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He planned to bottom out Bushman's Hole at a depth that no rebreather had ever been taken, connect a light reel of cave line to the shot line, and then swim off to perform the sublime act of having a look around.At that moment late last October, cocooned in more than a billion gallons of water, Dave Shaw was a very happy man.

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Shaw's stocky five-foot-ten body was encased in a black crushed-neoprene drysuit."Dave felt very connected with Deon," Shirley says."He had found him, so it was like a personal thing that he should bring him back." When Shaw finally surfaced in the late-afternoon African sun, he removed his mask and said, "I want to try to take him out." Deep-water divers have always been the daredevils of the diving community, pushing far into the dark labyrinths of water-filled holes and extreme ocean depths.Shirley would have been content to leave the body where it was, but Shaw was a man who dived to expand the limits of the possible.He had just hit a record depth on a rebreather, and now he had the opportunity to return a dead boy to his parents and, in the process, do something equally stunning: make the deepest body recovery in the history of diving.Ten minutes into his dive, Dave Shaw started to look for the bottom.

Utter blackness pressed in on him from all sides, and he directed his high-intensity light downward, hoping for a flash of rock or mud.

Thinking he should try to bring Deon back to the surface, Shaw wrapped his arms around the corpse and tried to lift. After Shirley checked that Shaw was OK and retrieved some spare gas cylinders hanging on the shot line below, Shaw showed him an underwater slate on which he had written 270m, found body.

Shirley's eyebrows shot up inside his mask, and he reached out to shake his friend's hand.

Only two divers had ever been to this depth in Bushman's before.

One of them, a South African named Nuno Gomes, had claimed a world record in 1996 when he hit bottom, on open-circuit gear, at 927 feet. But Shaw, a Cathay Pacific Airways pilot based in Hong Kong and a man who had become one of the most audacious explorers in cave diving, didn't strive for depth alone.

To try to avoid getting the bends, extreme divers spend hours on ascent, sitting at targeted depths for carefully calculated periods of decompression to allow the gases to flush safely from their bodies.