Karen van den Oever sets new Women’s Deep Cave Diving Record

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15 minutes to the bottom and 7 hours and 18 minutes to return to the surface.

Karen van den Oever, a technical diver from South Africa, set a new women’s diving depth record after diving 236m (774 feet) into Boesmansgat Cave in the Northern Cape province on open circuit scuba with trimix 6/85 as the bottom mix.

Boesmansgat Cave, also known as “Bushman’s Sinkhole” is the deepest underwater freshwater cave (or sinkhole) in South Africa’s Northern Cape province that has been explored to a depth of 282.6 meters (927 ft). Nuno Gomes set the record for the deepest dive in 1996, diving to a depth of 282.6 meters (927 ft). This dive is especially difficult due to its altitude of over 1,500 meters (4,921 feet), which necessitates a decompression schedule equal to a dive to 339 meters (1,112 feet) at sea level.

Boesmansgat Cave divers have had their share of misfortunes. Deon Dreyer died on the ascent at a depth of 50 meters in 1994 while supporting a team in preparing for a dive (164 ft). Dreyer’s body remained in the cave for ten years, until it was found by renowned cave diver David Shaw at a depth of 270 meters (886 feet). David Shaw died on January 8, 2005, while attempting to retrieve Dreyer’s body. (Don Shirley, Shaw’s close friend and support diver, nearly died as well and was left with irreversible ear damage that has made it difficult for him to maintain his balance.) Dreyer and Shaw’s bodies were subsequently found near the surface on January 12, 2005, when some of the technical equipment was being recovered.

Karen van den Oevr
Photo Credit: SWOT

Verna van Schaik, a fellow South African, set the Guinness Woman’s World Record (Boesmansgat Cave) for the deepest dive on November 24, 2004, with a dive to 221 meters (725 feet). Karen’s dive on March 26, 2021, shattered Verna’s nearly 17-year-old record.

Karen said the dive went pretty well, but she did get tangled in some line at 236 meters (774 feet), according to the podcast above. Karen had the feeling that she might not come back from the dive. She is contemplating the future and a deeper dive, but she also acknowledges that “I may be crazy.” She intends to take a break from the highly technical diving world and will decide later this year on her future deep dives.

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Kathy is the owner of Kirk Scuba Gear, a passionate Scuba Diver, Ocean Advocate and Managing Editor of The Scuba News Canada

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