Ice Diving in Canada
There is one thing that you will find in Canadian waters that you will never ever find in the Caribbean… ICE! Our open water season is so short that by the time we are half way through winter, die-hard divers tend to get itchy (not the kind of itch from unwashed drysuit undergarments). The itch to get wet and go diving!
In February 2010, a group of divers headed out to Twin Lakes (1 hour south of Edmonton, Alberta near Winfield) for some ice diving. Yes, that is right, diving underneath the ice. Sounds scary, and truth be told, I was shaking in my drysuit boots before the first dive. Six of us were newbie ice divers and taking an ice diving course, and a few already-certified ice divers joined in for some fun.
After shovelling and snow-blowing a large area of the lake, we proceeded to cut a triangular hole in the ice with a very large chainsaw. After a pre-dive briefing, divers were clipped to a safety surface rope that would provide a route back to the hole.
Upon submerging, the first thing that I noticed was that the water temperature really does not change much at all from the summertime, it was a balmy 37 degrees Fahrenheit or about 3 degrees Celsius, which is not much worse than the summer months.
The next thing that I noticed was the clarity of the water! It was fantastic visibility as the usual summertime algae was not there. You could actually see! The dock was in full view, the 8 foot fibreglass chicken was standing proud and in good view, the mailbox, the platforms, the treasure chest, they were all there and you could see them before you ran into them. The only downside was that we were limited to a distance of 100 linear feet for safety reasons, so just when you started swimming away from the hole, the surface tender was giving you a yank on the rope to indicate that you were out of safety line.
When you looked up at the ice, your air bubbles would get trapped under the ice and do a sort of dance when they accumulated on the underside of the ice and slowly made their way toward the hole. While we were shovelling on the surface, we shovelled lines of snow away from the hole like spokes on a wheel. Underwater, the sunlight glowed through the ice and all you saw was a glowing line back towards the hole.
After three dives, we were officially certified, so the fourth dive was more of a fun dive. We took down some hockey sticks and a tennis ball and played some upside down underwater hockey on the other side of the ice! We flipped our bodies upside down so our fins were on the bottom of the ice, the tennis ball floated against the top of the ice, and away we went trying to move the ball with the hockey stick. I did too much flipping around and ended up with vertigo.
All in all, it was a great weekend. The weather was better than we could have hoped for. We had a fantastic team of people organizing and helping out and really we could not have done it without them, thanks to all of you. Suddenly, I cannot wait for winter again!
Check our website during the winter for upcoming Ice Diver Specialty courses. I made a video of the weekend of ice diving, check it out under videos on our website.