freediving

Another world record attempt to be made in the freediving world

You can’t say freedivers aren’t intrepid souls.

Last week I wrote about Project Hector – William Trubridge’s planned attempt to freedive unassisted to 100 m – 328 ft.

This week I have learned that Herbert Nitsch – that other great freediver – is to attempt a freedive assisted descent to 1,000 ft – 305 m. He plans to strap himself to a board and descend on a rope until he reaches his target depth, then deploy an airbag to pull him back to the surface…

Sounds like madness…

Nitsch, nicknamed the Flying Fish for his full time occupation as a pilot with Austrian Airlines,  is the holder of 31 world records in all 8 freediving disciplines and was  given the prestigious title of  The Deepest Man on Earth when he set the current world record for free-diving at an incredible depth of 214 metres in 2007. I always find a visual aid useful, so imagine  submerging a 58-story skyscraper and then swimming down to the first-floor lobby. No other human has ever dived as deep as that on a single breath and he now plans to push that boundary even further…

3D Beyond Limits teaser 2 from Herbert Nitsch on Vimeo.

As you can imagine, an enormous amount of training goes into a stunt like this and Nitsch has successfully trained himself to ignore the breathing reflex and slow his heart rate down, and to withstand the enormous pressures he apparently uses a special technique to draw his vital organs up inside his ribcage for protection.  At that depth those same organs will take up the same amount of space as Kylie’s thong! He has also developed a way to use a plastic bottle full of air, which he sucks in via a tube to keep the vital airspaces inside his head properly pressurised – a sort of primitive scuba equipment.

Capable of going without a gasp of air for more than nine minutes straight, Nitsch is planning to descend to 1,000 ft (305 meters) – that’s nearly as deep as the most accomplished scuba divers in the world are able to go – with oxygen, off Greece in November.

How is it that freedivers are able to dive so deep and last so long without taking a breath? One reason is the diving reflex, an evolutionary adaptation that enables seals and dolphins to dive deep and stay underwater for extended periods by slowing and/or shutting down some physiological functions. As scientists have discovered, even though humans evolved on land, we’ve retained a trace of that reflex, too. Freedivers have learned to push self-induced apnea – the scientific term for going without breathing — to new extremes through sophisticated mind-body control techniques similar to those employed by meditating yogis and martial artists.

But it’s the nitrogen narcosis which he has to be very concerned about at that extreme depth…

The very best of luck …

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