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Ice Diving 2001 > Ice Diving Joy

Omni Divers Underwater Services, L.L.C. Ice Diving Joy

Ice Diving for All the Years

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After the dive! Ice Diving Joy
by Lisa McFall

Ice diving is a lot of fun. It is sooooooo beautiful ~ and so very hypnotic.

You've seen those ink blot pictures they show in psychologist offices on TV? That is what the underside of the ice looks like when your air bubbles smash into the 'crystal ceiling'. One spends the majority of each ice dive hovering on their back a few feet under the ice just watching their exhalation bubbles. As you've seen countless times before while diving, one's exhalation bubbles get bigger and more swollen like a jelly fish mantle as they ascend, but when you are ice diving you get to see them shatter with dramatic force against the underside of the ice. When a large bubble shatters, it is like watching a bucketful of diamonds being thrown out onto a mirror. These tiny glittering puffs of air bounce and tumble and roll about as individual gems for a moment or two until they rapidly begin 'joining forces' once again and slither into blob like shapes that eerily slide off into the dark nothingness of one's peripheral vision. Very trippy!!!

I honestly believe the prep work involved on the first day of ice diving is almost more fun than the actual diving, as it is a joyous teamwork effort. The last time I went ice diving in 99' we had 3 feet of ice to cut through - it took four hours of heavy cutting with 6 divers to make out opening.

We have a large bore hand auger that we use to cut the points of our eventual triangular shaped opening and then we take turns with a hand saw cutting out the sides. It is interesting to note that the ice usually freezes in layers, and there is usually a thin air layer between each layer of ice. Due to this ice/air/ice layering effect there is really no way to know how deep the ice actually is when you start. You may auger down until you no longer feel resistance but that does not necessarily mean you have broken through to water, it may just mean you have hit an air layer between two ice layers.

The year we had 3 feet of ice to cut through we discovered there were actually three individual layers of ice. It is fascinating to see a cross section of the ice. The bottom layer (older ice) is usually as clear as a perfectly diamond because most of the trapped air has worked its way out. The middle layer is just a little cloudy with air bubbles and the top layer is all milky white from trapped air bubbles. When you are underneath looking up you can see scratches in the underside of the middle layer of ice (you are looking through the bottom layer at the bottom of the middle layer). The scratches are formed when the two ice layers shifted.

In addition to cutting the triangular opening, we make a wagon wheel pattern (via shoveling snow) using the hole as the 'hub'. We shovel two concentric circles around the hole - one is 50’ out from the hub and the other is 100’ out. Then we add spokes to the wheel by shoveling straight lines perpendicular to each of the triangles' sides and radiating out to the 100' circle. Then starting at the three apexes of the triangle, we add additional spokes (which bisect each of the previous dug out straight lines) out to the 100’ circle.

Next we shovel 'pointers' (arrows) on the spokes facing the hub. At the intersection of a spoke and a circle we shovel a pointer on the circle facing the spoke. In addition, near the mid-way point of each circle (between two spokes) we shovel 'pointers' facing back to the nearest spoke which in turn points back to the opening.

Each ice diver wears an ice harness under their BC. The tender (verified by the diver) then attaches one end of a 100’ line off to the two D-rings on the ice harness. A tender on the surface keeps track of the diver and the slack of the line. The free end of the line (tender end) is tied to an eyelet on a stake that is driven at an angle into the ice. Safety, safety, safety!

The reasoning behind the wagon wheel is that if anyone ever got off their tether line they can look up and find a spoke and then follow the pointers back to the hub (hole, opening). I don't know what we'd do if we ever had a year without at least a dusting of snow on top of the ice :-)

Our ice diving 'training ground' is actually a high mountain lake in the center of one of our ski resort towns. The section of lake we ice dive at is near the site of an old logging mill so we stumble across big logs once in awhile. The bottom is sandy with very little vegetation so there is not a lot to see. The fish are extremely slow at this time of year.

Taking a 'mental trip' by looking at the bubbles and the underside of the ice is the best though! Other years we have had a little fun with the ice fishermen by sticking rubber chickens up their ice fishing holes :-) Another fun thing is to either kneel or stand upside down on the underside of the ice and tug three times indicating you want to be pulled out and to go for a ride (like water skiing only better :-)!

More Specific Detailed Information on Ice Diving 2001

More Specific Detailed Information

Ice Diving Photographs from 2000 at Cascade Lake, Idaho


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