Ocean First in Iceland 2017

Ocean First   Jul 05, 2022

Many people think of scuba diving as a purely tropical sport; our recent adventure to Iceland put all typical notions of diving destinations to bed. Led by Roger Young, the group adventured both above and below the water. Here’s Roger’s full trip report:

The trip started in the beautiful city of Reykjavik, where we enjoyed leisurely exploring the area. One of the days, the group split up into the activities of their choice: some of the crew attended the National Gay Parade for a dose of local culture, others got a car for a four hour tour of the southern coast, and one had the opportunity to enjoy a puffin tour.

Day three brought the first subterranean adventures. Our amazing Dive.IS tour guide, Faser, had moved to Iceland from Scotland to be a marine biologist, so his wide range of knowledge and charisma made our long drives entertaining and enlightening.

The first dive was located an hours drive from Rekjavik to Lake Thingvillir, the location of the famous fissure between the North American and Eurasian plates. Our first sites was Davíðsgjá (pronounced Davids-scow, which means David's Crack), with maximum depth was 68 feet. This was our shack out dive to introduce us to the cold water and make sure all our equipment performed properly. After a fairly technical entry with slippery lava rocks, we followed a submerged line to the fissure. Visibility was 30 - 50 feet and water temps dropped to 36ºF, which sounds colder that we were expecting to feel. After the dive we were feeling confident and ready for more.

On day four, we began our dives at Strytan, outside of Aukreyri. Strytan is an old abandoned Kipper factory that has been re-purposed as a dive and whale watching center. While we prepared for two dives here, the non-divers took the opportunity to go horseback riding and birding. With their mild manner and short stature, the Icelandic horses are a unique breed and very well protected. If the horses are exported for competition, they are not allowed back in the country and no other breed of horse is allowed to be imported to Iceland.

As an afternoon storm approached Strytan, we boarded a Zodiac in full gear ready to drop upon reaching the site. The first dive was a structure called the Small Chimney; as hot water seeps up through the bottom, minerals are deposited and stack up until this chimney reaches 68 feet high. As soon as we descended to the bottom, we saw a wolf eel (aka wolf fish) sitting on the bottom. There were schools of cod, a few single lumpfish, and the occasional arctic char swimming around us.

It order to get our next dive in before the storm, we chose to have a shorter surface interval and do the dive from the dock along the shoreline, which ended up being the best dive so far. After a 10-foot jump off the dock we split up into buddy teams to explore the shoreline. While looking around under the dock we surprised by the appearance of a large reindeer head and antlers submerged on one of the pillars (something we later learned is common practice).

On day five, we returned to Strytan for one more dive on the Large Chimney. These dives are done off a Zodiac which can be a challenge getting back in the boat with a lot of weight and a dry suit but the captain, "Siver the Diver" was an expert at the process. She would pull out your weights, un-clip the BC and haul it on board and then help you board. On the trip back to the dock we had the awesome experience of seeing a humpback whale play around our boat and going under the boat and then showing off with a tail flip not more than 20 feet away.

The week continued with more dives in crystal clear fissures, shallows lakes with hot water bubbling up from the ground, and sightseeing on a long ride over the mountains via a dirt road. On our last diving day we did the famous tectonic plate dive at Silfra. As soon as we entered the 36ºF water we understood the magnitude of this unique experience: the water is the clearest in the world with unlimited visibility and a perfect view of the tectonic plates is amazing. It was as though you were floating in very cold air.

By all accounts, the week was a fantastic experience and most agreed worth doing again. Iceland 2019 anyone??