For the experienced, it is “heaven under the sea” – and for the unlucky, it marks an untimely, devastating end. On the shore of Dahab, Egypt, is a cavity in the Earth’s crust, an infamous dive site known as the Blue Hole. From an aerial view, it’s little more than ink-stain in the sea, but beneath what seems like a benign dip lies a far more grand, miniature universe colloquially known as “the Diver’s Cemetery.”
For good reason: it is a fatal attraction, with the highest diving casualties worldwide
Located just off the coast of Northern Dahab in Sinai, the Blue Hole is a daunting sight on the Red Sea. With a single entry point (“the Bells”) and one exit to shore, it is an underwater coffin for the uninitiated. At its shallowest, the hole’s first section, “the Saddle,” is six meters deep. It leads into an isolated corridor spanning 26 meters across, and reaching depths of 120 meters.
In leaving the tunnel, divers are confronted with depths ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 meters – with the only exit being “the Blue Hole” itself. This tight path comes after a terrain minimum of 250 meters of high-pressure, dark-sea swimming.
Needless to say, the Blue Hole is considered one of the world’s most dangerous diving experiences; it is not for the faint of heart or the claustrophobic. Instructors will mandate no less than two weeks of guided diving before allowing experienced individuals to tackle the Blue Hole under supervision.
That does not, however, keep people from diving regardless. Due to its easily accessible nature and low currents, the Blue Hole is visited by many who remain willfully ignorant to its dangers. Freedivers will commonly tackle the Blue Hole independently, and for this reason, the estimated death toll is a minute fraction of what is believed to be the real number.
Even then, most of the casualties were considered highly-trained technical divers or instructors. In other words, it is no “beginner’s playground.”
In the last decade, it is estimated that an average of eight divers lost their lives annually, with a striking 130 people drowning between 1997 and 2012.
The most famous, or rather infamous, of these individuals was Yuri Lipski, a Russian-Israeli diver who inadvertently documented his own death on camera. This was after bypassing the advice and admonishment of several experienced Egyptian instructors in the area, including one of the world’s most revered deep-water divers, Tarek Omar, who later retrieved Lipski’s body.
Lipski’s video is an eerie reminder, recording his involuntary and uncontrollable descent to about 115 meters. Subjected to nitrogen narcosis and a lack of buoyancy as a result of improper gear, his final moments are a cautionary, tangible tale used to warn and prepare experienced and inexperienced divers worldwide.
Family and friends of lost divers have left plaques on nearby rocks, in honor of their loved ones. Today, the area is considered a “divers cemetery for those whose bodies were not found after their death.”