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Polish Divers Achieve Remarkable Exploration Success in Italy's Elefante Bianco

Published: February 20, 2024 - 18:30
Updated: February 20, 2024 - 18:31
Polish Divers Achieve Remarkable Exploration Success in Italy’s Elefante Bianco
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Elefante Bianco Tucked away in Italy’s picturesque Veneto region, the cave has been a focal point for cave divers across the globe.

This is primarily due to Luigi Casati’s trailblazing exploration in 2004. Utilizing state-of-the-art techniques and equipment of the time, Casati successfully dove 530 meters from the cave’s entrance, thereby charting its only existing map.

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Elefante Bianco
Elefante Bianco 2024 exploration project map by Bart Pitala

Over the following years, Casati, along with other esteemed cave divers, embarked on several missions to further decipher this elusive cave. However, due to the cave’s challenging conditions, its secrets remained well-guarded. The Elefante Bianco, one of Europe’s largest springs, collects rainwater from the entire Asiago plateau, transforming the spring into a tumultuous, geyser-laden river even after mild rainfall. Moreover, the water temperature consistently hovers around 8-9 degrees Celsius throughout the year.

The cave’s turbulent conditions mean that only its initial section, stretching several tens of meters, has a permanent rope-supported climbing route. To delve deeper into the cave, divers must set up their guide ropes during each dive, while also navigating through erratically hanging sections of broken-off railings from previous years.

Elefante Bianco
Depth profile Elefante Bianco by Bart Pitala

However, in February 2024, exactly twenty years following Casati’s inaugural exploration, a team of Polish divers made a historic breakthrough in the Elefante Bianco. They successfully explored over 100 meters of a previously uncharted corridor, concurrently extending the known depth of the cave by over 40 meters.

Elefante bianco
Exploring Elefante Bianco depth 226.7 m

This accomplishment is a substantial contribution to our understanding of this unique cave system. It emphasizes the importance of international collaboration in speleology and exemplifies how we can expand the boundaries of our knowledge about the subterranean world when passion, bravery, and innovation converge.

As is often the case with such undertakings, this seemingly small victory for the team is the culmination of years of planning, preparation, and collaboration during numerous collective cave expeditions. The final exploration was the pinnacle of a week of preparatory dives, during which the team installed safety ropes up to the farthest known sections of the cave and gathered several bundles of old, broken-off railings.

Elefante Bianco

The final dive lasted over six hours, with a mere six minutes spent in the newly discovered sections. Based on the drawn-up plans and video footage, it’s evident that the cave continues with a very spacious corridor. However, further exploration is hindered by a rapidly increasing depth – a pit – and poor visibility in the deepest sections of the cave, limited to about 4 meters.

With a reached depth of -227 meters, the Elefante Bianco cave has once again claimed the title of Italy’s deepest spring, wresting it from the Sorgente del Gorgazzo cave. This significant achievement is testament to the determination and skill of the team, which includes Bartek Pitala (push diver), Tomasz Wciórka “Wieczny””, Mariusz Banaszak “Banan”, Bartosz Zdziebłowski “Zdziebeł”, and Michał Sojka.

Their success underscores the importance of meticulous planning, resilience, and teamwork in the field of speleology. It also demonstrates the potential for future discoveries as we continue to push the boundaries of our knowledge about this subterranean world.

Elefante Bianco
2024 Exploration Project 3D project ELefante Bianco author Bart Pitala

The Elefante Bianco: or White Elephant cave:

Situated in Veneto, Italy, has a rich and intriguing history that dates back several decades. The name “Elefante Bianco” is thought to have been inspired by the cave’s unique geological formations that resemble a white elephant.

The first recorded exploration of this cave was in 1971 when Gaetano Starabba, an open water diver, tragically died during a dive. This unfortunate incident brought the cave into the limelight and highlighted the challenges and dangers associated with cave diving.

In 2004, Luigi Casati, a renowned Italian cave diver, made a groundbreaking dive. He successfully navigated 530 meters from the cave’s entrance, creating its only existing map. His exploration marked a significant milestone in the understanding of this unique cave system and laid the foundation for future explorations.

Unfortunately, the cave has also been the site of other tragic incidents. A Czech speleosub disappeared in the cave in an incident reported by ScubaBoard, and Włodek Szymanowski, another diver, also lost his life in the cave according to Oxford University Cave Club records.

Despite these tragedies, the Elefante Bianco continues to attract explorers from around the world, drawn by its unique features and the challenge it presents.


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About author

Marcin Pawełczyk
Marcin’s journey with diving has been an adventure. Starting as a recreational diver, he soon found himself drawn to the fascinating stories and mysteries of Baltic wrecks. After gaining experience, Marcin decided to go beyond just leisurely exploration and took his training up a notch by completing the TMX course, allowing him to explore even deeper and uncover the secrets of inaccessible places. His next challenge has been cave diving, where he is honing his skills to become a certified diver. Not content to simply take in the breathtaking beauty of underwater life, Marcin has also embraced underwater photography since 2018, capturing stunning shots that bring these worlds alive for those who are unable to experience them first-hand. Marcin’s passion for the underwater has taken him far and is sure to continue doing so as he dives into new depths and captures breathtaking images.
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