Boesmansgat Body Recovery…: In November I posted a report on a world record 270 meter dive made by Australian Dave Shaw in the deep water cave called Boesmansgat (Dutch (I think?) for “Bushman’s Cave”). Not only did Shaw set a new world depth record, he came across the corpse of a diver named Deon Dreyer, who died in the cave some ten years earlier. Shaw got in touch with me to correct a point or two in my report, and it turns out he’s a great guy. So great, in fact, he’s about to go back into Boesmansgat sometime in the coming week to make an attempt to recover Dreyer’s body. Click here to watch a news clip about Shaw’s discovery of the body and a good description of what Boesmansgat is like. This story has some good details about Shaw’s discovery and Dreyer’s death:

“Dave Shaw looked me straight in the eye and made me a very big promise. He said, ‘I will fetch your son.’ I believe he is the man who will go down 271 metres underwater to bring back my boy,” Theo Dreyer says.

For the past 10 years, the body of 20-year-old Deon Dreyer has been lying at the bottom of Bushman’s Cave near Danielskuil in the Northern Cape in silt 271m underwater…

“As I swept left with my light, I saw a body as plain as day,” Shaw wrote in his dive report. “He was lying on his back, arms in the air and legs outstretched.”

There was a chain around the skeleton’s wrist. His diving mask and fins were still in place.

Shaw attached his guideline to the diver’s remains and terminated the dive. The remains are believed to belong to Deon, who disappeared on December 17, 1994…

According to Theo, Deon, who raced modified cars, hunted, dived and was a whiz with electronics, had a passion for living on the edge.

“Deon began scuba-diving when he was 17 and had clocked about 200 dives. He did everything to the fullest extent. For him, diving became more than just watching fish. He got into technical (deep-water) diving because the challenge was bigger. He has also shared some of the best scuba mask reviews on his site.”

Theo says Deon may have been an adrenaline junkie but he was not reckless.

“He planned his dives meticulously. Before every dive he prayed.”

On December 17, 1994, Deon was part of a support crew for SA Cave Diving Association divers whose target was to dive 150m.

A day before the planned dive, the team went on a “bounce”, which is dive-speak for a reconnaissance. On their way back up, at 60m, Deon gave the three-finger diver’s hand signal to his buddy, indicating that everything was OK.

In the accident report team leader Dietloff Giliomee wrote: “Then at 50m we noticed a light below us. An eternity of confusion followed which could have lasted seconds. It was only when John-Wesley (Franklin) signed a cut-throat gesture that I realised what was happening. I started to descend for a chase. Back at 50m I estimated that Deon was at least another 40m below us, and his fading light indicated that he was dropping fast. I decided it was a suicide chase and we abandoned the effort.”

Theo believes his son had deep-water blackout, a rare event when a diver passes out because of the effect of gases under pressure at extreme depth on the body.

“A light switch just went off and that is it, it’s goodbye. He sank fast. The divers just saw the beam of his torch,” Theo says.

Heartbreaking. And this story details some of the technical aspects of Shaw’s upcoming recovery attempt:

“I plan on spending up to five minutes at 270m recovering the body,” [Shaw] wrote.

“If I have to bailout, the dive will extend to 764 minutes.

“At the bottom, one tank will last just 3-4 minutes.

“Once on the bottom, I have to cut Deon out of his dive harness, place him in a body bag (custom built), hook a strong wire line to the dive gear, get back to the drop line with the body bag and the other end of the line fastened to the dive gear, hook that line to the drop line, and then start my ascent, with the body.

“Quite a lot to achieve in five minutes.”

He said a portable, two man recompression chamber would be posted on the surface, 70m up from the actual cave entrance, in case of complications.

There would be a mine rescue team on standby to get the diver from the cave entrance to the chamber and a doctor and other medical staff and equipment on hand.

I’ve been in touch with Shaw and will post any reports he sends on the recovery attempt. It’s no simple task to get to that depth and back again alive, particularly with a body, so keep your fingers crossed…

Deep Diver Dave Shaw: “Well, you’d look funny, too, if you’d just dived to 270 meters AND seen a skeleton…”

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