Posted 16/2/2008 19:57 (#142) Subject: How did Skandalopetra Phenomenon Born?
SCANDALOPETRA "PHENOMENON" - HOW IT WAS BORN?
Martina Vianello in her article which was recently published in www.ilrestodeldelfino.wordpress.com refers to skandalopetra as a "phenomenon" of nowadays, which attracts athletes from all over the world. Further to this report I would like to share with you my personal involvement which is linked to the modern history of skandalopetra and might give some insight on how the current situation has been evolved during the recent years.
I am from Kalymnos, and I have studied Medicine in Italy, were I had also done my specialisation in Hyperbaric Medicine at the University of Kietj. At the same time, I was working at Teramo Hyperbaric Centre. As a student I had the honour to be taught by professor of physiology Pier Giorgui Data (Director of the hyperbaric medicine department), professor D.Marcante, professor Ficini, Professor A. Marroni and others, with whom I worked as a colleague, later on. Under the supervision of professor Pier Giorgui Data, a colleague and I had undertaken the assignment to study all known types of diving including freediving and scuba diving. Our aim was to determine the type of diving with the least number of victims by evaluating and interpreting the available data! Our research lasted 10 months. We searched all the existing bibliography, a number of historical books and files, we interviewed various professors, and we gathered data from other involved institutions, many writers, historians as well as journalists.
A few years earlier, in 1979, prof. PG Data, went to Kalymnos with a team of 100 scientists on a scientific mission. Their objective was to study closely the Kalymnian sponge-divers and to determine any similarities or differences between them and other studied diver communities / groups. This project is known as the “Kalymnos Scientific Expedition of 79”. As a result, they acquired an extensive knowledge of the health problems and they had a clear understanding of the local diving techniques. During my project I travelled back to my motherland Kalymnos and I started my research. I interviewed all people that could be involved in any possible way. I searched the Municipal Library, I studied the private libraries and collections, I had discussions with old and new captains, sponge-divers, and sea-men, local scholars and others. I remember strongly my conversation with one of the oldest sponge divers in a café at Kalymnos. His words were probably sketching what was happening in a very indicative way. The old man with a sort of bitter taste in his words said to me:
“Listen to me my child! Back in the season of Stone, only few women…, very few were being dressed in black and they were being "burned" from the fish (sharks), not from the Stone! After the dress (this is how the local fishermen are referring to the dive helmet), replaced the stone, tragedies became too dense in our island and grieving people were everywhere crying for their dead or paralytic relatives and friends.” Our research had been concluded and brought to our professor for evaluation. Professor Data before even having a look at our work, he asked us directly:
“Well, which form of diving can have the least number of victims?”
I told him without hesitation: “Professor this is the one!” And I handed him my report on the Stone.
He replied: “It wouldn’t be necessary to give me your papers, just tell me!”
Then I replied: “Professor it is the way that Kalymnian sponge-divers used to dive some years ago, and it is called Skandalopetra! “
Professor Data concurred with our findings! “Of course it’s this one. Certainly it is Skandalopetra!” Those guys are drifted downwards by the weight of the stone and then they are pulled up along with their abstention and sponges. How much oxygen consumption would you expect them to have? They are linked to the rope with “gasa”. They are being watched from the surface with the “glass” etc. Now listen to this, if you really want to offer something valuable to your compatriots then convince them to return back to diving with the stone! This way there will be no more victim hecatombs, no grieving parents, relatives or friends in this Island!”
I have to emphasise at this point that Professor visited Kalymnos on countless occasions and he nourished strong feelings of sympathy for this place!
In my doctorate work I have a number of detailed references and reports on my findings!
During these years, I have dove many times with the stone. I must admit that in the beginning I felt uncomfortable and a number of my initial attempts to dive were unsuccessful. As the time was passing by, I was practicing, and eventually diving with Skandalopetra became a second nature, I learned its secrets, and I gradually managed to master its technique. I was able to go deeper than the depth I considered as my personal limit! The words of old sponge divers started to become meaningful! I learned how to use the stone as a brake, as a steering tool, as ballast and so on! It was like a fusion process where I saw myself becoming one with the stone! This experience gave me the missing part one would need in order to be assured this was something worthy and it would deserve to be spread around for the benefit of the freediving community!
About ten years ago, we trained Danae Varveris at the same diving school where Thomas Thomaides had been frothed. Thomas was an athlete who had shown from the first moment his special skills in freediving. Thomas was the main representative of diving with Skandalopetra. Many people say that I am representing Skandalopetra. However, I must admit that without the help of Thomas nothing would have happened! It is Thomas who was diving with the stone! Thomas is the one that people know. He is the only winner of all skandalopetra competitions until today and all these were achieved with a lot of training! (photo 1).
Photo 1: Thomas Thomaides.
A number of competitions were held in different parts of the world so far. Everyone who had the chance to dive with this technique came to the surface with a smile!
We have studied the stone from every possible angle and in all its possible forms! We approached the subject from the historical point of view; we studied it from the medical point of view. We studied its physical as well as its naval aspects! We wanted to understand why Skandalopetra should have this particular hydrodynamic shape and no other shape! We wanted to study in depth, its properties and its techniques. We finally wanted to understand how this soulless tool solves a number of problems in the hands of a skillful diver! Why skandalopetra survived throughout so many centuries? It remains unchanged from the era of Alexander the Great until todayand not causing any victims. There is neither a single report of a diving accident with skandalopetra nor a report of events such as samba or loss of consciousness due to hypoxia etc. All accidents with skandalopetra in the bibliography are only related to injuries from marine life.
Our findings have been presented at various sport medicine congresses in Kalymnos and abroad. We have published reports in medical journals, newspapers and other media. Everything we say about skandalopetra is backed up with the appropriate historical and scientific findings! Eventually we managed to be trusted by large athletic institutions. National Federations are now recognising Skandalopetra as one of their official disciplines! A number of elite athletes and champions participated in the various Skandalopetra competitions so far. Their experiences have been only positive and thus they are now the best ambassadors of Skandalopetra! Nowadays, other Federations are actually organising Skandalopetra Competitions.
It is now widely accepted that Skandalopetra is the safest type of freediving! Statistics on diving accidents during the official skandalopetra competitions can support that!