Time to Dive: The 100m Threshold

Written by Maxim Vinciguerra
 
Until recently, all my dives had been less than 90m, as most of the dives I’ve wanted to do have been shallower than that. I was however in Malta and the opportunity to plan and execute a 102m dive arose. 
 
The dive team consisted of four. Albert and I, who would be heading all the way down, and Philipp and Aaron who would act as our safety divers.
 
We arrived at the dive site at just before midday. Later than planned as a lorry had crashed and blocked the road to the Gozo ferry.
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Once in Gozo we had a short drive down some very steep and bumpy roads to our entry point at Ras il Hobz.
 
The dive site is a pinnacle dive, which can be enjoyed shallow, by recreational divers, or it can offer some extreme depth for technical divers. Either way, it provides spectacular underwater topography, with a vast array of marine life, including baby tuna and some small purple fish. I rarely know what type of fish I’m looking at.

Once the truck was ditched in a large hole, we set about kitting up and moving equipment to the waters edge in 37oC heat. Climbing into a drysuit and some Arctic thermals may seem crazy in that heat, but at our planed depth, the water temperature was 16oC and we weren’t doing a short dive.  There was no hanging about getting into the water once zipped into my drysuit. Then I had to get out and put on the twinset before getting back in to attach my travel gas stage and two decompression stage cylinders. We then set out on what seemed like a half-marathon of a surface swim, so that when we descended we could reach 100m as quickly as possible. It wasn’t really very far, but shifting 5 cylinders through the water was certainly a test of fitness. We arrived at our descent point. I took a deep breath of the sea air, before putting in my travel gas regulator. DIVE, DIVE, DIVE! 102m here we come! We switched to our backgas at 50m then carried on down as fast as the sloping bottom would allow us. It took 4 minutes to get down to 60m, but then the bottom began to plateau and slowed our descent to around 10m per minute. At minute 8 and at only 95m, I began to fear we weren’t going to make it to 100m. I had visions of only reaching 99.8m. If that had happened, I’d have punched my fist as deep into the sand as possible until the computer came up with 100m on it.
 
Then, spot on minute 9, that magic number appeared on my dive computer. Woo hoo! Minute 10, 102m, our planned depth. Once there, I could see into the abyss. All it was was the darkness of the ever increasing depth, but it was magical. I was 102m massive metres underwater. It was mammoth, awesome and atmospheric. It’s a bit like losing your virginity. Nothing is different, yet you feel amazing and everything is a little bit more special.  Even though, the 100m virginity I lost was with a Spanish man. 
 
Minute 11 it was time to turn the dive and head back up the pinnacle, but not before taking in the sheer scale of it. As the visibility in Malta is so good you can see enough of most things to appreciate their vastness. On the ascent everything seemed amazing. All the tiny purple fish to the plant-life that I wouldn’t normally bother looking at were amazing. What was wrong with me? I was buzzing with excitement and felt like I was floating through a dream world, a fantasy land. At times my grin was so big the regulator was nearly falling out of my mouth, and at other times I was giggling so much I was flooding my mask. I had to rein myself in. I was in such a bubble I briefly feared I might cock something up, like switching gasses, which we first had to do at 69m, back onto our travel gas. We then continued up to meet our safety divers at 50m and up to 39m to do another switch. Then a very slow ascent with frequent deco stops. One final gas switch at 21m, some more deco stops up to 6m and then 30 minutes chilling and posing for photos. Just a shame some water had leaked into the camera housing and steamed up the lens.
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After the dive nothing really mattered any more, my life was complete. I could sign out. Done, finito. Well, not really. There are plenty more amazing dives to be had, perhaps some deeper, but most of all, I’m very much looking forward to diving in Scapa Flow. 
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