Where is the Blue Hole? What do people think about at a depth of 35 meters? Why do freedivers need shampoo? How to pray to the Snot God and how to survive an irradiation of pain?
The Egyptian Dahab – a Mecca for freedivers around the world. It is famous because of its proximity to Blue Hole.
The Blue Hole is a geological chasm surrounded by coral reefs with an approximate depth of 130 meters. At 52-55 meters of depth the cave is connected to the sea by a pass. Blue Hole is one of the 10 most dangerous diving places in the world.
However, freedivers love it, because it takes only a few steps from the shore to dive deep and – plop! – you’re 100 meters under the water. No cutters, boats, rentals, other equipment. Just plunge yourself into the water, get out and fall on the cushions of the local “restaurant”.
Besides the Hole, I love Dahab for its indescribable atmosphere of Rastafarianism, relaxation, friendship and excellent weather. On top of that, reasonable prices, excellent cafés and seafood make Dahab a unique place for diving. By the way, I know three people who already moved to Dahab from their big cities together with their families and plan to live the rest of their lives there. And they are happy!
One of them is our instructor from Molchanova’s school – Valerij Tsykunenko. A very cool and funny guy, the communication with him is not only easy and pleasant, but most importantly very useful. But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit.
So, the group of five Moldovan free divers went to Dahab to attend the depth seminar organized by Molchanova’s school. Target – acquire the knowledge and experience of depth diving at 35 meters, and if successful get the “3 Waves” Certificate.
We are slightly refined freedivers. Two of us dived in the pool only, and all others sort of did some diving, but didn’t measure the depth. One underwater hunter, one yogi, and one marathoner. A very strange company. Besides that, Sanya start feeling bad already in the airport and the entire following week lay in bed with fever.
Given the circumstances, Valera (our instructor) had 3 available days only: one day for each wave. We decided to do two crash courses with two dives and two theoretical blocks per day. Hence, we became very focused and gathered and actively absorbed the experience of the older generation.
The first day started with a breakfast and the trip from the hotel to Blue Hole (18 km) in the back of a pickup truck. By the way, this is one other moment to remember on the Dahab trip – a fairly destroyed pickup, with a back full of happy freedivers. Cool!
After that Valera taught the basics about the human body, about the ears (middle, internal ear), about sinus, Eustachian tubes, as well as about the principles of diving. Most of these things we knew already, but repetition is the mother of learning.
This was followed by a warm-up – and this was a unique thing! The internet doesn’t tell you much about this. Breathing exercises specifically for divers is a very cool thing!
The practical part was also very useful: we were shown how to warm up in the water, which dives are, needed to disperse reflexes, why it is important to press your chin to the chest, fold shoulders and other subtleties of skill. We didn’t dive deep – went down approximately 12 meters, although we wanted more. But Valera prohibited diving below the depth marked, every meter below the mark equaled a 10 euro fine!
However, towards the end of the dive, my problem with cleaning my ears comes front again. My ears got clogged and didn’t allow diving deeper than 10 meters. On top of that, the 3 millimeter Orca proven to be cold for 22 degrees.
The second diving after 2 hours of theory kicked everything else left in me – I was cold and could not dive below 5 meters. Frustrated and tormented by shots in my sinus, I got out to the shore…
In the evening, Andrei showed me how the yogis “clean” themselves by staying upside down. After 5 minutes of staying with my head down, I felt a new surge of energy and went to bed full of positive hopes.
The following day, I woke up to with snots and a slight malaise. And became nervous – how would I dive 35 meters deep into the water if I can’t normally breathe on earth. But, as they say, a friend in court is better than a penny in purse. Vadim lent me his warm hunting suit with “interconnected pores”: the interior part of such suits consists of a multitude of small suction cups (half bubbles), when worn the fabric literally sticks to the body of the swimmer like a “second skin”. The purpose is to avoid cold water circulation between the suit and the skin.
I’ve never worn a similar hydro-suit before; therefore the older colleagues organized a master class. So, pulling on a hydro-suit with open pores “on dry” skin is impossible: it sticks to your legs and hands remain blocked in sleeves. That’s why resourceful sportsmen use shampoo. You fill the suit with half a liter of soapy water, wash the interior off with that water and then pull it on. It goes like on butter!
Breakfast, pickup truck, Blue Hole, theoretical block, and Valera and I (shampooed all over) and the other three divers are hanging over the abyss.
We descended on the rope to 12 meters, warmed up; my ears were functioning well, with a certain difficulty, but still. 12, 15, 18 – it got more difficult… Got to 20 and shot back up with a terrible … tooth ache.
I ran to Valera – because I’ve heard that sometimes dentists accidentally leave air pockets in tooth seals, and during diving such air pockets may cause tooth ache. But my teeth never hurt under water… Valera smiled and explained that I was experiencing an irradiation of pain in the upper maxilar, caused by sinuses. That is sometimes the pain in the maxillary sinus difuses in the upper maxilar and one gets the feeling of a molar tooth ache.
That was a poor consolation, especially since I couldn’t even dive two meters. After a couple of hours of theory on barotraumas, mind control, blackouts, safety, Valsalva, La Panteros, blood shifts and other useful things, we were in the water again.
I shouldn’t have done that. I understood that for me personally one diving experience a day was sufficient. The second dive was pointless (and merciless).
After rinsing my nasal passages with sea water, I dove 10 meters, had big difficulty cleaning my ears the last time – at 8 meters, and then even less, and after 10 minutes I could not dive even 5 meter below. While during all this time, my friends were exploring the 25-meter depth.
The pain in the sinuses, the fever, the weakness and terrible dissatisfaction with myself – a “marvelous” bouquet that I wouldn’t wish to any freediver. I literally crawled to the shore…
After drinking hot Bedouin tea, and some time to calm down and soberly weigh the situation, I realized it was highly unlikely for me to dive at 35 meters the following day. After a bit of mourning, I started to search for the advantages of this situation, and it turned out there were plenty.
First of all, I learned a lot about diving. Second, I learned the possibilities of my body in diving – how much and how I can dive. Third, I am in Egypt in a very good company. Fourth, fifth, sixth… And the fact that I’ll not get the “3 Waves” Certificate is not such a big deal. I will have a reason to come here next summer!
With this in mind, I went to bed…
The morning was gorgeous – mosquitoes had fun at our neighbors last night, the mood was high, the sun was shining, the air was fresh… Stop. Fresh air? Let’s check cleaning ears… Valsalva – ok, Frenzel – ok. Hm, cool…
Suddenly I realized that there are circumstances resistance to which only strengthens the pressure. But if you stop resisting and start going with the flow, accepting them with your wholeheartedly, everything can change.
Feeling hopeful, I decided to try to dive. Avoiding fanaticism. May it go, as it shall go. After the theoretical block on deconcentration, psychological preparation, nitrogen, decompression and other beauties of diving, I decided to consult Valera.
He suggested me to do a small depth check session to let my ears accommodate. A brief session and then dive to the maximum and that’s it. One chance!
Andrej and Vadim went first – both reached 35 meters of depth.
It was my turn. I descended down the rope to 10 meters, ok. Then down the rope to 15 my feet upward – still ok. Then, to 18 meters by crawl upwards and downwards. My ears were working like watches, but I could not be too slow. So, after a brief prayer, I proceeded… I rested near the buoy for like 7 minutes, breathed in a full load of fresh air and went underwater…
I’m blowing frequently, every meter, went down to 15, feel that floatability is negative – I stop waving the fins and start falling. I industriously keep my chin to my chest, blow, and relax. At 25 meters I could see the end of the rope with the 35-meter weight in the mist. Is it possible that I can make it? And in this moment my pleasant thoughts about the resilience of the human will and the unlimited possibilities of the human body was suddenly interrupted by a pain in my ears.
Lost in thought, I skipped a blow, and proceeding was painful. The watch shows 28 meters. What shall I do? I decide to go up, blow and go down again. It is unlikely this will work out – I’m shooting for the record, what kind of fluctuations are these? Everything should be very precise: you dive, you fall, you touch base and come up. No unnecessary moves. But I don’t have a chance, that’s why I stopped, went back up, cleaned my ears and then started down again. I’m flying, 30, 32 and stop! Once again I can’t blow. But now I don’t even have anything to clean my ears with, you either tolerate the pain, or go back up. Tolerating the pain is not good – ear membranes are not made of steel. And reaching the end of the rope weight – 3 meters! And I start slowly descending trying to control the pain, go down to 34 meters, reach my hand with the watch down, stretch out and start floating upwards.
For some reason, while on land and when coming up from a record depth you think: “What a cool guy, he dived 35 meters!”.
Damn far from that. You think of how to get out without blacking out. While in general, the head is empty under water, no noise, everything is blurry and deconcentrated.
I’m coming up and at a certain point I feel – oxygen is at the limit. At 25 meters I meet Valera, and we fly to the buoy together.
Yes – 35! White card!
After catching my breath, I tried to dive once again. The result on the graph – 10 meters. Done with diving for today. I had one chance, and I used it. Thanks to the ocean and to the God of Snots for this opportunity.
Following was the “Bedouin Tea”, the theoretical exam and solemn award of the “3 Waves” Certificates. And in the evening, a booze, and hubbly-bubbly obviously, with all ensuing consequences in the morning.
I also went jogging in the harsh Egyptian headwind. http://www.movescount.com/moves/move28031242
Went swimming against the harsh Sinai counter flow.
Then we had a few days of relaxation, crapulence, easy dives, Dahab sightseeing, souvenir shopping, lazy sleep and, of course, remote working – nobody cancelled work.
By the way, in Dahab a new idea came to me on a small interesting start-up.