Cold-Water Freediving - 3 Destinations That’ll Sway You to Try It
Freediving is a challenging sport as is, nevermind adding sub-zero temperatures and icy waters to the mix. So, most consider cold-water freediving a mad idea, reserved only for the most daring. However, in addition to testing the limits of one’s inner strength, cold-water freediving offers a glance at some of the world’s most fascinating dive sites.
So, let’s take a look at a few cold-water freediving destinations that may persuade you to give the activity a try.
D/S Guvernøren, Enterprise Island
Diving in Antarctica is a truly unique experience. Sunlight, reflecting off massive ice formations and penetrating the ocean surface, creates an ever-changing spectacle of colors, while an abundance of krill in the water attracts a lot of marine life. You can expect close encounters with seals, penguins, and even whales. But even this is not everything Antarctica has to offer.
Because the area was the stage for a massive killing and processing of whales just a hundred years ago, you can come across various historical remains. One of them is the wreck of an old Norwegian whaling factory ship D/S Guvernøren. Located at Foyn Harbour, off Enterprise Island, the wreck is a great spot for diving. Approaching the sheltered bay, where the vessel lies, you will immediately notice the big, broken structure that stands out against the white ice and snow. That’s the stern of the ship. Rising high above the surface, it has become a favorite resting place for Antarctic terns.
The rest of the 433-feet (132 m) ship stretches down to 55 feet (17 m) of depth. Exploring the wreck, divers can easily make out lots of well-preserved pieces of wailing history, including the cookers for reducing the whale blubber to oil, barrels, capstans, wires, portholes and even the odd harpoon head. On and around the wreck you will see yellow soft corals, pink encrusting algae, red kelp, and orange anemones.
Photo by Butterfly voyages - Serge Ouachée - own work (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Another beautiful remote destination is Spitsbergen, the largest and only permanently populated island of the Svalbard archipelago in northern Norway. Constituting the westernmost bulk of the archipelago, it borders the Arctic Ocean, the Norwegian Sea, and the Greenland Sea. Diving around Spitsbergen is best with one of the many liveaboards that visit the island. The trip along the banks of deep fjords and narrow channels is truly mesmerizing. The wildlife watching around Spitsbergen is excellent with Arctic foxes, Bearded seals, walrus, Beluga whales, and the ultimate wildlife encounter – the mighty Polar bear.
Underwater, you will be able to swim along ice walls and hear the sound of icebergs shifting and crackling. Spitsbergen has also been a very successful spot for diving with seals. Other marine life that you may encounter includes sea-snails, crabs, sea butterflies, various Arctic fish, shrubby horse-tails, jelly-fishes, sea-hedgehogs, and starfishes.
Summer is typically the best time to take expedition cruises to Spitsbergen. The ice has melted enough for boats to traverse the waters, the temperatures are warmer, albeit still cold, and the underwater visibility is good. May through July offers good polar diving.
Lake Päijänne, Finland
If you want to experience cold-water freediving alongside fellow divers from all over the world, head to Lake Päijänne in Finland, where the annual ice diving event Päijänne on the Rocks is held.
Lake Päijänne is the second largest lake in Finland. It’s 120km in length, has 1886 islands and numerous lakeside villas, with saunas and cozy fireplaces for after-dive relaxation. The water in the lake is drinkable, and the tranquillity under the ice is simply amazing.
This year, the Päijänne on the Rocks event will take place on March 23. It is open to all certified freedivers. To get more information or register for the event, visit http://www.paijanneontherocks.com/
If you choose to try cold-water freediving, make sure you’re fully prepared for what your body will encounter both during and after the dive. That way you’ll stay safe and get to experience the best of what cold-water freediving has to offer.