Below the frozen seas is a life unexpected. Hidden amongst the iceberg sculptures and the soft corals is a diverse and rich marine life waiting to be explored. Ice diving in the Arctic and Antartica offers a unique and almost untouched experience for those daring enough. And daring you must be, for the icy waters are not for the feint hearted. With the right gear and a thirst for discovery, Arctic regions and Antartica could be yours. Here are our picks for the six top spots for ice diving.
1. Tobermory, Canada
Located in Fathom Five National Marine Park, Tobermory, Ontario, Canada, is a dive site that knows how to draw a crowd. With an abundance and variety of shipwrecks, each ranging from novice to technical in terms of skill and depth, Tobermory is an underwater playground. Those who brave the cold are rewarded incredible visibility, so much so that shipwrecks have even been spotted from the surface. The best time for ice diving is usually late February or March, to ensure the lakes have plenty of time to freeze over.
2. White Sea, Russia
When it comes to jaw dropping experiences, this is it. Ice diving in the White Sea will have you swimming alongside beluga whales. Talk about wow factor. In order to breathe, these remarkable creatures will continuously nudge the surface to keep the ice from hardening. Diving in the White Sea is fairly tame, even with a whale by your side, but it is the journey there that is deemed dangerous. With snowfall hiding cracks in the ice, the snowmobile journey is cause for caution. As one of the only places that can guaranteed ice diving in February and March and offer an array of gorgeous sea life, including: glowing jellyfish, soft coral, starfish, anemones and the sea angel mollusk, yours to observe, the White Sea sounds like it’s well worth the risk.
3. Lakes Sassolo, Switzerland
The underwater tunnels found below the surface of Lake Sassolo should only be attempted by advanced divers. Sitting at 6,900 feet above sea level, the lake is only accessible during the summer months. Up here the term ‘summer’ really has no impact on the cold waters, except to say that they are slightly less cold than they would be in winter. The icebergs and tunnels are forms by the compressed snow and ice slowly sliding down the mountainside and into the lake. The window to experience this beautiful phenomenon is rather short; the maximum window is four weeks. A trip that will require ample thought and planning but is sure to pay off in its unique beauty.
4. East Greenland
A place very much untouched, is the underwater world of East Greenland. With explorations really only beginning around 2008, scientists and divers have only seen the tip of the iceberg… so to speak. The icebergs themselves as unstable as the are beautiful. The sound of a crack, is cause for swift action in these waters as it could mean the breaking of an iceberg above. Dive expeditions take place during the months of August and September and with new sites still being discovered, ice diving in East Greenland is full of intrigue. To dive here, adrenaline must be your friend.
5. Summit Lake, Alaska
Offering some of the world’s best ice diving, scenery and wildlife, Alaska is a top destination for ice divers. Summit Lake in Alaska sits at altitude, which requires divers to be confident with both altitude diving and ice diving techniques. As the lake forms a transparent ice layer, rather than an opaque one, the waters a clearer and brighter than many other popular ice dive spots. On days with a little less visibility, the animals tend to venture closer in. Alaska hosts an array of stunning wildlife including: octopus, rock fish, sea lions, spawning salmon and humpback whales. It’s easy to forget about the cold when entranced by the spectacular views and wildlife around you. The clear waters and long days during April provide optimal conditions for ice diving.
In a place that has six different species of seals, penguins cliff diving and several species of whale, you will be surrounded by some very big and hopefully friendly animals. Diving here is usually split in to two styles. The first, divers can stay above the ice shelf going around icebergs and exploring caves. The second, takes you below the ice shelf. Divers wishing to immerse themselves in the wonder that is the Antarctic must have both drysuit and ice diving training, as it is not a place for the feint hearted or for the novice.