Diving to the Intriguing World of the Deepest Underwater Cave Ever Found

Diving to the Intriguing World of the Deepest Underwater Cave Ever Found

Extreme cave diving is a breathtaking exploit, one of the most extreme in the world of underwater sports. That also means that it has its fair share of risks and dangers. But, where there is a will, there is also a way. There is no better demonstration of this than the dazzling triumph of Polish and Czech divers.

They carried out numerous dives over the years to collect data and explore Hranicka Proast, cave they believed could be the deepest underwater cave of them all. There were various tough challenges to overcome. The divers could not even go past a certain point and probes were sent down. In the end, getting to the bottom of the European abyss was certainly worth it— it did prove to be the world’s deepest underwater cave.

On the brink of grand discovery

We often do not associate diving with extreme sports, but this becomes a foolish notion the presence of a feat that daring deep cave drivers have achieved. Namely, men and robots teamed up in what would become one of the most daring endeavors in the diving history.

It was by no means a stroke of luck that led them to this forgotten water realm. They have been probing the contours of the cave for years. This sunken kingdom is called Hranicka Propast and it is located in the Czech Republic.  The team was lead by legendary Polish diver Krysztof Starnawsk, a man who holds world record for the deepest dive (928 feet) with a closed circuit re-breather.

Treacherous waters

His team of divers has ventured to these dark corridors for the first time back in 1999. Since then, they have explored every inch of it they could. Each new dive provided more clues and many pieces of the puzzle had to be assembled. One of the main findings was that the limestone pit developed in a rather unusual way, which both inspired optimism and caused problems.

There was one other thing that struck them as peculiar: the water was saturated with mud and carbon dioxide and bubbled up like there was and underwater volcano somewhere. The exposed skin would itch, divers reported. To make it worse, the equipment was at the risk of damage and the vision was seriously impaired.

Dwelling deeper

Due to the difficult conditions and the configuration, remotely operated underwater vehicles had to be used to gather data and measure the underwater abyss. They were operated by a team at the surface through a fiber-optic cable. This is all due to the fact that past the limit of 400 meters, scuba diving becomes a deadly exploit. The only dives past that have been done by oil companies, via a method called saturation diving.

In any event, the type of limestone formation that the team found made divers confirm their theory: that the cave is much deeper than previously thought. Supported by National Geographic grant, they continued their expedition. Soon, they encountered the critical point, the extremely narrow opening called “squeeze passage” at 656 feet.

Not deep enough

At first, it appeared this was the bottom of the cave. That would spell doom for ambitions of brave explorers. However, Krysztof managed to get the probe past this tiny point to discover a pitch-black vertical tunnel that leads into a deep shaft. Upon reaching its bottom, he lowered a line, but run out of cord.

At that moment, it seemed as though Pozzo del Merro in Italy is a slightly deeper sinkhole. That was not acceptable. When he returned with a longer line, he found out that squeeze passage has collapsed. He dived himself to the depth of 869 feet and once he did the measurements Propast came shy of Pozzo again. This time, however, it was due to fallen debris.

Making history

That did not discourage the divers who already put a lot behind them. They persisted in effort to get accurate measurements.  When they finally did, the depth gauge on the vehicle showed that it was record-breaking depth. So, since 2016, it is official— Hranicka Propast takes the throne with 1,325 feet (404 meters).

So, that was more than enough to steal the title of the previous record holder, which is only 36 feet shallower.  Krysztof asserted that he felt like “the Columbus of the 21st century”. And he certainly deserves such a title after taking extreme measures like spending hours and hours in a decompression chamber.

The show must go on

Even this is not the end of the road. Trees, logs, and branches were found at the very bottom. This discovery suggests that over time, the cave has changed its shape. The current configuration of the shaft does not allow anything that large to pass through. This sheds some light on the history of the abyss.

The cave also ended up being much larger than anticipated. It seems to follow a natural rock fault line. Taking all this into account, divers plan further exploration and mapping of the cave. All in all, this is a huge push for deep cave diving. As a result, this underwater sport in USA, Europe, Asia and many other places is gaining popularity.

Are you ready to dive in?

Are you tempted by this epic mission? Well, flooded limestone formations are a special kind of a treat, but novices should not even dare approach near them. It takes a whole lot of preparation, meticulous planning and training to successfully complete diving missions.

There are many guidelines and protocols that govern every tiny detail, such as communication, gas management, propulsion techniques, psychological preparedness, emergency situations, cave conservation ethics, etc. Complex training systems involve progressive stages of education and certification.

Pushing the boundaries

Deep cave diving is a thrilling extreme sport that takes you to awe-inspiring flooded corridors. It reflects the innate human desire to venture further and deeper in order to explore uncharted territory. It took 20 years to confirm what Polish divers suspected all along— that Hranicka Propast is the deepest underwater cave humans have explored.

The commitment and resolve to reach dizzying depths is a beacon of inspiration for many divers and daredevils around the globe.  Robots had to be sent where humans could not go, but that does not diminish the glorious achievement one bit. Can one go deeper from here? Only the time will give an answer to this.

Sean Lockwood

Sean is a programmer with a passion for extreme sports. Favourite extreme sports discipline is biathlon. Started this blog because of the great love for nature and adrenaline which results in something extreme like Extreme Sports Lab (ESL).

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