One of China’s best-known scuba divers has been presumed dead, six days after going missing in the deep Tianchuang flooded caves in the Guangxi Zhuang region in the south of the country.
Han Ting had been building up for a bid to attain a world-record depth in the system. A search and rescue team have now reported finding a body, though it has yet to be officially confirmed as his.
The cave-diver was last seen entering the system for a build-up dive late on the night of 7 October, but after losing contact with his support team he had not returned by the next morning. The emergency services were alerted, and fellow-members of the Lanqi (Blue Flag) Diving Club that Han had founded launched a search and rescue mission.
At noon on 11 October the club issued a statement, reporting that the operation had been very difficult because of the depth of the system, and that no significant progress had been made. But that day an ROV found an as-yet unidentified body trapped between cave-walls at a depth of 110m, and the team were said to be formulating a plan to extract it.
UPDATE: Han Ting’s body was recovered on 25 October, using what the Du’an emergency management bureau described as a “smart underwater robot”.
Cave depth records
Han had been planning to reach a world-record depth of 300m while live-streaming his dive yesterday (12 October). Located near Jiudun village in the upper reaches of the Chengjiang River Basin, the Tianchuang system, known as China’s “underwater Everest”, consists of four flooded caves that have continued to be extended through diving exploration.
Sections of the carbonate rock walls are said to be unstable, although currents in the system are not generally strong.
In April, Han had broken his own previous 234m record for deepest Asian cave dive with a 277m descent carried out over 12 hours, both dives at Tianchuang. He had also conducted a number of cave-rescue operations, including that of two trainees in the same system earlier this year.
Han, who started scuba diving at the age of 30, was a PSAI (Professional Scuba Association International) instructor-trainer and had become China’s first “triple coach” in recreational scuba, freediving and technical diving.
He had also been involved in archaeological surveys, had explored cave systems in Mexico and the USA and had run the Blue Flag International dive-centre at Jiudun since 2015.
The loss of Han occurred only days after that of US cave-diver Brett Hemphill, as reported on Divernet.
Marking what would have been Han’s 47th birthday on 10 October, his family set a cake near the cave he had entered bearing the words: “Happy birthday, and be where you want to be.”
Also on Divernet: Cave-diver Hemphill lost at Phantom Springs, Cave-diver dies 60m deep in Missouri spring, Cave-diver might have died from O2 toxicity, Dive-team plumb world’s deepest underwater cave