Wednesday, July 2, 2008

How was freediving doing 97 years ago?

The year was 1911; at Karpathosin in the Aegean sea a storm had battered the Regina Margherita, the armor-plated flagship of the Italian navy, where she lay at anchor in deep water.

The chains parted and the Regina Margherita was drifting. The captain ordered the engine room to steam up the boilers to become mobile and avoid further mishap. The storm subsided and the captain attempted to find the lost anchor but to no avail. Being a perssitent man he requested that the best local Greek sponge diver be brought in to aid the Italian Navy.

Among these divers was a sickly man named Yorgos Haggi Statti, who assured everyone that he could descend to 77 meters where the anchor presumably lay. Further, despite the misgivings of the captain he assured him that diving to 100 meters was possible. The other divers backed him up and added that he was capable of holding his breath for seven minutes.
Yorgos offered to recover the anchor in exchange for five Pounds Sterling and for the extraordinary permission of being able to fish with explosives.
The Italian Navy doctors that saw him wrote the following report:
"Normal vital capacity.
Thorax circumference: 92 centimeters, 98 while deep breathing, and 80 while exhaling.
Pulse: Between 80 and 90 per minute; from 20 to 22 respirations per minute.
Eardrum status: left-ruptured, right-absent.
Weight: 60 kilograms.
Height: 1.75 meters.
He has pulmonary emphysema."


One may well understand the captain's misgivings.

The doctors told the captain that Yorgos shouldn't dive, considering his illness and the feebleness of his size.
But the captain was a decisive man, he noted the doctors warnings.
He had, however, noted a certain sparkle in Yorgos's eyes that accompanied his enthusiasm to attempt the rescue of the ferrous object.

Yorgos did three times that day to a depth of 77 meters. He descended with the aid of a large stone to get him down swiftly and emerged looking invigorated after each dive.
Yorgos vindicated the captains decision to allow him to dive by locating the anchor and passing a rope through it permitting its retrieval.

This event took place 97 years ago, well before "civilized" competitive free diving began.

History does not tell how well Yorgos did with fishing by nitroglycerine but I think we can call Yorgos the Grandfather of Freediving.

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