Ice Diving Overview

Photo: Pete Nawrocky

Some people may ask why you would ever want to dive in 32 degree Fahrenheit water under a sheet of ice. There are several reasons why divers descend into the frigid water and explore below a sheet of ice with a hole cut in it.

One of the reasons is the clarity of the water. With reduced sunlight, lack of movement, and the temperature of the water all combine to create some of the clearest water that can be found. The clarity of the water attracts photographers and videographers.

Another reason why you might want to take up ice diving is because of where you live. If you live in the north where lakes freeze every year and traveling to warmer, tropical locations is not in the budget, taking up ice diving can be a great way to get in the water in the winter without having to travel great distances.

Finally, the thrill and excitement of ice diving is a big reason divers get into the sport. The challenge and lure of descending below the ice draws drivers from around the world to give it a try.

Ice diving is a team sport. Ice diving requires at least six people to be safe. Two are the primary divers, two are safety divers, and two are line tenders. Positions can be rotated if it does not expose the team to unnecessary risk.

Ice diving requires a hole to be cut in the ice. The shape of the hole should be triangular, which makes it easier to climb in and out of the water. Holes can be cut with an ice pick or a chainsaw. Chainsaws are the easiest and fastest way to cut a hole. The ice blocks that remain are extremely heavy and are usually pushed down and under the sheet of ice and then moved away from the hole. The blocks must be moved back into the hole when diving is complete for safety reasons.

Lines are used to tether divers to the hole. The line is your way back to the hole and is extremely important part of the dive. Line tenders are used on the surface to let out line and keep lines from getting tangled. Tenders also are responsible for line signals. Every five minutes a tender gives one pull on the line and the diver returns one pull. This communication allows both the diver and the tender that everything is okay.

There is a good bit to learn before you should start ice diving. A good team that is knowledgeable about every aspect of ice diving is important. There is some special gear and procedures that must be practiced before ice diving. Get the proper training before you decide to give ice diving a try.