The team behind the award-winning, Scandinavian, feature-length, cave diving documentary has announced that Diving Into the Unknown is now obtainable on iTunes.
On 7 February 2014, a two-line report was posted on the forum, Rebreather World, advising of a Norwegian diving incident: "Sadly, two divers died in the caves of Plura yesterday. They ran into problems at ~130m. Three team mates made it back to the surface and [sic] was taken to the chamber. The three divers are OK."
The dive plan
In the world of caving and cave diving, physically discovering the link between different cave systems is a significant exploration achievement. Once linked, if the system is very challenging, it is quite possible that very few cavers or cave-divers, if any, will subsequently make the known through-trip.
In early 2014, five friends decided that they wanted to dive the Plura Cave through-trip. The plan was that two teams of rebreather divers—a buddy pair and a team of three—would enter at Plura, dive the system, and exit at Steinuglefåget. The team would then overnight in a rented house near the Plura entrance, then dive the system in reverse the next day. The planned dive time was five hours, with a maximum planned depth of 129m (423ft). The team would carry bail-out gas and bailout rebreathers.
On 6 February 2014, the first team made a hole in the ice at the Plura "start site," whilst the second team drove to the Steinuflåget "end site" to leave clothing and equipment. The second team then returned to Plura, and helped the first team finish kitting up. Once the first team was in the water, the second team prepared for their dive. They entered the water about two hours after the first team.
Long story short, this story changed the lives of the five friends forever.2 One diver in the first team got stuck in a restriction in the cave at 110m (360ft) and subsequently died.
The second team was unaware of the tragedy as they entered the water. The first part of their dive was also uneventful, until the three divers came across the body of their friend. A second diver then died. The three surviving divers made it out of the system safely, but all were hospitalized with decompression sickness. They were subsequently interviewed by the Norwegian authorities, who promptly closed Plura Cave.
Official body recovery
The Norwegian authorities planned an official recovery operation of the two bodies. They called in three renowned British cave explorers who specialize in rescue and recovery work in caves, to do the job. The team comprised of Rick Stanton, John Volanthen and Jason Mallinson.
The team accessed the cave from Steinuglefåget and surveyed the accident site. "It was evident that it was going to be quite a protracted affair, lots of dives, down deep and cold—and that was really beyond our remit," said Rick Stanton. "The only alternative was to perform the traverse from Plura all over again, and thus gain access to the victims from the other side."
The team deemed the process was too risky, and the Norwegian police called off the recovery. Plura Cave remained closed.
The secret mission
Finnish soldiers that fought in the 1939-1940 Winter War against the USSR would use a phrase "kaveria ei jateta", which translates to "never leave a friend behind". The soldiers went to great lengths to retrieve the bodies of deceased friends. This ethos resonated with the surviving Finnish cave divers. Their story was not over. The three men all had the same thought. They soon came together to plan and conduct a secret mission to recover the bodies of their friends from Plura Cave.
There were a number of reasons for the recovery operation. The bodies would allow the families to grieve, insurance and inheritance settlements could be processed, and it could also help re-open part of northern Europe's biggest wet cave system. And the need for secrecy? If the Norwegian police heard what was being planned, it was highly probable they would shut down the diving operations.
The film is conceived
The original idea for the documentary came from Finnish cave explorers Antti Apunen and Janne Suhonen.3 This intense film provides the viewer with a good insight into the story of the accident and the single-mindedness of the subsequent recovery project, by using GoPro footage shot on the divers.
A number of threads run through Diving Into the Unknown: an incredibly traumatic diving experience; a life-threatening challenging dive; lessons learned; and the unconditional friendship and camaraderie that runs deep between divers. In the end, the recovery operation took 101 hours of diving time and the gritty determination of 17 Finns and 10 Norwegians.
It is no surprise that this documentary has won a number of awards, including the 2016 EUROTEK Media Award, and it has been actively discussed by the international diving community. The 85-minute documentary is now available on iTunes and there are plans for it come out on DVD from 1 May 2017. It is also possible to purchase the soundtrack to the film from Amazon.
Age restrictions: +15
Available languages: Finnish, English, Swedish and Norwegian
Subtitles: English, French, German, Dutch
Bonuses: preparation, shots from habitat, bends, dry cave, interviews