|Nothing but Gold - Diving in
After several trips already to the
region called "Salzkammergut" in Austria, we were
trying this time to trace the fascination of the clear water
lakes and some remaining secrets, all documented by a digital
video production and a photo report.
"It's time to go, pack the equipment and we will meet
Paul and Nico at the end of the village for departure" I
told Pascale. At 4.30 a.m. we started for a secret mission in
the dark forests up in the mountains half an hour drive away
from Hallstadt, our base camp village which is more than 4000
The secret lake
In the foggy night, under the black fir trees shadows we
assembled our heavy diving equipment for carrying it about 2km
through the dark fir tree forest to the secret lake. Nico was
our surface assistant and Pascale busy with the video
Wet sweated we arrived at the water discovering a tremendous
scenery. Fog lying on the water surface and fir trees raising
out in the dawn. Time had come to go into this ominous still
water. Slightly we disappeared under the dark surface just
leaving the low noise of bubbles in the dawn.
Equipped with powerful lights, double tanks and in a perfect
co-ordination we had to go deep, very deep for our mission.
First on our way down in the dark, we were crossing huge trees
blocking our way draped with a mysterious grey curtain of
alga. After the first layer of 20m, there is no more oxygen,
no more life in the water, apart from bacteria and a unique
worm living in the sulphuric depth.
The bottom of the lake is more than 100m deep and from 40m
on there are impressive explosion craters recognisable. The
Germans put a lot of new explosives to test in this lake
during the World War II and it seams to be a wet treasure for
top secret material.
At the end of the war, secret freights, military arms, huge
amount of boxes were thrown in the lake by a special German
operation. Rumours say there could be also the legendary NS
Gold Treasure as well as the Hungarian gold treasure among the
secrets lying in the dark depth of the lake.
Finally we had to take care about our decompression profile.
And the water keeps in silence, mystery covered, dark and
fearsome in our mind.
Back in the village for breakfast we were discussing around
myths and facts. This lake will last long in our mind, it is a
unique experience after all.
A 4000 years old under water talus
The lake called "Hallstättersee" is probably
one of the most interesting ones of the big lakes but the
visibility is changing from 5-20m all the time over the year.
Notice the several fishing protection zones around the lake
where diving is prohibited.
At a place called "Hundsort", 1400m after the
tunnel of the village of Hallstatt there is some like a 4000
years old under water talus where you can find old Celtic
remains as well as newly scrap. But it is only worth a visit
when the waters are clear.
For more information ask the "Zauner Diving School"
in the village.
A must dive
"If you are looking for best ever visibility, this is
the one to dive!" I was telling Marco at the border in
front of the lake called "Gosausee". He was still
starring in the endless visibility of the under water border
grounds. There were fish schools around the boat pier, quite
unusual, as fish life is rare in this place. The visibility is
perfect nearly over the whole year apart from the melting of
the snow period.
The mountain scenery is astonishing here, the lake is
surrounded by the "Dachstein" massif up to 3004m.
During the briefing I told everybody to pay attention to the
modified decompression stops, as the lake is at an altitude of
The dive experience in the clear but very cold water is
unique especially under 20m where the visibility becomes
endless. Huge rocks, like giant stones are spread over the
grounds and have a strange artificial appearance.
This is definitely what altitude diving is about.
The sunken forest
We were told about a sunken forest of the "Altausser
See" in the first right part of the lake. The remaining
trunks should have enormous sizes and up right in the ground.
Paul and I got Marco convinced to join us for that exploration
even that it would probably be a bit heavy in diving the
The access to the lake from the parking side just near the
Hotel is perfect and the landscape around is one of the most
beautiful in that region.
We did the crossing on the surface to right after the
boathouses and let us going down close together in a group to
the bottom. The water in there is the coldest of all lakes and
it's like burning your face. Immediately we had to focus our
concentration to orient ourselves again, we were much too
deep, we had to dive back a while to 23m where we came across
some single trunks of a considerable size. "There has to
be more", I was thinking again and again while observing
the remaining air pressure. Finally we found some more huge
trunks which must going up only a few meters under the
surface, a second area of trunks at 12-15m depth but our air
was running out and we finished the dive alongside the
boathouses where fish schools are present all the time.
Exhausted but satisfied about the fact we were just leaving
an ancient forest sunken 1600 years ago. Wow!
Watch pikes hunting
For the afternoon we definitely needed an easy dive and what
could have been better than the "Grundlsee", the
green emerald of all lakes. In fact the green under water
flora is of a fabulous density with an abundance of fish life
within. Ideal conditions for macro photography and fish
In the very shallow waters I shot my best ever pike
portraits watching them hunting over and over again during
more than an hour.
Access to the lake is quite easy and comfortable especially
in the village at the end of the lake where an air filling
station is located in the firemen's boathouse.
The ultimate mountain dive
Who hasn't dreamed about a mountain lake of pure
spring-water with tremendous transparency, embedded between
mountain peaks, surrounded by fir trees and a natural grass
This should not longer be like a diver's dream in our mind.
Gerhard Zauner from the Diving Centre in Hallstatt arranged
the permission needed from the local hotel host on the alpine
pasture called "Tauplitzalm". On this huge high
mountain plateau (altitude ~1500m) there are 6 lakes
altogether, the next to the last is the "Steirersee"
where we had to go.
So arrived just in time on the plateau we met the friendly
local host, diver himself, who brought us down near the lake
with his 4x4 Jeep. "I will be back late in the afternoon
to pick you up with your equipment. Have a nice dive!"
Then he drove back again to his hotel.
We were left at least 20 minutes mountain walk away from the
lake. Walking there and back two times with the diving
equipment back packed, tanks included, we finally set up our
camp at the bank, completely exhausted.
From the first moment on I was amazed by the indescribable
beauty of the underwater scenery. Some trouts swimming over
the abundant green flora, trunks draped with a green curtain
of alga making the scenery some like unnatural. Like a
paradise for underwater photography.
At the end of the day the unique under water visual
impressions outweighed by far the physical efforts necessary
to make the dream real.
Water transparency like air
For our last day, Gerhard Zauner from the Hallstadt Dive
Centre had another unexpected surprise ready for us. Diving in
the river "Traun", by choosing the most spectacular
place called "Traunfall", where several basins are
near a waterfall having so clear water that the visibility
seams nearly unlimited.
Recently permission is necessary to be allowed diving, but
with Gerhard's reputation in the region, this was no hurdle.
Arrived at the place already the view down into the basins
from the crossing bridge was impressive. So together with
Pascale we both decided to do some extreme wide angle under
water scenery shots by using my newly acquired fisheye lens.
With this fragile photo equipment in my hands, I decide to go
the easy way into the water by passing under the waterfall
whereas the 5m high jump in the basins cost an effort.
Once you are down, the water transparency is like air. Under
water canyons, eroded rocks, tunnels and giant trouts are only
some of the highlights. Just amazing!
This was an overwhelming showdown of our trip bristled with
a few very dramatic moments, in some way the perfect script
for our video and photo sessions. We started by searching some
lost gold treasures, but after a while and some really
wonderful dives, we learned to appreciate most the natural
beauty of the lakes. Nothing but gold, that's what fresh water
diving is here about.
|About the lakes
Alt. 508m, depth 135m
Can be of
interest when the visibility allows it. Notice the
prohibited diving zones.
960m, depth 65m
Perfectly clear visibility
but cold water, a must dive.
Alt. 721m, depth 53m
because of the sunken forest but extremely cold. A quite
and beautiful place for diving. Easy access from the car
709m, depth 64m
Abounding in fish. A
perfect lake for easy diving. There is a filling station
at the lake in the village called "Gößl".
Alt. 1460m, depth 30m
mountain diving experience, but only for those who are
not afraid of any effort in carrying equipment. Notice
that permission is required. By far the most beautiful
lake in the area.
River, depth 6m
Diving is allowed only
with permission. The basin near the waterfall has the
clearest water, the visibility is nearly unlimited. The
under water canyons, eroded rocks, tunnels and giant
trouts are some of the highlights.