The water level changes during the year, the current one can be checked on the official website. We were in October and the water was somewhere there, far below. But once a year, in March, the underground Sorg river bursts out of the ground and the water rises even higher than the place from which this photo was taken. This lasts for five weeks.
Incredible history of underwater exploration of the well
The reason why Vaucluse spews out water once a year was not clear. The source could be found only under the water and dives were carried out many times. The first one in 1878 to a depth of 23 meters - without any success.
In 1946 the well-known researcher Jacques Yves Cousteau and his team plunged into the well. The depth of 46 meters was reached thanks to his invention - an aqualung. Although he and his friend nearly died, since there was an admixture of carbon monoxide in the balloons. In 1955 his team descended by 74 meters, but the underwater source was not found.
In 1967, a new attempt was made, this time the robot "Telenaut" descended to a depth of 106 meters. The cameras recorded only the endless well.
After this, the attempts stopped, until 1981 when Vaucluse was visited by the famous German diver Jochen Hasenmayer, along with his wife. He began descent in the night and returned in 5 hours and 25 minutes. The depth of 140 meters was reached and with the help of a flashlight he saw that the well continues to a minimum of 175 meters.
France, the homeland of Jacques Yves Cousteau, could not accept the fact that they were defeated by the Germans. Therefore, in three weeks SSFV (the speleological society of the Vaucluse fountain) built a little scientific town near the fountain, with a decompression chamber, compressors, special balloons and communication systems. The most experienced French diver Ñlaude Touloumdjian, using the headphones, reached the depth of 153 meters. During the ascent, Claude nearly died, as cold water paralyzed his body during a long decompression at different depths.
In 1983 Hasenmayer returned and again plunged into the well at night. Using 9 balloons with different breathing mixtures, he sank to a depth of 205 meters! At that time the maximum reached depth in other carst wells was 115 meters!
The wounded pride of the SSFV forced them to return to the fountain a week after the Hasenmayer. This time they came with a special underwater robot "Sorgonaut". With the help of it, they easily reached the depth of 243 meters. There one of the cables was damaged and the expedition was interrupted for a year. A year later, during the 12th expedition, "Sorgonaut 2" was lost at a depth of 233 meters. An attempt was made to raise it with the help of the new robot "Sorgonaut 3". But it turned into a catastrophe, the robot and 150 meters of cable were lost in the well.
In 1985 SSFV makes a new dive, this time successful. The special robot "Modexa-350" was equipped with the latest technology. It was discovered that at the depth of 245 meters the diameter of the well was 50 meters! After 3 hours 48 minutes "Modexa" reached the bottom at the depth of 315 meters, which is 235 meters below sea level.
In 1989, a new underwater robot "Spelenaut" was created. Using much more advanced cameras, it again reached the bottom and collected all the necessary information. After several succesfull dives it was stuck at a depth of 164 meters in 1996. For the rescue of the robot was called probably the most famous diver in the world - Pascal Bernabe (until 2014 hold the record of the deepest scuba dive). He saved the robot and a year later made another dive attempt. Unfortunately, the depth measurement instruments failed at a depth of 200 meters, so his final depth was approximately estimated at 250 meters, which was the record of Europe. During the dive 45 decompression stops were made with a total duration of more than ten hours.
That's how karst spring looks like under the water.
In 2001 scuba divers of SSFV discovered a huge amount of old coins in the well at a depth of only 22 meters. Coins were dated the beginning of our era and seems were used as a gift to the gods. After 2001 access to the well for ordinary divers was closed.
Do not think that this small lake is everything what you can see there. The town of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse located in the middle of a very beautiful nature, as well as a one kilometer path to the fountain. There are also church of 11th century and remains of a castle.
More detailed brochure can be downloaded here. A small virtual walk to the well is here.
Getting there: Before entering the city there is a large paid parking, although we parked here N 43 55.332 E 5 07.595, it's almost in the center. It is quite difficult to get by public transport. First, take the bus 6 Avignon - L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue Robert (you can also can get there by train), then transfer to bus 21 and go to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse Center. The second option: bus 15 Avignon - Maubec Coustellet Place du, then transfer to bus 21 and go to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse Center. The bus schedule is available on the TransVaucluse website (interactive map).