Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Austrian ‘iceman’ diver chases records in the deep



Austrian ‘iceman’ diver chases records in the deep

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
iceman is pulled unconcious from freezing waters after a lack of oxygren to the brain during the dives ascent resulted in a blackout. AFP

Austrian ‘iceman’ diver chases records in the deep

It was not the way Christian Redl’s latest deep-diving record attempt was meant to end – being hauled to the surface of Austria’s frozen Weissensee lake after losing consciousness in the icy waters.

Redl, dubbed “the iceman”, had suffered a blackout, something he sees as par for the course in his quest to break the record for the deepest dive under ice.

“For me, it’s not risky or dangerous. It just happened,” the 43-year-old told AFP matter-of-factly after his unsuccessful record attempt last Friday.

The Austrian, who has had similar blackouts before, is part of a small group of freedivers in the world specialising in diving under ice.

His aim was to dive 71m deep into the Weissensee, itself covered in 30cm of ice, braving the two degree Celsius water wearing in just a wetsuit and fins.

But exerting himself excessively on the way up resulted in a lack of oxygen to the brain, which caused a blackout.

He was dragged up by one of his six safety divers and pulled onto the ice where a waiting medical team sprung into action with an oxygen mask.

It is the latest chapter in a life dominated by a passion for diving that began at the age of six when Redl’s uncle gave him fins and a mask as a present.

They were put to use snorkelling on a Vienna lake, before he started scuba diving aged 10.

Seven years later he saw “The Big Blue”, French director Luc Besson’s film about the friendship and rivalry between two freedivers.

“This movie changed my life completely because my biggest dream was to become like Jean Reno in this movie, a world record holder,” Redl says.

But work commitments meant he only had the winter months to attempt records, which led to him to specialise in ice diving, earning him his “iceman” moniker.

At 30 he quit his job as an investment banker to become a professional freediver, supporting himself with teaching and occasional acting work.

His ability to hold his breath under water for up to six minutes has given him a somewhat macabre niche of drowned corpse roles.

His first record came in 2003, a 90m horizontal distance dive under ice.

In preparation for his latest attempt, perhaps surprisingly Redl only did one practice dive in the Weissensee itself, otherwise sticking to an indoor pool on the outskirts of Vienna.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Redl admit the sport is not getting easier for him as he gets older, but says he still may not be able to resist another attempt to re-conquer the record. AFP

“I do everything with my mental strength so I really don’t care about the cold,” he said before the attempt on Friday.

New Zealand freediver and rival Ant Williams, the holder of the record Redl wanted to clinch, understands the challenges only too well.

“The water is not only freezing cold, it is pitch black and foreboding,” he said by email.

“It is far more intimidating and uncomfortable than normal diving,” Williams said, adding that he regards his Austrian rival as “talented” and “more than capable of pushing the record deeper”.

As for his hardest dive to date, Redl says that came on Nepal’s Gokyo Lake at an altitude of 5,160m, requiring him to undertake six months of training to deal with the lack of oxygen.

“The first 10 doctors said ‘it is impossible, you will die’,” Redl said.

“The 11th one said ‘yes, you will die, but it’s a cool project’. So I concentrated on the second part of this sentence.”

Ernest Turnschek, who owns a diving school at Weissensee and has known Redl for more than 20 years, says an increasing number of “hard core” divers have been coming to the lake to try their hand at ice diving.

When he first considered teaching ice diving 30 years ago, many found it laughable.

“Now everyone is talking about it. They are fascinated by the hues under the water,” Turnschek says.

Redl also waxes lyrical about his chosen sport.

“The most incredible thing is when you swim back to the surface and you take the first breath, it’s like you are reborn. This is really amazing,” he says.

“The urge to go ever deeper, to stay underwater for longer is like you’re addicted”.

But Redl admits that the sport is not getting any easier for him.

“I feel as I get older and older that I need much more training than nine years ago, when I achieved the record the first time”, back when the dive was 61m.

Nevertheless, Redl has said he may not be able to resist another attempt to re-conquer the record.

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • Hun Sen: Manet to be candidate for prime minister

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has reaffirmed that his oldest son Hun Manet will be his successor as Prime Minister if he is elected. Speaking during the inauguration of a new sewage treatment facility in Preah Sihanouk province on December 2, Hun Sen said Manet will be

  • More Cambodians studying in US

    The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report. The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied