Guinness World Record for Deepest Scuba Dive
By Daryl Raeburn
The jetty in South Dahab resounded with fireworks and cheers at 4 a.m., September 19, as diver Ahmed Gabr returned to land as the new Guinness World Record holder for the Deepest Scuba Dive. His maximum depth of 332.35 meters was shy of his personal goal of 350 meters, but more than enough to smash the previous record of 318 meters, set in 2005 also in Dahab.
Gabr, a Technical Diving International (TDI) instructor trainer and a Special Forces officer in the Egyptian Army, has been a diver for 20 years, starting in 1994 at age 18. In addition to working his way up the ladder of recreational and technical diving certifications, Gabr has also attended the US Army’s Combat Diver Course.
The dream to break the world record started in 2010, when Gabr began his physical and mental training for the attempt. Life intervened, however, as the political situation after the 2011 Revolution and Gabr’s military obligations put his plans on hold.
Preparation for the deep dive record was intense, and Gabr worked with H2O Divers Dahab to marshal a team of 20 divers, technicians & medical staff to support the attempt. At the individual level, his personal training involved cardiovascular conditioning, yoga and meditation and visualization. Over the course of the last year, the team did several training dives to test the equipment and gas mixes needed for the deeper depths. His deepest training dive went to 220 meters, about 100 meters short of the previous record.
Moral support for Gabr’s record attempt came from all corners, including South Sinai Governor Khaled Fouda, mountaineer Omar Samra, and Mexican diver Leo Morales, who holds the Guinness World Record for the deepest scuba dive by a person with a disability.
The day after his momentous acheivement, Gabr shared his experience with Egypt Today.
What was your motivation for this record breaking dive?
I have so many, but a huge one is wanting to put Egypt on a different place on the map. People think that Egyptians, and Arabs in general, are only terrorists and they don’t have the right image. It’s time to convey a different message to everyone in the world. There are other special reasons, but I would like to keep them to myself.
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Gabr (right) with his deep support divers on a training dive.[/caption]
How did you prepare yourself mentally for the dive?
I used breathing exercises, and trying to visualize and anticipate. As my mentor, Dr. Ahmed, said you move only from bubble to bubble. I applied that a lot in order to get peace. Once you have peace you can let go of all the other bubbles of thoughts and information that can disturb your peace.
Were there any aspects of the dive which you found easier than you expected?
It is all related to physical and mental preparation. Once you are mentally prepared, and you are prepared to accept a lot of modifiers and take the right decision, the sincere decision at the right moment, everything is easy.
What were your first thoughts when you came out of the water after 14 hours?
I wanted to get the dry suit off me, and I wanted to have a sandwich, because I was so hungry. I ate more baby food than my son did when he was little. It is all I can eat underwater because I can squeeze it from a tube.
I was also surprised by the number of people I saw. I didn’t expect that many. Talal [Omar] from the Guinness Book of World Records told me I had broken two records today — the love of all these people who turned up to show how much they love you, and the second record is as the deepest Scuba diver.
What do your family, particularly your wife, think about you taking on such extreme diving?
They were very worried, very emotional. That’s why I prefer all of my family to be away from me, because I didn’t want any kind of emotional pressure during the dive. This could become a problem for me. I am here for one job. Let me get that job done first, and I can then focus on the emotional side later.
When you are under the water for 15 hours, what is going on in your mind?
How can I get out?!
When you came out of the water you gave a salute. Who were you saluting?
It’s a kind of respect for everyone who supported me, and for those who did not support me as well. Everyone who did not support me actually made me stronger. People who caused harm to me made me stronger. Without them I wouldn’t have achieved what I have, so I am very thankful to both those who supported me and those who did not. They made me complete the dive.
The final depth was 332 meters. What made you stop short of your goal of 350 meters?
From about 250 meters you begin to experience High Pressure Nervous Syndrome, where you get tremors, shakes, jaw tension, and experience some visual impairment. This started for me at 290 meters but I continued to push on as far as I could. I went for the tag and then I turned around.
When you reached the tag marking your deepest depth, what were you feeling?
You cannot focus on any emotion. One thought or emotion and it could mean your life because you have lost focus. You can’t afford to think, you just have to do what you have to do first, follow the procedure, and once you get to the safe depth, then you can think of emotion — and that was at zero meters. The rest of the dive I am thinking of the dive. My life and my dive and that’s it.
In all the hours in under water decompression what do you do to entertain yourself?
Just wait. Actually I had a baby shark chasing me for six hours. He just wanted to say hi.
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Gabr spent the last 10 hours of his dive at 30 meters or shallower, with lengthy decompression stops to prevent the bends — gas bubbles released into the bloodstream as water pressure on the body decreases. Gabr and his support divers rested along a specially built deco ladder, with rungs spaced three meters apart.[/caption]
Why did you choose Dahab as a location?
It is good for technical logistics. The dive conditions are good: the currents are perfect and there is ease of access. The H2O Divers Dahab team are the best people in town. It was more than a year ago I started diving with this team. They became friends, then family. They support me from the heart. They are not in it to grab something from the occasion.
What have you and the support team learned from this experience?
As an individual what I would say is, Don’t wait for somebody else to open the door for you. If you feel like opening the door, just do it. There is always a first person to open a door. Just do it. It’s your decision.
As a team we learned an enormous amount. There were a lot of the team who had specialized roles, so we learned a lot about diving with a team this large. The specifics I think would be down to the individuals.
What advice would you give to the rest of the diving community, now that you are a diving icon.
Firstly I am not the hero, the team behind me are the heroes. What I would say to divers in general is to follow the rules, and don’t be like me. Follow the rules, OK!
Egypt and Guinness
Deepest Scuba Dive (male)
Ahmed Gabr descended to 332.35m (1,090ft 4.5in) on September 18, 2014, in the Red Sea near Dahab, South Sinai, Egypt.
Most blood glucose tests taken in 24 hours
The Egyptian Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation took 8,600 blood glucose tests over a 24 hour period at Cairo’s Mall of Arabia on December 6, 2013.
Fastest vehicle crossing the Egyptian Western Desert
Egyptian Hesham Nessim crossed the Western Desert from Siwa to Abu Simbel — about 1,370 kilometers — in 13 hours and 33 minutes on November 10, 2009.
— Source: www.guinnessworldrecords.com
At 110 meters, Gabr joined the first of his deep support divers, who escorted him on the rest of his hours-long journey to the surface. Pictured are Gabr (left) and his deep support divers Jenny Lord (center) and Jamie Browne (right) preparing for a training dive to 220 meters.
332.35 meters: the depth of Ahmed’s record setting dive.
324 meters: the height of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France
169 meters: the Washington Monument, Washington DC
139 meters: the Pyramid of Khufu, Giza Plateau
The world record dive required at least 90 tanks of varying gas mixes — 70 just for Gabr. Throughout the day, support divers delivered new tanks to Gabr and retrieved the empty tanks, so every tank had to be meticulously labelled to make sure the right person used it at the right time and place.