Mission Possible, a 60m Dive! – 22 July 2009

How it began

I phoned Trevor Hutton in early July interested in the Midlands spearos doing one of his freediving courses. This is when we first discussed the possibility of him attempting to shoot a fish at sixty meters of depth, a feat that had never been done before and something he had been trying to organise for some time. After finding some spots in sixty meters I phoned Trevor back and told him we could give it a try whilst he was doing the freediving course with us and that was that.

trevor hutton with one of his watches showing the time and depth trevor hutton showing the gun used during the dive

Sixty Meters Deep

When we were doing the sea dive part of Trevor’s course we picked a spot on the Bluff in seventeen meters and were performing some exercises as a group. When I thought that Trevor would be diving to almost four times that depth it made me realize the enormity of the task and just how difficult it was going to be for Trevor to be successful. Our seas are very dynamic with large swells and strong currents not to mention sharks and poor visibility to make the task even harder and possibly impossible considering all the things that had to be right for the attempt to succeed. It is not like you could go down and have a recce and see where the fish are as you would have to be near sixty meters and this type of depth you only do once. Trevor would certainly need a bit of Neptune’s help for everything to come together.

Day One – 21 July

trevor hutton preparing to dive and shoot a fish at sixty meters of depth trevor hutton soon after his sixty meter dive

We launched late at Durban Ski-boat Club hoping that the effects of the strong north-easterly the day before would have settled down a bit but it was not to be. The sea was still very bumpy and the visibility was a poor four to five meters at best. We stopped at a good fish spot in twenty-seven meters for Trevor to get accustomed to the conditions and loosen his lungs a bit having just had the flue and only the day before finishing his course of anti-biotics. Owen and Alex jumped in first to see what the visibility was like and Owen was buzzed by a big marlin estimated at well over two hundred kilograms on his first dive. He only managed a tail shot and the marlin stripped his reel and broke off the spear with little effort. An exciting start to the day! Trevor did one or two warm-up dives and then we moved to a spot in fifty-five meters right on the edge of the number one reef system. Trevor dived to forty six meters and then we called it a day as the next day looked very promising just before a big westerly front when conditions should be very settled and Trevor more recovered from his bout of flue.

Day Two – 22 July

trevor hutton back on the beach after his epic diveThe trip down from my spot whilst it was still dark was very quiet with only Trevor and me in the landie and Alex and Owen meeting us at Durban. I could feel that Trevor was very focused and as we drove into central Durban and I saw the big fish letters on the Indian Market wall, something I have never noticed before, the omens seemed favourable. The weather was very settled with hardly any wind but a southerly swell had moved in over night, a pre-warning of the storm due the next day. There was a cold bite to the air and we all used hot water to put our suits on and quickly launched the boat and headed off for deep water. We had four spots to try, three wrecks and a ledge, all in the required depth of water but as we got near the wreck position the dredger was off-loading and the wrecks that were in sixty meters only showed up as fifty-five meters, possibly due to many thousand of tonnes of sand from the new harbour development being dropped here. These wrecks were scuttled during the Second World War and one of them is quite substantial being over sixty meters long and showing good structure. The third wreck was at sixty eight meters which was too deep so we headed north to the ledge which was a better choice as wrecks are dangerous places at the best of times. The ledge looked very good with a high point of fifty seven meters and a big flat area of sixty two on my sounder and then a sharp drop to sixty five meters, possibly a continuation of the Tweni ledges but in deeper water here. There was a slight north south current and a two meter swell running with good six to eight meter visibility. Water temperature was twenty one degree celsius but it was chilly on the boat due to the off-shore wind blowing.

The Dive

Trevor started off with a 4mm smooth skin suit that was changed to a 1.5mm suit just before the dive. He had two kilograms of lead weights on his weight belt. A sixty five meter float line was rigged with a kilo weight at thirty meters on the float side of the line. We had a marker buoy down but due to the current could not use it as we wanted to and only used it as a reference point. Trevor was using plastic fins and a standard speargun made by mares. He did two warm-up dives to midway and after briefing Alex and Owen he breathed up for the sixty meter attempt and was gone. Two minutes nineteen seconds later he was back at the surface having achieved what seemed to be the impossible, shooting a fish at sixty meters depth in difficult conditions. The dive down took one minute with the rest of the time spent locating the fish and returning to the surface. The fish shot was a natal fingerfin commonly called a bankie and a fish that stays close to the bottom and is never found in mid-water. One heck of a dive!

Observations

Some people were against the attempt as they felt it was a bad advert for spearfishing as people would assume this is a common practise and fish are regularly shot at this depth. The dive was not sanctioned by the South African spearfishing association for whatever reason and hopefully this is put right in the future. Trevor is an amazing individual and I doubt any other South African spearfisherman will ever come any where near this achievement in depth terms. This type of diving is all about mind strength and Trevor has this in leaps and bounds. To be able to swim down to sixty meters in unfamiliar waters where sharks are present and then manage to successfully shoot a fish and come up again is a truly amazing feat.

Safe diving, john little.