and beyond. 

Water’s Journey- Currents of Change (DEC 2006)

Karst Productions with Wes Skiles: Springs Heartland (April 2011) • Edited by Bob Dorough for Wes Skiles and Karst Productions

In Memoriam

Wes kayaking into the sunset on the St. John’s River. Photo by Jill Heinerth

Wes Skiles Memorial Services: Here is a recording of the memorial held for Wes at Ginnie Springs on July 28, 2010. There were nearly 1000 in attendance.  

Alachua County: Remembering Wes Skiles (OCT 2010)

Wes Skiles Tribute Video (DEC, 2010)

A Tribute to Wes Skiles SD (December 2017)

Ocala Star Banner: Wesley C. Skiles Obituary

Articles 

Underwater Speleology V 14 (1987) : The Scientific Future of Cave Diving by Wes Skiles

aquaCORPS #3 DEEP (1991): “Deep D(r)iving Motvations” by Wes Skiles (1991). Skiles weighs in on deep air diving.

 Outside Magazine (1996): Deeper: To the peerless Moles, practitioners of the gloomily claustrophobic sport of freshwater spelunking, the ultimate accomplishment is finding a virgin cave

Advanced Diver (2003): Ice Island by Jill Heinerth 

Underwater Speleology V37 #3 (JULY-SEP 2010): Through The Lens of Wes Skiles.

Alert Diver (August 2010): Shooter: Wes Skiles by Stephen Frink

Wikipedia: Wesley C. Skiles

NatGeo (subscriber content)

National Geographic: Spectacular Underwater Archaeology Photos by Wes Skiles

National Geographic: Deep Dark Secrets: The blue holes of the Bahamas yield a scientific trove that may even shed light on life beyond Earth. If only they weren’t so dangerous to explore.

National Geographic: Dive Freshwater Caves, Florida

Remembering WES SKILES 1958-2010

In October, 2010, the National Speleological Society-Cave Diving Division (NSS-CDS) published a special issue of Underwater Speleology V 37 No. 4 OCT/NOV/DEC 2010. The issue included tributes from: Terri Skiles, Woody Jasper, Jim Stevenson, Kenny Broad, Jill Heinerth, Brian Kakuk, Tom Morris, Bill Stone, Agnes Milowka, Paul Heinerth and David Uluoa. Download the issue here: Remembering WES SKILES 1958-2010

The Wes Skiles Legacy Project

Wes’s daughter Tessa Skiles is creating a legacy web site to carry on with his work of protecting and restoring Florida’s springs. She’s looking for stories, videos, and photos of Wes (especially from the ‘70s-‘90s). If you have any, Tessa would like to include them. Send them to her at: tskiles@karstproductions.com. Please include the subject “Legacy Website Content—YOUR NAME, STORY/IMAGES.” Please include dates, locations, and names. Thank you.

Be A Part of History: To access our treasure trove of dive history and become a member, visit us at: www.HDS.org. We are also on Facebook: Historical Diving Society USA

Cave

Karen van den Oever Continues to Push the Depth at Bushmansgat: Her New Record—246m

Karen van den Oever recently broke her own world cave diving depth record by a little more than 10m/33 ft at Bushmansgat cave in South Africa. The S.African cave diver conducted the 8 hour 14 min high-altitude dive on open circuit scuba, breathing trimix 4/90 bottom mix, and suffered mild High Pressure Nervous Syndrome (HPNS). Here former world depth record holder, Nuno Gomes who was van den Oever’s cave instructor, offers the details of her record setting dive along with a short history of the women’s depth records.

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By Nuno Gomes. Images courtesy of Karen van den Ever.

Karen van den Oever and her husband Francois Bain

Karen van den Oever, from Johannesburg, South Africa, has dived to a depth of 246.65 m/809 ft. This is equivalent to a dive to a depth of 296 m/971 ft when corrected for an altitude of 1550 m/5,085 ft above sea level. The dive was conducted on October 27, 2022, in Bushmansgat cave, South Africa, and is a new women’s world record cave dive. Karen bettered her own previous world record to a depth of 236.04m/770 ft  (283 m/924 ft correcting for altitude), also accomplished at Bushmansgat cave in 2021.

I actually felt really good after the dive, a little tired but overall, quite good. I felt much better after this dive than the previous one. I’m happy that the dive went well, just thinking about what comes next. I have no definite plans going forward, we are looking into diving some of the caves in Namibia and also exploring some of the caves not yet dived in Zambia but no concrete plans yet.”—Karen van den Oever

Karen and Theo van Eeden, with the signed tag.

Women have been making record deep dives for quite some time. Back in 1981, one of the first deep diving records was made by Sheck Exley’s wife, Mary Ellen Eckhoff (USA). She used a dive propulsion vehicle (DPV) to travel into Wakulla Springs cave, as well as staged tanks for decompression purposes. Mary Ellen dived on open circuit, together with Paul DeLoach and John Zumrick, and they reached a distance of 363 m/1192 ft and a depth of 80 m/260 ft, which was a major dive at the time.

In 1996, Dr. Ann Kristovich (USA), a friend of Jim Bowden, considerably extended the record, reaching a depth of 167 m/548 ft on open circuit at Zacaton cave, Mexico. Ann’s world record dive would remain in place for a long time.

It was not until the year 2000 that another woman, Claudia Serpierri (Italy), would beat the previous record, but this time in the sea (Mediterranean Sea). Claudia would reach a depth of 211 m/692 ft on open circuit, diving from a support ship. This dive remains the deepest sea dive by a woman to date.

Toward the end of 2001, Verna van Schaik (South Africa), was ready to challenge the women’s record. First, she did her deepest dive by reaching a depth of  186 m/610 ft  (223 m/732 ft correcting for altitude), on open circuit, at Bushmansgat cave in South Africa. This was not enough for her, and during her next expedition on October 25, 2004, Verna would go back to Bushmansgat cave to become the first South African woman to get her name in the Guinness Book of World Records by reaching a depth of  221 m/725 ft  (265 m/870 ft altitude corrected), on open circuit. Her deep support diver was the late Dave Shaw (Australia), on closed circuit, who died of respiratory insufficiency at a sub-250 m dive at Bushmansgat in 2005.

View of the surface pool of Boesmansgat cave.

Following Verna van Schaik’s dive at Bushmansgat cave, two women divers died trying to break her record, as follows: 

In May 2010, French diver Brigitte Lenoir, died in Dahab, Egypt during a dive in the Red Sea. The accident took place at 147 m/482 ft while ascending from a 200 m/656 ft, on closed circuit. Her body was recovered with an ROV. 

In September 2017, Bulgarian technical diving instructor trainer, Teodora Balabanova, died attempting a dive to 231 m/754 ft, on open circuit, while her husband, Mihail Balabanov, suffered from decompression sickness. 

Karen van den Oever is a science graduate from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she currently resides. Like Verna van Schaik, who now resides in New Zealand, she is a CMAS diving instructor, and also a former member of the University of the Witwatersrand Underwater Club. 

Her original cave, trimix and blending training was with me. I also trained her husband Francois Bain. 

Unstoppable Karen van den Oever

Karen had previously dived to 201 m/660 ft (241 m/792 ft altitude corrected) on open circuit in Bushmansgat cave in South Africa’s Northern Cape province on February 27, 2020. That dive’s total dive time was 7 hours and 21 minutes. On March 26, 2021, Karen dove to 236.04 m/770 ft (283 m/924 ft), on open circuit, at Bushmansgat cave, using a bottom gas of trimix 6/85. The total dive time was 7 hours and 18 minutes. That dive is the current deep diving Guinness World Record (women).

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Karen’s new world record dive, done on October 27, 2022, was made to a depth of 246.65 m/809 ft (296 m/971 ft), in Bushmansgat cave. The dive was done on open circuit, using a bottom gas of trimix 4/90, and with a total dive time of 8 hours and 14 minutes. The dive would not have been possible without a large team of support divers. 

Karen’s dive computer. Actual depth from rope measurements by independent witnesses was 246.56m/809 ft.

Peter Reid was at 209 m/686 ft (251 m/823 ft); this was his personal deepest dive on closed circuit, and his total dive time was 6 hours and 20 minutes. Don Hauman did deep support at 110 m/361 ft (132 m/433 ft). Her husband Francois provided shallow support and surface support, together with the other team members.

Karen’s support team.

Karen’s Total Narcotic Depth (TND) was 48.06 m/158 ft; the Equivalent Narcotic Depth (END) considering nitrogen only was 9.49 m/31.14 ft, and her maximum Partial Pressure of Oxygen (PO2) was 1.03 Atm. Gradient factors: 40/75.

There were no serious incidents during the dive except that Karen suffered some mild High Pressure Nervous Syndrome (HPNS), which ultimately did not prevent her from going any deeper. Karen had some difficulties recovering the evidence tag from her maximum depth because of the tremors that she was experiencing as a result of the HPNS, but in the end she turned the dive mainly because she ran out of bottom time. 

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Dive Deeper

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

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InDEPTH: Opinion: Don’t Break That Record

InDEPTH: Fact or Fiction? Revisiting Guinness World Record Deepest Scuba Dive


Nuno Gomes is a professional civil engineer, a CMAS technical diving instructor and a commercial diver. He was born in Lisbon, but his family relocated to South Africa during his youth. He now lives permanently in New York with his family. He has dived all over the world.

He used SCUBA (open circuit) to dive to a depth of 321.81 meters (1,056 feet), inclusive of rope stretch, in the Red Sea off the coast of Egypt near Dahab, in June 2005. The total dive time was 12 hours and 20 minutes. The descent took 14 minutes with two minutes spent at the bottom.

He also used SCUBA (open circuit) to dive to 282.6 meters (927 feet) in the Bushmansgat cave, in South Africa, in 1996. The cave is located at an altitude of 1,550 meters (5,086 feet) above sea level, which resulted in a decompression schedule for an equivalent sea level dive to a depth of 339 meters (1,112 feet) in order to prevent decompression sickness. The total dive time was 12 hours and 15 minutes with four minutes spent at the bottom of the cave.

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