NEWS OF HERBERT
After his positive response to the treatment received in Athens and sufficient progress, Herbert has now been transferred to a rehabilitation clinic in Germany. There, he will undertake some more tests to ensure that nothing has been overseen in previous assessments. While he is making strong progresses daily, the combination of rest and no visits remains the best for him currently.
We would like also to communicate further information about the dive. Herbert did reach the planned depth of 244m/800ft and even a bit more to set the mark at 249 meters/820 feet. More depth gauges were used than on any other record attempts. Not all made it below 200 meters, but four of them from the same manufacturer provided accurate readings. Further devices monitored by an oceanic physicist have recorded data with a great sampling rate and precision: it confirms a depth between 249 and 250 meters. The rope was checked again after the dive and backs-up the readings. The difference can be accounted for by the dynamic extension of the rope acting as an absorber when the sled reaches the bottom.
The whole sled concept functioned as designed. As Herbert reached the bottom, the valves flushed air into the upper parts of the sled and the ascent started normally. Analysis of the data shows that the rate of ascent was probably too high in the last 40-10 meters. As Herbert did not react as expected upon reaching the depth of 10 meters, the safety freedivers assisted him to the surface. There, Herbert gave an okay signal, took a mask, his oxygen regulator, and went back down for decompression as he routinely does. Knowingly, he extended his deco phase to a bit more than 20 minutes. Upon re-surfacing, it became obvious that although conscious and breathing, Herbert was still unwell. It was decided to follow the emergency plan and evacuate him to Athens.
In Athens, Herbert was treated as a VIP to the best of their abilities by the dedicated medical personal of the Navy hospital. Both our team member (trained medic) Peter de Huber and Herbert’s friend Alex Sarasitis* were present and supported the theory that Herbert’s condition was not simply linked with hypoxia and a blackout. Along with them, further support was given to ensure Herbert went into chamber treatment as soon as possible. Herbert showed right away positive reaction to recompression and completed further sessions over the following days.
The understanding of data analysis and Herbert’s response to treatment, is that he most likely suffered an air embolism. Although this remains to be confirmed, various experts see it as the most plausible scenario. There is more data to be analyzed and discussed. But it belongs to Herbert. Now that he has left the Navy hospital to fly close to his home, with further follow-ups and proper rest, he will soon be looking at it himself.
In an interview given two days before the dive, Herbert was saying: “This is the first of three world record attempts. After this record, which is going to be 800ft, I want to continue to 900, then 1000ft, which will be my ultimate goal. If I can reach it?… I will find out on the way!”
True exploration means going where no one has been by achieving something no one has ever accomplished. Every time a new record is set in freediving, it is exploration. Whether or not official protocols were followed here does not make much of a difference to us. The benefit of being the first people to reach the summit of Everest, even with assistance, has never been denied to Hillary and Tensing.
Further to all of his other accomplishments in competitive freediving, Herbert has been once again where no one has been before. He set the mark further than he had on his previous World record and made it back alive. He is, more than ever, one of the very few true explorers of our times and that is what we want to acknowledge first and foremost.