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by Beatrice Dell'Oro

The Bossi Spring is situated at the Generoso Mountain in the District Ticino. The territory of this mountain has been object of the researches of the Speleologist Group of Ticino for different years who gradually, with accurate and patient investigations, have discovered great caves in the upper part of the mountain, facts that show that at the inside there still has to exist a vast system practically unknown, corresponding to the hydrical net which is feeding the springs. Among these there is the Bossi Spring which has always been an object of interest both for the purity of the water, as well as for the regularity of the outflow controlled by the Electric Company of Lugano. Primo Meli of Rovio who in 1974 has reached the depth of -47 meters has peen the pioneer of the explorations. A second exploit was the one of Walter Keusen and Olivier Isler, who in 1985 reached the depth of -89 meters and who went up again on the opposite part up to -40 meters. In September 1991 Luigi Casati, who knew about the fame of the source, decided to try the continuation of the exploration. This is a case in which the entrance is easily accessible from the main road (it is only a few meters) and the preparation of the material can be completed on the pavement at the edge of the spring. The main tunnel of the spring goes down up to -89 meters with a medium inclination of 45° more or less regular, but the first handicap is met few meters below the surface because the passage is low and big rocks abandoned on the bottom prevent from penetrating in a simple way. The equipment that is necessary for passing the depth of -89 meters consists of two backmounted 20 liter tanks and others five 10 liter tanks: all in all a weight of 150 Kg and an encumbrance without saying too much, quite considerable. Already at his first dives Luigi starts with two 20 liter tanks and lets companions, who serve as support divers leave a 10 liter tank of O2 at -6 meters, the long hose of oxygen at -12 meters and a tank containing air for the decompression at -40 meters. The section of the cave becomes triangular and wide enough after -15 meters. It follows a vertical fracture that at -50 meters is widened in a shaft. At the base of the shaft there is a passage which leads down to -83 meters, where a narrow passage of 100 x 80 cm with gravel on the bottom begins. Passed the lowest point at -89 meters Luigi goes up again on the opposite side up to -40 meters, after this he decides to return because of voluminous clay blocks that, solicited by the bubbles, are detached off the ceiling and falling down, making the water turbid and the visibility nil. The explorations continue regularly in the following months, always giving results. Small demanding footsteps in which every time the techniques  are improved and decompression charts are verified. During one of the dives at -60 meters a tunnel going up again is discovered, which almost returns in the direction of the exit (30° of difference): it is not simple to fix the Arianna line in this place since in the passage there are neither grips nor protuberances and the visibility, which is reduced in a few instants, doesn't give a lot of possibilities to look around. Try after try, tasting, after some attempts Luigi succeeds in finding a passage to resurface in a dry room: he removes the tanks and after a walk of some meters he reaches a shaft that goes up but is obstructed by threatening and unstable erratic rocks. Impossible and dangerous to continue and in any case it is still not the right way, the way that is being looked for. Almost every weekend is consecrated to the exploratory dives, which are alternated with dives devoted to the topographical relief.

The writing slate hanging around the neck, the depht meter and the compass well fixed and there he goes, one pass at a time with attention and patience. The well positioned Arianna line facilitates the operation and gives the possibility of an easy reentry when visibility becomes nil. The dives continue in the following months beyond the -89 meters narrow passage and step by step Luigi tries to ascend trying narrow pasages, inevitably encountering big amounts of clay breaking loose, narrow passages, but discovering about ten meters more. There are conditions to get discouraged: every dive has a total duration of 2h and 30 minutes in average and the decompressions has to be done in a narrow space of the cave. Stopping in a small angle, in a water temperature of 7°, the cold is felt penetrating more and more up to the bones.

The winter quickly passes and the memory fades of when, getting out of the water, the sky is seen  whirled up with snowing and the neoprene gloves remain attached to the grating at the entry. On May 17 the nth dive pleasantly starts under the omen of a serene sky and a pleasantly warm climate. Luigi descends decidedly, hoping that this time perhaps it is the right one. He passes the low narrow passage, ascends the opposite part up to -45 meters: he enters a passage, discovered little before and ascends up to -20 meters in a narrow passage up to a place where he almost gets jammed. When he sees the continuation in front of him, in the turbid water, he is forced descending among some rocks down to -30 meters, after this he starts to ascend again in a beautiful forced conduct (2x1meters) of 70 meters lenght, until reaching -3 meters where an enormous rock partially obstructs the passage. He passes around this rock and resurfaces! For an instant he looks around: the tunnel continues in the dry but it is better to immediately return underwater and to return to the exit. A mad desire to tell everything: for this, during the decompression on the other part toward the exit he makes himself understood by gestures to a companion, who has gone down for a check if everything is all right, that he has succeeded! The decompression (three hours) it seems really longer than usually. The places of the stops are known thoroughly and during the waiting the time is killed by moving some stones to make the place more comfortable for the next passage.  It is the first time in the world that in a sump of -89 meters the ascent of the opposite part is completed, resurfacing, but to have chased the head out of the water for only an instant is not enough, it is not sufficient, it will be necessary to return for seeing more. The following weekend Luigi returns to the Bossi Spring with the purpose to exit on the other side of the sump and to make a recognition of the aerial zone, alone, since nobody is able to follow him. He will take an additional tank of pure oxygen for the decompression with him. The exit from the sump, in the heart of the mountain, is not simple, also for the fact that it proceeds on an unstable rockslide; in addition the tanks and the rest of the material attached to the body, around 70 Kg., don't facilitate walking at all. It is necessary to gear off with precaution putting everything in safe angles to avoid that something slips into the turbid water. The operation happens with caution,then, after having put on the boots, Luigi starts to advance on the ground and after few steps he sees a very tall hall with two shafts that rise in vertical direction. Luigi tries to climb but after about ten meters he is forced to stop before a dangerous passage even if a little further the tunnel seems to become horizontal. Crossing the hall instead at the bottom long side, after about 10 meters another sump is reached. The situation seems to be problematic for considering an immediate exploration:  the entry is formed by an opening of around 70x50 cm, therefore small tanks (7Liters) would be required. For anyone who wants to continue, this will be the further material to bring along next time. Luigi returns along his footprints, he is prepares to gear up again the bulky equipment that served him for reaching this point with calm. On the edge of the water whose difference to hot chocolate consists only in the temperature, he gears up with the tanks, the helmet, prepares the regulators and the manometers carefully and methodically and verifies the lights. A last effort to slip into the watertight gloves, a last thought to the world that waits for him beyond, so far, so nearby and there he goes, he slips in the water. The return almost seems to be longer. Sitting on the wall in front of the spring the friends finally see the water tremble and the air bubbles getting numerous and regular. The anguish of the waiting is loosened and after five hours from the departure the shine of the lights is seen again, then the helmet, then the tired but satisfied face. All in all the whole job has been long and delicate, not only for the complexity of the exploration in itself, but also for the calculation of the times of decompression of the mixtures to be used at the various levels: Pure oxygen for the decompressions, Surox for the part of the descent, compressed air, and mixtures with Helium below -75 meters of depth. The choice of the mixtures has never been an improvisation of the moment, or a patchwork of theoretical notions taken out off specialist's essays. The participation at explorations and the exchange of experiences with other cave divers, the verification of his own conditions and abilities every single time, have led to an increase of knowledge, they have brought awareness of his own physical and psychic limits; in addition to this the knowledge that the decompression charts, studied by computers for a determined route with preset times are purely experimental, when this account can be intended as a single proof of the many tests that are necessary for establishing a precise rule, that unfortunately includes a lot of other variables. Luigi returns on 31 December 1992, to continue the climb, as well as diving the second sump. The passage where he has stopped the last time is overcome, he passes on almost horizontally for some meters, then he has to face a slippery vertical wall, covered by a layer of thin clay. Wearing the watertight dry suit and the rubber boots it is neither very comfortable nor pleasant to climb. Having gained 25 meters in height the situation is becomes really precarious (the smallest accident in the present situation would cause irreversible consequences). For a safe progression ropes are needed and therefore he decides to go down. Adequately equipped he faces the second siphon and passes it for 25 meters stopping in front of a very narrow fissure at  -6m. After a serious evaluation of the situation he decides to return. Also this time the return towards the exit is passing regularly and in total six hours are employed. When the bills are made it occurs that the underwater part in total measures 550 meters plus  50 meters of emerged tunnels, that the level difference in water is -89 meters and in air about +25 meters: in total twenty-three dives have been made. When the explorations are prepared the people passing on the road stop to look, curious about the big amount of strange equipments on the edge of the spring, and about the characters dressed as divers in a place where there is no sea, it is far away, and where in substitution there is a puddle of a few square meters; they asks what there is to be seen down there and remain incredulous and admired when they are explained that the water which up to that moment was only known as" good to drink" originates from tunnels and passages that go down black in the mountain in which someone was bold enogh to penetrate. Topographical designs will be prepared, photos will be taken, they will be rendered public and those people that quietly look at the water gushing out will be able to take advantage at their turns having a comfortable peek at places unimaginable.

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