Natalia Molchanova Free Diver: Cause Of Disappearance Unknown, Search Called Off

Natalia Molchanova, free diver from Russia, disappeared on Sunday. The 53-year-old experienced free diver went under off the coast of Spain during a recreational dive and failed to resurface. Molchanova holds over 40 records in free diving but was unable to save herself on Aug. 2. According to a statement released by the worldwide federation for free diving, or AIDA International, and published on the Deeper Blue website, Natalia Molchanova’s cause of disappearance is unknown.

Free diving is a form of diving that requires underwater divers to hold their breath instead of relying on a breathing apparatus. Molchanova is the most famous female free diver. She could hold her breath for nine minutes and swim over 700 ft. with a fin at a depth of 330 ft. When Natalia was free diving on Sunday in the Balearic Sea she was not using a fin while diving to depths of up to 130 ft. The Russian champion free diver was also wearing one of her own Natalia Molchanova free diver wetsuits, designed by herself and her son, Alexey Molchanova.

That particular wetsuit is low buoyancy, allowing a free diver to go deep with one breath of air. Molchanova is thought to have become caught in a strong underwater current during Sunday’s free dive. When she never surfaced, three of her diving peers reported her missing around 5 p.m. A specialist police diving unit was dispatched from the Balearic island of Ibiza. A helicopter and rescue vessel were also deployed. Miguel Chicon, the maritime rescue coordinator, said the search is very complicated because Molchanova was also wearing weights at the time of her free dive. Rescuers fear she could have become trapped by those weights.

The search had been ongoing since early Sunday evening but was officially called off around dusk on Tuesday, according to ESPN. Natalia’s family hired a remote-controlled submersible robot to continue the underwater search, but they have already accepted that she is probably dead. Alexey Molchanova believes his mother would like to be buried at sea, saying “It seems she’ll stay in the sea. I think she would like that.” The statement released by AIDA International added that Molchanova dedicated her life to free diving; she was doing what she loved.

Natalia Molchanova, free diver with over 20 gold medals from the Freediving World Championships and president of the Russian Freedive Federation, broke another world record last September for dynamic free diving. Sunday’s dive was considered modest for Natalia, but she failed to use a tethered safety line. President of AIDA, Kimmo Lahtinen, said that “when you play with the ocean, you know who is the strongest one.”

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[Image: Divot/ Wikimedia Commons]