Ferdinandea - Climbing Madness Pure

Ferdinandea - Climbing Madness Pure

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 37.17111°N / 12.72167°E
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jun 15, 2006
Activities Activities: Toprope
Seasons Season: Summer

Ferdinandea - the idea

On that 1st April three years ago I thought about what I would do again next summer. No doubt it would have to do with my passion – climbing the highest points, of each European country, one by one. There was a country, 25 miles off the coast of Sicily, that suddenly emerged from the waters of the Mediterranean Sea in July 1831, spitting, bubbling and spewing out fire up to 63 meters above sea-level, before in the following 6 months it was cleared away again, levelled and finally swallowed by the swell: Ferdinandea.
July 1831: Ferdinandea s birthJuly 1831: Ferdinandea's birth

Ferdinandea - the history

Fishermen from Sciacca were the first who noticed the roaring seas, then captains of vessels passing by watched the fiery spectacle and eventually governments of several countries became alert: Who was to own the new island? Perhaps the Bourbonic Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, just because it was situated in its closest neighbourhood? Or the rather power-thirsty Brits, just because it lay as „Graham Island“ so nicely along the route from Gibraltar via Malta, Corfu, Cyprus and Suez to India? Or maybe the French, just because they had also given a name to the new island? – L'Ile de Julia. Or the Spanish, who had baptized the island „Corrao“ ? All of them were keen on acquiring „something new“ in the Mediterranean, and so a fine international quarrel broke out. And this although nobody had set foot on the island's volcanic shores, never had anybody stood atop the 63-meter high summit. The Brits succeeded first to land, and for a few days the Union Jack fluttered on the beach of Ferdinandea ...

... there the island was off again. And still is today. Eight meters below sea level one has located its highest spot, the Thomas Coleman Point. Duchesse Camilla Crociani of Bourbon sank on it a marble memorial plate in November 2000, to secure the territorial claim to herself and to her descendants, in case the island decided to return and rise again, to lift its head over the waters.

SciaccaSciacca's harbor serves as the base camp

Ferdinandea: who is to own it?Ferdinandea: Who is to own it?

Ferdinandea - the plan

I could not wait for this to happen. I had to get there immediately. To stand on Ferdinandea's highest summit, eight meters below sea, meant I had to learn diving – and even more: Somebody had to take me out on the sea, 25 miles off the coast, stop exactly above the summit, let me glide from the boat's rail into the water, reach out for my hand and help me down, finally place me precisely on the summit, take a picture of me with an underwater camera and carry me safely back up to the boat. Take the immense pressure away from my head without letting me explode like a bottle of champagne.

My Internet search – I cannot achieve anything in my hobby without the Internet! – yielded that only Roberto Randazzo was able to realize my demands. In the south Sicilian town of Sciacca he runs his diving school Robsub – www.robsub.it.

Ferdinandea: the mountain in reliefFerdinandea in relief: A steep peak worth to be climbed

Ferdinandea - the action

A superficial health check, one day of theory, one day of exercise in the swimming pool of a private villa, one day of diving under „real“ conditions in the sea off Sciacca, „on trial“ – and already I „could“ dive. Out we went 25 miles, out into the open sea, until the echo-sounder indicated that we were just above the summit: Otto metri sopra la cima. And then something happened that went down in the annals of alpinism as the first intentional underwater climbing. This was not an ordinary dive, but a reverse climbing trip, different from the usual ones by the fact that I approached the mountain not from below, not up the 100-meter high perpendicular wall of emerald-green seaweed from the sandy bottom of the Graham bank, but that I was lowered from above. Small, but remarkable difference. I claim full of pride, that I have established the discipline of submarine alpinism!

Lega Navale ItalianaThe Lega Navale Italiana is where it all started

Out to the open sea!

Out to the open sea!We find Ferdinandea 25 miles off the coast

Into the water!

Into the water!Walking the direttissima on Ferdinandea means diving

Down to Thomas Coleman Point

Down it goes on the ropeIt is all like in real alpinism: You walk on a rope as well

Ferdinandea - the summit

On Thomas Coleman PointHappily sitting on the highest point of Ferdinandea

Ferdinandea - the victory

And then I sat there, happily, otto metri sotto di livello del mare, on the summit rock of Ferdinandea. So it happened that the lowest of all mountains in the list of „highest“ ones that I describe country-by-country – http://www.gipfel-und-grenzen.de/die_hoechsten.php?sprache=EN – is only minus eight meters high. What does altitude mean after all! Everything is arbitrarily referred to sea-level, and even this fluctuates according to the definition the respective countries have chosen. My „Highests“ don't care about such sophism. My „Highests“ have to belong to independent areas. And Ferdinandea, indeed, was independent – clasped by four nations it withstood the attempts to be grabbed, by simply vanishing. Ferdinandea fulfils all criteria of independence the way I imagine it should be. And so I have decided to climb Thomas Coleman Point, and I am independent enough to present this alpinistic milestone to the gentle reader on this 1st April, 2009: Long live the bubble of underwater high-altitude climbing! Long live independence in free alpinism! It does not need to be the same as what all the others do. I am free to climb my way – independent from common opinion. If only my targets are independent and the highest within their independence – at least like late Ferdinandea.

Ferdinandea: on the retreatOn the retreat: So beautiful can climbing be!





Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-18 of 18
Aaron Johnson

Aaron Johnson - Apr 5, 2009 11:02 am - Voted 10/10

Very Clever

approach, well written, documented and presenting a fresh perspective! I enjoyed reading this report! It put a smile on my face! Congratulations on your success in this adventure!


Felsberg - Apr 5, 2009 1:57 pm - Voted 10/10


well done!


RobSC - Apr 5, 2009 3:21 pm - Voted 10/10


You sound like someone after my own heart. Thanks for the read!

Ed F

Ed F - Apr 5, 2009 7:08 pm - Hasn't voted

Great read

Fascinating stuff. Thanks.

Matthew Van Horn

Matthew Van Horn - Apr 6, 2009 5:14 pm - Voted 10/10

Any more photos?

Any more underwater photos?

Wolfgang Schaub

Wolfgang Schaub - Apr 8, 2009 6:22 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Any more photos?

No, sorry. Was happy to escape that adventure unharmed, had no senses to take more pics


travelingclimber - Apr 7, 2009 11:44 am - Hasn't voted


That is such a novel idea. I would never have thought of combining diving with alpinism.


patmay81 - Apr 7, 2009 12:49 pm - Hasn't voted

Great Idea!

I always thought it would be cool to tackle the highest underwater peaks, unfortunately I don't dive.

Wolfgang Schaub

Wolfgang Schaub - Apr 8, 2009 6:21 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Great Idea!

You just need to learn it.


woodsxc - Apr 7, 2009 3:13 pm - Voted 10/10


I love it! Thanks for teaching us about Ferdinandia, I never even knew it existed. Next time, are you going to summit without oxygen? ;)

Wolfgang Schaub

Wolfgang Schaub - Apr 8, 2009 6:20 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Awesome!

Excellent idea. Will keep it in mind.

John Climber

John Climber - Apr 8, 2009 9:03 am - Voted 10/10


Congratulations Wolfgang, with your achievement (High Altitude Underwater Alpinism), and with your great story...very funny and pleasant to read. The most original and fresh thing I have seen at SP of the last years!!!


surgent - Apr 8, 2009 10:22 am - Voted 10/10


I never heard of Fernandea until today. Great page! Here's another one for you: the Cortez Banks about 70 miles west of San Diego in the Pacific. These underwater peaks get to within 10 feet (3 m) of the surface. Apparently under the right conditions waves up to 70 feet crest here. You could probably just hold your breath, dip down for a summit, and be done! Enjoyed your Rockall page too.


dcsolorunner - Apr 8, 2009 3:25 pm - Hasn't voted

Supplimental Oxygen

Supplemental Oxygen ‚ Summiting.

mlbcard - Apr 9, 2009 7:56 pm - Voted 10/10


Thanks for sharing your adventure!


selinunte01 - Apr 11, 2009 12:34 pm - Voted 10/10


- and "shame on me" - I know the story of Ferdinandea quite well because I have friends at Sciacca and I know this part of Sicily very well but it never occured to my mind to try underwater alpinism; instead I´m hopping onto the sicilian summits above sea level ....
Excellent story and "15 out of 10",


chris_goulet - Apr 12, 2009 6:04 pm - Voted 10/10

Independent from common opinion

Love your originality! You don't need to excuse yourself for being "independent from common opinion". Just live it proudly, and not worry about what people think. Most of us on SP have no problem with your victory at all, and would have done the same thing if we had the imagination to consider it. Great TR.


Mountain_girl - Apr 12, 2009 7:48 pm - Hasn't voted

i like it!

it's a really nice story and a creative idea! way to go!

Viewing: 1-18 of 18



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