Boesmansgat

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Don't you want to dive right in there?

Boesmansgat, or "Bushman's Hole" as it's know by people who can speak, is a giant nine-hundred (900) foot deep sinkhole in the middle of the Kalahari desert in South Africa. Other than a big hole for Boers and tourists to piss in, the giant hole should be notable as a local landmark for tourists to gawk at before leaving forever. But mankind's arrogance knows no bounds: this sinkhole has attracted dozens of amateur and professional deep cave divers, who have all perished in their attempts to get to the bottom of a giant hole. Lacking the natural beauty of other diving sites like, the Great Blue Hole of Belize or any other place on Earth that's not a dank wet hole in the middle of South Africa, most deep divers come to Boesmansgat to beat the world record for deepest underwater dive not using one of those things that James Cameron uses. Most have died in the attempt.

The sinkhole, when on dry land like normal people should be, looks like a big hole in the ground with a giant mucky cesspool at the bottom. For most of its history, no one has explored the seemingly shallow duck weed and leech infested pool, until amateur diver Mick Rowbourne fell into the hole while drunk and dove almost sixty feet before resurfacing. He invented the sport of deep cave diving to save face, and dozens of others have died ever since.

Structure of the Sinkhole[edit]

Don't you want to submerge yourself in a billion gallons of deep blue, surrounded on all sides by pitch darkness with no escape in sight?

Bushman's hole was formed over many thousands of years when underground water dissolved the dolomite rocks above. That's it.

Bushman's hole is found on Mount Carmel game farm, a flat patch of dry land, covered with dry grass and the bones of dead game. Past the green duckweed surface of Bushman's hole is a pool of crystal clear water.[1] several meters deep into the pool, already deep enough by even unhinged people's standards, is a narrow chimney-like entrance that leads to a vast chamber over nine-hundred feet deep and almost three-hundred (300) feet wide. Diving there has been described as an ethereal experience, like floating peacefully in a vast unknowable darkness, at once utterly alone and completely connected with the fabric of reality. Of course this feeling could be replicated by diving into a swimming pool with your eyes closed, but that wouldn't be nearly as life-risking and wouldn't cost you thousands of dollars in complicated rebreather equipment.

Skeletal tendrils of Boesmansgat[edit]

The flora and fauna of this sinkhole has evolved now that deep divers regularly die inside it. After dying, most divers tend to rot and bloat horribly, floating just outside the narrow entrance to the surface pool, before slowly turning into spooky skeletons and sinking to the bottom. Some bodies of dead divers might turn waxy and soap-like instead, and can float. Sometimes, these half waxy skeletons form interlocking chains and become part of a larger formation of dead divers. These giant skeletal tendrils hundreds of feet long tethered to the hole's bottom, formed from strings of bones like monkey chains, sway to underwater currents like kelp and can tangle dive lines and entrap other divers in the pool. These entrapped divers later become part of this bony structure, completing the skeletal cycle.

This fascinating biological phenomena, the first of its kind, has been meticulously studied by biologists and geologists alike, and more divers have been sent to Bushman's murky depths to analyze the skeletal remains of their fallen friends closeup.

Diving attempts[edit]

Challenges of diving in a giant sinkhole[edit]

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For those without comedic tastes, the so-called experts at Wikipedia have an article about Boesmansgat.

Mankind was never meant to go into the water, that's why boats and submarines exist. At the extreme depths required by divers' egos to explore, decompression sickness, inevitably followed by the sweet release of death, can occur. Because of science too complicated to explain to readers of this site, breathing gasses dissolved into the bloodstream need to be diffused at a rate which won't lead to decompression sickness. So a few minutes of descent hundreds of feet below the surface requires hours staying in specific depths specified in decompression tables, which are made using complex decompression algorithms. Many divers end up dying due to miscalculating the decompression depths while deep underwater.[2] The depth of Bushman's hole makes it especially challenging for divers to explore, since many of them tend to be impatient and decompression chambers can't be air lifted in time to save them. Like all twelve not-dead deep divers say, "You do the depth, you do the time."

Deep diving in Bushman's hole also requires expensive rebreathers, which can't be bought at your local mom-and-pop SCUBA diving shop, along with fancy monitoring equipment and distance lines to find your way back to the surface. Deep diving requires all equipment and electronics to be specially engineered to withstand the enormous underwater pressure. Why divers won't use that thing that James Cameron uses to protect themselves from the enormous underwater pressure, or even simply not bother with the whole deep diving thing, is a mystery. Most dedicated divers also bring backup gas cylinders in case of rebreather failure. Some divers simply use the cylinders left by their dead predecessors, before inevitably perishing themselves and joining the great skeletal tendrils in their eternal watery dance.

First explorers[edit]

None of this shit exists in Bushman's hole, who needs all that peaceful sunlight and cute fishes when you have the unending blackness stretching out as far as you can see, the risk of death only a few ragged breaths away?

Mick Rowbourne was the first to explore the giant hole in 1977, although early Boer settlers have urinated and defecated on it before.[3] Several other divers attempted to reach the bottom of the sinkhole, but their names have been forgotten, and their legacies now lie in the bone fields that cover the bottom or in the bone chains that make up the great skeletal tendrils. The first person to reach the bottom and live was renowned South African diver Juno Gomez in 1996. He currently holds the world record for deepest underwater cave dive not using one of those things that James Cameron uses. He nearly died when his foot got stuck to some dead guy's larynx, but he freed himself from his watery grave and spent some fifteen or so hours decompressing before returning to dry land. After all this hard work, Gomez had achieved his dream of reaching the bottom of a big hole filled with water.

Another South African diver, Devin Breyer, wasn't so lucky and died around 160 feet deep into the sinkhole. His skeleton, still trapped inside his wetsuit, rested at the sinkhole's murky bottom, atop a larger pile of anonymous bones. His parents erected a plaque on a rock wall just above the pool to ward off other divers from going into the sinkhole and dying horrible deaths. The plaque was unfortunately written in Afrikaans, so nobody could understand what the hell it said.

Darwin Shawn[edit]

Darwin Shawn, professional cave diver and recreational Australian, was obsessed with bringing Devin Breyer's corpse back to the surface. He'd dove in Bushman's hole, and many other water-filled holes in his time with nary a scratch, and thought he could accomplish the seemingly impossible task of bringing a dead body back from the sinkhole and not die in the process. The skeletons of divers that sank to the bone fields had long been disassembled by the currents, completely unrecognizable, and even touching the skeletal tendrils was a death sentence, since (due to an as of yet unexplained phenomena) the tendrils can coil around unsuspecting divers and pull them to the depths where their remains will rest for all time. Breyer's corpse was the only dead body in Bushman's hole still mostly intact and unattached to the deadly tendrils, and retrieving his corpse had become something of a pipe dream for divers all over world.[4]

In 2004, Shawn, with a whole team of other well-equipped divers, dove into Bushman's hole to get Breyer's skeleton. He brought with him a body bag that could be attached to a pulley string system that would bring Breyer's body and himself to the surface. He modified his equipment to withstand the extreme pressure. He even brought replacement cylinders in case his rebreather failed. He went almost nine-hundred feet deep into the sinkhole, and found Breyer's corpse nestled at the bottom of a collarbone crater. Shawn, of course, died trying to bring Breyer's skeleton back to the surface. He had overexerted himself trying to free Breyer's leg from the jaws of some lady's skull, and had asphyxiated in the process. Still, both their bodies floated up by the mouth of the surface pool entrance. Three more divers were killed trying to retrieve their bodies before a specially designed robot dragged the two divers to dry land.

This dive has been lauded by other deep cave divers as the least fatal in its history.

Skeletal tendril research report[edit]

Personal log of Dr. Havermeyer, assistant researcher for Project Spooky
Log 1 -- May 24th, 2014
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I am very proud to be working on Project Spooky, researching the very morbid but also fascinating phenomena of the 'skeletal tendrils' here in Boesmansgat, or Bushman's hole. I am working with Dr. van der Waals from the University of Johannesburg, Dr. Green, from Maine, and many other researchers from all over the world to study the skeletal cycle of these tendrils, and to better understand why cave divers come from many miles away to die in a big water-filled hole in South Africa. I am the only sociologist here, most of the men simply want to analyze samples for calcium concentrations or whatnot. I want to understand what makes divers so desperate to come here.

I have talked to few of the divers before they died, and they've always said, "The risk, The fun, The challenge, The beauty," in that exact order, and I saw a strange blankness in their eyes, and their voices were so monotone, so bereft of feeling, like they were reading from a script that's burnt into their mind. They always seem normal, but when they talk about Bushman's hole, it's like the light inside them has gone, and what's replaced it has given them nothing. Strange.

There are so many better places to cave dive I heard, my cousin, she was in Orda Cave, no one dies there. It's just Gypsum, no skeletons to study. We stay in a local settlement called Daniëlskuil, and we drive to the sinkhole early in the morning to observe before we head back at night to sleep. I swear I can hear the wind moaning when I go to sleep, and sometimes it doesn't sound like the wind, but someone snorkeling very uncomfortably.

Log 2 -- May 27th, 2014
I spoke to the cave diver that we have hired to gather samples from the skeletal tendrils. Dozens signed up. He's from Finland, he has a wife and kids and he talks about them very dearly, but when you talk about the hole he freezes, he says the words "the risk, the fun" et cetera and as soon as he's done he's back to normal. Back to chatting casually. I've told him that going down there will mean his certain death, and that his two daughter's will live never knowing their father, and he still says the words, with no thought and nothing behind his eyes I'm sure of it. I've told Van der Waals about this, and he just mutters "signed the forms, not our problem". The others are concerned, but they don't speak up.

He'll be doing the dive in a few days, and we'll be watching the video soon enough.

Log 3 -- June 1st, 2014
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He died, the tendrils cut him in half, and Van der Waals muttered the word 'fascinating' over and over. The video was streamed, so no evidence was lost, but now his body joins the skeletal tendrils in their endless hunger for human bodies. When I told Van der Waals that the tendrils might be sentient, he scoffed and said, "No, this is merely a biological phenomena, for some reason still unknown to us, the skeletal arms to react to touch, like Venus fly traps, and the sooner we discover what is behind this process, the sooner I will get more grant money, and the sooner we can leave this shithole. So shut up, and analyze the video."

He was floating in the dark, waving the flash light around till he caught a pale white glint of the bone arm. It was at least ten skeletons thick at this point, skulls and hipbones and femurs all interlocked with scraps of wetsuits and rusted cylinders hanging on its sides like earrings or Christmas tree decor. There were leeches poking their heads in and out of the skulls' eyeholes, and he tried to grab one of the skulls when the tendril reacted violently. It swiped him with a fibula, and the rest of the video is dark. I could hear the words, "KIIIIIIILLL" or "DEEAAAATH" or something equally ominous on the recording, but the lab rats said it was probably a puncture on a gas cylinder.

We've yet to get a proper sample, since all our robots have also been smashed, and James Cameron won't let us use that thing he uses. But even with all the deaths more volunteers keep coming, more of them want to go into the sinkhole. Some of them were naked and crazed, and one of them cried out, "Hole! Hole! I am the hole bones!" Van der Waals just pushed him into the pool with an audio recorder. At least he signed the form. I looked at Van der Waals and for moment I swear I saw the sinkhole in his right pupil, staring right back at me.

Log 4 -- June 5th, 2014
We were on a jeep driving to the sinkhole when we saw a dying man crawling on the hard dirt. We stopped to help him, and he asked for water, and we tried to give him some of the water we had but he said, "No, water water, sinkhole water. Sinkhole." He'd been wearing a wetsuit and goggles this whole time, and he'd crawled for what seemed like miles to get here. Dr. Green wanted to bring him back to the settlement, but Van der Waals knew that this man wanted nothing more than a dip in the sinkhole, to sink to the bottom. He was a lost cause.

"I WANT TO REACH THE SKELETON! THERE IS A SKELETON INSIDE YOU RIGHT NOW. ALSO YOU ARE NOW BREATHING MANUALLY." Those were his last words before he died. Van der Waals took him and stuck a camera inside his stomach before feeding him to the tendrils. Later, when we were heading back to the village, I saw at least two dozen men and women crawling over the dry grass to the sinkhole, some wearing rebreathers and some only in their beach shorts. All moaning and crying about the skeletons. I saw a child among the crowd and I said to the driver, "Stop, please, we have to save them." The driver ignored me and drove on, running a few of the divers over on our way back.

Log 5 -- June 10th, 2014
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We went back to the sinkhole, and the sinkhole's surface was completely covered in dead people, and the stench was so awful we had to wear masks when we sent another diver in. I told the diver, "Please, stop, don't go into the water, I'm begging you," and she says, "I am very passionate about skeleton skeleton skeleton." I saw this milky film cover her eyes, then she dove into the pool never to be seen again. I am no closer in understanding why hundreds have thrown their life away to die in this sinkhole, I don't see them climb down to the pool anymore, I see them walk, roll down the hill and hit the water.

Later that day the authorities have intervened, and put a stop to our Project. The University has cut funding. Van der Waals is furious, he keeps on saying, "We are so close. So close! They are shit-heads, all of them, typical blek people ruining everything for us, just when we are so close to finding the truth." I said to him, "We are no closer to finding the truth, I see nothing but people drowning for no good reason at all."

The government has put a fence around the sinkhole, but a group of them, dozens came and pushed the fence down and ran up to the edge and tumbled down the cliff face before hitting the water and the dead that came before. The sinkhole looked like a giant pot of wriggling anchovies. The divers, they don't even talk anymore, they scream with animal grunts until they feel the water, and then they let the deep consume them.

I tell Van der Waals to stop this madness. It's over, we can go home now, there is no point, and he says, "The tendrils, they're hungry, they're not taking divers anymore, they are taking everyone. You think this is research? No, there is nothing to research, nothing to know, I have tried but this is simply unknowable. The arms, they must be sated. But the fence has made them angry, if they are not sated, they will consume us all. I must buy you time, enough time for the team to escape before it comes for us all"

Van der Waals jumped into the water, I tried to save him, but Dr. Green pushed me away. He knows that it's all over.

I could see a wash of calm come over Van der Waals face, before a small white skeletal arm took his head and popped it off like a champagne cork.

Log 6 -- June 12th, 2014
Whatever Air Force South Africa has has begun bombing, they have evacuated everyone but the bones are too long. Half the team died when the tendrils grabbed them, they were sleeping in the settlement, and they were snatched by the tendrils along with dozens of others. I am miles away but the landscape is flat, and from a distance I can see long white wispy lines swaying back and forth. I know those are the bones, they've breached the surface.

I saw a plane miles above the hole try to drop bombs. For a second I saw a brilliant white spire shoot into the sky, like a beam of light, take the plane down. It was the tendrils, it can sense when it is threatened.

Log 7 -- June 14th, 2014
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The rest of them have left, Dr. Green got them to a plane and now they're crossing the ocean, but I have to stay. I have to know. I join a crowd so huge that the desert looks more like a giant band of roving heads and I ask them, "Why? Why? Why?" and they say, "the skeleton skeleton requires sacrifice, we will become part of a greater whole." I need to know what happens, I need to know, where are they? Where are they? The hole should be plugged full of the dead but they keep on coming without any stop.

I see the face of the water, they go into the water like in baptism and they disappear from view, they look so peaceful. I climb down and watch a great procession of people, of all ages and races and sizes, get taken to the great deep, and I can't help but join them, I reach the edge of the pool and I take the plunge. I don't see a vast darkness but an unending light come surround me as the souls of thousands join me as one.

I see the light coming from the bottom and I sink down, lower and lower until I feel that nothing exists but the water that's surrounding me, and I can feel a million white arms come and take every piece of me and change it, until I am no longer me but a vast interlocking chain. Nothing can stop me. You are all bones.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. Which can't be found anywhere else on Earth, except in every sink ever.
  2. They always forget to carry the 6.
  3. Spectral analysis has discovered that Bushman's hole is at least 7% piss.
  4. The plaque was mistaken as a clue for hidden treasure, and dozens had paid with their lives for this completely juvenile error.