The blue hole of Vouliagmeni and its underwater cave

The “Well” of Vouliagmeni and its underwater cave.

The “Well” of Vouliagmeni, is known as the vertical section situated at the bottom of the second bay in Vouliagmeni (also known as the divers bay), which at its end, one finds the entrance of an underwater cave. The section is located almost in the center of the bay at a depth of 11 meters with dimensions of 5.5 X 6.5 meters and descends vertically creating a flattened cylindrical shape to a depth of 28.5 meters. During the descent, the diver will encounter a side passage, known as a stairway with a width of 1 to 1.5 meters that starts at 16 and ends at a depth of 28 meters. The cave develops in a northwesterly direction from there, which paradoxically has an inflow of water throughout the entire year. At the main entrance to the cave, where in the 80’s, the port authority had placed railings to signal the impending danger, the flow is almost imperceptible. However, approaching the entrance of the cave which is smaller in dimensions (1 meter high, 1.5 meters wide) where the sunlight no longer passes through, the flow becomes very strong and turbulent. Characteristic of the intensity of the inflow of water, is that even the exhaled bubbles from the divers are carried into the cave instead of traveling back up to the surface. Divers are captured by this force for almost 2 meters beyond the entrance where a large round hall is found and the flow somewhat reduces. The second port of Vouliagmeni, where the well is located, is today the main place for scuba diving training in the region of Attica. Even if one did not take any of the certification courses there, one has definitely visited it later on for recreational diving. In the past, when scuba diving was still in its infancy, the well had been visited since the 1960s by well-known diving names such as Alexis Papadopoulos, Nikos Kartelias and others. It is noteworthy, according to the testimony of Alexis Papadopoulos, that the dimensions of the opening of the cave in the early 70’s, were as he describes in an interview, as much as a 25-inch TV, which makes it clear how strong the water disintegrated the entrance in the past 40 years.

Chronicle of the disappearance of the 3 American divers.

September 1978 is the year the “Well” received great negative publicity after the disappearance of three American officers who served at the Hellenicon base. The missing persons were: Sergeant Donald Misad, 21-year-old Mark Granford and his 20-year-old sister Joan Granford’s, who were diving recreationally in the area. Various missions were organized to find and retrieve the missing, but they did not bear fruit. On November 5, 1978 a dive is organized with the participation of 30 volunteer divers while in April 1989 the scene changes with the initiative of the Hellenic Speleological Exploration Group (SP.EL.E.O.) whose members begin a series of dives for the purpose of exploration, mapping and finding the lost divers. The cave divers who took part were Giannis Spinos, Dimitris Kompiliris, Vangelis Vroutsis, Gianna Efstathiou, Karkou Vasso Costas Zoupis, and several others. In addition to mapping the underwater cave, the result was to find the remains of the two missing, which were photographed and after a series of dives brought to the surface. A scuba tank and various other objects from the unfortunate divers were also retrieved. The first remain was located 50 meters from the entrance and the second at 70 meters. The tank was covered with shells and there was air inside it, which indicates the diver lost his life before the air was depleted, possibly from reasons other than drowning.
In the interview given to us by the well-known cinematographer Alexis Papadopoulos, he speculates the divers were seduced by a precipitation at the entrance of the cave. Although there was a great inflow causing the mouth of the cave to collapse over time, due to the lack of friction to the cave’s walls, this probably lured the divers into the cave. This lured the He considers this as the most probable cause of the accident and its enhanced by the fact the tank was found to have unused air inside.
The superstition that accompanies “The Well” is enhanced when on November 18, 1990, in an unofficial mission to retrieve the body of one of the Americans, the diver Panagiotis Tzortzatos dies, raising the account of the losses and gives birth to the myth of the so-called ¨The Devil’s Tooth¨. Georgatos is pulled out the same day by his team members. In an interview given to us by Costas Lazanas, president of the Hellenic Association of Navy Seals and captain of the retired OYK, he mentions that in 2006, by his own initiative and that of Thanasis Liosis and Maki Themelis, efforts were made to retrieve the corpses in the presence of representatives. The operation was a success and the US Government honored them with a plaque commemorating the retrieval of two out of the three remains.

Description of the cave.

On 09/16/2018, the diving team of Antonis Grafas started organizing a mission to the “Well” of Vouliagmeni, with the aim of filming, photographing and exploring the underwater cave that forms at its bottom. Having as a reference point the map that had emerged from the missions of SP.EL.E.O, the team gradually joined ropes of 30-40 meters to safely cover the entire length of the cave known until then. Finally, after successive missions and after the members which participated, gained a better understanding of the requirements of this particular cave, such as the necessary air supply, energy expenditure and special equipment required for the exit, they managed to spread ropes at a distance of 145 meters from its entrance. With this distance they continued beyond the section mapped to date by the divers of SP.EL.E.O., after they met what during their mission they called “Chimneys”, i.e. two vertical sections that develop towards the surface. At about 120 meters from the entrance, there is a second narrowing where the flow inwards increases again and the cave becomes cracked. In the fault the depth is about 40 meters, while beyond this point the surrounding space changes radically. The seabed becomes sandy and the gauge now shows 44-45 meters. At this point, a very large room develops where the lenses are unable to determine its dimensions and the seabed has a slope deepening considerably. From the entrance of the cave we travel to 330 degrees, after about 90 meters the compass shows 40 degrees and the depth gradually increases, something the diver should take into account when it comes to returning as the inflow is continuous and intense. After these first meters the direction of the compass returns to 320 degrees, very quickly it changes again to 220 degrees, after a while it changes again showing now 280 degrees. The depth at this point reaches 44-45 meters, which is the last point that our team reached, as the cave continues in an unknown direction.

Note: Diving at the well is one of the most difficult dives for us as a team, physically and psychologically. We tried our best to film it in the best way, and capture the conditions and the characteristics of this dangerous cave. We do not advise or encourage anyone to enter the cave and everyone is individually responsible for their diving choices. From our side, it was a powerful experience where our limits and endurance were tested, but having completed our work, surely the closed cave of the Well is a place we will travel again only through our video and this is what we advise our viewers to do also.

The following documentary is the product of a collective effort of experienced cave divers and a large support group. The underwater cave of negative flow in the second port of Vouliagmeni is considered one of the most dangerous in Greece. The Grafas Diving team does not urge / encourage anyone to attempt something similar and disclaims any responsibility otherwise.

The cave was penetrated by divers: Lefteris Koutalas 140m (large hall), Antonis Grafas 130m (rift) and Erikos Kranidiotis 70m (stairs).