By Nuno Gomes

By Nuno Gomes

Photos by Vivien Vogel, Roland Gockel, Christina Karliczek and Nuno Gomes
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It all started with an email from Thomas Behrend from Blue Planet Film in Germany. His film company was interested in exploring and filming the Guinas sinkhole/cave system in Namibia (near Tsumeb). I was asked for assistance in organizing the diving part of the expedition. After consulting with Pieter Venter, my dive buddy, Theo van Eeden and both Thinus van Wyk snr and jnr, it was decided that we could put the trip together.

Guinas is a massive sinkhole/cave system (see the cross section in the photo gallery), which I had dived before to a depth of 123 meters, with Lionel Brink back in 1999, it was also then that Verna van Schaik and Gilbert Gun reached the depth of 117 meters. Even though I had dived Guinas many times, it was mostly on the Northern and Southern sides; a lot of the system remains unexplored, especially in the Eastern side. In 1988 Boetie Scheun reached a depth of 132 meters on the Eastern side when the water level was high, he and his buddy however never reached the deepest point…….

Pieter and myself arrived in Tsumeb (northern Namibia) on the evening of 29 June 2008, after having traveled 2000 kilometers by road across Botswana, from Johannesburg in South Africa. Thomas Behrend and his team (Andreas Ewels, Birgit Peters, Christina Karliczek, Vivien Vogel and last but not least Roland Gockel) had arrived a few days before on a flight from Germany to Windhoek in Namibia (500 kilometers from Guinas).
The next day we were ready to dive, Thinus and his son had already set up a special winch at Guinas. This winch would allow the team to get to the water and back out, the water surface lies 30 meters below the ground surface and it is a vertical drop. Getting in and out of the sinkhole is difficult enough by itself; doing Trimix diving as well makes it even more challenging.

Blue Planet film needed footage both above and below water, this included filming the bottom, which is 105 meters deep, on the eastern side. Only Pieter and myself were prepared to dive to the bottom so the filming, at the bottom, was left to us (Pieter had a small helmet mounted camera). We needed to collect rock samples at the bottom to prove that the roof of the sinkhole had collapsed in the distant past.

Guinas has clear water with a temperature of 26 degrees; it is a pleasure diving there. Christina and Thomas did a lot of filming and exploring and they managed to get some excellent footage of the very tropical looking fish (Tilapia), which are endemic to Guinas. They also filmed the living stromatolites (first form of life on earth) as well as ancient stalactites (in the caves) from a period in the distant past when the water table had been very much lower.

Even though not everyone scuba dived, most of the crew of seven from Blue Planet Film made some time to get to the water and at least swim for a while. Vivien Vogel did more than that, Vivien who is a free diver and one of the few women who does spearfishing around the world came down to visit Pieter and myself, while we did some of our deco stops and took some great underwater photos.

Guinas has quite a few secrets left; no one knows how deep the Eastern side caves goes.
There are shallower caves that require further investigation in terms of possible prehistoric fauna remains. I am sure that we will be back in Namibia soon, especially because there are many other caves nearby some of which have unique white blind catfish, some of these caves have not yet been explored and offer great potential.

See you all soon in Namibia...   :-))))

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