On Sunday, 3rd of April 3 2022, members of a cave diving group from the capital conducted exploratory dives in the Kossuth Cave near Jósvafő. An accident happened during their dive: one of the cave diver did not return by the prescribed time to the starting point located in the Apáink-terme (Our Father’s room) part of the cave. The companions of the divers, who were provided the safety of the diver set off immediately after, but were not able to find the trail of the safety guided rope in the known passages. The visibility in the underwater parts of the cave at that time was next to zero.
After the alert of the cave rescue teams, the Gömör-Tornai Territorial Unit of the Hungarian Cave Rescue Service arrived at the scene in the afternoon, with the assistance of the North Hungarian Association of Cave Rescuers, the Bakonyi Cave Rescue Service and the Speleo Roznava (SK) In collaboration with BAZ County Specialists of the Disaster Management organization, the Neptune Diving Club and the cave divers of the Amphora Diving Club, which has been researching the cave for decades, began planning further dives to locate the missing diver. Additional assistance arrived for the operations in the evening and in the morning, including several rescuers with relevant cave diving experience.
The existence of the Kosssuth Cave behind the Nagy-Tohonya spring was already suspected in the 1930s, but access was only realized in the 1950s. After the stabilization of the entrance zone of the cave, in the 1980s, the cave became a popular tourist destination at the Aggtelek National Park. From 1995, the highly protected Kossuth Cave - together with the other caves of the Aggtelek Karst - became a World Heritage Site.
For a long time the end of the passages of the cave was considered to be the “Reménytelen” (Hopeless) Sump. After decades of exploration and hard work, (even costing human casualties) the divers of the Amphora diving club swam through this sump in 2009. Bypassing the deep and intricate sump, the explorers reached an open passage with rich cave formations and additional underwater passages. The passages increased the known length of the cave considerably, which today exceeds 1,500 meters, while its vertical extent is 60 meters.
During Sunday's exploratory dives, divers were exploring the present terminal end of the zone, the passages of sump 3. The depth of these passages reach 40 meters. Due to the great depth, the divers use a Nitrox gas mixture. The use of Nitrox helps the human body to spend more time at greater depths, and can shorten decompression time during ascension.
The search for the missing diver is still ongoing. The rescue is hampered by the fact that this part of the cave is very narrow, where large divers are unable to participate actively, and currently the visibility in the water is very limited. Participants in the recent one-and-a-half-hour dive near the currently known terminal point of the cave, at about -40 meters depth, found that the previous free part of the passage had collapsed. It has been observed that the guide rope fixed in the cave, which helps to orientate the diver in poor visibility, does not run freely, it is completely embedded in the clay and it cannot be moved. Due to the minimum visibility, the rescue divers could only conclude that the passage had been blocked by a collapse or by some sunken material.
According to the current state of the rescue, the search for the missing diver and the path leading to him is underway. The next dive that will be conducted on Monday morning is in preparation: cave rescuers will deliver the equipment needed for the dive to the base near the “Hopeless” Sump, from where the search divers are planning the next missions.
Cave rescuers and rescuers who rescue at Kossuth Cave are all volunteers, doing their hard work in their own spare time and at their own expenses. We shall report on the further development of the rescue operation on our website.
Further dives are ongoing.
Photos by Sándor Rózsa ANPI
Map by Gergely Balázs, Amphora Diving Club