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Diving under the ice

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Ice diving is one of the most adventurous types of diving and is a great way to immerse yourself in environments few other people ever get to see. It is challenging, different from most other types of recreational diving, and one to add to your liveaboard diving wish list for 2019.

Why go ice diving?

Ice diving offers the chance to experience dive sites like no other and enjoy marine life encounters you can’t find elsewhere. Surrounded by blue water and ice formations, there is nowhere as peaceful as under the ice.

Where can you go ice diving?

The Arctic and Antarctica are two of the best places to go ice diving. These unique destinations offer exceptional wildlife watching opportunities, varied diving and the chance to visit some of Earth’s last wilderness areas.

Antarctica

You can go ice diving around the Antarctic Peninsula and Weddell Sea during Antarctica liveaboard diving cruises, plus explore iconic destinations such as the Falkland Islands and South Shetland Islands. A liveaboard safari to South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands is not to be missed to explore areas that have never been dived before. These wild and remote areas are teeming with wildlife and dive trips include zodiac diving, shore dives, wall dives and ice dives.

The M/V Plancius and Ortelius both offer Antarctica dive safaris and diving is available during November to March.

The Arctic

Ice diving in the Arctic is more accessible than Antarctica for most people and the best dive sites are reached by Arctic liveaboard diving. There are varied dives on offer, including at Norway’s remote Svalbard archipelago, and you can enjoy ice diving, boat dives and even wreck dives. It is also possible to dive Scoresby Sund in Greenland; the world’s largest fjord system. Reaching depths of up to 1450 meters, this fjord is a unique liveaboard diving destination with ice and boat-based diving on offer.

The M/V Plancius offers Arctic liveaboard diving, with Scoresby Sund diving available during certain itineraries.

What can you see when ice diving?

A better question would be what can’t you see when exploring the Arctic and Antarctica. These species-rich destinations offer something for everyone to enjoy.

Antarctica hosts numerous seals, penguins, diverse bird life and around 15 whale species. Dive there and you have the chance to see sea lions, leopard seals and fur seals, plus various fish species and invertebrates. There are sea caves to explore, ice formations, kelp walls and bright blue water to immerse yourself in.

Head north to Spitsbergen and you can see equally diverse marine life, including invertebrates and plentiful fish, sea lions, bearded seals, walruses and various whale species. If you visit Scoresby Sund you might even get to see narwhals and beluga whales.

 

Can anyone try ice diving?

If you want to try ice diving you’ll need to be a PADI Advanced Open Water diver (or equivalent) and have a minimum of 30 logged dives. You also need to be experienced in cold water and dry suit diving.

How do ice divers stay warm?!

The water temperature in Antarctica is typically 0°C (32 °F), whilst the Arctic water temperature ranges from 5°C (41 °F) to 0°C (32 °F), dropping to -1°C (30.2°F) at Scoresby Sund. However, you shouldn’t be cold when ice diving. By using the right equipment and exposure protection, you can stay warm when diving and afterwards.

What dive gear do you need to go ice diving?

You need to bring your own dive gear, suitable for polar diving, if you want to join an Antarctic or Arctic liveaboard diving cruise. Your gear should include a dry suit, appropriate thermal undersuit, hood, gloves, boots, fins, buoyancy control device, mask, snorkel, dive computer, octopus set-up and weight belt. Other equipment that is recommended includes a compass, dive knife and underwater torch.


Discover liveaboard diving holiday solutions around the world at Liveaboard.com.

 

LiveAboard.com is the easiest place online to book liveaboard diving holidays around the world. Their team has completed well over 20,000 dives and can help you plan your best scuba diving holiday.

Freediving Blogs

British freediver sets new national record with 112m dive

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British freediver Gary McGrath has set a new national record at the prestigious Vertical Blue freediving competition in the Bahamas.

Using only a monofin for propulsion, Gary swam down a measured rope to a depth of 112m (367ft), returning to the surface to receive a white card from the AIDA International judges to validate his dive.

Gary, 41, held his breath for three minutes and 13 seconds to complete the dive.

Freedivers descend underwater on a single breath of air and the atmospheric pressure on their bodies increases as they go deeper.

At 112m deep the pressure is 12 times greater than the surface, meaning the air in Gary’s lungs would have shrunk to less than a twelfth of its original volume – around the size of a golf ball.

Freedivers train to cope with the physiological strains placed on their bodies by their sport, and Gary uses his background of yoga and meditation to help his physical and mental preparation for deep dives.

He has also had to overcome physical challenges after contracting Covid last year during preparations for a previous national record attempt.

Gary said: ‘Diving below 100m is a totally unique environment, it’s my therapy. 

‘This year has been extremely challenging for my mental health and freediving has helped me overcome that for sure. 

‘At depth I have complete isolation from the everyday world we live in. Down there it’s just me and nature. It’s that escape that all freedivers crave. 

‘There are moments of extreme mental clarity and purity that I can only achieve when underwater. The flow state that a deep dive allows me to experience is unique and addictive.

Gary, originally from Twickenham, began freediving in 2006 and has been competing since 2008.

A former tree surgeon, he became a professional freedive instructor in 2014, and he and his partner Lynne Paddon run Yoga and Freedive Retreats in Ibiza.

Remarkably, he completed his 112m national record dive on Tuesday (August 9) despite being forced to compete wearing a borrowed monofin which was a size too small for his feet.

His entire kit bag containing his monofin, bifins and two wetsuits was lost by an airline as he travelled to the competition.

Despite his careful preparation, Gary said he suffered nerves on the morning of his national record dive, and relied on a phone call to his partner Lynne, who helped him focus on breathing techniques and visualisation to calm his nerves.

Speaking immediately after his dive, he said: ‘That was all for Lynne – this whole week has been about her. I could not do it without her. I hope that everyone finds someone they can click with, it’s the most magical thing in the world.’

Gary also thanked supporters who helped him to crowdfund to raise the money needed for him to travel to the Bahamas and compete.

Vertical Blue is considered one of the most elite events on the freediving calendar and has been dubbed the ‘Wimbledon of Freediving’.

Owned and run by world record freediver William Trubridge, the event takes place in a 202m (663ft) deep sinkhole known as Dean’s Blue Hole, off the coast of Long Island.

The previous British national record of 111m was set by Michael Board in 2018, also at a Vertical Blue competition.


All Photographs courtesy of Daan Verhoeven (www.daanverhoeven.com)

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Miscellaneous Blogs

Film Review: Thirteen Lives

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Ron Howard’s recreation of the 2018 rescue of a Thai junior football team is impressive. Even though we know what happens in the end the tension and drama played out is palpable.

On 23 June 2018, 12 members of a Thai junior football team, the Wild Boars, and their coach became trapped deep in the Tham Luang cave system by rising flood water. The film details the incredible international rescue efforts that ensue. And Ron Howard has judged the tone perfectly. There is no Hollywood glitz and glamour and the two leading actors: Colin Farrell and Viggo Mortensen, who play John Volanthen and Rick Stanton respectively, capture the intensity of the situation perfectly.

The diving scenes are claustrophobic in the extreme. Although I suspect that the visibility was even worse than the film depicts as you have to be able to see something in the dramatization! All the way through the film I found myself shaking my head in disbelief at the extraordinary feat these divers pulled off. The skill and bravery required still impresses after watching films, hearing them speak in public and reading about the rescue.

I loved that, whilst the divers took centre stage in the film, the heroic rescue efforts of the water engineer and his team was also given the attention they deserve, as well as the incredible Thai Navy Seals and the thousands of people that flocked to the region to help.

Thirteen Lives is a must watch movie about an incredible cave rescue. It’s sober tone hits the mark. The cinematography is skilled and creates an impressively tense experience. It is available on Amazon Prime right now.

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