London Scuba Blogs
Liveaboard holidays are a great way to go diving but, because you generally tend to just eat, sleep and dive, occasionally you might find yourself wishing for something else to do. Well fear not, I have the answer with this board game from the 1970 Victor Summer Special. Just don't get so wrapped-up in it you forget to actually go diving!
In 2011 I became the proud owner of a new ratchet reel. Having had 2 years of use out of the reel I wanted to pen a few thoughts for those thinking of investing.
- Breaks easily when trapped underwater in large swell.
- Cheap to replace.
- Hard to lose.
- Cumbersome to use.
- Tangles Easily.
- Looks Cheap.
Another collection of diving-themed postage stamps from around the world.
This seems to comemorate an expedition to study the Coelocanth
"My wife went on holiday to the Caribbean......"
"No, she went of her own accord!"
More stamps can be found in these blog entries:
"God has not yet finished making Iceland." Desmond Bagley, 1970.
In 1978 the BBC made Desmond Bagley's cold-war thriller Running Blind into a three-part serial. The novel is set in Iceland and they filmed the majority of it on location there. After seeing the TV version, I pinched my mum's copy of the book - she never got it back! - and it remains one of my favourites to this day. Ever since then I've wanted to visit Iceland but somehow never got around to it. When I heard that Chris Dorr had organised a trip with Dive Iceland there was no way I wasn't going to be included! The plan was to go for a long weekend, Thursday - Sunday, with diving taking place on Friday and Saturday. It wasn't particularly cheap for a weekend but we paid for everything in stages so it didn't seem too painful; I'll admit that I haven't actually sat down and added everything up though. Ignorance is bliss after all! Some luck at the poker table meant I was able to purchase some new Fourth Element "Arctic" thermals and Northern Divers' Dry-Glove system so I was all set for the icy waters.
Six of us flew out to Keflavik International Airport on the 4th of April: keen UK divers Chris and Lea, London Scuba Instructors Simon and Lindsey, Divemaster Ian and yours truly. Icelandair allow you to take an extra piece of luggage for a reasonable price so most of us had two bags to accommodate our drysuits and thermals. The 30-mile bus journey to Reykjavik gave us our first look at the Icelandic landscape. Aside from the mountains in the distance, my first impression was that it was very flat, with the terrain composed largely of moss-covered lava. This is hardly surprising as Iceland is, geologically speaking, quite a "young" country. It is still an active volcanic area, as air travellers found out in 2010, and also sits right on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (more on this later).
We soon arrived in the Icelandic capital and right away I was taken with the colourful nature of many of the buildings. I have to congratulate Chris on his choice of hotel; Centerhotel Thingholt is right by the main street for shops and restaurants, is very nicely decorated and furnished and was very reasonably priced. After taking advantage of the hotel's happy hour - two pints of Viking lager for the price of one! - we had a little wander and found somewhere to eat. The streets of Reykjavik are certainly lively and we were treated to the sounds of one young lady singing loudly from the rear window of a passing car. And it was still early!
At 8:30 the next morning a Dive.is van pulled up at the hotel and we met our guides for the weekend. The dive centre has a real mix of nationalities on their staff and we were to be looked after by Austrian Nina and Polish Andrzej (known as AJ). AJ is the lead guide for the centre's day tours so we were in good hands. We loaded up the trailer with our gear and were soon on our way to our first dive site. Saturday would be spent at various dive sites around the Reykjanes penninsula but for the first two dives we headed east towards the Thingvellir National Park (or Þingvellir as it appears in Icelandic), a UNESCO World Heritage site. Located on the northern shore of Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland, Þingvellir is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. It's also the location of the climax of Running Blind so I was particularly interested in seeing the place. Historically, Þingvellir was the home of the Icelandic parliament, the AlÞingi (Althing),the oldest parliamentary institution in the world. As divers however, it's the geological significance that is important to us. Sitting on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge means that two tectonic plates, the North American and the Eurasian, meet here. The site we'd be diving, Silfra, is a ravine between the two plates meaning you are literally diving between two continents!
Silfra is fed by glacier water which, by the time it's made its way through the lava, is 50 to 100 years old. This means the water is clean enough to drink (very handy if you get thirsty during the dive) and is crystal clear. The mild current also means this is effectively a drift dive. After a briefing from AJ, we kitted up on the handy benches in the car park and trudged over to the entry point. Entry is via a metal platform with steps right down to the water and you can see here just how clear the water is.
The dive site is in three sections, Silfra Hall, Silfra Cathedral and Silfra Lagoon. Dropping down into Silfra Hall, it really hits home as to just how good the visibility is. Looking up you can clearly see above the surface although in some spots the water turns into a mirror. The rocks tended to have a sandy colour, while weed growing in places provides a vivid green touch. Looking ahead through the ravine the water takes on an inviting deep blue colour, inviting you further in. I'm afraid it would take a better writer than me to truly do the site justice. There's not a lot of life around although the occasional small fish was spotted. We initially dropped down 8-10m but after just five minutes we were near the surface again. The many rocks that have fallen into the ravine over the years mean that at times you'll find yourself in just a few feet of water as you swim along, even breaking the surface occasionally.
After ten minutes we dipped down to 8m again before hitting the entrance to the Cathedral at the 15 minute mark. As the name might suggest, things open up a bit here and I found myself wanting to look everywhere at once! It's hard to appreciate just how clear the water is until you've seen it for yourself. We now reached our maximum depth of 15m and then slowly made our way back up to around 3m as we reached the Lagoon. It's important to fin very carefully here as the bottom is easily disturbed and a frog kick is the best option. The lagoon is about 120m across and the fact that you can see right to the far side underlines how good the visibility is. Getting out of the water is easy thanks to the sloping shoreline which is handy as you're then faced with a 250m trek back to the parking area. I was wearing a weight belt for the first time in years, pool sessions aside, and was really feeling it by the end of the walk back. The extra couple of kilos I needed because of my new Arctics didn't help but I was glad of those thermals in the water which was 3°c, right in the middle of its temperature range. I was happy with my dry-gloves as well; the ring system is a bit bulky perhaps but they stopped me getting cold hands so they did their job.
Hot drinks and cookies made for a pleasant surface interval and I took the chance to take a few pictures of our surroundings. The second dive was essentially a rerun of the first one but this was no bad thing as it gave us a chance to really take in our surroundings now we knew what to expect. I also took the opportunity to stop and adopt the "touching two continents" pose! We did take a little detour just before the lagoon into what Nina called "Little Crack", a small cul-de-sac if you like, that was festooned with the green weed we'd seen earlier. After packing up all the dive gear we headed off to the visitor centre where AJ explained more about Silfra with the aid of a large table-top model of the area. We then went to the dive centre to store our gear overnight. There was plenty of room to hang up our drysuits and we were all impressed with their glove tree. This was a tall centre column with lots of hollow "branches" for hanging gloves and hoods on, with warm air being blown through it. Very clever and we should definitely get one for London Scuba. We finished the day by visiting the Icelandic Fish & Chips restaurant;It was more like fish and potatoes really but very tasty all the same.
We picked up our gear from the dive centre on Saturday morning, including nice dry hoods, and headed off for the first of our three dives. The original plan was to do a lake dive followed by two ocean dives but things changed as the day progressed. Friday had been a cold but bright day but it was a bit greyer as we headed south towards Krýsuvik, a popular hiking destination that contains several geothermal areas. It is also home to a large lake called Kleifarvatn which is where we would be diving. Unfortunately, a freeflow just as we were about to go down meant I had to abort the dive but Ian has written an excellent piece about it which you can read here: http://www.londonscuba.com/Blog/kleifarvatn After the dive we visited Seltún, one of the geothermal fields. It's easy to imagine how this eerie landscape with its columns of steam and bubbling water led to spooky tales by the superstitious folk of earlier times.
For our ocean dives we set of for Garður (Gardur), a fishing town to the north of Keflavik. We had to wait for the tide and stopped at a petrol station for some refreshments. At 3pm it was time to get ready and we kitted up right by our entry point. A shore entrance was possible but we went in via a two-metre giant stride from the harbour wall. Conditions were quite choppy on the surface but things calmed down a bit once we were under, although there was still a bit off a surge going on. We initally set down on a sandy patch which Dive Iceland use to do the skills on their Open Water courses, then AJ led us deeper until we reached our maximum depth at 15m. The water was warmer then the previous fresh water dives at 5°c. There was an abundance of rocks and kelp which reminded me of a lot of UK dives that I've done, with sea urchins and starfish everywhere. AJ found a Wolf Fish lurking under a rock and you can see it's snout (I say snout, do fish have snouts?) and fearsome looking teeth in the photo below. Not the most attractive fish around, it's definitely a face only a mother could love! We looped around the bay gradually making our way back up to 6m.
I must admit I couldn't fully enjoy this dive as I'd slightly underestimated how much extra weight I'd need with my new thermals and felt a little floaty at times. Although the visibility wasn't bad we became seperated from AJ for a short time just as we arrived back at the sandy area. I'd taken a bearing earlier so knew we had to head north to reach the harbour wall; Just as we arrived there AJ found us again. Getting out was something of a challenge; Hanging on the ladder while trying to remove my fins, I kept getting bashed against the wall by some large waves. Ian had similar issues and I'm sad to report that his reel didn't survive the experience! Nina and Lindsey were bringing up the rear and sensibly decided to do a shore exit instead. As conditions weren't great, AJ recommended that we abandon our plans for a second dive here and we all agreed. Some cave exploration was on offer but we'd all come to dive so we headed south towards Grindavik, home of the popular Blue Lagoon geothermal spa.
Bjarnagjá is a small ravine located a few hundred metres from the sea which means that, while being largely fresh water, some salt water is present. The resulting haloclines made me think there was something wrong with my eyesight at first! A couple of derelict buildings stand next to the ravine with some old pipes going down into the water. The site is perhaps a little small for eight people, especially as the sediment on the rocks is easily disturbed, but we made the best of it and had a very enjoyable dive. We stayed in buddy pairs and I was lumbered with fortunate enough to dive with Lindsey. The water was an almost tropical 8°c, even at 22m, and we spent a comfortable 32 minutes exploring every nook and cranny. There was a cave at one end and a swim-through near the surface at the other. Some whale bones had been placed in the ravine which had been used as some kind of crab farm in the past. I guess that explains all the crabs we saw! As careful as we all were, the visibility did deteriorate during the dive but everyone agreed this was still a very nice way to finish our diving.
We had a dinner reservation so we decided to wash and dry our gear back at the hotel to save time. AJ and Nina accepted our invitation to join us and arrived at the Tapas Barinn restaurant ahead of us. I guess they were hungry! The have a varied menu available but I couldn't bring myself to try whale and I avoided the puffin because I was worried about the size of the bill! Simon and I both chose the Bullfighter Special: skewers of lamb, beef and chicken, lobster tails and a baked potato. Oh, and some salad. Delicious! Ian and Lindsey ordered a selection of tapas dishes which continued arriving long after everyone else had finished. We said our farewells to AJ and Nina and the others all headed off to a bar but I wanted to take some nights shots of Hallgrímskirkja, an impressive church near our hotel. The following morning I spent a couple of hours wandering around Reykjavik taking more photos before we had to check out and head off to the airport.
If you ever get the chance to go and dive in Iceland I heartily recommend it. I definitely want to go again and would love to do the week-long safari around the island that Dive Iceland offer. I'd like to thank the dive centre and especially AJ and Nina for looking after us so well. A huge Thank You must go to Chris for organising everything so well and making some excellent choices. He even arranged the bus transfers to and from the airport; Truly a Dorr to door service!