08 June 2005

South African deep diver, Nuno Gomes, wants world's deepest sea diver title

With 21 large bags of diving gear, South Africa's scuba supremo, Nuno Gomes, has made his way to the Red Sea to claim the title as the world's deepest sea diver.

Gomes is preparing to plunge 320m into the Red Sea at Dahab, Egypt, and so go where no diver has been before.

And according to Gareth Lowndes, one of the support crew, everything is going according to plan for the dive, which will take place within the next week.

"The decompression tree has been built and the shot line calibrated to 320m. The four massive buoys that will support all staged cylinders have been tested. The depth tags are prepared. So far all is on track," Lowndes said from Dahab.

In July last year, Gomes failed in an attempt to set the record.

Diving with seven scuba tanks he had planned to make a 16-minute descent to 320m. After being "under" for 11 hours, in order to make a number of decompression stops, Gomes was meant to have surfaced with the new record.

But due to technical problem, he stopped at 271m.

Gomes, who when he is not underwater works as a civil engineer, has spent months in physical and mental training and acquired the best equipment. He has also assembled a team of nine experienced divers to assist him in his record bid.

Last Saturday, when the team arrived at Johannesburg International Airport, the 320m of shot line, which weighed 56kg, drew disapproving glares from the baggage handlers.

Lowndes said: "We arrived in Cairo at 4am on Sunday and 10 minutes later we were travelling through that city negotiating stray dogs and the odd camel with dexterity. It took another seven hours, by bus, from Cairo to get to Dahab."

On Monday, the team had their first dive.

"There was plenty of equipment to sort out. We did an 80-minute acclimatisation dive."

On Tuesday, the team went a little deeper.

"The build-up dives have started. It was 11.30am when we hit 50m."

The team is staying at the Planet Divers Hotel - and just walk out of their rooms and into the sea.

"No launch, no petrol fumes and no sea sickness," Lowndes said.

"Just through the millpond surface and descend. The whole team went."

Gomes has a custom-made dry-suit with "Nuno Gomes" in bold letters on the back, which Lowndes complains, interferes with pre-dive arrangements.

"We often have to wait in the water while autograph hunters intercept Nuno on the way to the dive. Then there are photos and more signings. The man has some notoriety around these parts. The proprietor of Sharky's fish bar renamed a prawn dish in honour of Nuno. I can actually recommend Nuno Gomes Prawns. They are king size and R10 each."

The team ended preparations with a night dive.

"I have an intense dislike for night dives," said Lowndes.

"This was cultivated off the Aliwal shoal three years ago. I was violently ill and saw nothing, It rained and the sea resembled Hurricane Gilbert! The Red Sea is different. Most day fish politely go to bed and the nocturnal cabaret begins. Spectacular. Cuttlefish, Spanish dancers and cleaner prawns dance in the torch light. Nocturnal moray eels swim past and the normally shy black spiny sea urchins make highways through the sand."

On Wednesday, the team drove 45 minutes north of Dahab to the Blue Hole - a hole in the reef.

"Famed for its abundant fish life and easy access, divers can relax in the many huts that hug the coastline. These are tastefully done and come with Bedouin-style carpets, blankets and cushions. However, the real lure for us is under the water. A natural archway that begins at 52m," said Lowndes.

"The archway leads into the open ocean beyond. The swim through is about 30m with a roof as dazzling as that of the Sistine Chapel."

If Gomes breaks the 320m mark, he will be uncrowning Mark Ellyatt, who holds the record for 313m, set in Thailand in 2003.

Ellyatt's dive beat the previous record of 308m set in 2001 by John Bennett, who died last year during a commercial salvage dive in South Korea.

Gomes holds the world record for the deepest cave dive when he descended into the inky blackness of Boesmansgat, in Danielskuil in the Northern Cape, in 1996. He reached 282,6m - the dive, though, nearly ended in tragedy when he got stuck at the bottom.

"I felt dizzy. I tried to swim up but I couldn't. I started to inflate my buoyancy compensaters until the lift took me out of the mud. I used my head."

Australian pilot Dave Shaw set the record for a diver using a rebreather system, where his air is recycled, reaching 271m in October last year at Boesmansgat. During this dive, he came across the body of another diver - Deon Dreyer. But Shaw lost his own life on January 8 in an attempt to retrieve Dreyer's corpse from the bottom of Boesmansgat.

In January, just after Gomes had watched the footage from a camera that had been mounted on Shaw's helmet, I asked him if he was still prepared to make the record attempt.

"Absolutely," he said, but added that the grisly footage had sent a strong warning.

"I must be in top condition. I must plan even more thoroughly. I'll do it. And I'll come back."

Source: www.iol.co.za


At 6:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

he's got it - 350M - go boy!

At 4:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This has nothing to do with diving. It has to do something to do with idiots on egotrip. Well, I guess he'll go Bennet's and Exley's way sooner or later.


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