In September 2006, the largest gathering of technical divers took place in Italy. Over 100 world-class technical divers made a simultaneous dive into the chilly waters of the majestic Lake Maggiore. Nuno Gomes of South Africa, world record holder for the deepest sea diver and cave dive, and his female counterpart for the deepest sea dive, Claudia Serpieri of Italy, were among the scuba divers to participate in this unprecedented event, meticulously planned by PTA-CMAS (Pure Tech Agency and Confederation Mondiale Des Activites Subaquatiques), DAN (Divers Alert Network) as well as DESA (Dive Expedition Support Agency).
As the early morning fog settled over Lake Maggiore, four shot lines are being placed in the water, one next to the other, in preparation for the dozens upon dozens of scuba divers that descended into the dark, ice-cold murkiness. The water temperature at depth will hover at 6 degrees Celsius – not for the faint of heart. The first shot line was reserved for divers reaching a maximum depth of 60 meters on deep air. The second line was for divers going to 100 meters on trimix, the third - a shotline to 130 meters for the deepest divers and the fourth shot line for divers going to 45 metres.
This unparalleled event was not just an exercise in scuba diving on a mass scale. There was a greater purpose that will benefit the scientific and medical community; to understand the short-term and long-term effects that scuba diving has on the human body. Doctors from Divers Alert Network (DAN), a worldwide organization that provides scuba divers with emergency treatment in scuba diving accidents and decompression illness, will monitor the levels of nitrogen and helium in the bloodstream of the 100 divers as they ascend from their depths. The results of this observation will arm diving doctors and scuba diving trainers alike with new and valuable information that will improve the safety levels of technical diving and help doctors develop more thorough treatments for diving-related accidents and illnesses.
Lake Maggiore has held a special place in the history of technical diving. It was here, in 1961, that the first open water mixed gas dives were conducted by Hannes Keller, a Swiss mathematician, and Albert Buhlmann, a US physiologist. They were able to prove that their highly controversial elements of accelerated decompression in conjunction with helium and oxygen mixtures (HELIOX) actually worked. A pivotal dive to 220 metres caught the attention of the US Navy, commencing numerous experimental mixed gas dives in the US and Europe.
The event was opened by Marco Braga/Andrea Cortesi of PTA, as well as the legendary cave diver and explorer Jim Bowden, previous world record holder and one of the first names in technical diving history.
Old diving buddies met and new friendships were forged among a group of people that are more often known for their competitive nature than their collective motivation to advance subterranean science.
Years in the planning, the results of this exciting mega diving event were announced by Dr Alessandro Marroni, the president of DAN, the following evening at a conference attended by over 500 people. The “giant splash for mankind” in Lake Maggiore will reverberate in the history books as an important episode in diving science and technology.
This memorable event was documented by Mrs Elena Konstantinou (herself an accomplished technical diver), a well known International film producer and patroness of Deep Technical Diving.