A cave diver spent 60 hours trapped in a small cave in Mallorca after he and his buddy got lost. Xisco Gracia, 54, a local diver and geology teacher, and his buddy, Guillem Mascaro, had spent many weekends exploring and mapping the island’s underwater cave systems, and this dive started out no different.
The dive began when the buddy team laid out guidelines as always, a standard procedure when cave diving. The dive team brings line reels with them, and ties a line off at the entrance to the cave, dragging the line after them as they go. When it’s time to return, they can simply follow the line, Hansel and Gretel-style, to their point of origin. This is particularly useful if divers accidentally ruin the visibility by kicking up the silt that is present in most caves. Divers call this a “white-out.”
What went wrong?
However, as the two divers were ready to turn around and head out, they could not find their line. They spent an hour looking for it, and ended up kicking up a significant amount of silt in the process. “We can only guess some rocks had fallen on it,” Gracia later told media.
Running low on breathing gas, the two divers knew their situation was dire. However, they also knew that there was a small cave in the system with an air pocket that would allow them to breathe, as well as plan a strategy for what to do. They had already mapped out a route out of the small cave on previous dives, but it was long and time-consuming. Running low on gas, they pooled their remaining air, and decided that only one of them would go for help. The task fell to Mascaro, leaving Gracia alone in the cave.
After Mascaro left, Gracia found a dry area where he could rest without risking hypothermia in the water. And as the water was freshwater, he had drinking water. However, he was running out of power on his dive torch. Without the light, getting from his ledge to the water and back again safely would be difficult. With much higher CO2 content, the air in the cave was also having an effect on him, causing hallucinations.
Finally, after several days in the cave, he suddenly saw a light in the pool of water at the cave’s entrance. He was sure at first it was another hallucination, but it was a diver coming to rescue him. Rescuers had to delay due to the white-out in the cave, and drilling through the bedrock down to him hadn’t worked. Rescue divers gave him air, and eventually led him out of the cave and reunited him with Mascaro after 60 hours underground.
In spite of this harrowing experience, Gracia intends to keep exploring the caves of his native island.