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The Land of Ice and Fire

Iceland February 2024

Diving the Silfra Fissure in Iceland has long been on my bucket list, but for one reason or another, I never got round to it … until now. All it took was a mention of this dive to newish club member Chris. He was instantly intrigued. After a bit of investigation, he soon got the bit between his teeth and within weeks it was booked. Only 3 diving members put their hands up for this rather challenging dive, although there were 5 travellers in total, some just wanting to sample the delights of this remarkable country.

Late in 2023 there was an eruption in Iceland, near the town of Grindavik and for a time we were concerned our trip would be impacted. In the end the impact was minor and we even got a view of the eruption from the plane on the way in to Keflavik Airport – the photo below was taken through the plane window and does not do it justice.


After a very early start, our flight landed in Iceland at 9:30am. We picked up our hire car and made our way to the rather nice apartment we’d rented. After unpacking, we wrapped up and took a stroll around the local area, eventually indulging in a couple of beers and a game of pool, returning via a supermarket for provisions for the next few days. After a very nice evening meal at a local restaurant, we got an early night, ready for the dive the next morning.

The trip up into the national park to the Silfra Fissure was a beautiful, snow covered vista, but definitely bleak and cold at this time of the year. Once up into the hills the temperature quickly dropped to -7°C and at the dive site it was probably closer to -10°C. There were no changing rooms as such, just the back of a big van, so getting out of our warm coats, hats and gloves and trying on different sized undersuits and dry suits to find the right fit was a somewhat chilling experience. It made me wonder if bringing my own dry suit would have been a good idea after all. The rather hefty cost of the dive included all equipment, so I’d packed very light.

The dive company had already set up a wing for each of us and the air stayed firmly off until we approached the water, after what felt like a fairly lengthy walk with all the gear on – it was possibly 100m over an undulating, snowy path.


Within seconds of the air being turned on at the entry steps, the regs started free-flowing. We had to turn off the air, stand in the much warmer +3°C water and soak the 2nd stages for a few seconds before turning the air back on, but all was well. The usual anti-fog spitting in my mask was also interesting in that temperature (-10°C) too. As soon as I spit in my mask and started to rub it around, it froze and I had a layer of ice on the inside of my mask, rendering it useless. The secret was speed and I needed 2 to 3 attempts to get it done, rinsing in the “warm” water and donning my mask as quickly as I could.



The dive company gear needed to be good quality for those conditions and it certainly was, but the set up was quite different from mine and I struggled to find a decent balance. I believe it was similar for Chris and Simon. We managed of course, but I suspect that if I were to do this dive again, I would use my own gear and I’d probably come in the summer. The air temperature would mean less teeth-chattering and I think it would be very nice to see the Thingvellir National Park in another season, hopefully a bit greener!

The selling point of this dive has always been that it’s the “best visibility in the world”. I daresay other places in the world make a similar claim, but I have to say, it was incredible, easily 50m, maybe more.


The above water conditions were somewhat challenging, particularly the air temperature, but the dive itself was glorious. My only complaint was that it was over too soon. I don’t know if there was much more of it to see. I suspect we saw most of the trench, but apparently there are 1 or 2 swim throughs, which we weren’t allowed to go in due to the ongoing volcanic activity at that time. It would have been nice to see those.

I wasn’t anticipating seeing much life, but I did see a small fish as I looked down into a cave, possibly an arctic char. I tried to get a photo but it was too quick. There was also quite a bit of vegetation in the lagoon, near the exit. The colours in the photo make it appear quite tropical. It was a tad below 3°C, honestly!

The exit was far from straightforward. Unlike the entry steps and particularly the handrails, which were ice free, those at the exit were caked in ice. It was essential to hold on to the rails to steady yourself and as soon as I grabbed hold, my neoprene glove (7mm mitten) stuck to the ice on the rail and had to be peeled off with the other hand. It took a few minutes for us all to exit safely.

Once on the path back, with fins in hand, we had a 400m waddle back to base camp. This actually seemed easier that the 100m walk to the entry steps, the buzz from the dive presumably helping us along.

I’ve included a few here, but between the 3 of us, Chris, Simon and I have quite a few photos from the dive. For those interested, a wider selection from the dive and the rest of the weekend will no doubt find their way onto Facebook at some point.

We spent the rest of the stay in Iceland doing more touristy things: a trip to the Gulfoss water fall, Geyser and Laugarvatn Fontana spa. All very nice, but we needed our thermals!  An evening out in Reykavik is to be recommended, with many bars hosting live music of one sort or another, especially at weekends. A few of us even tried the local Icelandic delicacies of fermented shark with a shot of Brennivin, but I’m afraid one sniff was enough to put me off.

We saw only a small fraction of the country and I would certainly be happy to go back again, when my teeth have stopped chattering.

Thanks to Chris and Simon for doing the organising and thanks to both them and Anne and Gemma for the good company and giggles.


Chris Kean

Eruption from plane.jpg
Path to entry.jpg
Simon & guide on entry platform.jpg
View up the fissure.jpg
Chris & guide heading for exit steps.jpg
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