Phreatic Initiatives 2020

Session 1

  • Sediment Sampling Project Leader Marcus Rose. 
  • Dates confirmed 12th-17th April.
  • C1 minimum requirement.

Brief Outline:

The “Dive For Antibiotics” project is a Microbiology Society education and outreach project centred on marine discovery of novel Actinobacteria and anti-microbial compounds.  This is achieved via isolation from marine sediments collected by divers. Unexplored niches in extreme environments, such as deep ocean or cave sediment, may produce such Actinobacteria which have adapted to extreme environments and it turn may produce biochemically distinct antimicrobial products which could be used as antibiotics.

Session 2

  • Cala Luna Cave:  Cartography & Exploration of the new (unamed) branch. Project Leader Stefano Gualtieri. 
  • Dates confirmed 19th-25th April. 
  • Sidemount experience required. 

Brief Outline:

During 2019 a new branch was discovered after a side mount area, it has been surveyed but requires complete cartography in order to update the previous map. It is an exciting opportunity to work on cartography while exploring new cave. The area of interest is past a major side mount restriction.

Session 3

  • Grotta del Fico: Digital 3D Survey. Project Leader Peter Gaertner. 
  • Dates confirmed 3rd-8th May.
  • C2 minimum requirement.

Brief Outline:

3D models of caves, historically are not accurate as the polygons are not always a precise representation of the cave. In this project, the polygon line will be mapped with MNemo  Units, and Ariane line software will be utilised to allow modelling of each cross section according to the pictures (photographs) taken at each station. This is a new (and still developing) approach we introduced last year and thus far is giving great results.

Session 4

  • Bel Torrente Cave: Survey of the Monk Seal Bones.  Project leader Katia Zoncato. 
  • Minimum requirement Cave2. 
  • Dates confirmed 24th-29th May.

Brief Outline:

Within the Bel Torrente Cave in Sardinia, precisely in “Ramo del Bue” branch, divers found monk seal bones.  These have been dated about 6000 years old.

The project focus is to document the bones position over the years. We would like to understand if they are moved or damaged by winter floodings, by comparing longitudinal data. In 2014 the first data was collected and in 2019 a part of the bones in Bue Marino branch was re-surveyed . In 2020 we need to complete the survey and extend it to other areas. Furthermore, we would like to document and measure more in detail some specific elements (skulls, jaws, teeth) to better identify  the specimen.

Session 5

  • Bel Torrente Photogrammetry: A Completion of Sump 1 Survey. Project Leader Peter Brandt.
  • Dates confirmed 5th-10th July. 
  • Minimum requirement Cave DPV or sidemount. Priority is given to divers who have taken the Photogrammetry class, or with proven Photogrammetry experience.

Brief Outline:

2019 effort was to capture data of Bel Torrente cave to check if a complete photogrammetry of sump one was achievable; as the results are encouraging we need to complete data collection in the main passage till end of S1 but also extend it to the secondary passages. Teams will work at the end of Sump 1, in the dry sections past Ramo del Bue and in the side mount areas in Bones passage.

Session 6

  • Video/Photo Documentation of 2020 initiatives: Project Leader JP Bresser.
  • Dates confirmed 11th-15th July.
  • Minimum requirement C1 or T1.  Video/Photo divers welcome.

Brief Outline:

After the project got recognised internationally and endorsed by the National Speleological Society (Società Speleologica Italiana), we need to produce a short documentary to be used as a mean to present the initiatives to international congresses and meetings. This requires not only underwater footage but external shots, interviews and boat/drone shots.

Session 7

  • Geo morphology, Project Leader Prof: Enrico Miccadei and Andrea Marassich. 
  • Minimum requirement C1 or Fundamental.
  • Dates confirmed 25th-31st July. 

Brief Outline:

The study of the morphological development and evolution of the coast as it acts under the influence of winds, waves, currents, and sea-level changes. Chieti University (Italy) wants to identify more relevant transects and will create a detailed representation of the coastal shallow area and cave entrances. The results will be part of a scientific publication.

Session 8

  • Ugo Bassi shipwreck photogrammetry: Project Leader John Kendall.
  • Minimum requirement T2 or Rebreather. Priority is given to divers who have taken the Photogrammetry class, or with proven Photogrammetry experience.
  • Dates confirmed 2nd-7th August.

Brief Outline:

Ugo Bassi is a 120m long cargo ship that sank in 1941 after being Torpedoed by HMS Severn. She sank in around 90m of water off the coast of Sardinia near Cala Gonone, and was discovered in 2012. 

In August 2020 GUE divers are going to run a Photogrammetry Documentation project on the wreck. The goal is to try and build a 3D model of the whole wreck, as a baseline of it’s current condition.

Session 9

  • Bel Torrente Survey: A Completion of the Sump 1 Survey. Project Leader Stefano Gualtieri.
  • Dates to be confirmed within end January.
  • Minimum requirement C2.

Brief Outline:

Bel Torrente has been already surveyed in the past, but no map is published up to date; the first sump cartography is not complete and is missing multiple passages that should be integrated into a modern version digital cartography and complete survey. 

Session 10

  • Coastal exploration. Project Leader Ferry Schram. 
  • Minimum requirement Fundamental and DPV1. Some specific goal will require T2 or Rebreather.
  • Dates to be confirmed within end January.

Brief Outline:

Despite the gulf of Orosei has been extensively investigated, the data about cave entrances, caverns is not easily available. We plan to investigate the coastline in few different transects along the gulf and document deeper areas in the canyons where caverns have been identified already.

Joining the Project:

We don’t have financial sponsors for this project; all costs must be split and covered by participants.

This costs mainly include: 

  1. Rental boats, project organisational costs and support for general logistics;
  2. Nitrox and/or Trimix gas fills for the diving operations;
  3. Partial coverage of costs connected with hardware required to store digital data, survey materials, radio location devices, materials required to collect sediment/water samples and partial coverage of samples analysis.


It is extremely simple to organise accommodation in Cala Gonone as it is a touristic area, but we recommend doing it in advance. Depending on your preferences there is the possibility of renting apartments through AirB&B or via local contacts. Hotel prices range from 50€ per person per night to about 125€; we can support you in finding the right place for your needs.

Landscape, Homebase and Caves introduction:

The Sardinian coastline is one of the most beautiful geological scenarios in the Mediterranean area; high cliffs of white limestone dropping down into turquoise water and carved during geological eras by winds and the force of the sea. It is a very well known touristic area due to the beauty of the landscape.

In the north of the island there are many caves, both dry and underwater, which offer incredible opportunities not only to tourists and outdoors enthusiasts, but also to researchers and geologists.

In the gulf of Orosei (north east Sardinia), close to the Gennargentu Natural Park, there are five major resurgences, underground fresh water rivers which are discharging their waters into the sea. These resurgences are characterised by being fresh water rivers with intrusion of salt water from the sea (similar genesis as the caves in Mexico) and the features inside the underwater passages are extremely beautiful as they formed partially as dry caves and you can find multiple decorations and speleothems that testify the different water levels during different ice ages.

Cala Gonone village is the homebase of the project and we run operations from its harbour. The town is nicely located between the crystal clear waters of Thyrrenean Sea and the high basaltic mountains on the back. The limestone geological area between Cala Gonone and Baunei, at the opposite side of the gulf, is the main area of our activities but is also a very well known touristic area, with wonderful hikes into wilderness, world famous climbing spots and historical remains of the ancient pre-roman Nuragic civilisation. 

Wonderful weather, the big sandy beach and the clear and warm waters, make this location the perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts and families.

Main springs:

  • Bue Marino
  • Bel Torrente
  • Cala Luna
  • Utopia & Euforia
  • Grotta del Fico

Each of them is incredibly different from the others and offer spectacular halocline, hydrogen sulphide, speleothems and varying morphology. The average depth in most systems is extremely shallow (avg. 9 meters) with water temperatures of about 22 degrees in salt water and 16 degrees in the fresh water portion. These conditions allow for long bottom times and very limited decompression.

Cave entrances are only accessible by boat, between five minutes to half an hour rib ride from the harbour;  car is not needed once in Cala Gonone, everything is walking distance.

Other caves inland are also present and some of Phreatic activities will be carried out in such areas too. In such cases dry caving experience and gear will be required.

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