By Jennifer Walton
Ahmed Gabr has become an internationally recognized name after achieving the Guinness World Record for the deepest SCUBA dive. Back on his home turf, Egyptian Ahmed Gabr was met with challenges along the path towards reaching what he set out to accomplish.
Preparation for the Record Breaking Dive
Gabr maintains that preparation for the dive happened over the course of four years. Working as an officer in the Egyptian army, Gabr was required to balance his professional obligations with his diving pursuits. Gabr began avid preparation for his recent record dive approximately one year before he completed the dive this past September.
While cardiovascular training was absolutely essential in order to reduce muscle pain, physical preparation was only one of two aspects of Gabr’s training. As with many of the maost impressive human feats, Gabr knew that mental strength and determination would be his greatest wagers for success. Gabr’s mental mediums were visualization and anticipation in an attempt to expect the unexpected.
Divers boast of the beauty of the Egyptian seas and come from all over the world to dive here. Egypt stands as one of the world’s top diving destinations. For his dive, Gabr chose the coastal waters of Dahab for logistical and technical reasons. It provided the depth he needed, proximity to the shore and offered the best tidal currents, maximizing his chance of success. South African Nuno Gomes held the previous record of 318.25m in 2005 also off the coast of Dahab.
The Dive and its Risks
Gabr reached an astonishing depth of 332.35m in the Red Sea, off the coast of Dahab and was immersed in the water for 13 hours and 50 minutes. While Gabr spent approximately 12 minutes to reach the record depth, the duration of time was occupied by a slow ascension in order to ensure his safety.
As a result of the dive, Gabr had to prepare for five main possible pathologies:
1. High Pressure Nervous Syndrome (HPNS)
This physiological and neurological disorder may result when a diver is using a breathing gas containing Helium and descends below 180m.
2. Decompression Sickness
A diver may experience pain in the muscles and joints, cramps, numbness, nausea, and paralysis when rapid decompression occurs. A hasty ascension from a dive causes nitrogen bubbles to form in the tissues of the body. Divers refer to it as the bends.
3. Isobaric Counterdiffusion
When the interaction of different gases move about in contrasting directions in the body without changes in the environmental pressure, gas will diffuse in enclaves of the body’s tissues causing malfunction.
4. Oxygen Toxicity
Divers rely on supplemental oxygen. Increased levels of oxygen in bodily tissues is called Hyperoxia, which could result in respiratory failure.
This is the risk of having a severely low body temperature which prevents the normal functioning of the metabolism and body.
Gabr’s drysuit prevented the possibility of hypothermia. At 290m Gabr incurred High Pressure Nervous Syndrome. Gabr had to remain stationary and fix this problem before continuing. ( Text to be added here )
As Gabr embarked on his mental and spiritual journey, he was met with a great deal of adversity from those around him. Gabr states that it was necessary to explore relationships with many different local dive centers before he was able to find a team that understood and appreciated his mission; one that he was able to trust and work with. Gabr also felt censured by the greater Egyptian community about his goal to accomplish the deepest SCUBA dive. He was criticized for risking his life and ridiculed for engaging in suicidal behavior. His grandiose mission was often reduced to attention-seeking behavior, rather than an ambitious, worthwhile undertaking.
Gabr focused on his personal agenda and successfully ignored all distractions. He affirms that ego can ruin your life. He attributes his motivation to the quest for answers and humility. Gabr has been working as a dive instructor for 17 years and taking the plunge himself for 20 years; more than half his life. Gabr finds peace and purity in the depths of the water. He is intrigued by how far and deep the human body can go and maintains his own personal reasons for his underwater pursuits.