Popular Science

Scientists still don’t understand how freedivers can survive such crushing depths

They hang between life and death in a delicate balance.

Freediver suspended

‘Under’, Martina Amati

Martina Amati

Free divers swim to extreme depths underwater (the current record is 214m, more than 700 feet) without any breathing apparatus. Champions can hold their breath for extraordinary amounts of time—the record for women is nine minutes, and men 11.

I’m a doctor with a special interest in extreme environments, so was intrigued when I was asked to collaborate in an art project about freediving for the Wellcome Collection’s new exhibition . Scientists and those who practice freediving are in many ways utterly alien to one another. When you look at the stresses this sport places on our physiology, it initially looks almost

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