Cool Diving on a Hot Day
Its hot here today, wicked hot. Ninety-nine degrees, blazing sun, high humidity, no wind – hot. I have been trying to think of cold ideas to cool down and as usual my thoughts turn to diving. Ice diving, to be exact. What could be cooler than that?
There are lots of places in the world to go ice diving. There is no ice diving in the oceans, except the Arctic, so most of us will have to settle for a lake, quarry or other inland body of water. All you need to go ice diving is a chainsaw and a sense of adventure. Oh…and you’ll also need special training, a fat dry suit with appropriate hand, feet and head coverings, snow removal tools, safety gear, some type of topside shelter, lines, post-dive sustenance, and a gaggle of dive buddies you are willing to trust with your life. Sometimes the best things in life are not the easiest.
But for those adrenaline junkies among us, this has got to be some of the most amazing diving you can do. Take Lake Minnewanka near Banff, Alberta. This is a Mecca for ice divers in North America. Winter at Lake Minnewanka means ice diving, often in air temperatures well below freezing and water not much warmer. Dive groups erect shelters over triangular entry holes cut through ice 2-feet thick. Divers enjoy the unusual underwater experience heightened by 70-foot visibility. This is a beautiful topside location in the Rocky Mountains that also offers interesting things to see below the ice, including a submerged dam, a submerged road bed with bridge pilings and the remains of a historical town. There are some pretty strict National Park rules in place, including how you wield your chainsaw and how you leave the site when you are done, but the rules are worth the dive. Canadian ice diving is also done at Twin Lakes in Alberta near Winfield or West Hawk Lake in Manitoba near the Ontario border.
You slip into the triangular hole cut in the ice, with ice crystals already re-forming on the surface. Your tether is held at the other end by a safety guide, who you will communicate with throughout the dive by employing a series of rope yanks. At first, your eyes are drawn to the inky darkness below you – ice filters out a lot of the light that would otherwise penetrate the water. But as you descend farther, your eyes adjust to the light and you realize the clarity of the water is amazing, enabling a crystal sharp view of the lake’s features. Looking up is a religious experience, the ice glowing azure blue and your bubbles glittering like diamonds as they collected under the surface.
I can’t think of a cooler thought than that.