Cave divers Xisco Gràcia and Guillem Mascaró had to make the most difficult of decisions on April 15, 2017.
Trapped in an air pocket deep in a cave, they only had enough gas between them for one of them to make it out, and the other would have to stay behind, according to the BBC.
The pair, who are experienced cave divers, had been exploring a cave on the island of Mallorca. After penetrating up to 1 km/.62 miles in the cave and finishing their dive, disaster struck on the way out. They suffered a silt-out which cut visibility to nothing, and then lost their main guideline and route to the exit. The pair searched in vain for nearly an hour for the line but were unable to find it.
Assuming the line had broken or slipped from its anchors, they needed to act. Xisco remembered a large nearby chamber with a large air pocket, and they retreated there to plan their next move.
Studying the cave map in the chamber, they found an alternate route out of the cave, while realising their problem: they had used up so much air while trying to find the line, they didn’t have enough for both of them to make it out of the cave. The pair reached the decision that Guillem would try to make it out and return with a rescue party. Guillem was slimmer than Xisco and had a better air consumption rate, so he would need less gas to make it out.
Eventually, Guillem set off on his way. Knowing he would have to feel his way along the route which did not have a previously laid main guideline, he left Xisco at the shore of the chamber in the cave. After nearly two days trapped alone in the dark, during which he suffered hallucinations, hunger, and cold, Xisco was rescued by his friends Bernat Clamor and John Freddy. Guillem had made it out and raised the alarm, but the rescue was delayed due to bad visibility in the cave. After letting the silt settle for a day, Xisco’s friends finally made it to his location.
Xisco finally made it out of the cave 60 hours after he first entered it. He was starting to suffer from hypothermia, and his temperature had dropped to 32C/90F; he was rushed to hospital where he made a complete recovery.
Xisco Gràcia is a very lucky man, since incidents like these tend to end in tragedy. A very similar incident happened in 1984 in South Africa, where Peter Verhulsel became trapped in an underground chamber in the Sterkfontein Caves west of Johannesburg. Sadly, after his body was recovered six weeks later, it was determined by the autopsy that he’d died of starvation after 3 weeks in the chamber.
If you think the incident has put Xisco off ever going near a cave again you would be wrong. He plans to return and continue with his explorations of Mallorca’s caves, stating:
“I have spent 24 years exploring underground. It’s in my blood.”
Read the full story of Xisco and Guillem on the BBC website or check out the Spanish TV report about the incident below.