By Mark McConville
STUNNING PICTURES have revealed the remains of an abandoned mine that has been flooded after a photographer dived to depths of 196 feet.
The incredible images show the intrepid explorer swimming along tracks where the carts would have been pushed, cautiously navigating his way through spiralling staircases and down rusting ladders.
Other striking shots show wood piled up in one of the tunnels as the diver slips through a gap, metal equipment left behind rusting in the water and the orange glow of the mine walls that were excavated for opal gems.
The remarkable photographs were taken at the Slovak Opal Mines, Slanske Vrchy, Slovakia, by underwater photographer and journalist Martin Strmiska from Bratislava, Slovakia.
“Slovak Opal Mines is an absolutely unique spot which combines the exploration of unbelievable cave sceneries and the history,” he said.
“Images I had seen from this location and my photography skills inspired me to start this project and capture the character of this place with my vision.
“A diver moving in three dimensions in the underwater space provides me with endless motivation as far as cave/mine photography is concerned.”
Opals from Slovak opal mines are highly appreciated in the world markets for their unique characteristics. Their asset is what is referred to as opalescence and means the perfect play of colours.
The mines in Slovakia enjoyed their best times between 1845 and 1880, when run by the jeweller from Vienna – Solomon Goldschmidt and his heirs. The Goldschmidts succeeded in introducing the opals to the world markets which won them their corresponding fame.
Underwater photography is tricky enough but in a confined space such as a mine it presents an array of challenges.
“Cave diving certainly isn’t for everyone,” added Martin.
“It often takes a lot of skill, hard work and effort, but those dark tunnels reveal some spectacular colours and views to the ones that succeed.
“Underwater photography in caves requires different approach than ‘normal’ photography. The external off-lighting sources play the most important role. I use a series of optically triggered strobes placed around the area I photograph. Peter Kubička, a good friend of mine, helps me with lighting and placing the strobes.”