Ice diving is a type of ‘penetration diving’, (or overhead diving) where the diver enters a space which has no direct, vertical ascent to the safety of air from the atmosphere at the surface. There are many types of penetration diving like; Cave diving, wreck diving, ice diving or other man-made underwater structures or enclosures.
Not surprisingly ice diving takes place under the ice, however before divers can enter the water, divers need to check the water conditions by cutting a small hole in the ice and monitoring the conducting studies below the ice. Once the condition are considered safe for diving, the diver/s use chainsaws to cut a larger hole into the ice for getting in and out of the water, once the ice has been pushed under water the divers are ready to ascend downwards.
Ice diving is a two-day course offering the opportunity to diver under the ice.
The minimum entry level for this course is PADI Advanced Open Water + 10 dives, (or equivalent from another agency) with experience of cold water diving – i.e. diving in conditions less than 10 degrees Celsius, and requiring a use of a full suit drysuit, hood and gloves.
Training includes learning about how ice forms, how to recognize unsafe ice conditions, dive site preparation, equipment requirements and safety drills
- Ice divers should be skilled in the use of a drysuit, choice of thermal insulation, buoyancy control and weighting, and should be competent and experienced with the specific equipment they will use
- If lifelines are used, both divers and tenders must be competent to use them
Other skills required by the ice diver include:
- How to impact the underside of the surface ice id the diver’s weight belt falls off for any reason and the diver ascends uncontrollable and rapidly
- How to deal with a frozen air-supply system using a redundant back-up system
- What to do in the event the diver loses contact with the line or thee line tender does not get feedback from the diver in response to signals given to the diver
Where to go Ice Diving
Diving in Antarctica does only offer ice, but also interesting marine life, such as kelp, walls, sea snails, crabs, sea butterflies, various Antarctic fish, ice fish, shrubby horsetails, jelly fish, sea hedgehogs and starfish. In Antarctica you can dive with seals and penguins. When they are within close proximity of the zodiacs, you can snorkel and try to observe these animals from under the surface.
Embarking on an ice dive adventure takes a lot of preparation and extra skills. You will need to be an advanced diver at the very least, with excellent buoyancy and qualify as Drysuit specialty and Ice diving specialty. You will learn things such as how ice forms, safety factors like recognizing unsafe ice conditions and equipment failure in an enclosed environment, also how to prepare the dive site. For something special you can even take a PADI polar diving specialty course in the Attic or Antarctic and be one of the very few people in the world to have this certification.
Other than spectacular ice formations and landscapes with superb visibility, you can expect to see marine life such as snails, crab, sea butterflies, brightly coloured star fish, interesting jellyfish, various types of cold water fish species and the extra specials, such as, penguins, seal and quite possibly a leopard sea or even a whale.
Best Ice diving holidays locations
Antarctica, McMurdo Sound
Voted the best ice dive in the world, McMurdo Sound is the ultimate in cold water diving. It’s difficult to get to, and sometimes water temperatures fall to around -40’C in the water, so you can only dive in the summer months from Sept-Feb where the water temperatures are around -1’C.
Canada, 1000 Island
The 1000 Island area is located on the eastern stretch of the St Lawrence Seaway system. Here you will experience some very unique adventures such as ice diving from an air boat, hundreds of shipwrecks to explore and even an underwater village where rail beds, sidewalks, an old canal system and hydroelectric station still remain. This is the best fresh water diving site.
Iceland, Silfra Rift
The most amazing thing about diving in Silfra Rift is the world, the waters of Lake Baikal are an ice diver’s paradise, full of nature ice sculptures and striking landscapes. Diving is only possible in the moths of February and March when the water is at its clearest and warmest (1-2’C), and the ice is only around a metre thick.
Expect to see large sponges, sea perch, dazzling light displays and ice formations. On the rare occasion you could come face to face with a seal. There is sometimes opportunity to drift dive between two sites.
Russia, The White Sea
Experience the only sea in Europe to freeze every year, meaning that ice diving is available all year round. The White Sea has a variety of marine life, cod and flounders, many soft corals and sponges but also an array of crustaceans and other cool critters.
To do ice diving you are required to have the following:
- Drysuit (Completely water proof)
- 2 sets of thermal underwear
- 2 sets of thick, warm insulating layers
- 2 pairs of semi-dry or dry mitts or dry gloves with extra gloves (backup)
- 1 dry hood
- 1 ice cap (recommended)
- 2 separate freeze protected regulators
- 1 analog submersible pressure gauge
- BCD with low-pressure inflator
- Depth gauge
- Water or bottom timer
- Underwater compass
- Knife or cutting tool
- Fins (Spare straps)
- 2 masks (Spare straps)
- Quick release weight belt or weight retaining system with two release buckles
- Dive computer (recommended)
- Dive tables
- Log book & certification card
- High visible surface positioning signalling device
- Whistle or other audible surface signalling device