Ice diving: Investigating the icy depths

At a certain point, many experienced scuba divers want to expand their opportunities and explore ice diving. But, doing so requires additional training and certification. Only a fraction of divers ever become fully certified for ice diving. This form of diving is typically considered in the same class as wreck diving and cave diving. Each of these types of diving requires the diver to penetrate far below the water's surface into an environment from which no direct ascent exists. In short, it can be dangerous. In this article, you'll learn about safety while ice diving as well as the training required to explore the icy depths.

Is ice diving dangerous?

In a word, yes. Ice diving can be dangerous. Because the diver submerges far underneath the surface and crosses into a place that doesn't offer an immediate vertical ascent, certain precautions must be taken to ensure the diver's safety. First, ice diving requires a tether line. When a diver penetrates the surface, he should have a tether connected to him. The end of the line that is not connected to the diver should be attached to a stationary object that doesn't move. It should not be connected to the boat (someone may accidentally power the boat while the diver is submerged and attached).

Second, there needs to be a person who tends the tether. There are 2 reasons for this. First, unforeseen circumstances may require the attention of the diver. If this happens the tender needs to be able to send a signal to the diver. The second reason the tender exists is to allow the diver to communicate with the people on the boat. If there is an emergency underwater and the diver needs help or requires extraction, a quick signal along the tether will alert the tender. Though the tender may not ultimately do anything while the diver is submerged, his job is critical to the diver's safety.

Third, the line between a diver and the tender means nothing if they haven't coordinated signals prior to penetrating the surface. Often, the diver will need to be extracted. Beneath the surface, there are several problems that could happen. When those problems create an emergency situation for the diver, the tender must know the "get me out of here" signal. The diver and the tender must practice their emergency signals to ensure they communicate properly.

Training for ice diving

Because of the inherent dangers of ice diving, the training primarily involves how to effectively deal with emergencies while submerged. For example, if a diver somehow loses his weight belt underwater and rises to the surface, he must know how to penetrate the ice from the underside. Training should also include details regarding what divers should do if their air tank freezes while underwater. Because of the unpredictable nature of ice diving and the diver's exposure to elements outside his control, this type of recovery training is critical.

A safe adventure in icy waters

Many people enjoy ice diving without incident. However, accidents happen. Tethers catch on rocks. Air tanks freeze underwater, and Weight belts loosen and become unattached. That's why it's imperative that divers who wish to penetrate a surface of ice have the proper training and certification. With both, you're ready to confidently enjoy an icy underwater adventure.