… story of a dream came true …
September 16th 2014 , 10:30am.
As Kevin and myself conclude our last equipment checks and we get ready to descend in the dark brown water of the Cele river in France’s South Western Lot region, we both know we won’t be back in the outer world before nightfall.
One thing we know for sure: this will not be an ordinary day for us…
A passion for underwater caves drove us to prepare a lot of equipment and undertake intense training to realise this dream: following the famous underwater river Ressel kilometres down into the dark of the earth, to visit the dry part on the other side.We’ve been here many times before: starting with small penetrations in the first galleries at the beginning of our cave diver training, later pushing on further beyond the impressive pit 400m into the system, and looking into the deeper part over 1km in the cave.
We were always passionate to pursue our personal exploration towards the tunnel disappearing in the dark at our turnpoints. But we never saw the end of the first sump, to be reached only after passing an impressive and huge meandering canal going steadily into the deep up to a depth of 80m before surfacing almost 2km from it’s start here in the warm brown waters of the Cele river.
Focussed on our mission we follow the line down under water in almost zero visibility as the brown tannic water of the Cele permeated into the cave. After the first 100m into the system the clear water of the Ressel revealed us the beauty of huge rocks and white gallery walls and we quickly felt comfortable driving our Bonex scooters up to speed.
Further into the system, beyond the zone visited by most divers, visibility becomes excellent and we enjoy travelling trough beautiful tunnels and shafts filled with crystal clear water.
At 1200m we check the safety tanks that we had staged there the day before. After confirming their pressure and an ok-sign to Kevin we continue into the unknown, towards Ressel’s 80m deep pit.
Although this place was discovered years before, and visited by several explorers and divers like us, going this deep and this far in an underwater cave gives us a sense of exploration and a strong mental focus to reach our goals on the other side.
Awesome picture of the “lac des blocs” (c) Pedro Balordi
At the end of the first sump we chose not to surface straight away but to follow the underwater maze of tunnels using directions kindly provided by Kevin’s Swiss friend cave diver Pedro Balordi.
Respecting the long decompression before we can continue trough the last part and hopefully make surface, we stay focussed on our goal, concentrated on our dive, but also enjoy the pristine environment we are honoured to visit.
After 3,5 hours underwater we finally surface “at the other side” – in a giant room filled with blocs named “Salle de bivouac” by its first explorers. We take our time to enjoy the scenery, rest, and have some late lunch after a swim in the pool on the other side of this room … Ressel still continues from here and already plans are made for a follow-up dive, next time, as our target for today is reached.
Salle Bivouac – picture (c) Pedro Balordi
Our goal now: getting safely back out. Returning always feels more relaxing to me; it’s when you go in that you’re pushing your limits. Kevin set his Bonex at full speed and we flew trough the galleries. A star-filled sky welcomes us 3 hours later when we resurface in the Cele river, 12 hours after setting out on our dive.
Our hearts and minds filled by the beauty of the journey we experienced. We both can’t wait to go back.
Ressel is an exceptional place, offering beauty and challenges for both beginning and advanced cave divers. Enjoy it and dive safe !
Sven De Vos, okt. 2014
Divers: Kevin Haecke, Sven De Vos
Ressel Pictures: Leonardo Salamone, Pedro Balordi