What It's Like To Dive The World's Deadliest Dive Site – Forbes

December 12, 2018 - Comment

Diving equipment at the Blue Hole near Dahab, Egypt.Getty There are few things in this world that are more unknown and mysterious than the ocean. That thing that covers 71% of our planet? We haven’t even discovered 20% of it. But we learn new incredible things about it every day. This year alone we learned


Diving equipment at the Blue Hole near Dahab, Egypt.Getty

There are few things in this world that are more unknown and mysterious than the ocean. That thing that covers 71% of our planet? We haven’t even discovered 20% of it.

But we learn new incredible things about it every day.

This year alone we learned that sitting 160 miles off the South Carolina coast there’s an incredible 85-mile long deep-sea coral reef just waiting to be explored.

A new species of octopus was also confirmed (meet the frilled giant Pacific octopus), as well as three new species of the deep-dwelling snailfish (the pink, the blue and the purple Atacama Snailfish), a species rarely seen since they live almost five miles below the surface.

But that’s what makes the ocean so exciting – you never know what you might discover below the surface. And while I know I’m not necessarily going to discover a new species the next time I go diving, I still get just as excited to be a part of this underwater world.

But that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, I used to be so afraid of the ocean (and the creatures that call it home) that I wouldn’t get in unless I could see the bottom, which often meant not going in more than a few feet. But I knew that had to change. I knew I was missing out on something incredible. So, I faced my fears head on and got my PADI Open Water certification. (And eventually my PADI Advanced Open Water certification.)

And that was a life changer. Because, as I’m sure you might have guessed, once I got a glimpse into this world – a world that most other people will never experience in their lives – I couldn’t get enough. My fears have slowly been replaced by intrigue. Intrigue for what’s down there – the creatures, the corals, the landscapes – all of it. The thrill of discovering something for myself leading me to the most incredible dive sites all around the world. The more beautiful and rarer the dive site, the better.

And that’s exactly how the Blue Hole got on my radar.

Well that. And that it’s considered the deadliest dive site in the world.

The number of fatalities at the Blue Hole hasn’t exactly been confirmed, but there have certainly been at least a few hundred deaths at the site in the last 10 years alone.

And, by the way, this probably isn’t the Blue Hole that you’re thinking of – this is Egypt’s Blue Hole. This is the Blue Hole sitting in the Red Sea, just south of the sleepy beach town of Dahab on the Sinai Peninsula. This is the Blue Hole that’s also nicknamed the ‘diver’s cemetery.’

Saddle of the Blue Hole – where divers cross into the sinkhole from the surrounding reef.Getty

But, how exactly did it earn this nickname?

Well, while people dive, snorkel and freedive the Blue Hole all the time – I certainly did – it isn’t the dive itself that’s so dangerous.

It’s the arch and the underwater tunnel that most divers aren’t properly equipped to take on, that is.

Because they’re deep. Too deep for anyone who isn’t a technical diver. (Which essentially means that you’re going beyond diving for fun.)

As a technical diver you’re prepared to go deeper. Prepared to dive longer. Prepared to be using a different mix of gas. Prepared to use different equipment (hello, rebreather). And you’re prepared to be diving for a purpose. You’re prepared to go on a very technical dive.

And that’s where most people go wrong.

Because getting to the arch (if you can even find it) requires a descent to almost 185 feet (56 meters), with the bottom of the Blue Hole reaching a depth of 328 feet (100 meters).

This is not a depth that you, or anyone not doing a technical dive, wants to see.

And that’s exactly what happens. Diver’s think they can handle this with the same oxygen and equipment they use on a recreational dive.

It’s a dangerous situation.

It’s a situation that puts recreation divers at the risk of being ‘narced’ out of their minds (Nitrogen Narcosis is sometimes the result of diving to a depth where compressed air you’re breathing has a higher concentration of Nitrogen, giving you a feeling much like laughing gas). It makes you less aware of your surroundings and more likely to make irrational decisions.

It’s not a good thing.

But that isn’t the only problem.

Say a recreational diver does get to depth, reaching the tunnel. Well, now they need to get all the way through it. Which is another 85 feet (26 meters) to open water.

Without extra tanks, it’s almost certain that you won’t make it through the tunnel with the air you have for one recreational dive.

So, while I was determined to dive the Blue Hole, I was going to dive it the smart way.

Which meant that I needed a dive master. So, I enlisted the help of the PADI-certified dive shop at Red Sea Relax (which also happened to be one of the cheapest dive shops I’ve ever encountered – my dives were only €25 a dive). So, that was it – they were going to take me to the Blue Hole and show me what the world’s deadliest dive site was all about.

Diving the Canyon dive site near Dahab, Egypt.Red Sea Relax

But, in what I’m assuming was a test to make sure that I could handle the buoyancy part of crossing the mouth of the sinkhole – a disorienting challenge, my dive master started our day with an easy shore dive at the Canyon – a champagne bubble-like canyon where we found octopus, potato grouper, sea turtles and tuna – before setting our sights on the Blue Hole. (As I’m sure you can imagine, crossing something where you have no bearing on depth, is not an easy task if you can’t stay neutrally buoyant – that perfect point where you aren’t sinking or floating in the water. And, as I found out, yet another reason why the Blue Hole is such a rush for divers.)

And when I finally found myself making my way across the 265 foot (85 meter) opening, about 60 feet below the surface, watching snorkelers flail about above, all while being mesmerized by the endless depth of blue below, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of appreciation for what we don’t know about the ocean. For what’s left to be discovered, not just by scientists, but as a diver. And that was the only adrenaline rush I needed that day.

Please remember to dive safe, friends.

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