|D-Day minus 4 Weeks
Planning is of course very important, and David and Don have been very busy coordinating all involved. Pre-planning consisted of arrangements for gasses, chambers, and rescue teams - mostly in case of an emergency. Planning for recording the dive was also made, as well as planning on the forensic police's side.
As all divers are on rebreathers, actual gas planning was much less than were they on open circuit. As the divers were spread all over the world, it did not make planning any easier. We have David in Hong Kong, Gerhard in Saudi Arabia, Dusan, Mark, Derek, and Stephen in Johannesburg, Peter in Pretoria, the rescue team in Lydenburg, the police divers in Cape Town and Upington, and Don in Badplaas trying to co-ordinate them all!
A whopping 50 x 50-liter helium and 15 x 50l oxygen cylinders had to be arranged - in case chamber operations became necessary. Gas planning for the dive is as follows:Dusan and Mark have been diving over the last week. Diving was done in the 100 to 180 meter zones.
A total of 28 bailout cylinders and regulators will be staged at various depths. All hopefully will not be needed. Letters to various authorities were written to inform them of procedures, and to arrange staff members leave from their normal duties.
Pre-gas pumping of bailout cylinders at Dive Centre. Dive team to do practice skill in anticipation of big dive. Meetings between dive team, and rescue team police and chamber operators.
Dr. Jack Meintjies and Don Shirley discuss the medical logistics of emergencies on site and who will be bringing what equipment, as there will be 3 medical teams on site. They also discuss diver medicals and the fact that all divers are PFO (Patent Foramen Ovale) free. Depths of each diver were discussed. The depth, OTU and CNS percentages were also under the spotlight.
D-Day minus 09
Peter, Steven and Lo carry out a dive to 120m in the caves. This is a much more complicated dive than Boesmansgat, as it involves moving horizontally at 18m for 10 minutes, then a 106m drop, and a 4 minute swim before the actual swim down the shaft to 120m. The dive time was 4 hours and 30 minutes. Gerhard arrives in South Africa from Saudi Arabia. D-Day minus 08
Don spent the day doing final gas fills and checking equipment, loading some of the gar. David's last day to pack his gear in Hong Kong.D-Day minus 07
David spends the day in the air - flying his Airbus. As soon as he's done, he will get on the next flight to Johannesburg.
D-Day minus 06David arrives in South Africa. David and Don do a final test at 10 meters on the procedures of cutting loose diver's gear, and putting him in a body bag. Don is the "body". The attempt goes very well, with the cutters working like a dream, and the specially designed silk body bag working like a charm. All pleased with the test run.
Gerhard does some preparation dives in South Africa. He's done a few dives in the 110-meter range in Saudi's nice warmer waters as well.
D-Day minus 05
Dive Team, Rescue team, Chamber with team and gas arrival at Boesmansgat in the Northern Cape. All arrive from all corners of the universe - Cape Town, Orange Free State, Mpumalanga, Gauteng. And of course Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong. D-Day minus 04
Water surface is cleared of weeds & plankton. Unload the many many pieces of equipment, and worse, carry them down the 50 or so meters to the water's edge. The Police team volunteer and help carry it to water's edge. Thank goodness for many hands! Rescue team start putting up the rope work to evacuate any injured divers. First batch of cylinders in water. Mixing of 50/50 heliox for chamber (in case of emergency) starts in early afternoon and is completed at about 24h00.
The Mobikwa Proto rescue team setting up final bits of rope and pulley systems to winch most of it down. D-Day minus 03
Set up dive one: Sorting out of the winch drums on the inside of the cave roof. Ropes that will hold bailout cylinders re-arranged and sorted out. A few minor hiccups on two of the rebreathers were sorted out as well and all rebreathers are up and running smoothly. As only half of the team is really needed, should one of the rebreathers not work, there will be more than enough other team members to complete the dive safely.
Set-up dive two: Dive team full rehearsal in water. As each support diver has to meet the deeper diver at a certain depth and within seconds of a predetermined time, this was practiced. The balance of the bailout cylinders were also placed on the shot line every 50 meters up to 150 meters deep. All team members were satisfied with the procedures, and are anticipating a good dive.D-Day minus02
No dive day for divers that are going beyond 100 meters.D-Day minus 01
No dive day for all. Final preparations taking place. D-Day
Friday 07Jan05 there will be a press day from 09h00 to 13h00. It will include a demonstration of the rescue team's rope work to evacuate injured divers, and a brief and show on the equipment and chamber on site. Please note no press will be allowed on site except for this time. A further press day will be announced for after the 270 meter dive.
First attempt of recovery.D-Day plus 01
Removal of remaining bail-out cylindersD-Day plus 02
Final batch of cylinders removed from water. Clearing of site - removal of equipment back up cliffs.