The Deepest Dive?
What was your deepest dive?
This question keeps coming back in your circle of family and friends.
What is it that makes us wonder and ask about achievements?
Is your deepest dive a real achievement, and if so, why?
Was it just the extra metre/feet down, or did you come across something out of the ordinary and decide to follow it down to a certain depth until you said, enough is enough and turned back to face the surface?
My career in diving has brought me to many depths in many different circumstances. For example, following a hammerhead shark down a steep wall or going the extra meter down to join a few whales, but also just scouting the deep walls of reefs, looking for that one special thing that made me thrill and lust for more.
Diving is an adventure in which we decide when to turn around and return to the surface! But after 32 years of professional scuba teaching in all different courses you can imagine, I came across the possibility and opportunity to make that one special deep dive!
October 2022, Curacao!
After some weeks of emailing, we finally could set a date to visit the Curaçao Substation. A rather unique and special place in the world if you like submarines.
A Dutch company, X-SUB, produces mini-submarines that can take just 1 or 2 passengers down to serious depths.
A new market that has been discovered. The demand is out there to serve scientific research as well as also personal discovery and pleasure.
The subs are manufactured in The Netherlands and shipped to Curaçao to be tested and approved for sale. Safety first before the new owner gets their hands on the new toy.
Safety and techniques must be tested, but the subs also need a trained and qualified pilot to control the sub, bring it down and back up from the underwater world. A world that we, scuba divers, know too well and understand!
Don’t you just wonder how deep these subs can go and how all these fine technical constructions can withstand the pressure and the salty water? Electronics and salt water, remember that part?
So, no better way than to find out ourselves!
October first, D-day or Deep Day!
We arrived at 09h45 at the Substation for a first impression. As we walked around, we saw several earlier models of private subs around the station on display. Clearly, we could notice the history of development between the models, and it made us wonder what the new generation of the sub would look like.
After getting to the reception area, we were greeted by Tico, our pilot. We were all ready and planned for a staggering 600ft-200mtr deep dive. For this challenge, the new four-passenger sub would be used that is test rated to 600fr/200m.
They started with a really interesting and clear-cut presentation on how the sub operates, how safety is guaranteed on multiple levels, how the inner air is purified and kept cool, and (believe me) about 50 other items the sub has to deal with. Next, it was time to get wet, well, yes, from being sweaty by walking out of the chilled presentation room into the hot Curaçao sun towards the basin where the sub was waiting for us, gently bobbing on the surface in its dock.
After some on-site explaining on how to get into the sub, it was my turn to get through the waterproof hatch and take my seat in front of the glass dome. The dome giving me an almost 360° field of vision! Not a tiny little porthole to watch the abyss of the deep pass by, no Sir, nothing like that! A complete sphere, dome that creates the best of vision for all passengers in the sub, no matter where you are seated.
Within a few minutes, the hatch was closed, and the soft, gentle sounds of the electrical propulsion system came alive. So off we went, into the unknown depths of Curaçao.
The descent towards the first 50mtr/150ft went rather fast, and looking around; I noticed the fish that I was used to see during my (wet) ocean dives. Then, the colours faded, and the sun started to lose its power.
Once below 80mtr/240ft, my interest began to sharpen. Of course, these depths were known to me, but I had visited not that much and always for a very short time.
Well aware of the difference between being in the sub or out in the water, the comfort of the sub surprised me, as I was breathing chilled air, comfortably sitting in a really good chair, feeling nothing less than hyper-comfortable, remembering the last wet dive I made to this depth, it had been some time!
Passing the 100m/300ft mark is always a memorable number, but even more special was when we passed the 112m/336ft depth, as that had been my deepest wet dive until now.
What to say now, answering the question from above??
What would my deepest dive become?
150m/450ft and life below this depth became quiet and scarce! Some sea urchins came to show themselves, not spiked, as their spikes cannot grow here due to the pressure of 16bar. The sea urchins look bold like they lost something. A short-bodied fish is hiding behind a rock. A little different compared to his family that lives more shallow, short-bodied because of pressure?
Adaptation of nature?
The descent continued until we reached the set goal of 200m/600ft. Can we go any deeper? Tico, our pilot, explains that if we descend 5m/15ft deeper, the alarm will go off, and the sub will automatically start rising to the surface. So let’s test it! And the sub sure did!
At exactly 205,1mtr/615ft, the alarm sounds and the automatic built-in safety system took over, blasting the sub higher, back up! An excellent safety system that could help out in many situations you do not want to experience!
As we explored the ocean bottom, we came across many items, one being a beer bottle (the brand cannot be stated due to publicity rights) and even some plastic items. You cannot imagine how you feel looking at plastic waste at this depth. It really pains a person. How would we ever be able to get all this waste cleaned up?
Time to head back up in the direction of two wrecks at a depth of 75mtr/225ft. The wrecks look majestic, and suddenly, I feel like James Cameron exploring the depths to find the remains of the Titanic. What a feeling that must have been.
As we got higher up, the fish life became more abundant, and coral formations became the general field of view again. Finally, the sun has retaken its place! The end of our deepest dive is near, and the surface is within reach.
At last, after a staggering 90min dive, we broke the surface, and the sunlight was there again.
An experience never to forget or even to be continued?
Curasub also offers a 330/1000ft dive. Will we be able to get down there? Or will I just sign up for a pilot course and get my private submarine to put on SY Blowing Bubbles? I guess I have to check my bank account first to see what options I have for the future!
Thank you, Curasub, for this incredible adventure!
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