The real-life Lady in the Lake! Russian swimmer goes deep into underwater crystal cave to re-create legend of spirit that is said to haunt it
Natalia Avseenko held her breath for up to three minutes at depths of 17m Conditions were harsh with temperatures of -23C inside the cave
With her flowing robes and long hair swirling in the water around her, this woman could be King Arthur’s Lady of the Lake.
These captivating photographs illustrate a different legend, however.
This is a recreation of the ‘Lady of the Orda Cave’, a spirit said to inhabit the world’s longest underwater cave in freezing Siberia.
Ghostly: This is a recreation of the ‘Lady of Orda Cave’, a spirit said to inhabit the world’s longest underwater cave
Beautiful: The project is the brainchild of award-winning photographer Victor Lyagushkin. He admitted the dive is risky but that the reward was ‘to see something that nobody has seen before’
The cave lies beneath Russia’s Ural Mountains and the waters are so clear you can see for 50 yards.
Former champion free diver Natalia Avseenko spent two days in the icy water recreating the myth with the help of other cave divers.
The 37-year-old held her breath for up to three minutes at a time at depths of 17m while posing in flowing robes on top of a wet suit.
Despite the chill and the threat of danger, she described her experience as ‘incredible’, mysterious and beautiful’.
Harsh conditions: Temperatures inside the cave reach -23C while the water is 5C
Dangerous: Ms Avseenko found the shoot demanding and it took its toll causing significant pain to her exposed eyes and face
Eerie: Ms Avseenko held her breath for up to three minutes at a time to depths of 17metres while posing in flowing robes
She said: It felt as if I was in Alice in Wonderland.’
I was scared to enter the cave at the beginning but having squeezed through the narrow entrance I entered a beautiful hall.
It felt as if I was in a natural cathedral. I thought it would be dark and scary inside but I had light and everything was visible.
There is a feeling of being in complete silence and harmony. There are no thoughts inside your mind.
I realised the greatness of nature and the universe. I was full of joy and harmony. All the fears were disappearing one by one. I had no inner battles and I just let all my inner-garbage go.â€™
Team work: A diver lets Ms Avseenko breathe from his oxygen tank on the dive
The setting: A support diver swims through the crystal clear waters of Orda Cave in the Ural region of Russia
Taking in the view: Free diver Natalia Avseenko watches the horizon outside Orda Cave, where the temperatures can reach -40C, in the Ural Mountains
Frozen: Ms Avseenko, 37, walks into the depths of the chilly cave. She spent two days in icy water recreating the myth of the ‘Lady of Orda Cave’ with the help of other divers
Yoga expert Ms Avseenko, who has previously held her breath underwater for 10 minutes and 40 seconds, found the shoot physically demanding.
Diving without face equipment took its toll causing significant pain to her exposed eyes and face.
The project was the brainchild of award-winning photographer and filmmaker Victor Lyagushkin, 42, who has led previous expeditions to capture the eerie beauty of the crystal cave.
He uses an underwater funnel to stop oxygen bubbles damaging the delicate edges of the cave, which are made of gypsum – a soft calcium mineral.
Route planning: Photographer Victor Lyagushkin maps out the route the divers will take for the shoot at Lake Orda
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