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March 12, 2016

Jumping the gun on scuba diving records

By Jeffrey Gallant | Editor

The Diving Almanac & Book of Records

 

The Internet has become a treasure trove of misinformation, propaganda and deceit where anyone with a computer or mobile device can add to the ever-expanding sea of hoopla with no concern for accountability... and the diving community is no exception. The power and pitfalls of social media are rarely more apparent than during political campaigns, or when announcing miracle weight loss breakthroughs, new discoveries and world records.

 

For better or for worse, Facebook offers unlimited access to a world audience so that no event, no matter how big or small, goes unnoticed. This previously unattainable visibility has been a boon for the niche sport of scuba diving, which until recently lacked the clout to reach so many people from all walks of life. As a point in case, a world record announcement for the deepest dive ever conducted under ice started to spread like wildfire all over social media on March 6, 2016. Even mainstream news networks such as CNN and the BBC, as well as specialised diving publications – that should have scrutinised the claim – spontaneously trumpeted the unprecedented feat by a team of divers from the Russian Geographical Society. And yet they were all mistaken.

 

Honest mistake?

 

Although the dive to -102 m (-335 ft) in the Barents Sea was indeed an impressive and newsworthy accomplishment, it was not an absolute depth record under ice, nor was it the deepest dive ever conducted above the Arctic Circle. The record for the deepest known* dive under ice (-111 m / -364 ft) was actually established by a French duo (Ghislain Bardout and Martin Mellet) off Greenland during the Under the Pole II expedition in April 2015 (See Record #20 in Edition 5.2 of the Diving Almanac & Book of Records). Under the Pole II also set the record for the deepest known dive in the Arctic at -112 m (-367 ft) in August 2014. No momentous record announcements were made by the French team whose mission objectives were to explore, discover and share new knowledge on the Arctic environment. Their record-setting dives thus largely went unnoticed outside of France until another group of people claimed to have gone deeper. As of March 12, and despite our record keeper’s best attempts to inform the concerned parties, neither the Russian Geographical Society nor any of the news outlets that inadvertently disseminated the erroneous information have acknowledged the mistake. With no apparent retraction forthcoming, the bogus record claim will likely contaminate the Internet for years to come. Alas, this is far from being the only record announcement to come short on supporting evidence since we first published the Diving Almanac in 2007. So who is to blame for jumping the gun, and what can be done to prevent this from happening again, well, at least in the diving community?

 

Who can you trust?

 

If CNN and the BBC, let alone big-name dive publications, impulsively piggyback such news announcements without fact checking, who can you trust? Just because you can’t find a record during a Google search doesn’t mean it hasn’t already been done. In fact, lots of people would be surprised to know how many records set half a century ago aren’t available online… except in the Diving Almanac! Try to look up even the most obvious of records such as the deepest dive by a human and you will obtain several conflicting answers that are usually out of date. Making sure a record attempt is novel should unquestionably be established before one solicits sponsors and makes the announcement. When in doubt, consult the most recent edition of the Diving Almanac or contact us and we will gladly establish the validity of a record to the best of our knowledge or suggest variations to ensure it is indeed record-setting. There is no cost and the publication itself is also free.

 

Don’t you think it is time for the diving community to refer to a central body of information such as the Diving Almanac to celebrate its many outstanding accomplishments and personalities? There simply isn't a better source of impartial and independent information on diving records and notable divers anywhere else. Download your free copy of the Diving Almanac right now. You'll be happy you did!

 

* The Diving Almanac lists documented records that were either publicly communicated or for which we received direct notification. As of March 12, 2016, there may nonetheless be even deeper under-ice dives that have not been widely disclosed or that we did not find during our most recent online search. If you know of any record that we have missed, under-ice or otherwise, please let us know so we can consider it for publication in the next edition. Thank you!

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World's clearest water at Silfra, Iceland. Go to the Oceanography section in the Records chapter. Photo © Jeffrey Gallant | Diving Almanac

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