Ahmed Gabr's record-breaking dive to a depth of 332.35 m (1,090 ft) has been a source of awe and admiration for many technical divers. But when emails surfaced questioning the validity of his dive, I was determined to get to the bottom of it. After speaking with a member of Gabr's dive team, I have a better understanding of the risks and rewards associated with deep diving. The appeal of deep diving lies in its inherent danger. It carries the risk of suffering from high-pressure nervous syndrome, which can cause paralysis and even death.
Despite this, many technical divers are drawn to the challenge and the thirst for knowledge that comes with it. Professional deep dives require special equipment, procedures, or advanced training, and require much more respirable gas than shallow open water dives. Gabr's record-breaking dive was carried out in a specially designed submersible with a titanium hull, the DSV Limiting Factor, along with a support boat, the DSSV Pressure Drop. While these dives may be seen as a way to gain bragging or promotion rights, they come with a very high mortality rate. This is why Guinness Book of Records has failed to record the record for deep diving in the air. When I read emails questioning Gabr's dive plan, I wanted to validate that the information was authentic.
Fortunately, I was able to speak with a member of his dive team who provided me with insight into what happened during the dive. They reported that when someone told Gabr he was breathing gas after watching the video, he reportedly responded by saying that he had run out of gas (deco), which contradicts his previous statements that the dive had gone as planned. In response to these types of dives, many technical divers do not support them and think they should be discontinued. To address this issue, Project Diver was introduced this year as a way to take “community-led” dives to a whole new level of sophistication. By using respirable gas supplied by the surface, closed dive bells and saturation diving, many of these problems can be avoided at the cost of logistical complexity, lower maneuverability for the diver and higher cost.