On day 4 the wind switched to easterly, making the west coast available, including the Biblioteca (the Library). I had seen some sketchy photos but couldn’t believe that it existed, let alone that we might freedive it.
Menorca is only 30 miles long, but its diverse flora and fauna led it to be named a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1993.
The southern region is dominated by limestone rock, sandy beaches and pine trees, while the north is predominantly red sandstone. This makes the marine environment and the look of the coastline significantly different.
Pont d’en Gil lies on the west coast, just within the limestone belt, and I get excited by the prospect of caves, especially well-decorated limestone ones.
Adam led us to a typical NoTanx kitting-up area – rocky, hard to reach, isolated and random. The entry/exit point allowed for only one person at a time, so an efficient chain formed as people jumped off the rocks, suit in hand, and climbed back out with suit donned.
Sightseers moving close to the cliff-edge to get Instagram shots of the famous sea-arch must have been surprised to see our antics metres below them.
The group again split in two. The less-experienced toured some of the amazing sights and swim-throughs that the site has to offer, a joy in itself but with the intended bonus of building their experience for future trips.
We started our dive with a 100m surface-swim through the massive sea-arch with the orange dive-buoy divers are required to use – and very sensible too, with boat-users inclined to race through the arch with total abandon.
We entered a huge sea-cave, extending at least 10m beneath the surface and towering 30m overhead. I thought this must be an hors d’oeuvre, but it turned out to be the main event.
A 20m-wide cave below us was the entrance to the Biblioteca. Adam went through the safety protocols again and explained the dive-plan.
Duck-dive here in the open cave, drop perhaps 9m and swim into the submerged cave. After a few metres to clear the sloping roof a small hole at the rear would be visible – this was our target.
I say “visible” – as an air-pocket in a dark cave, it merely shimmers when lit with a torch.
Bringing up the rear, I had the advantage of being able to follow my companions already in the main gallery, but it was a technically challenging dive with lots of uncertainty, both under water or on surfacing.
My buddies performed flawlessly, aiming their torches along the surface to the walls of the chamber as the rules of phreatic or cave-freediving dictate.
That eased my worries of overhangs on entry to the chamber.
It was on surfacing that I couldn’t breathe – not because of bad air (tiny air cracks to the surface keep it fresh) but because of the chamber’s beauty.
Speleotherms inside Biblioteca.
I have been a keen caver (dry caves and pot-holes) for several years, but I have never seen so much decoration before. Speleotherms were everywhere. Huge towers of rock reached up from the floor, and sheets of white stone adorned every wall in the massive cavern.
Usually stalactites are white, the natural colour of calcium carbonate, and can become dull grey if touched, or brown if there is significant mud present in the cave ceiling.
These were golden in colour. Every wall was covered, even below the waterline.
We stared in wonder for a few minutes before realising that the cave ran off to the right – into a dark corridor. We use high-quality torches on these expeditions, because our lives depend on them, and
I have to thank Anchor Dive Lights for its amazing equipment.
We swam into the darkness, noting the sandy floor some 8m below – a good sign that the cave continued for some way.
The Biblioteca consists of three separate chambers edged by a corridor of sea water some 200m long. The sandy bottom rises slowly to a depth of 2m before an amazing white wall drops to cut off progress. A small tunnel leads off under water to another air-filled chamber, though I can’t recommend swimming this extra section, because of the tight nature of the end chamber.
The tunnel is amazingly decorated and well worth a look, however, simply by ducking some 50cm under the surface.
This challenging dive was a dream come true, an amazing cave reachable only by diving, and preferably freediving, that rewards with its beautiful decoration and goes and goes!
We spent at least an hour marvelling at the speleotherms’ intricacy and the range of colours, from the initial golden through grey to crystal white on the back walls, before admitting that our 3mm wetsuits were not well-suited to the cave’s cold air.
The cave had one more surprise in store for us. The water level started to rise – quickly and steadily.
This increased the pressure in the chamber, the water instantly vapourising into a fine mist. It was a phenomenon we had experienced before, but never in such a quick and unexpected way. It felt as if the ocean was reminding us of its awesome power.
The wave subsided, and after a few seconds the air cleared before a few smaller waves squeezed us. A big boat must have passed outside, but our first thought had been far more sinister.
Back in the first chamber, we were greeted by a glowing blue underbelly as our eyes, now accustomed to the blackness beyond the reach of our torches, could see the light penetrating from the open ocean.
The swim out was easier, though by no means simple. The fresh air was incredible, as was the warmth in contrast to the chilly damp cave.
CONCLUSION: The Best Freedive in the World.