Calabria deep wrecks challenge: Henry Desprez

The Henry Desprez is a challenge. One of those challenges that I love to face more: -72 meters deep at one mile from the Calabrian coast; poor visibility and a lot of current. The seabed, where lies the wreck, is sandy; it transforms the ship from a metal heap to a life aggregator. The species of fish, which inhabit this place regularly and also those which are only passing, they see it as an oasis in the desert. They dance around it giving new colors to the wreck. The chance of finding great fish is very high.

When you face the sea as extreme as I do, you can’t do it alone. The sea must be respected and feared. When you go into the sea you can never calculate all the variables, for this reason, I always go along with some friends who have my own passion or the extreme and also have the right expertise to cooperate with me in a type of fishing which is unique in the world. Gianni, Giampaolo and Alessandro they will accompany me in this adventure.

EcoscandaglioCarta Nautica

The day is gorgeous and the sea is calm, I give myself a few minutes to admire the scenery and then I use the 18 miles of sailing from the nearest harbor to focus on what I’m about to do. I will be the first sub in the world to descend, in apnea, on the wreckage and this excites me, but anyway it is a test I face with myself. I breathe and prepare my body to hold the right amount of air. Once on the bottom I will have very few moments to locate and hit a prey. The first thing needed to do spearfishing is know how to measure the time it takes to make every move and evaluate the cost of this in terms of oxygen. As soon as we get there, we plot the area with the echo sounder which immediately reveals the shape of the ship which from -70 meters it goes up to -54 meters. We had studied well! The surface current is a bit strong and so the operations are difficult. We position some signals, in correspondence of the stern and the bow, to have a double reference. We make another round around the wreck and the echo sounder reports the presence of big fish…

In every challenge, studying your opponent is the first thing you need to do. It’s too risky if you’re unprepared. The wrecks, due to their great catalyst power, are frequented by those who make industrial fishing. The presence of abandoned fishing nets or lanes could be lethal for a sub, especially in turbid waters. Imagine you remain stranded, even for a few seconds to -60 feet, in apnea, alone…! Sure, among my equipment, I have a cutter ready for use … but the truth is that the probability of getting alive in such a situation is really low. From the scarce documentation available, we identified two interesting areas: the forecastle at -54 meters with the best visibility and the aft deck at -60 meters. The area is affected by medium intensity currents: this situation, on the one hand, creates a greater difficulty in diving and assisting operations, on the other hand it gives more opportunities to find fish as amberjack, tuna, skipjack, and so on… in the chat with some local fishermen we talked about beautiful catches and I can not wait to try. It’s time to prepare myself.

I will be the first sub in the world to descend, in apnea, on the wreckage and this excites me, but anyway it is a test I face with myself.

It’s time to get into the water. We carefully decide  to start with some dives around the main signal on the ship’s forecastle. We control visibility in water, and if there are abandoned fishing lines or fishing nets… The first impression, looking at the top of the signal that sinks into the black, is disturbing and fascinating at the same time. That rope will run down to above the highest point of the wreck, to -54 meters. The water is of a dark blue color, it is clear. The rays of the sun converge and lose to the depth and the unknown…

Making some dive around -30 to 40 meters I understand that the way is clear, finally I can go down! We prepare equipment for variable weight descent: is the first dive to the wreck, I don’t know what exactly I’ll find.

The first thing needed to do spearfishing is know how to measure the time it takes to make every move and evaluate the cost of this in terms of oxygen

The documents show that the wreck is resting on the mud in sailing trim: this means that the area on which I’ll dive it is a few meters wide, also I’m going to do the first dive on the forecastle without crossing the signal cable. Finally there is also a moderate current on the surface and therefore the rubber dinghy tends to move from the exact point where we want to get to the bottom. To get to the wreck I will need about 50 seconds. This is the time I have to consider because, during the dive, the current will tend to move me out of the wreck, over the mud at over -70 meters!

It seems like a mathematical equation with too many variables to be solved and that is why I am not alone!

At this point, Gianni’s skill comes to the fore: I do not know how, but he manages countercurrent the rubber dinghy , ia able to keep the time and he can make me dive at the right time and in the right place so that I can get exactly down on the predetermined point with a few meters error!

3,2,1 go! Comments are useless… the images speak.

I’ll never forget that first dive! I pull myself with arms along the cable looking down and trying to see something as I go forward… nothing! I meet 2-3 fishing lines which are stranded around the top of the signal at different depths: fortunately these fishing lines are well visible and are fluctuating thrusts from the current. I notice that I will have to be careful when I return to the surface. Getting trapped in one of these fishing lines is not a nice thing! Around 30 meters, I get into a layer of turbid water, visibility is reduced to a few meters (not more than 10!). The atmosphere is definitely gloomy and dark… I stand at about 40m, I look down: the light is low, I see something, shadows… yet only 10 meters away. There is no light, but the wreck is there, a few meters away.

Here comes the loneliness. There are no sounds that accompany you, there is no visual reference that will guide you, you are alone and you have the air in your lungs and abyss. There is no time to think, every second you lost in the downhill is a second less for the ascend.

But then the wreck appears and it’s like entering in another time, in another place, it’s amazing! In the final part of the descent, near the forecastle, there are eagle ray floating around as if to guard the place. Dozens of big golden groupers swim around and inside metal structures, jointly with bream and snapper! I have never seen such a concentration of fish! I remain enchanted by the sight but today I am here today as a predator.

Today I am the greater amberjack, the shark, the grouper, the dolphin.

The Deep Wreck

Spearfishing at large depths is an EXTREME SPORT. The risks associated with this practice can also be FATAL to athletes of long-term experience if a STRICT DISCIPLINE is not followed: always in the water with the COMPANION, great psycho-physical PREPARATION, SAFETY equipment and boat support, appropriate RECOVERY times, THOROUGH KNOWLEDGE of the apnea discipline and its limits, are essential elements to lessen the RISK OF DEATH!