On the 18th September 2014 off the coast of Dahab, in the Egyptian Red Sea, Ahmed Gabr set the Guinness World Record for “Deepest Scuba Dive in Salt Water”….or did he?
There have been mumblings, rumours and discussions amongst tech divers about the validity of the record over the years since Ahmed Gabr dived to 332.35m, beating the previous record of 315m held by Nuno Gomes. Over the past few weeks however, a small team of technical divers, who at this stage are remaining anonymous, have taken the time to break down, analyse and dissect the video footage of the dive, along with other publicly available resources and provide some startling insights into the veracity of this record breaking dive. What makes this story even more compelling is not that this could have been a failed record attempt that was doctored to show success, but that the deception was possibly pre-planned. It is highly plausible that the team involved had no intention of breaking a world record but had every intention of leading people to believe that they had.
We will point out at this stage that we are simply reporting facts and evidence collected by the tech diver team, who are operating under the name of “Scuba Sam” and we as The Scuba News aim to be unbiased in our approach. We will state the basics of the analysis, provide links to the sources and let you make up your own mind whether this record is valid or if Nuno Gomes’ record should still stand.
We also reached out to Ahmed Gabr over a week ago to ask for a comment in preparation for publishing this article but to date no reply has been received.
The Scuba Sam analysis has been broken down into “Episodes” and we will stick to the same format so you can follow the same data in more depth.
Part One: The Evidence – What Was Needed
In order for Guinness to verify the world record attempt, the following needed to be provided as proof.
- Tag retrieved from the target depth
- The screen of the dive computer showing a maximum depth which correlates with the retrieved tag
This process would take place during the dive as Gabr would show the screen of his dive computer to his support diver (on video) and then hand over the retrieved tag. The support diver would then return to the surface where a Guinness representative would verify the authenticity. Only after both video of the computer screen and the retrieved tag had been verified would the record be awarded.
The video above can be broken down into 4 key moments
- Support diver Jaime Brown (shooting the video) meets Gabr and they signal both are OK
- Gabr gives a depth signal which would indicate 350m
- Gabr takes the depth tag from his dry suit pocket and shows it to the camera
- Finally Gabr shows his Scubapro bottom timer to camera which indicates a maximum depth reading of 330.
The analysis conducted by the Scuba Sam team, and which you can see for yourself on the video, shows that each corner of the computer screen, with the exception of the 330 figure in the bottom left corner, has been “blacked out”. Why would this be the case? The three remaining corners on the Scubapro computer being used would show Depth, Dive Time, Dive Temperature. Why would it be required to hide the current depth and dive time and only show the Maximum Depth?
Now it could certainly seem that this anomaly could be down to shadow on the screen. After all, this video was shot underwater, but in the image below, Gabr clearly shows his computer to camera at the surface before the dive and the corners are visibly “blacked out”.
Although the information needed to analyse the computer are missing, there are two other computer screens which can be seen in the video.
- At 0:48 Browne’s computer shows a depth of 89.5m
- At 1:20 Gabr’s other computer shows a depth of 90.2m
From this it can be concluded that the divers met at around 90m.
As Gabr is now at a depth less than 100m, his depth gauge should be showing a depth accurate to one decimal point (XX.X, 90.4, 90.0 etc)
This is not what can be seen however. The number shown is without the decimal point, in the format of XXX. Why would this be the case?
It is widely accepted that there are 2 possible explanations.
- The computer has malfunctioned
- The computer is set to “Imperial Mode” which would be therefore giving a reading without decimal point. What can be seen shows XX2 which is what would be seen if Gabr were at around 90m in seawater – 302 feet.
In either scenario, Gabr did not meet the requirements to be awarded the world record by Guinness.
Next up….The dive plan which doesn’t add up.
Part Two: The Dive Plan
We all make dive plans when we dive but when it comes to diving deep with mixed gasses, planning is crucial and sticking to the plan is vital. This is imperative on any deep dive but when going beyond 300m you can only imagine how vigilant you need to be.
There are some key factors in the Gabr dive plan and execution which call into question the veracity of what actually took place. We will provide a link to a more comprehensive breakdown of the dive plan for those tech divers who wish to “deep dive” into the details (pun intended).
According to the plan, the dive should have been as follows
- 0-14 minutes: Gabr descends to the record depth to retrieve the tag. It is important to note that on the plan this was 335m but the pre-promotion of the dive suggested the dive would be to 350m.
- 14-48 minutes: Gabr ascends completing short stops along the way
- 48-50 minutes: Gabr leaves from 117m to 114m, then onto 111m where he meets his first support diver
The video however shows that at 50 minutes and 13 seconds into the dive, Gabr is at a depth of 90m.
According all reports from the day and Gabr’s account of the dive, everything went to plan. This leads to 2 questions
- Why would he be 24m shallower than planned?
- How is Gabr 8 minutes ahead of schedule?
The final point on depth and time leads technical divers to question the ascent speed. According to the evidence on the video, Gabr made an ascent of 245m in 34 to 37 minutes. As most technical divers will tell you, there is no decompression schedule that could safely allow for such a rapid ascent.
Part Three: The Gas
According to the plan and video, Gabr is diving the following gas/tank configuration
- 4 x 20 litre back mounted cylinders with Trimix 4/85 bottom gas plus an additional tank to inflate the wing
- 3 x 15 litre stage cylinders with Trimix 4/85 bottom gas (labelled 350)
- 1 x 12 litre stage cylinder with Trimix 12/75 decompression gas (labelled 120)
It is known from the gas plan that Gabr was to switch from the 4/85 to the 12/75 at 120m.
Gas switching is a vital part of deep diving. Your decompression plan is all based upon the gas you are breathing at each depth. Should you miss one of your gas switches then every element of your decompression schedule becomes null and void as it is now based on inaccurate information.
It would therefore seem extremely strange that in Gabr’s own video evidence of the record breaking dive, he is breathing the wrong gas yet shows no concern. Why would Gabr not have made the gas switch? Is it possible that a problem on the dive meant that a gas switch wasn’t feasible? This is highly unlikely as there were an additional 3 x 12 litre cylinders on the line at various depths, containing 12/75 Trimix decompression gas. The deepest of these was at 120m so to have run out of gas would indicate failure at multiple points with multiple cylinders. None of which was reported in the post dive discussions or with the support diver.
This then raises the following questions
- Why was Gabr breathing the bottom gas at 90m? Why didn’t the gas switch take place?
- Why, if there was a problem is Gabr so relaxed about breathing the wrong gas and not attempting to rectify an issue?
- Why was any issue/problem/failure never mentioned to anyone in the post dive discussions or even with his is own support team?
Part Four: The Rope
The rope is another key element when it comes to analysing the depth of the dive. What was the current like on the day? How much did the rope stretch under its own weight?
The answers to this question are quite complex and do involve some basic understanding of trigonometry and let’s be honest, trigonometry isn’t the most exiting topic in the world.
We will include the basics and then provide links to the source for those who want to study the in-depth calculations.
To believe that Gabr retrieved the tag from 335m we must be willing to accept the following:
- The rope was deployed and for at least one hour before the dive began, it remained at at a small angle of 7 degrees in a strong current.
- The rope stayed at an angle of 7 degrees for an additional 12-15 minutes during the descent time
- After retrieval of the tag, the rope relaxed to swing an additional 18 degrees in 34-47 minutes to rest at an angle of 25 degrees when Gabr got to 90m depth.
For all of these things to be correct, one certainly has to suspend disbelief and overlook some basics of maths and science. The best case using the research undertaken by the Scuba Sam team shows that the world record is inaccurate at best and could not possibly be deeper than 325m or worse, it is it not actually a record at all and all took place at a depth less than 100m
Next…the tags on the line
Part Five: The Tags
We have all watched procedural police dramas. The key part of every investigation relies on “Chain of Evidence”. Who had the evidence, who did they give it to, it is possible that it could have been tampered with during the process. Every viewer knows that with no chain of evidence there is no case and the bad guys go free.
Well according to the publicly available data, there was absolutely no chain of evidence on the day of the world record dive relating to the tags. The tags that could confirm or deny the success of a world record attempt.
When watching the video you can see that the tag shown to camera indicating depth is black, yet the tag authenticated by the adjudicator is white. Why would they be different?
The tags used on the day were made of white plastic. Side A was signed by two witnesses and had the depth they would be placed. Side B had the adjudicators signature and the Guinness Stamp. This all makes sense so far but why was the tag retrieved by Gabr black?
Following the signatures, each tag was wrapped in black Duct Tape. This was the whole of Side B and most of Side A, except a small window showing the depth to place the tag. But why?
There were 14 tags in total, placed in pairs with different retrieval mechanisms at depths of 320, 325, 330, 335, 340, 345, 350.
It is easy to see the issue with wrapping the tags. With no definite chain of custody, there can be no certainty of anything. The tags were placed on the line on the morning of September 17th but nobody placing the tags would have been able to verify that they were 100% genuine as no signatures could be seen.
The Chain of Custody
According to the evidence available, the procedure was as follows
September 16th 2014
- The tags have been signed sometime prior to the evening of 16th September but it has been impossible to verify when this took place
- A Guinness Adjudicator arrives at Sharm El Sheikh airport and is met by Gabr’s project manager who has the tags in his possession.
- The Guinness Adjudicator signs and stamps the tags
- The adjudicator is dropped off at his hotel in Dahab without the tags. These are taken away to be wrapped and prepared.
September 17th 2014
- The line is laid out on a quiet street in Dahab so the distances and be measured and marked
- Gabr’s project manager delivers the wrapped tags and leaves
- The wrapped tags are placed on the line
- The line is fed into a large drum and the lid closed. It is unclear if this was locked with a padlock and if it was, who had the key.
- The drum is transported to Dahab jetty and loaded onto the dive boat
September 18th 2014
- After arriving at the dive site, the drum is opened and the line is fed into the sea
- An hour or two later, Gabr begins his dive and 48 minutes later the video is filmed, showing the tag as it is handed to the support diver.
- 2 hours later the support diver surfaces and hands the tag to the adjudicator
- The tag is unwrapped to reveal the signatures and stamps
It is quite easy to see how many times the chain of custody was broken and the number of times that the tags could have been tampered with or even exchanged. This leads to the only conclusion, which is that as a form of evidence, the tags do not stand up to scrutiny and therefore can not be used to verify the world record.
Who Are Scuba Sam?
There will undoubtedly be questions raised as to the source of this research and many people in the diving community are trying to discover one question – Who is Scuba Sam?
We are aware some people have been questioning our credibility and the identity of Scuba Sam. Who we are, however, is irrelevant—all the facts we have been analyzing so far come from a video shot on the day and used as evidence to claim the record. We are not spreading rumors or hearsay. Unfortunately, some people are trying to identify us, so we can be threatened and intimidated into silence. If you, however, are genuinely trying to identify us for the sake of credibility, there is no need. The video is widely available now; analyze it yourself and come to your own conclusion. We would love to hear an alternative explanation.Scuba Sam email to the community
There are sufficient enough questions which cast doubt on the world record and you may be asking yourself why this matters. This in itself leads to a number of reasons. A record which can not be accurately validated can not stand as a record, which means that the true “Deepest Ever” is still Nuno Gomes. Secondly, deep diving is dangerous. We all know this so you can not in good conscience have people trying to beat a record which is purely fictitious. Something which puts them and their team in more danger than is necessary. Those who wish to push the envelope will continue to do so but they should be working with accurate, truthful information and until this record can be validated it counts as neither.
As we understand, the evidence shown in the article has been passed onto Guinness.
In closing, we leave it up to you to decide. Was a world record broken or was an elaborate hoax perpetrated? You be the judge for now.
All of the research is thanks to the diligent work by the Scuba Sam team and you can find out more and see some of this research in more detail at: https://www.facebook.com/ScubaSam-112321717255097/