Chronicles of an ice dive

diving

Diving is for most people synonymous to sand, sun, sea and summer. Well that’s why I decided to take you to the dark side of the moon. It can be all different and still be fun!!!

January, Saturday 3

Our local lake, which actually is a drinking water reservoir starts to freeze. Ice develops in the western parts. These are the parts where the river changes into a lake. The parts closer to the dam rarely freeze. The changing of the water level and the constant running of water prevents it most of the time.
But the constant negative temperatures over the last days, even weeks brought ice up to a spot called “Fuussefeld”. It’s a lovely place in the summer time with large green areas. The area around Lultzhausen and the Youthhostel is still free of ice,  but the weather forecast makes me being optimistic. Maybe next week-end…

January, Thursday 8

I decide to take a walk around Lultzhausen to check the ice. In the dam area I can only see water. I continue my way up to Lultzhausen 5 km west, and there some turns away from the tiny village I can see it. Yes the ice is there! The sun shines over the icy surface which is  covered with snowflakes. Chris tries to break the ice and we discover a thin ice cap of about 2 cm.

Lultzhausen beach

Lultzhausen beach

Ice diving was possible! Back home I phoned some friends to make them join the fun! Not an easy thing : I kept strictly to DM’s and above. Some of my students were keen on trying, but no way. It was the very first time I would enter the lake in these conditions and I needed reliable and experienced people for that.
Well the list wasn’t long.
Rocky didn’t have the choice, I put him on the list without asking him. He’s a Divemaster since this summer and logged almost 200 dives over the last 2 years. Most of them in this specific lake.
Chris is instructor and my buddy under water (and above).

The surface team was set up by Vicky, Claudine (Rocky’s better half) and Dan (Rocky’s son). Dan was VERY keen on getting in the water but at only 14 he has no choice but being patient

January, Saturday 10

-12°C at 11 AM
Bright blue sky and sunshine

Dr Bob suggested a chain saw which is quite logic given the circumstances. There is only one thing : Walking on the ice is strictly forbidden at any times! The police helicopter regularly covers the area and none of us wanted a discussion with them. Therefore Chris had planned to cut a channel from the beach,…with a hammer. We had tried it out on Thursday and it didn’t seem that difficult with 2 cm of thickness.
Well, the negative temperatures of the last 2 days increased the ice cap thickness to…12-15 cm!!!
I think these photos show how ridiculous our hammer was …

Rocky and the hammer

Rocky and the hammer

the first attempt

the first attempt

We had to change something if we wanted to get under the ice. Luckily we found another hammer at the youth hostel which, in combination with a strong male gave us a decent result

2nd attempt

2nd attempt

In the mean time an audience of a dozen people watched our steps carefully. I don’t know if they were making bets. A 5 year old boy stood next to me before I entered the icy water. He looked at me and only said : Good luck!

Finally at 3:20 pm the three of us glided below the ice. here some impressions

Chris under the ice

Chris under the ice

The audience through the air bubbles

The audience through the air bubbles

The audience is watching

The audience is watching

Impressions

Impressions

Below the surface

Below the surface

Icebergs

Icebergs

The Water temperature hovered at around 0°C. We didn’t explore the deep, only at around 3,4 m at the deepest. But there was no interest in going deep anyway. It’s just an amazing experience to follow your bubbles under the surface, see the sun rays and watch the ice formations. All of us were equipped with drysuits and two regulators fixed to a double valved tank. A rope was used and the “dry”team watched it constantly.
This kind of diving needs a lot of careful preparations and serious people you can blindly rely on, but if you can put up all these factors, you will be off for an extraordinary experience.

Down South-Hamata

diving, Travels

After our flight to Marsa Alam Airport we still had a 2,5 hour transfer to our hotel in the far South. Hamata has the southernmost hotels in Egypt. While we were driving south the concrete skeleton constructions which will eventually transform into more hotels became fewer. The plastic rubbish found ANYwhere near Egyptian roads disappeared almost. We passed mangroves! I knew we had chosen the right spot.

mangrovehamata

Hamata is a small town, quiet and off the tourist track. The handful of tourists stay in one of the two hotels or at the Ecolodge (nice bedouin tents, 6 hours electricity only :-)). All this made the boat departure in the mornings really relaxing.

port

With only a dozen divers in the hotel the days were relaxing on board as well as in the hotel. The temperatures were quite low with a chilly 10°C at 7 am and maxima around 19°C around noon. The strong northern winds didn’t help to warm up. In the end it was in the water where we had the best temperatures with 22°C.

We started our diving with dolphins on the first day. It’s mere magic! The group of six dolphins passed, stopped close to Chris, turned , had a quick look at us and finally swam away. I had the feeling that all divers in the group stopped breathing for a moment, just to make this moment last a bit longer.

dolphins

Unfortunatley I was surprised by the lack of fish. Some of you might say I’m spoilt from my recent trips to Indonesia, but I have been to Egypt on several occasions and always had more fish around. I couldn’t figure out during my stay if this is a seasonal change or if there’s another explanation.

Most of the sites have stunning underwater sceneries with beautiful hard coral blocks.

The house reef is a great opportunity to drift along the jetty to meet the local barracuda and groupers. On night dives crabs are commonplace as are basket stars stretching out their arms in search for food.

jetty

crab

On the last day we were lucky enough to dive with a curious Napoleon. It seemed as if this large fellow wanted some company. A more realistic explanation might be that it was used to get food from the dive boats.

napoleon

All in all this week in the south was a wonderful change from the rainy grey days at home. Above all it was a great opportunity to work with the new underwater rig before getting to tropical waters on April 12.

All photos here