A Visit to the World's Deadliest Dive Site

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Omar opened the first center for technical diving in Dahab. The experts among the recreational divers use special gas mixtures, the composition of which is dependent on the depth of their intended dive. It's easy to dive through the tunnel in the Blue Hole with Trimix or Heliox, but not with compressed air.

The critical limit for diving with compressed air is 56 meters. The exit from the tunnel is one meter lower at its upper edge.

To avoid accidents, the Egyptian diving association stipulates that divers cannot dive below 40 meters in the Red Sea with compressed air. In Dahab, however, divers can buy depth. It's easy to find a guide who is willing to surreptitiously take a diver into the tunnel for €100, without asking unnecessary questions.

All it takes is three attempts. The man with the blonde ponytail doesn't want to see the diving certification card or the dive log book in which each dive is documented. He only cares about one thing: "When do we start?"

The man is Russian. The Russians, both guides and ordinary divers, have a bad reputation in Dahab. They are considered careless. "Russian roulette," says Omar.

A Bach Organ Concerto The rule of thumb among divers is that every 10 meters corresponds to a martini, and first-time drinkers quickly get tipsy. At as little as 30 meters, an inexperienced diver can become confused as a result of what's called nitrogen narcosis. When the rising pressure causes too much nitrogen to become dissolved in the bloodstream, divers lose their judgment. There are divers who have been inside the tunnel with compressed air in their tanks, and who swear that they heard a Bach organ concerto. Others report memory lapses or that they felt as if they were stoned.

Just as a drinker develops a tolerance against alcohol at the beginning of his addiction, a diver can also become accustomed to high nitrogen concentrations. But even oxygen eventually becomes harmful underwater, where it is transformed into a toxin that causes dizziness, nausea, cramping and, eventually, unconsciousness.

Omar switches on the computer in his diving school because he wants to show us a YouTube video. "Yuri Lipski. He went diving without his buddy. That alone is crazy. Yuri took along a video camera. I brought it up with the body. I thought the camera was broken, but it still worked. Yuri was filming the whole time. He filmed his own death."

The video lasts seven minutes and 16 seconds. Lipski is diving with compressed air -- 12 liters. He seems to have everything under control at first, but then he starts dropping and dropping. His dive computer, visible in the picture, shows 81.7 meters, then 85.3 meters and, finally, 91.6 meters, when he hits the bottom. Lipski tries to inflate his buoyancy compensator to make himself more buoyant, but it doesn't work. He begins to flounder and kicks up sand. Then the image freezes. Omar turns off the computer.

"Yuri was lying with his face on the ground when I found him," he says, and then he begins to list what went wrong. "First," he says, sticking out his thumb to count, "Yuri was too heavy. Twelve kilograms of lead on his belt, plus the bottle, the camera and the batteries. He holds up his index finger. "Second, his vest burst open. It was already full when he tried to pump air into it. "Third," he says, extending his middle finger, "oxygen poisoning. That's why he was twitching. That was it."

Dive Number 401

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