Igo Shalo had made 400 dives before he visited the Red Sea’s famous Blue Hole. His 401th dive would be his last. Shalo was one of the dozens of unfortunate souls—over a hundred in the last 15 years—who answered the call of the Blue Hole, determined to beat the odds deep below the glittering ocean’s surface.
No one knows exactly what went through his head when he headed past another diver at 90 meters, shaky, but showing no sign of distress. No one knows why he hit the ground at 120 meters, but kept diving deeper, much deeper, until he hit 150 meters. This far down, his hundreds of hours of diving experience would be of no assistance. Exhausted from the effort and effects on his body of the dive down, Shalo ran into trouble pretty quickly. Instead of ascending slowly and steadily, pausing every 10 meters or so to allow his body to adjust to the pressure around him, he shot up like a rocket from 130 meters on—sending hundreds of nitrogen bubbles into his bloodstream. Even if he had been rushed to the closest compression chamber, an agonizingly long 30 minute drive down a tiny gravel road, he didn’t stand a chance.
Located in Egypt, near Dahab, the Blue Hole—in particular an area of the location known as the “arch”—is known worldwide as the most dangerous diving location in the world. As evidenced by Shalo’s sad tale, even the most experienced divers have not survived the seemingly routine dive. Because of this, the mountainside near the shore of the blue hole is peppered with memorial plaques for the many who thought they’d make it back up alive—turning the sunny landscape into an eery makeshift cemetery.
There are a few reasons for why so many have died at the blue hole. Sheer stupidity and hubris are the first two. Tourists and thrill seekers are said to often attempt to dive to 100 meters, just to show off the number on their diving meters when they hit the bars in town once they resurface. Another reason for blame is the strange optical illusion that the angle of the arch, sunlight and open water create, causing divers to underestimate its length. There is also a strong current which flows within the arch which causes divers to take a much longer to swim to their desired depth, thus exhausting their oxygen and energy supplies far beyond expectation.
Some say what lies in the depths of the blue hole is much more obscure. Locals have long talked of the mermaids that call divers to the bottom of the hole—as a matter of fact, divers often report hearing a Bach organ concerto while passing through the “arch”, but this is most likely due to the intoxicating nitrogen narcosis they are experiencing, not ladies with fish tails. Others have speculated that a giant serpentine creature lives in the depths of the blue hole, pulling divers down to eat them whole. Indeed, some bodies have never been recovered—scattered bones and limp neoprene suits are said to litter the bottom of the blue hole. Until evidence of a giant man eating snake is found, we can just blame those who have vanished on some particularly hungry crabs.
—Alix / @alixmcalpine