Bodies of 2 expert divers are found

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The bodies of two divers who had been exploring the underwater environment in a reservoir in Tangshan, Hebei province, were recovered on Monday, 12 days after going missing.

The divers worked for Global Underwater Explorers, a nonprofit NGO that does research and trains high-quality divers.

On Sept 4, a team of four divers arrived at Panjiakou Reservoir, which covers the site of a village that was adjacent to the Great Wall 500 years ago. The team's job was to survey and map the area, diving about 50 meters below the surface to take photographs and videos of the submerged Great Wall.

On Sept 7, the organization said, two members of the mapping team - Xu Haiyan, 39, and Sun Hao, 34 - failed to return after a dive on the afternoon of Sept 6, and local police had begun searching for them.

It announced on Sunday afternoon that the body of one diver had been detected 62 meters below the surface. A second body was found on Monday morning.

The two bodies were about 70 meters apart, the search team said. Recovery work is expected to start on Tuesday.

According to a diver from the team who wouldn't give his name, the team had made comprehensive preparations in advance.

"Xu asked for advice from many GUE divers. She also borrowed the best diving equipment from her friend, which allowed her to stay underwater for six to eight hours," the diver said.

"The task this time was not especially difficult because it's an open-water area and the set operation time was set at two and a half hours, which is not long for them."

The missing divers had been working in Shanghai. Both had Level 2 certificates as technical divers, which means they were able to perform dives as deep as 75 meters. Only seven people in China have that level of certification.

Xu was an outstanding female geneticist who earned her doctorate at Columbia University. She published many articles on WeChat sharing her diving knowledge and experience.

"Xu was one of the few professional female divers in China and represents a kind of spiritual power," said Zhang Jun, another GUE diver.

Xu published on her WeChat account days before the reservoir dive that she had a cold and was taking medicine.

The other diver, Sun Hao, a former Armed Police officer, was working in the financial industry. He is also well-known in diving circles.

The deaths of the two shocked fellow divers in China because the pair are known experts. Many divers volunteered for the search effort.

The causes of death are still under investigation. The reservoir was once a fish-breeding site for local farmers, but that activity was banned because of pollution. According to the rescue team, there are many abandoned fishing nets and cages in the water.

This is not the first diving project led by the NGO in China. In April, a team explored Green Hole Lake in Guangdong province and mapped part of it. Divers went down more than 60 meters four times.

Qiao Qi, another diver with the NGO, said: "There are no detailed hydrographic maps for most waters in China. For GUE technical divers, diving is not only fun but also for exploration and discovery of the unknown world."

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