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Ice Diving – Underwater Adventure in Russia

The White Sea, an inlet of the Barents Sea on the northwest coast of Russia, is the only sea in Europe that freezes over during winter. With its beautiful underwater world of soft corals, starfishes, sea-urchins, shrimps, sea anemones, crabs, myriads of colorful fish, rocks, rifts and even shipwrecks to explore, as well as visibility of between 30 and 50 meters, the White Sea is the ice-diving destination of choice for many adventurers.

Northern Russia is one of the few remaining places on earth that has not been negatively impacted by today’s industrialized society. The people living there, and those that make a living out of introducing visitors to the natural beauty of the area, ensure that they do all in their power to maintain its pristine condition. Divers are taken across the frozen ocean to the diving site by means of snowmobiles, which is an adventure in itself. Mobile wagons, which are set up for the ice diving season from February to April, offer divers an above zero temperature environment to change into diving gear and enjoy a hot drink before starting their underwater adventure.

As the name suggests, ice-diving takes place under ice. Typically with a single entry/exit point, ice-diving is considered to be an advanced type of diving that requires special training, and should not be undertaken by anyone who is not trained or receiving training from a qualified instructor. Training would include learning about the nature of ice, how it forms and how to recognize unsafe ice conditions. Dive site preparation, safety drills and equipment requirements also form part of the training.

While ice-diving does require special training, it does not necessarily mean that it is a high risk activity. With the right safety precautions, ice-diving is as safe as any other form of scuba diving. Ice-divers are always tethered by a special harness under their scuba unit, which is secured to the surface by means of an ice-screw. The fact that the diver’s line requires a line tender to play it the line out and draw it in, means that ice diving is strictly a team activity. The diver and the person on the surface communicate via tugging on the line, with each series of tugs meaning a different thing. A diver on the surface, who has his own line, remains suited up and ready to enter the water at a moment’s notice to assist the primary diver if the need arises. These, and other, safety procedures, along with equipment particularly suited to icy conditions ensure that divers enjoy their sport with minimum risk.

Divers who choose to travel to the White Sea of Russia for a unique ice diving experience will find that it is well worth the effort. In addition to enjoying world-class diving and the amazing underwater landscape, they will have the opportunity to witness the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and see seals, sea birds and other animals that call this rugged part of the world home.


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