Dive Iceland… the crack between the tectonic plates at Lake Silfra.
A friend and I had planned a trip to Iceland and I positively could not let the opportunity pass to dive one of the most spectacular dive sites I’ve heard of. Lake Silfra. A fresh water dive in a pristine environment with fantastic visibility. Yes it was going to be cold and would be a dry suit dive and I had no experience with water colder than 16c nor with a dry suit. But how could I not do this dive? I did the booking and payment in March via their website and spent the next few months anticipating this dive. Dive Iceland website. When packing my gear for my 10 week holiday in UK, Orkney and Iceland I made sure I put my prescription mask, dive log book and certification cards in my bag along with my dive computer.
Finally THE DIVE… 7th August 2014
We had booked the Silfra Under the Midnight Sun trip. This meant a collection from our Youth Hostel at about 1600 and a trip out to the national park by mini bus. We got to have the spot almost to ourselves. We didn’t realise just how special this was till we went back to almost the same location with the 8 day tour a day later and there were hundreds of people where we had been and it was totally different.
This was a real experience. Dive Iceland staff were very organised and helpful. The gear had arrived out at the site by the time we got there. Only 4 divers per dive guide and they paid excellent attention to safety and details. The dive brief was given over at the entry platform and then we went back to the carpark to get our gear on. The actual dive only covered about 500m in distance on the land but we did curve around a little in the water. The clarity of the water could be seen from the dive platform.
Getting all the gear on took forever… 2 layers of personal thermals and 2 pairs of thick socks. Then the inner thermal went on… it was like an eiderdown sewn into a onesie shape. I was quite toasty at this stage.
This layer of thermals went on over my own personal thermals. Then the outer suit. Actually surprised it wasn’t too long for me (a bit but not bad) Neck seal was a little loose so I was fitted with a rubber collar that tightened the seal. Elbow into the guide’s chest while he pulled on the lobster claw glove and made sure it was over the solid seal ring. Repeat on the other side. Then he pulled the hood over my head because I couldn’t move my arms enough to do that. On with weight belt and BCD and Cylinder… pick up fins and mask. WADDLE the 100m or so to the dive platform…
Guides put masks and fins on (impossible to do mask with the gloves… Impossible to bend over enough to do fins. This fin valet service should be adopted by all DMs and dive groups.. 😉
Down the ladder and into the water. I was the first after the guide. Going down the ladder with all the gear on was no mean feat. BUT I managed. Lips froze almost instantly. Fingers not long after as the gloves are not waterproof. A buoyancy check, was done by the dive guide and I needed additional weights. (no surprise there) Then I bobbed around while this check was done with the other 3 divers. Water was soo cold and clear it was amazing. Soon enough we were all (4 of us) ready. My buddy and I were the back pair as we were the more experienced divers.
Off we went. Down slowly getting used to the feel of the dry suit. I discovered that as usual once on the bottom I was way too heavy… put air into my bcd and went up a bit further than planned… frozen fingers made it hard to judge how long to hold the button.
The dive continued uneventfully through the crack itself which is about 2-4m wide and basalt columns and rocks. The water apart from being just 3c is crystal clear and vis is amazing. It is rather a shame there is not too much to see. The colours were grey, black fluro green, fluro yellow (algae) and an amazing blue when we looked up through the water to the sky.
We did see 2 fairly large fish which caused the dive guide great excitement as she has done this dive many many times and never seen fish. They were arctic char… I ate some of their relatives a couple of nights later and they tasted mighty fine. Just like salmon.
Towards the end of the dive we were moving over very very fine silt that was at least 5m deep according to the guides. We had been asked to frog kick while over this part to avoid stirring it up and loosing all vis instantly. Frog kicking in the gear I had on proved to be quite a challenge as I could hardly bend my knees at all or bring my legs around… But I managed. Perhaps that was why I was so exhausted at the end of the dive.
By the end of the dive I was just about numb in my hands face and right foot. Got out onto the wire ledge below the surface and took my fins off (or someone took them for me) Anne (DG) took my weight belt and I shuffled up the stairs.
Then the path back to the bus…
It is fairly flat with a few small gradual rises. These felt like mountains. It took me nearly 20minutes to walk the 250m back to the bus as I could hardly move due to a combination of cold and tiredness and having so much gear (thermal and drysuit) on…
I’m very glad I did it but it was very cold even with all the gear. I discovered that my right boot must have had a small hole as my outer sock was wet. I was so tired I couldn’t face doing it all again even though I had paid for 2 dives. Don’t underestimate the effect cold water diving has on your stamina.
If you get a chance to do this dive I would say do it. I am not at all worried that I paid for 2 dives and only did one as the snorkel was a brilliant experience as well. When the others went to do the second dive (only 2 did this) I chose to snorkel and this was great as you didn’t need to expend ANY energy once in the water as the slight current was enough to push you along nicely. I was also able to roll over on my back or lift my head up and see the scenery, which I had missed during the dive.
We arrived back at the Youth Hostel not long before midnight and were starving as we had not had any dinner while out at the dive site. A bowl of hot soup and some crunchy bread rolls and we fell into be exhausted but excited that we had been able to experience such a spectacular site.