Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Breaking the ice - introduce Iceland's Dive Shop. River Diving in the lava fields

FISSURE FREEZING DIVING INLAND IN ICELAND


Stephen Weir on the steps of Reykjavik's Sport Divers Club

A cold clear rift river in the Thingvellir National Park
It is cold. There is snow on the nearby mountain tops and  most days the moon is up longer than the sun.  It is late fall in Iceland and the fresh water dive season is still going strong!
There are at least three dive operators  this time of year in Iceland offering guided scuba fresh water tours to rift valley river  in the Thingvellir National Park.  One shop offers a second safari to a geothermic lake near the capital city of Reykjavik.  There are ocean dives offered as well but are very much weather and sea condition dependent.
Thingvellir Park is the most visited site in Iceland for three reasons.  It is a region where two tectonic plates  - the North American and Eurasian Plates all but  touch. It's a place where the continental plates have meet and are now drifting  apart at a rate of about 2cm per year.  
The continental drift between these two gigantic plates has ripped the ground apart creating large picturesque canyons. It was in one of these canyons that Iceland's first government in 930AD held its first outdoor parliament, an annual governmental gathering that continued until 1230AD.  The glacier fed rivers that cut through this region are clean, cold and also the most popular spot on the island for diving.
"These rivers are so clean you can see 50 metres down and 150 metres straight ahead," said our Icelandic guide on a recent October tour. 
As she walked over a bridge spanning the  narrow deep Coin Fissure River she told an oft repeated myth " It is said that if you can see your coin hit the bottom your wish will come true."
I threw in a Canadian quarter.  I saw it hit bottom 10 seconds after I tossed it in.  Sigh. My wish didn't come true.
For divers, it is a 45-minute van ride from Reykjavik to the Silfra Fissure River in the park.  Divers kit up in dry suits at the side of the paved road . One walks into shallow still water but within steps the river deepens and the current picks up -- it is now a drift dive  towards the lake  through a deep sharp canyon filled with ice cold clear water.  
The PADI Diver Centre Iceland http://www.dive.is describe it "diving in a crack between the American and Eurasian continents.  
"The visibility  that you will experience will rarely be surpassed, if ever. 100m+! The reasons for this clarity are twofold: the water is cold ( 2°C - 4°C all year ) since it's the melting water from a glacier about 50km away and has traveled through the lava fields for many years before coming out at the north end of Thingvellir Lake through  underground wells."
 The rift offers amazing visibility and it continues to be considered the  one of the three best fresh water diving destinations  in the world according to leading dive publications. The visibility reaches end-of-sight and is rated at 150 to 300 meters. The water is 50 to 100 years old once it reaches the lake from the melting glacier through the lava field, and is quite drinkable.
The dive shops supply all the gear (except for woollies to wear inside the dry suit), transportation and snacks for a cost of about $300.00
The same shop also offers day trips to Lake Kleifarvatn, also less than hours drive Reykjavik.  What makes Keifarvatn unique is that divers recently have discovered geothermal hot springs at the bottom of the lake.  Divers can swim down to these holes in the lake where hot sulphuric water bubbles out of the rock -- it is one dive where the water gets warmer the deeper you get!
Silfra Fissure River - you can see two white dive tour vans near dive site

ICELANDIC DIVE RECORD TO BE ATTEMPTED ON THURSDAY

The Sport Divers Club (Sportkafaraf√©lag √ćslands) of Reykjavik will be making a night dive in the Thingvellir National Park en-masse on November 3rd. The club is bringing together divers from around the world to submerge themselves at the same time to set a world's record for night diving!http://www.kofun.is/


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