What is Ice Diving

Cold-water diving, not to be confused with ice diving, often involves diving in near-freezing water temperatures. For example, Silfra Fissure, a popular dive site between two continental plates in Iceland, sees water temperatures colder than 40 degrees F (1-2 C) year-round. So what, then, is the difference between cold-water diving and ice diving? Ice diving refers to diving beneath a solid or broken layer of ice that exists over a portion or the entirety of the dive site. Simplified, ice diving always involves an overhead environment and cold-water diving does not.

In order to dive safely under the ice, divers take additional precautions unique to ice diving:

- The diver is always tethered to a safety line, which a dive buddy team at the surface holds. The diver wears a specialized harness, clipped to the line so that equipment doesn’t interfere with the tether. The safety line is used not only for emergencies, but also as a communication device while under the ice.

- Each dive buddy team is increased from two to four members. Only one of the four members dives at a time; the other three play different surface support roles throughout the dive, ensuring the submerged diver’s safety.

- Dive times while using recreational scuba equipment are typically limited to less than 30 minutes. This time limit reduces exposure to freezing temperatures and provides plenty of extra air in case of an emergency.

Team Sport

Ice-diving training not only gives you the skills to dive in extreme climates and overhead environments, it’s also a team-building exercise. Unlike most recreational diving, ice diving requires constant surface support. Don’t expect to jump in all at once — only one diver per team goes in the water. The other team members are there to support, assist in navigation and ensure diver safety.

There are four positions on each buddy team: diver, tether, bucket and safety diver. While the diver is in the water, he or she is clipped and tied to a lengthy rope. This rope is held taut on the surface by both the tether and the bucket. The tether communicates with the diver by tugging the rope, and the bucket keeps the rope slack free and organized in, well, a bucket. Safety divers are suited up and ready to retrieve the diver in the case of an emergency. In any ice-diving training course, you will learn how to play each role with confidence.