Ice diving is an opportunity to dive sites that may not be accessible or visible during warmer seasons. It also gives a different perspective to a dive site regularly explored during warmer months.
Shipping channels or docks are some of the areas that can be unsafe to dive whilst the ice is thawed due to boat traffic. There are wrecks that during warmer months never clear up enough to enjoy them. But, once the ice forms, the clarity expands to as far as your eye can see. Ice diving can a recreational dive, a recovery dive for items that have fallen through the ice, and is also used by search and rescue teams around the world.
Ice diving typically has one entry/exit hole. The most obvious hazards of ice diving are getting lost under the ice and hypothermia (which is why it is of great importance to invest in high quality thermal protection). Your ice dive team is comprised of: a buddy to dive under the ice together, a 90% dressed diver as a backup, the primary tender for the team and the backup’s tender. Divers are tethered to the surface with a line and wear a separate harness from their BCD. The line is controlled by the tender and hooked at the end by an anchor (like an ice screw or heavy object that can’t be pulled into the hole by the divers).
For the tender part of the team, the hazards include the freezing temperatures, falling through thin ice or into the ice hole. Using just a simple piece of wood or a floor mat from a vehicle under the tender’s feet will keep them warmer on the ice. Having your tenders dress in winter gear is very important, but also having some type of flotation on is even more important.
To enter into the ice diving world, find a seasoned instructor who cares about safety and works with a team of people to train not only you as the diver, but the tenders as well. Ice diving is a fun controlled type of diving that can be an incredible experience even with the cold air or water temperatures.