A cave-diver who ran low on air in a flooded cave on the Mediterranean island of Majorca survived for 60 hours in an air-chamber with a depleted oxygen content.
Xisco Gracia, 54, a cave-expert who has been diving caves for 23 years, had been studying the topography within the Pirata-Pont-Piqueta cave system in Manacor on Saturday, 15 April.
He and his buddy Guillem Mascaro were 40m deep and about 900m into the system when their air supplies became depleted while they were trying to locate a broken guideline.
The two agreed that Mascaro should go back for help. Leaving Gracia in the chamber, which measured about 100m by 40m, and taking the remaining air cylinders, Mascaro managed to find his way out and raise the alarm.
However, it took rescuers until around midnight on the Monday to reach the trapped diver, hampered as they were by the cloudy water conditions.
Gracia later told press that breathing air with such a high carbon-dioxide content had caused him to hallucinate during his 60-hour ordeal. At intervals he had imagined seeing rescuers’ lights, and had become dispirited when nobody came.
Losing track of time, he thought he had been trapped for five days, and assumed that Mascaro had failed to get out to raise the alarm.
For most of the time Gracia was in darkness while trying to conserve the batteries of his three torches, but he was able to drink from a freshwater pool within the chamber.
Rescuers eventually reached the chamber, and Gracia was brought out.
Kept in hospital overnight, he was reported to be uninjured apart from mild hypothermia.
Rescuers felt that the divers had followed the correct course of action. Sharing air in a bid to make their exit together “would have been suicide, and both would have died,” Enrique Ballesteros of Spain’s Underwater Activities Task Force told press.
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