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  • Writer's pictureChristine Grosart

Wild World

I was well and truly broken after that 15 hour day. I didn’t ache so much, but mentally I was wrung out.

I asked Oz how many days off he though he’d need before going back. He gestured “two” with his fingers while inhaling a mouth full of Mauro’s incredible mushroom risotto.

That was me out. I needed at least 3 days off and even then, wondered if a trip in excess of 15 hours wearing my rebreather was something I wanted to do that week. Again.

Osama and Mauro preparing KISS sidewinder rebreathers. Image: Mark Burkey

Mauro was super fired up at this point. Having seen the carry between sumps 2 and 3, Rich had no interest in going there with his JJ.

We agreed that there also wasn’t much value in having people sitting between sumps getting cold all day and as Osama and I had already moved the push bottles forward to sump 5, there was no point in Rich and I crossing sump 2. Each time a diver passes that sump there is elevated risk. Rich’s JJ had broken in numerous ways in any case so he had carried it out the cave. I left mine in and rebuilt it, so there would always be one standby diver with a fully functioning rebreather, quick access to a drysuit and fully charged scooter ready to help beyond sump 2 in case of an emergency.

Osama managed to flood his KISS sidewinder when he carried it to sump 2. I always carried my rebreather fully built and waterproofed but for some reason the guys decided to do it their way. Some faffing ensued and after some stolen sofnolime, the unit was back working again.

Oz and Mauro set off while Mark snapped away with his camera and Lou rounded up rather less than enthusiastic volunteers to help her complete the survey.

Lou had done an incredible job or resurveying all the dry cave between sumps 1 and 2 as we could not access the old data. This is the beauty of this expedition; everyone gets to learn lots of different caving and cave diving expedition skills in a relatively comfy environment. A short 7 degree cave dive between you and daylight being ‘comfy’…

Rich, Mitch and myself posed in various positions throughout the cave while Mark Burkey tried to take pictures he hadn’t managed to before and he came out with some stunners.

The next job was to go back to the houses and cook for the guys when they came out. The accommodation this year was 2 houses close to each other with excellent and comfortable facilities. We had tried to get a ‘camp boss’ – someone to take care of the cooking, cleaning, shopping and general domestic duties while we faffed and fixed broken things and recuperated.

Unfortunately, she got injured and wasn’t able to make it, so we put our best cooks to work to batch cook for everybody and re-heat stuff for the divers who came out late.

Back in the cave, Oz and Mauro were making good progress to sump 5 and continued laying line in irritatingly shallow cave. It surfaced, then sumped, surfaced, then sumped again…it carried on like this, with intermittent sandy air bells until they finally crossed what was now sump 8.

Sump 8, discovered June 2022

Not believing there wouldn’t be another sump just around the corner, Mauro set off walking in his diving gear.

The cave got bigger as he walked down a clean washed stream way, a canyon, which got higher and echoed more as he went. He went back to Oz and they shed their diving gear and set off into new, galloping size passageway.

Mauro walking down new passage. Image: Osama Gobara

Getting bigger all the time, they filmed with the go pro and tried to estimate the size and distance they were travelling. Soon, the canyon broke out into a huge boulder chamber. There were precariously balanced boulders the size of cars everywhere and some stalagmites close to the walls. The big breakdown chamber reminded me of a smaller version of the Salle de la Verna.

'Wild World' discovered beyond sump 8, Izvor Licanke. Image: Osama Gobara

Trudging up and down the big boulders, Mauro was non-stop singing “OOOOH Baby baby it’s a wild world……doo do do dooo do do….”

Oz is deaf to him, so carried on trying to measure things mentally.

They came across another sump. Sump 9.

Is this the way on? Sump 9...

Neither of them had a mask or diving gear, understandably, but as with the others it was blue, clear and inviting.

Filming with the go pro as they walked back, they made their way back to sump 2 where they took a 15 minute break and a short snooze before heading back through the deep sump.

Oz and Mauro take 5 minutes rest between sumps 2 and 3.

Some of the team went back into the cave to meet them and get the news. They had been underground about the same time (15 hours) plus a bit of faff at the start.

There was still a lot of work to do. All their discoveries needed to be surveyed and they wanted to do a bit more filming.

Owing to Mauro’s incessant singing, we decided to call the new, gargantuan chamber; “Wild World”.

Izvor Licanke had not done what she had promised. We were sure the cave would close down.

Instead, she opened an enormous, 30 metre high can of worms...

The team chaining all the diving gear across the huge boulder choke.

This expedition has received generous assistance from several organisations and businesses listed below. We are grateful to our Croatian friends for their help and support over the last 7 years.

The expedition reports, funded by Mount Everest Foundation, are available to read here:

Team shenanigans in 2022

Izvor Licanke Expedition Team 2022:

Mark Burkey, Louise McMahon, Luke Brock, Mitchell Parry, Richard Walker

Push divers:

Christine Grosart, Osama Gobara, Mauro Bordignon.

Funding and support:

Santi Drysuits, Halcyon Dive Systems, Mount Everest Foundation, Ghar Parau Foundation,

Suex Scooters Warmbac

About the author

Christine Grosart is a Paramedic, working offshore mainly on diving vessels.

She started beach cleans around 2011 and has gone on to be a trustee, secretary, instructor and underwater photographer for the charity Ghost Fishing UK.

She wrote the first training course for scuba divers to remove lost ghost nets, in the world.

In 2009 she visited the far reaches of Wookey Hole cave and still holds the British female cave diving depth record.

In 2020 she became a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society for her work with Ghost Fishing UK as well as her cave diving exploration. She holds the end of the line in several caves in Croatia and France.

In the same year she was included in the BBC Radio 4 Women's Hour Power List.


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