I am a certified ice diver. I took my course in upstate New York with Rich Morin’s Professional Scuba Centers. He has since retired to the Caribbean, but if you find yourself looking for a course, contact Hamden Scuba, and they can set you up. They help run courses every year!
My first ice dives took place in Lake George during the winter festival. Ice diving was featured as an event so we had spectators observing us. To prepare for our dive, we made sure everyone was at least advanced open water and dry suit certified.
Experience diving in a dry suit prior to ice diving is essential to making the experience fun and easy. I was surprised to learn
When we arrived at the site, we carved out a triangular shape in the ice using a chainsaw. The ice blocks were then removed carefully. For diving, we had 2 students and 1 instructor attached by lines. These lines fed to a tender up top. Near the tender were also safety buoys anchored to the ice.
A rescue diver was also fully geared up with a line that was twice as long as the divers in case of emergency. Since there is so much involved on the surface for ice diving, one can become certified in surface support.
My favorite part of diving under the ice was when our instructor showed us how to hit the ice so that a fine, crystal clear ice sheet comes off and you can see right through it!
Below the surface
Playing with the air bubbles and watching them dance around the ice was also exciting. It felt like we were on another planet. The fish were not very abundant on this particular dive. We were told they usually go to other locations of the lake where the water might be a little warmer.
There were a couple of years where the ice on Lake George was not thick enough so we dove at the alternative locations: the Hudson River and Luzerne Beach. The Hudson River is where I recorded my coldest dive ever! A balmy 28º F water temperature. However, that day, it was warmer in the water than out!
People often ask why ice diving? Most people would agree that the point is to stay near the surface and observe the beauty that is the bottom side of the ice. It is a unique experience involving cold water, an overhead environment, yet little to know depth at all. If you’re lucky, you get to do it with penguins swimming around you!
Header image credits: Willian Justen de Vasconcellos