Raising the Dead: A True Story of Death and Survival
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A true story of death and survival in the world's most dangerous sport, cave diving. Two friends plunge 900 ft deep into the water of the Komali Springs in South Africa, to raise the body of a diver who had perished there a decade before. Only one returns. Unquenchable heroism and complex human relationships amid the perils of extreme sport. On New Year's Day, 2005, David Shaw travelled halfway around the world on a journey that took him to a steep crater in the Kalahari Desert of South Africa, a site known locally as Boesmansgat: Bushman's Hole. His destination was nearly 900 feet below the surface. On 8 January, he stepped into the water. He wore and carried on him some of the most advanced diving equipment ever developed. Mounted to a helmet on his head was a video camera. David Shaw was about to attempt what had never been done before, and he wanted the world to see. He descended. About fifteen feet below the surface was a fissure in the dolomite bottom of the basin, barely wide enough to admit him and his equipment and the aluminum tanks slung under his shoulders. He slipped through the opening, and disappeared from sight, leaving behind the world of light and life. Then, a second diver descended through the same crack in the stone. This was Don Shirley, Shaw's friend and frequent dive partner, one of the few people in the world qualified to follow where Shaw was about to go. In the community of extreme diving, Don Shirley was a master among masters. Twenty-five minutes later, one of the men was dead. The other was in mortal peril, and would spend the next 10 hours struggling to survive, existing literally from breath to breath. What happened that day at Bushman's Hole is the stuff of nightmarish drama, juxtaposing classic elements of suspense with an extreme environment beyond most people's comprehension. But it's also a compelling human story of friendship, heroism, unswerving ambition and of coming to terms with loss and tragedy.
the edge of the platform and made his way down to the entrance tunnel and into the mine. He swam to the shaft that provides a direct descent into the lower levels of the mine. It was at the other side of a small square hatch, an opening with a steel frame. Months later, Shaw would come close to death in that hatch. But on this day, he squeezed through and dropped down the shaft. He was on his way down when an alarm from the Inspiration’s controller caused him to slow his descent: oxygen levels
the wire was an unnecessary complication. ‘Personal opinion,’ he said, ‘I don’t think that’s gonna work. I think the stuff is very firmly stuck in the mud.’ * * * Don Shirley worked until midnight that night, mixing gas for the recompression chamber. The sixty large cylinders of donated medical gas sat in a shed near the Mount Carmel guest house, which was completely occupied by divers and others connected with the operation. Shaw and Shirley shared a large room. Many others, including the
slipped the foil-capped battery down into the well. The edges of the foil touched the bare end of the broken wire. The connection was good. To Shirley, it was a ‘bodge’, but he had seen it work many times. Aluminium foil was stronger than it looked. At about quarter past ten, he held the body steady while Herbst poured the paraffin oil back into the cavity. He replaced the back of the unit and screwed it down tight. The unit powered up when he turned it on. Herbst grinned and slapped Shirley
aimlessness and stupefaction that’s associated with the most severe narcosis. Shaw remains active, apparently aware, and engaged in what he is doing. ‘If he had just given up, I would have said that he was too badly narcosed,’ Shirley says. ‘But he didn’t give up. He was working his way through it. He knew what he was doing. He knew what he wanted to do. My biggest annoyance with this whole thing is the fact that the torch wasn’t where it was supposed to be, which was around his neck. He was
it was always said to me that the greatest gift a father could give his children was to love their mother, and with that in mind Steven and I were very lucky children. The love and respect my parents had for each other was always present and I am incredibly grateful to the both of them for the safe and secure home and family that this brought with it. I too hope that after 30 years of marriage my future husband will love me as much as my father loved my mother. My father was very humble. It