- What is Deep Diving?
- Dangers of Diving Deep
- Scuba Depth World Record
- World Record Attempts
- How to Deep Dive Safely
If you’ve been diving for a while, you’ve likely made it known to your friends through frequent social media posts…
If diving ever comes up in conversation, one of the first questions you’re often asked is:
What’s the deepest you’ve ever dove?
To which you answer a large number in an attempt to impress them.
Then, naturally, the next question is:
How deep can humans scuba dive?
Well lucky for you, this post will answer that question for you and more.
The world record for the deepest scuba dive is currently held by an Egyptian man known as Ahmed Gabr, who ridiculously made it all the way down to 332.35m (1,090 feet 4.5 inches) back in September of 2014.
Below, we’ll jump into:
- What deep diving is
- The challenges associated with diving deep
- Details about Gabrs world record deep dive
- Other world record attempts (and casualties)
- How to deep dive safely
What is Deep Diving?
It’s below 20 meters (66 feet) if you’re an Ocean Diver with BSAC – it depends on what organization you’re with.
For recreational scuba divers, the depth limit you can scuba dive to is 40 meters (130 feet).
But you better believe 40 meters isn’t the deepest a human has dived to. Technical divers go much deeper!
Wondering what on earth technical diving (AKA tec or tech diving) is? It’s simple. It’s scuba diving with a ceiling that doesn’t allow a diver to ascend to the surface at any time of the dive.
Either due to a literal ceiling, like a cave or wreck. Or a virtual ceiling due to required decompression stops.
Decompression stops are stops made at certain depths for scuba divers to allow nitrogen off-gassing. They keep you safe when you’ve been exposed to breathing gasses at pressure.
Anyone scuba diving beyond 40 meters would usually use specialist equipment to be able to dive that deep. Like twinsets, side-mount, and special gas mixes.
You also need to have special training to understand the dangers, safety procedures, and protocol!
Tec divers use special gas mixtures, rather than air. It’s usually trimix or heliox.
These are mixed gas combinations of oxygen, nitrogen, and helium.
It helps reduce the risks of deep diving and be able to dive for longer. They adjust their gas mixture depending on their depth and their planned time at each depth.
So that’s deep-diving, in principle. Some thrill-seekers have taken deep diving to the absolute max and set world records.
Dangers of Diving Deep
As always with scuba diving, if you follow the rules and guidelines, you’re going to be safe. There are, of course, risks though! Deep diving holds inherently more risks than when you’re in shallower waters.
The bends AKA decompression sickness
When you’re scuba diving, you’re breathing air, but under pressure. Air is made of oxygen, nitrogen and other gases. The body uses up oxygen, but not nitrogen. So it ends up in your bloodstream.
This is usually fine because it dissolves out as you ascend if you do it slowly enough. Less than 10 meters/second is advised. Slower than 18 meters/second means your computer won’t require you to do a deco stop or make your safety stop a requirement.
Always follow your dive computer for guidance. If you ascend too quickly, the nitrogen can’t escape and turns into bubbles in your blood.
Once out of the water, this causes you to bend over (hence ‘the bends’!) because the bubbles get stuck at your joints, and cause pain.
In the worst-case scenario, it can cause death. If it looks like someone has symptoms, call emergency services. Make sure you always have the best scuba diving insurance policy!
The longer you spend at depth, the more nitrogen gets into your blood. And the longer it requires to escape.
Depending on how deep you go, you may need to make decompression stops, to allow nitrogen to escape your bloodstream. Safety stops are always recommended no matter how deep you go, and on some dives, required!
Deep diving exposes you to nitrogen narcosis. It’s a dizzy, narcotic feeling from nitrogen accumulation.
It’s dangerous because it can make you disoriented and slow, and have tunnel vision (among other things). Suddenly reading your computer and instruments becomes a little tricky! It can cause anxiety, fear and panic, and even unconsciousness and death.
The deeper you scuba dive, the more exposed you are to the risks. It can affect the same person very differently from day-to-day.
But there are some predisposing factors that can make it much worse. Like dehydration and a hangover! So – don’t drink then deep dive!
Also, don’t deep dive then drink, it can make you feel like you have nitrogen narcosis even when you’re on land!
Rapid air consumption
Air gets denser with depth due to increasing pressure.
So you consume air more rapidly when you’re deep diving than you do in shallow waters.
To avoid an out of air situation, breathe deeply and slowly, and check your gauge often!
As a backup, carry a pony bottle or have a spare tank hanging at your safety stop.
World Record for Deepest Scuba Dive
If you want to break the world record for deep diving, you’re going to have to go pretty far under the surface of the ocean. The deep-diving world record is currently held by Ahmed Gabr from Egypt.
He ridiculously made it all the way down to 332.35m (1,090 feet 4.5 inches) back in September 2014.
You might be wondering where on earth you can scuba dive that deep. He chose the Red Sea, off the coast fo Dahab in his home country.
How did he do it? Years of preparation. Ahmed was a scuba diving instructor for 17 years.
He spent a humble four years of training for his world record attempt. He even worked with yoga masters to learn how to breathe efficiently and slow his heart rate. This world record wasn’t an accident.
If you’re going that far underwater, it takes a lot of meticulous planning and preparation. Proof? Ahmed contacted the Guinness World Records over a year before the dive took place to let them know his plans.
It only took Ahmed 12 minutes to get down there, but it took almost 15 hours to get back up.
When you scuba dive that deep, you have to have decompression stops to ensure your safety.
It takes a lot of tanks to spend 15 hours in the ocean. Ahmed used a whopping nine tanks.
His support team of nine divers gassed through a serious 92 tanks! The support team also consisted of technicians and medical staff – it was a serious affair.
But why on earth would anyone want to do it? Ahmed said his goal was to prove that humans can survive at extreme depths and pressures. Albeit, not for long!
Deep diving to this far into the abyss of the ocean comes with its challenges. There’s a ridiculous amount of pressure, darkness, and the cold becomes exponentially more overwhelming.
The obvious threat of limited air supply is the greatest challenge to survival during any underwater activity.
Deep diving attempts
The deep-diving holy grail is hitting 300 meters. Think of the four-minute mile but for scuba diving! More people have been to the moon than have achieved this feat.
The first legend to do it was Brit, John Bennet, in 2001 at Atlantis Dive Resort. It wasn’t his first world record.
He claimed the first deep-diving world record in 1999, at 200 meters, then again in 2000 reaching 254 meters. His record-breaking deep-diving lasted until 2005.
Before Ahmed’s current world record, Nuno Gomes from South Africa was the top dog. His deep-diving claim to fame was 318.25 meters (1,044 feet), in the same location!
It looks like Dahab’s the place to be for dipping your toe in the deep-diving pond. Nuno set the first record for deepest cave dive in 1996, so he’s still a legend. That was in Boemansgat Cave, South Africa.
South Africa’s Verna Van Schaik has also dived the cave, and holds the record for deepest scuba dive for women!
This has been a dangerous dive for many who have fallen victim to its depths though.
Unfortunately not all world record deepest dive attempts go well. In 2015, Guy Garman, AKA “Doc Deep” died while trying to break Ahmed’s world record. He was aiming for 366 meters in St Croix, the US Virgin Islands.
He didn’t make it to his first support checkpoint at 110 meters at 38 minutes after he descended. His support divers waited for as long as they physically could but he was never found. It’s thought he attempted to rise in the wrong location.
He’d been diving for four years and preparing for the deep dive for two years. He had a team of 28 supporters including medics. Despite this, he didn’t live to tell the tale.
Safe deep diving
So there are a lot of dangers to deep diving. But that’s not to say you can’t do it safely! Here are some of the DOs and DON’Ts of safe deep diving!
- Plan your dive including maximum depth and bottom time
- Do your pre-dive safety check with your buddy before diving
- Monitor your depth and pressure gauge closely
- Follow your computer, and have a backup
- Have a spare air supply
- Consider the diving conditions and weather
- Have good travel and scuba diving insurance
- Know your limits and dive within them!
- Exceed your no-deco limits
- Dive alone
- Go deeper than your planned depth or exceed your planned bottom time
Deep diving is an epic sport. If you love scuba diving, then you’ll probably love deep diving too.
It’s a grand adventure. And you can see some epic creatures down there! The deeper you dive, the more you’ll find.