This month’s story shall take us to the crystal clear blue depths of Iceland’s glacial waters.
If you follow the lava covered landscape towards the edge, and go deep into Iceland’s icy waters, you can find the Silfra Fissure, a geographical phenomenon which can also be considered to be one of the most incredible places on earth.
This is a crack between the North American and Eurasian continental plates in Þingvellir National Park, offering the possibility of diving or snorkelling in the clearest water on earth. The underwater visibility is well over 100 meters and this is due to a natural filtering process which dates back to approximately 12,000 years ago. Despite the fact that there is no marine life, it is still considered to be one of the greatest diving sites of the planet.
I am referring to Iceland’s last ice age, when the ice retreated to where Langjökull (known as the long glacier) currently stands, leaving behind a lot of melted glacial waters. This is when an eruption occurred, bringing about the volcano Skjaldbreiður, and an extended lava field that covered this melted water forcing it well below the ground.
Melted water is typically murky, but in this case the lava rock acted as a natural filter. The water travelled up to 50 km through this rock, a journey which took almost 70 years, to eventually well up from an underground spring directly into Silfra. In fact, you may also want to drink it as you swim along; it’s far purer than any bottled water you can drink.
Having completed my advanced PADI certification in Malta with PADI Instructor Richard Ponec, and having dived together in the Indian Ocean soon afterwards, this was high up on our bucket list. Till then, I had only dived in warm water and in a wet suit, so the cold water was going to present a real challenge; one has to first adjust to a completely different configuration.
Our first dive was in Hallvik Lake. This lake offers an easier environment to get acquainted with the dry suit and to complete skills, conduct emergency exercises and perform all the necessary requirements. This is also regarded as the Dry Suit Speciality course, which since February 2017 has become a prerequisite to dive in Silfra. Although wearing a dry suit blocks water from entering around your wrists and neck, walking into the chilly waters of Hallvik Lake, surrounded by the snow-capped mountains, was still a challenge, although more of a psychological challenge than a physical one.
Thanks to all the equipment provided by DIVE.IS, I had all that was necessary to attempt my first dry-suit dive. We went into 7 degrees Celsius water. At first my hands and head got really cold but I was steadfast not to let that stop me. After all, the visibility was extraordinary and the colours astonishing. However, what came afterwards proved to be much more of an exhilarating experience. We finally left Hallvik Lake to move to the Silfra fissure.
The preparation for this second dive seemed much easier now, but water temperature was at 2 degrees celcius, which means it was far closer to freezing point. We started by floating through The Big Crack, Silfra fissure’s narrowest section. My guide, Richard Ponec, stopped to pose for a shot between the two continents. It was the perfect spot! As the fissure widens, we found ourselves in the grand Silfra Hall to continue moving on the Silfra Cathedral. Here, we spotted other divers creating a chandelier effect from their rising bubbles. We ended our dive in the Silfra lagoon with exceptional colours and reflections of the lava boulders in contrast with the green grass.
© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Mandy Farrugia