The Hot Breath of the Dragon
by Michele De Mori – PSAI Instructor Trainer
Namibia: an independent state in southern Africa, whose capital is Windhoek. It is bordered to the north by Angola and Zambia, with Botswana east, and south with South Africa, to the west overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. A total population of 2,031,000 inhabitants and a total area of 825,418 km ², one of the sovereign nations in the world with the lowest population density (2.5 inhabitants / km ²). Much of the country consists of arid desert of the Namib and the Kalahari.
a natural paradise, hell for comfort.
Inside to a few km east of Tsumeb is the largest underground lake in the world. Caving ropes and equipment are required for the descent into the cave known as Dragon’s Breath (the Breath of the Dragon). In this cave 70 meters below the ground lies a vast lake of almost two acres nestled in the solid rock. Divers can explore the crystal clear waters of Dragon’s Breath, but the inaccessibility of the cave makes this a unique experience. I can be considered among the lucky ones who were able to enjoy this unforgettable experience.
I am invited by Alexis to participate in this International Cave Expedition formed by Italians, Swiss, South Africans and Namibians. The emotion is great. In all, twenty men ready for adventure. We find the Europeans at the airport of Monaco and the Africans at the Guesthouse in the capital Windhoek.
The first day of the expedition they go between presentations, rental of equipment, transport and acclimatization.
Through the long straight through the village we reach the farm Haraseeb Pretorius family that will host a hospitality truly commendable. We are completely isolated. There is around the savannah an expanse so vast as to be lost in the horizon. We turn our gaze to the night sky and see an infinite number of stars, the night sky more white than black. The phones do not receive the nearest village is more than an hour’s drive, only the nature around us and from time to time some farms.
Imagine having to do more for more people diving in a dry place 70 meters below ground and no direct access to the surface. Try to imagine what difficulties must be addressed in terms of transportation, recharges etc. .. . Have you thought about that? Here, it is probably more complex than what you have in mind.
First prepare them the path of descent with speleo-ropes and platforms built on site especially for the transport. Then we provide to stretch the wire to the two big headlights that illuminate the surface of the lake, the telephone for communication with the surface, and finally a high pressure hose that will help us to refill bottles at the level of the lake, drawing from the compressor place in the mouth of the cave.
I am skeptical about the solution chosen for cylinder refills, but in the end I will have to reconsider.
The last well ends up in the lake, so we have to carry 4 rafts on the surface and inflate them on the spot to transport equipment, rowing on the only beach located on the furthest side of the aquifer.
The next day we will provide transport equipment for the dive on the ropes and in our hands throughout the day will pass hundreds of pounds of equipment: tanks, weights, rebreathers, wetsuits, masks … all at a temperature of around 35 degrees with a high humidity and a high concentration of CO2 in the environment.
The following days pass between topography (which will deal with the Italian team), diving and photo and video documentation of the highest level.
Finally comes the time for me to immerse myself. I do it with a double tank in separate tanks of 12 liters each. The dive takes place in this lake at 1700 meters above sea level and after spending more than 12 hours to detect and map the entire length of the lake with the help of Andrea and under the supervision of Alessio (old geologist of fame).
In one shipment, the time must be optimized trying to accomplish more work possible.
I’m really tired, but the water is very inviting, crystal clear, wonderful.
Plan my dive to 50 meters depth in recalculating the basis of the share, and applying the method of mnemonic deco ratio. I finally dive into the water, the surface has a thin layer of guano (I try not to drink), but just put your head under are in another world.
I’m flying. I see the shadow of the objects lit my lamp stand out from the walls and bottom. The environment is huge and degrades under the rocky vault spreading more and more, I lay the line and I enjoy this rare beauty.
Submerged stalactites hang from the ceiling, a sign that the lake level has not always been the same. The fatigue is felt strongly, but the paradise in which I am pushing me more and more nearly in June was hiding the secret of existence.
But there is no bottom, the abyss calls you and enchants like the sirens of Ulysses.
Break the spell, and I think the ascent to the surface, before the lake and the cave. We’re down, twice under, underwater and underground.
It seemed doing my deco was as suspended in the air. I see the skeleton of a baboon white and think how can be reached up to them. I resurface exhausted but happy. I’m still waiting for the part of the progression of rope to climb outdoors.
We leave that is now dark, friends are happy to see us in good health.
In the evening on the farm refreshed us admiring the eclipse of the moon in the Namibian sky: a show that enthralls the soul, already hot with the universe. There is no feeling more beautiful than this one, finally feel at one with creation.