By Nuno Gomes

Diving history has been made in Lago Maggiore, Northern Italy. On 10th May 2008 three divers, Pim van der Horst, Mario Marconi and Alessandro Scuotto did “The Deepest Wreck Dive”. They dived the wreck of the “Milano” located at a depth of –236 meters of fresh water, the divers used the “Ouroboros” closed circuit rebreather.

The logistic preparations for this dive were both comprehensive and impressive. The support by the Italian diving community was total and it included both sport divers as well emergency diving personnel. The dive was planned by Marco Braga, Andrea Cortesi and Fabio Manganelli with the assistance of many other volunteers.

An ROV, positioned on the wreck of the “Milano” at –236 mfw, provided a visual beacon for the divers (with its lights), it also monitored the safe arrival of the divers at depth and established visual proof that they had been there. The most critical infrastructure that was available for this dive was a diving bell (fitted with hot water and surface gas supply as well as visual and audio communication). The diving bell allowed the divers to decompress in comfort for the last four hours of the seven-hour epic dive.

The dive went off without incident and as planned until Pim arrived back at –120 meters at which point his dry suit flooded (this was a problem because the water temperature is around 4 to 6 degrees centigrade), he managed to survive and was assisted into the bell at –21 meters by his support diver Remko van de Peppel, at that stage he was very weak and unable to do so on his own.

At –100 meters, on the way up Alex started to feel dizzy and had to bail out to open circuit due to vomiting, with the assistance of his support divers and Mario he too was able to reach the safety of the diving bell.

Mario’s dive went on without incident and he communicated with the surface from the diving bell, on the condition of his dive buddies. He also assisted them when possible because they were both vomiting frequently while decompressing in the safety of the bell.

Upon surfacing Alex was evacuated for further treatment in the Recompression Chamber while Pim whose condition had improved remained under observation. Mario, after a medical examination, required no further attention except for a good night’s sleep.

The whole team can be congratulated on doing a very difficult record dive and on recovering from a number of potentially fatal emergencies. I had the pleasure of being a witness to a well-executed dive instead of being one of the divers doing the record, for a change.