Do People Still Dive in Bushamn's Hole?

A while back, I read the story about a deep/extreme diver who died while attempting to recover the body of another diver, in a water-filled cave in South Africa. This cave is called “Bushman’s Hole”, and it is a water filled pit, over 900 foot deep.
As far as I can tell, this is not a cave filled with interesting formations-just a very deep, water filled hole. The bottom is covered in rocks and mud-and that is it.
This diver (David Shaw) was considered an expert in extreme depth diving-he had the latest and greatest in equipment-but something went wrong, and he passed out. (Interestingly, his body, and the body of the other diver floated up by themselves).
Do people still dive in this place? Given the fact that it has claimed two lives, what is the attraction?

Um…it’s really, really deep?

Same reason people climb really high mountains.

Wow, Joe. That’s an awesome read. It amazes me that there’s video of it all.
Not only that… it’s on Youtube!

I’ve dived in a swimming pool, let alone something like this; but why was a person necessary to rescue the body? Aren’t there any submersible tools with cameras that could have done this?

Did you read the article? It opens up into a vast chamber, the descriptions sound pretty out there.

Yep-read the whole thing. So what? It is just a big deep hole that is filled with water. No fish, no formations-exactly as I say-like exploring a dark cellar…except you must spend 12 hours decompressing (for a 15 minute stint at the bottom).
Makes perfect sense to me!

A fascinating, tragic tale. Thanks for posting it.

What a sad story. I could not imagine the feeling of helplessness of knowing that a friend is dying like that 200 feet away and you can do nothing…

Enright3 said:

Maybe, but that’s not the point. Dave Shaw was a deep water diver. He did it as a personal challenge and for fun. So he had the idea of returning Deon Dreyer, it was as much as a personal quest as it was the actual act of returning the body. So Shaw didn’t consider submersibles, because he wasn’t a submersible guy, he was a deep water diver.

coremelt said:

Yes, it opens up, but it’s not really about the sight-seeing, it’s about achieving depth. They dive because they can push the limits on how far down a person can go. That’s it.

Poysyn said:

I’m reminded of the tale a few years ago about the guy who died on Everest. He was having difficulties, behind his schedule, and passed a team member who was going back to camp. At the time, one had to wonder why his team member didn’t tell him to go back, it was too late in the day. It’s easy for the uninformed to second-guess from home.

It is a sad story, and I can’t imagine being in Don Shirley’s position, being in sight of the light and wanting to check his friend, but knowing that to do so would very likely end in his own life. If that rebreather monitor hadn’t failed, he might could have gotten to Shaw, but Shaw was almost certainly dead by then from CO2 poisoning.

A bit morbid, but how did the body of Deon Dreyer manage to stay together for 10 years? Is the water at the bottom cold enough to preserve a corpse?
I guess its a noble principle to want to recover a body, but at the cost of another life?
If these guys are into depth records, why not use the open sea?

I didn’t think it did except for the part that was protected in the dry suit. Didn’t the article mention seeing only bones where his hands were?

Anyway, the whole idea of deep diving is really amazing to me. I remember as a kid swimming at our public pool. It was the cool thing to do if you could touch the bottom of the pool in the deep end. I’m talking about 10-15 feet maximum. Even then I remember feeling the most amazing pressure on my head. I don’t understand how a human body could go that deep. The article talks about how some of Don Shirley’s equipment crushes under the water pressure. Holy Cow! I can’t imagine feeling that much pressure pushing all over my body.

See the movie The Abyss if you want some (fictional) scary, intense scenes of very deep diving.

No current. No waves. No weather. No critters. And if you temporarily loose control of your depth, you have a solid bottom to stop you from going WAY further than you intend, which might save your ass under certain circumstances.

IMO, yeah its mostly about the records. Sometimes I suspect it is ONLY personal records and some would do it even if they werent allowed to tell another soul. But I’ve meet enough “dare devil” types that for others its definitely a bragging rights sorta thing.

I’d like to briefly digress from this solemn discussion to point out that few phrases are better suited for sophomoric purposes than “diving in Bushman’s Hole”.

Or more difficult to avoid making “Well, I think maybe Tiger Woods” as the response to the OP question.
I like the rules for GQ, but man, there are a lot of missed opportunities considering the talent on this board for hilariously snide remarks.

When you dive using compressed air in scuba tanks, you don’t feel any pressure as long as you equalize the pressure in your ears and mask. Your body does not feel it at all.

So, they can put the inscription on the gravestone/obituary: “He dove to the deepest depth ever reached by a free diver…unfortunately, it was his last dive”.
No thanks-this is the kind of fame I don’t seek.:smiley:

There are plenty of edge-of-the-envelope pursuits that offer life-threatening danger; deep-diving is just one of them. As a more familiar example, I will note that of the 510 people who have been (or tried to go) into space, 22 of them died in the attempt. And the line of applicants to NASA’s astronaut training program still has a long waiting list.

Mount Everest? 4102 summit climbers, 179 dead in the attempt.

Yeah, but that always happens to the other guy. None of *them *could be the one whose equipment fails or who just passes out.

I dunno. When you arrange for your pastor to talk to your wife in case you don’t make it out, you must think of it as a real possibility.

ralph124c said:

The article mentions that the suit coupled with being buried kind of mummified the remains in a soapy-like layer. Add in no wildlife to scavenge.

Well, Shaw certainly knew the risks, so much that he and Shirley both stated that if they died in the attempt they were to be left there, nobody try to come get them. Some of it was the personal feeling of knowing the family lost their son and how getting the body could provide a measure of closure/comfort. But I think it really just was an excuse. Shaw liked to push the envelope, he liked the challenge of deep diving, and to think that he could pull off not only the deepest dive but also recover something was something to really set him off. Add to that the emotional content of returning a lost body, and it just became a personal challenge and a connection to a young man with a similar need and passion.

But there is a certain reality to the statement that people think “it can’t happen to me, it will be the other guy”. Whether that is casual dismissal, or a more purposeful effort of will, it still is inherent to human nature to think “I will be the one to succeed, I won’t let that happen to me”.

The cause of his death was his personal commitment to accomplishing the task, he wasn’t able to let it go when things went wrong. His thinking was muddied and he was too committed to the plan as written to adjust to the changed circumstances, and the combination of impaired thinking and a poor decision on how to handle his light caused him to overexert, get tangled in the ropes, and choke on CO2. But if any one of 3 or 4 things happened differently, he might have succeeded, or at least survived. It just was a bad day.

Enright3 said:

That’s the thing, with modern diving gear you don’t feel that pressure. The gas you are breathing is pressurized and keeps you balanced, so you don’t get a large pressure differential.

The Mythbusters recently tackled the “myth” that if a diver using one of those old-timey diving suits with a pump on shore/boat pumping air down to the hard-helmet suit had a problem with the air line, the pressure would press the whole body up into the helmet. They ended up creating a “meatman” using pork tissue on a skeleton, and lowered it in one of those suits to 300 ft, then cut the air pressure. The loss of pressure in the helmet did allow the water to press the intestines and organs up into the helmet, and also crushed the helmet. It made a gory mess out of the thing. That could only happen because the helmet was tied to the atmosphere and lost pressure when the feed line was severed. Modern diving equipment is self-contained and so it maintains pressure all the way.

The flipside of that is if you took a breath and then dropped your SCUBA tank, and started to rise to the surface, you would have to exhale the whole way up, or you could rupture your lungs. And then you would get the bends (gas in your bloodstream coming out of solution and forming bubbles in your tissues).
Joe Frickin Friday said:

Rock climbing, parachuting, diving with sharks. Flying stunt planes.