(Correne Coetzer and Peter Giovannotto) You take a breath and dive as deep as you can go. No tanks, no tubes, nothing. The enigmatic sport of freediving will travel to the extremes this month as Austrian world-record free-diver, Christian Redl, will make an attempt to freedive below the thick ice at the North Pole.
Explorersweb caught up with Christian, who is currently in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, from where he and Australian team mate, Marcus Fillinger (cameraman) will fly to Barneo Ice Camp. We enrolled freediver Peter Giovannotto to aid in our Q & A.
“I always try to be very well prepared,” the Austrian record-diver told us and added, “I have respect but no fear! That's very important and a big difference.”
Here goes Christian’s talk to Exweb:
Explorersweb: You will be 'freediving' at the North Pole. What does that mean?
Christian Redl: Freediving means diving without breathing equipment. Just holding the breath and you dive. Normally you do this in the warm waters or in the swimming pool. I will do it on the NP.
Where did your diving start and what got you into it?
Actually when I was 6 years old, my uncle bought a Christmas gift for me – fins, mask and snorkel :-) At 10, I started scuba diving in the swimming pool in our garden and at 17 I saw the movie The Big Blue, and since that time, I am a freediver. Since 9 years now professional. I just love the water and diving, also scuba diving.
When and why have you decided that you would dive in icy waters? What other ice-water dives have you done?
I have already 9 world records – 5 are under the ice. I was working in a bank and on the weekends I was teaching freediving – so in the summer it was always busy. Then in 2002 I found the Guinness Book of Records and I found one record under ice – in February 2003 I did the first world record under ice and I love it.
Why the North Pole? There are other fantastic dive locations such as Dean's Blue Hole or tropical venues to make such an attempt.
I dived already in many different fantastic places, but my dream was to freedive at the North Pole. And by the way we want to create some awareness for the problems of the Pole with this dive.
Where are your favorite diving spots?
I really love the Red Sea, its close to Austria and great corals and many fish.
Are there any special considerations to take into account when diving in the North Pole?
You have to prepare like a normal ice dive, but normally you do this in frozen lakes. Which is easier, because at the Pole you dive in an ocean. You can have currents and so on there... And it's much colder outside!
Have there been any other attempts at diving to such a depth in the North Pole?
There are every year some divers, but with scuba diving equipment.
What do you wear when you dive near the North Pole?
I wear a 5mm thick freediving wetsuit – it will be very cold ;-) The water temperature is minus 2 degrees.
When you dive in the Arctic waters, what will you be aware of that can go wrong?
We have to check the situation. Normally we dive under ice in frozen lakes. That's easy. Now we dive in a frozen ocean! You can find strong currents etc. We also have two dogs, because also the polar bears are around…
Have you had any scary moments under water on previous dives?
Not really, I always try to be very well prepared. I have respect but no fear! That's very important and a big difference.
What is the deepest you have dived before?
Close to 100 meters.
How do you mentally and physically prepare for such a deep dive?
The most important thing is the mental preparation. I try to be very focused! A couple of months ago I started also the physical training - swimming in the pool, home trainer and freediving of cause.
What do you like about Marcus Fillinger as a team mate?
He is a cool guy, military, this means he is well prepared and organized. He knows to avoid risks. That's very important and he is a great photographer and cameraman. And he was already scuba diving near the Pole.
What advice would you give someone who is just beginning to learn to freedive?
Do a freediving course - in a few hours everybody can learn to stay much longer under water... With my students, before I do the course, I do a test how long they can stay under water without teaching - after 2 hours everybody can double!!!! the time under water!
Tell us about your Diving/'Singing with Whales' experience please.
Last October I had the chance to freedive with humpback whales in Tahiti. It was a great experience for me. During one dive, I saw a male whale sleeping at around 15 meters. I dived down, very close and watched his eye. I think I was too close, the eye opened and he saw me...
At that moment he made a sound, very deep and loud. Normally they sing very high and nice, we had heard it before. This sound went straight inside my body, I felt very strange. My heart-beat changed and I went fast to the surface. I needed a couple of minutes and was fine again. In the end it was great!
Any favorite quote?
It's not what you are that holds you back – but what you believe not to be.
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