My hometown high school had a large swimming pool that was open to the public each summer. It was shaped like an L and had three landings at different depths: It started off at four feet, gently sloped down to six feet, and finally, below a high diving board, sank to a final depth of thirteen feet.
As a kid, I would hold my breath and dive down to the bottom of the six foot section and let my eyes wander slowly over to the darkness of the deep end. Though weightless, catching a glimpse of that abyss made my stomach drop. You couldn’t see the very bottom until you had crept along to the very edge of the six-foot drop off, which of course I would do repeatedly. It was only then that you saw an added attraction: the presence of a very large drain at the bottom with a grate covering it.
When I was a little older, I would hold my breath, and, if I swam hard enough, dive to the very bottom. On days I was feeling particularly brave (or foolhardy), I would briefly touch the grate and then race for dear life back up to the surface.
I recently saw a video of a swimming pool that is quite a bit deeper. Called the Y-40 Deep Joy, it has a final resting place of 130 feet. That’s ten times (10! times!) deeper than the pool of my childhood. In fact, the Deep Joy is currently the deepest indoor swimming pool in the world (with a Guinness World Record to prove it). Located in a hotel in Padua, Italy, it features underwater caves for divers to explore and, like my school’s pool, platforms at different levels, including one at 4.3 feet and another at (gulp) 39 feet. There is a clear tunnel placed just under the water’s surface for visitors to watch scuba and free-divers dance in the deep. And of course, there is the deep end, which take the form of a narrow cylindrical well that plunges in semi-darkness to the very bottom.
Search up this pool on the Internet and you will find a video of French freediver Guillaume Nery smoothly swimming through the depths of the pool. This video teases the presence of the bottom in brief snippets as Nery swims from platform to platform. It is only when he reaches the edge of the well that the camera finally faces it head on, allowing the abyss to fill the screen. Nery drops into this darkness like a ballet dancer, arms crossed over his chest, feet together pointing down. His eyes are closed and he looks strangely peaceful as he sinks to the bottom.
You may find yourself holding your breath with him. You might also find yourself watching the video over and over, scaring yourself anew each time. Until, of course, they build a deeper pool.