Ice diving will make most people shudder but I say PeShaw to those people, ice divers are an elite group of scuba divers who don’t let something as trivial as a single-digit temperature limit when they can dive. Ice diving for me always seemed to be the top tier when I was going through my Open Water, looking through the list of specialities and minimum requirements, I always thought that you had to be the best of the best to dive under ice because the requirements were stricter than the others.
Ice diving may not feel like it’s for you but it’s downright cool to go diving under the ice. Get used to the cold jokes btw, there’s going to be a few of them. Some people just can’t seem to get over the thought of the water temperature but as long as you have the right exposure protection then you’ll be fine. You do need to keep your dives shorter but you’re just writing off an entire area and time of year by not diving. But Ice Diving is very different from other types of diving
Literally and socially it’s pretty cool to say that you’re an ice diver. Ice diving is a little like cave diving, in that you’re in an overhead environment and have limited exit points so you need to be a certain type of diver and that’s just it; very few divers ever go ice diving so you’re part of an elite group, of an elite group, and you get serious Brownie points for that.
After the initial rush of cold water when you first get in your drysuit and exposure protection does it’s job and keeps you warm
You feel safe because there is a team upstairs looking out for you in constant contact and kitting up and dekitting is all about you. It’s really nice having someone else put your gloves on and make sure that you’re all ready to go instead of trying to put your 2nd glove on like somebody’s replaced your hand with a teddy bear’s paw. Trying to get kitted up by yourself for a cold dive sucks but with a team, they all have warm nimble fingers to make sure that you’re set up perfectly.
Ok, that’s the last cool joke. Living in cold waters is tough and the animals that call the freezing water home need to conserve energy so they don’t tend to zoom around much. If you’re chilled and just cruise around then the animals tend to do the same so you can get up close and personal with some wildlife that would usually just disappear at the first sight of you.
Most divers, boat users, fishermen, just water people really tend to hibernate for the winter so the lakes are quiet and being underwater is quiet. You can hear all the little things going on and you have all the space in the world. You don’t have to worry about boat motors or bumping into other divers because unless they used the same hole you did to get into the water then you probably won’t see another diver until you get back to the exit.
When you look down the hole cut in the ice it can look quite dark and gloomy in the water but once you’re down there, yes it’s a bit darker because the light doesn’t travel through the ice so well but the water is pristine. The water is so clean and clear you can see for miles and it can feel quite weird at times because you kind of get used to the particulates in the water that tells your brain how the water’s moving and that it’s there but for me when that’s gone, it sounds stupid but you can’t see the water so you feel like you’re flying.
Under the ice is visually stunning, there’s nothing really to compare it to and if you’re into your photography then you’ll come back with some breathtaking pictures and video. Under the ice can be teeming with life too. It’s not as energetic as a tropical reef but you can still see plenty while you’re down there. You can also see what’s going on above the ice sometimes with people and gear’s shadows moving around, darkening spots above you and there’s something cool about diving underneath someone else.
You also dive very differently. Depending on your dive team, you tend to dive alone, in a sense. While you may be alone in the water, you’ll be in constant contact with the surface with a rope that acts as your lifeline and means of communication. Because you can only exit from one point the safety line leads you back to the exit and on the other end of the line will be your buddy. You can tug the line to communicate like Bart Simpson and Grandpa and your surface support can yank you back to safety if the worst happens. On the surface next to them will be a 2nd diver ready to go just for you so it’s just a very different type of diving.
Just a quick note on climate change for you to think about.
You can play about with the ice and physics, there’s a great video of ice divers digging and moving air in a wheelbarrow upside-down like it’s dirt. You don’t get much chance to play about with this in open water, as you exhale your breath shoots up and joins the gas on the surface. Inside a wreck, the air collects and dances around trying to find the highest point but you can’t really stand on the ceiling of a shipwreck or a cave because you’ll damage it.
You can stand on the ceiling and walk around under ice, your brain doesn’t quite get what’s going on as you can see the horizon but bubbles are going down and the sky is the rocky bottom. Watching the bubbles dance around is therapeutic too, seeing it find its way to the highest point before overflowing and dancing off to the next.