Today, at 11:43am local time in the Bahamas, New Zealander William Trubridge dove 100 meters into Dean’s Blue Hole on Long Island with a single breath of air and only his hands and feet to propel him down and up.
This historic depth, also known as one hectometer, was first reached in 1980 (the year of Trubridge’s birth) by Jacques Mayol, famous for being portrayed in the movie “The Big Blue.” However Mayol used a weighted sled to descend and an inflated lift bag to return to the surface. Trubridge wore no weight for his attempt (just an Orca wetsuit), and swam underwater breaststroke next to a descent line, which he could use as a guide only. At 100 meters he collected a tag as proof of depth (the depth is also validated by a Suunto depth gauge he wears on his wrist), before swimming back to the surface.
The dive attempt, called Project Hector, was dedicated to the Hector’s Dolphin. It is the littlest dolphin in the world, and the only one that is endemic to New Zealand, but the species is threatened with extinction.
At 100 meters the pressure exerted by overhead water crushes Trubridge’s lungs to the size of small grapefruit, and the blood vessels inside them swell with blood in order to stop the lungs from imploding. The heart slows to 25 beats per minute, and Trubridge has to fight the narcotic effects of pressurized carbon dioxide and nitrogen – the so-called ‘rapture of the deep’ that tempts him towards a fateful sleep. Using yoga and techniques such as visualization and mental programming Trubridge is able to keep his body going even when the mind is ‘not completely there.’ This depth is more than three times the depth limit for recreational scuba diving, and it would be considered suicidal to go this deep breathing from a normal scuba tank of air.
Four years ago it took me three attempts before I set my first world record freediving without fins. Since then I have come a long way, both in depth (from 80 to 100 meters), and in my confidence and capacity to perform under pressure. I needed all of that experience today when I made my third attempt at the historic depth of 100 meters.