Scuba diver sets new depth record exploring New Zealand cave

An Australian scuba diver set a new record for depth recently while exploring a remote underground river cave in New Zealand. He, and his teammates, braved dark passageways, icy cold water, and treacherous conditions in an effort to find the elusive source of the Pearse River.

Diver Craig Challan descended to a depth of 194 meters or roughly 636 feet, as he cautiously made his way along the submerged cavern. That depth marked a record, but still didn’t finish the exploration of the cave, nor did it lead to the discovery of the river’s source. But it did show that explorers can go to even greater depths than previously thought possible.

In the video below, brought to us by National Geographic, who helped partially fund the expedition, you can see what the divers had to deal with while exploring the cave. As they dove they were looking for new lifeforms, while mapping the cave itself, in waters that hovered around 43ºF. All the while they had to deal with the potential for decompression syndrome, better known as the Bends.

In order to avoid that painful condition, they built a series of underwater bases where they would spend hours at a time, waiting for their bodies to adapt to the changes in depth. Watching the video I was reminded of the series of camps that are built on mountains like Everest, where climbers wait to acclimatize before moving up. This works in reverse, but is similar in concept.

While I’m fascinated by cave diving, I’m not sure you’d ever catch me that far beneath the surface and completely surrounded by water. Scary!