Iceland - Silfra in September

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Tom Nic
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Iceland - Silfra in September

Post by Tom Nic » Sat Jun 23, 2018 10:40 pm

Long and long overdue Dive Report Alert! You have been warned....

The name Silfra is legendary among cold water divers, and for good reason. In rugged Iceland, in Thingvellir National Park, ice cold clear water is filtered through porous underground lava, and into Thingvellir lake and on through a crevasse created by the slowly drifting apart (2 cm. per year) of two continental plates, the European and North American plates. The water is around 38 degrees, (2-4 centigrade year round) and crystal clear, even drinkable. Visibility is 300' plus, and it is a delightfully surreal experience to dive between the Continental plates for 40 minutes, at points being able to touch both.

I quickly run out of adjectives trying to describe these dives - among the most epic I've ever done.

My dive guide, Hedin Olaffson, is of Viking stock, grew up working with his Dad fishing in the north, and has been guiding dives here for 16 years, with over 4,000 dives on Silfra alone. Yeah, he knows his stuff. When I met him it was cold and blowing and he stepped out of his car in an unbuttoned short sleeve shirt. Yeah, Viking.

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Hedin takes no more than 4 divers, and on both my diving days with him I was his only client. You can find him at diveiceland.com, and I would not hesitate to recommend him to anyone privileged to find themselves in Iceland with the opportunity to dive. There are a ton of cattle car operations diving Silfra, and yes, even here you can get silted out by rookie divers, so do your homework if you go. It is too epic and too expensive to not be "perfect", IMHO.

I lugged my gear to Europe for this September 40th wedding anniversary trip (more on Denmark diving in another thread), and was eager to dive Silfra in the comfort and security of my own gear. Hedin met me early at the park, and the larger operations were already preparing their gear for the hordes of tourist divers that would shortly descend on the place.

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There are wonderful benches for gearing up, and well maintained restroom facilities. We geared up quickly and began the 150 meter walk to the entry. I had requested 15 litre steel tanks for my own comfort and weighting, and they were wonderful, with basically the characteristics of a HP 119 or LP 95

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We quickly arrived at the entry, and I was amazed at the new, well built stairs going down to a small platform for finning up at perfect depth. It is really, really well designed and done.

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Of course I am so excited I can hardly stand it, and am just awestruck at the clarity of the water. I put my face in the water as I put my fins on and came up laughing out loud. It was so clear that I couldn't tell I was underwater, and the belly laugh of joy was as genuine as it gets.

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Sinking below the surface was one of the most joyfully surreal experiences I have ever had. My Weezle Extreme Plus kept me warm, but there is no escaping the 38 degree water on your face! But of course by this time I'm to entranced to even care.

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My dear wife took these pics, and a few topside pics while she waited for me to return from dive #1.

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The rugged Fall beauty of this magical place was amazing, and that is only above water!

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And now we come to underwater. Wow. The dive varies from 60 ffw to a few shallow spots around 6 ffw. There are cracks, caverns, and caves, and you are pretty restricted to where you can go. By dive #2 my guide was comfortable enough with my skills that I did a little "exploring", and that's all I'll say about that.

I took my camera the first dive, but by the time came for the second dive I left my camera behind and just breathed in the wonder and glory. Hedin had a GoPro and took a bunch of stills, of which I will share a few here. As an underwater photographer I take lots of pictures! However, I have very few of myself underwater. So... here are a bunch! Hedin did a great job capturing the "feel" of the Silfra dive. Again, he is one of, if not the most experienced guide at Silfra, with over 4,000 dives on this site alone over 16 years. His individualized attention was perfect, and I would recommend him without hesitation to anyone considering diving here. Many operations are "cattle car" kind of outfits, not Hedin.

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How can you describe this? I am told you can drink the water, but I was so entranced I forgot to try.

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There are a few spots where the water shallows up, particularly near the end of the dive when you come into the "lagoon".

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Between the Continental Plates. Are you freakin' kiddin' me?!? Running out of adjectives here....

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And finally, coming back into the lagoon... hard to tell the difference between surface and sky, and these dives were on a very overcast day. I can only imagine if the sun were shining! By the way, this is place where Silfra could (and has) been silted out by divers. The bottom is sandy silt here, not rock.

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And lastly, coming out at the other end of the dive at the incredible new platform they have installed - really nice. The silly Cheshire cat grin on my face says it all! These two 45 minute dives will always rank among my top 10. I am indeed a privileged person!

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Thanks for reading this far, and if you love diving cold water, this should be on your list!

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Re: Iceland - Silfra in September

Post by H20doctor » Sun Jun 24, 2018 12:39 pm

Good stuff Tom ... Thanks for showing us yr trip
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Re: Iceland - Silfra in September

Post by Tom Nic » Sun Jun 24, 2018 6:20 pm

H20doctor wrote:Good stuff Tom ... Thanks for showing us yr trip


Thank you Chris. Glad you enjoyed it!
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Re: Iceland - Silfra in September

Post by Gdog » Sun Jun 24, 2018 7:33 pm

Tom, simply....EPIC!!! Wow. Wow.

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Re: Iceland - Silfra in September

Post by Tangfish » Sun Jun 24, 2018 9:15 pm

Holeeeeeee Carp! Effing awesome, Tom. The only thing that'd have made it better is a shocker thrown up in one o dem pics!

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Re: Iceland - Silfra in September

Post by RoxnDox » Mon Jun 25, 2018 11:43 am

Epic indeed...

My sister did one of those snorkeling excursions when she and my mom did a 2-week drive around the island a few years ago, even that would've been fantastic!
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Re: Iceland - Silfra in September

Post by Scubie Doo » Mon Jun 25, 2018 12:57 pm

Excellent Tom, how close is this to Bonaire? Haha


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Re: Iceland - Silfra in September

Post by Tom Nic » Mon Jun 25, 2018 6:00 pm

Scubie Doo wrote:Excellent Tom, how close is this to Bonaire? Haha


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Thanks Scoobs... And there IS a direct daily flight from Amsterdam to Bonaire on KLM. Daily. Just sayin'... :luv:
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Re: Iceland - Silfra in September

Post by Tom Nic » Mon Jun 25, 2018 6:02 pm

RoxnDox wrote:Epic indeed...

My sister did one of those snorkeling excursions when she and my mom did a 2-week drive around the island a few years ago, even that would've been fantastic!


There were a bunch of snorkelers, particularly in the lagoon where the dive ends. I don't know if they take them the whole way that people dive? It would have to be a pretty cool snorkel as well.

Another reason why it pays to have a good guide and be the very first people in the water like we were!
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Re: Iceland - Silfra in September

Post by Tom Nic » Mon Jun 25, 2018 6:02 pm

Tangfish wrote:Holeeeeeee Carp! Effing awesome, Tom. The only thing that'd have made it better is a shocker thrown up in one o dem pics!


You weren't there to even try and remind me! :calvin: :joshsmith: :calvin:
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Re: Iceland - Silfra in September

Post by Tom Nic » Mon Jun 25, 2018 6:04 pm

Gdog wrote:Tom, simply....EPIC!!! Wow. Wow.


And now with IcelandAir flying direct there from Seattle and a "free" one week stop over in Iceland on your way to Europe it is more and more doable.
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Re: Iceland - Silfra in September

Post by Sharkb8 » Fri Jun 29, 2018 4:33 pm

Really nice photos and a great write up. I can't even begin to imagine what 300 ft of vis would look like! I'm also looking forward to your report on diving in Denmark. We visited Copenhagen a couple years ago and unfortunately there was no diving involved, but I've heard there is some good stuff to be had out there.
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Re: Iceland - Silfra in September

Post by YellowEye » Fri Jun 29, 2018 10:08 pm

Awesome, Tom!

I don't think I've seen surface shots here before. Very pretty, appreciate your wife taking those.

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Re: Iceland - Silfra in September

Post by Jeff Pack » Sat Jun 30, 2018 2:35 pm

I was reading one of the cracks goes to 200ft, but with 38d water, thats some cold deco
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Re: Iceland - Silfra in September

Post by Tom Nic » Sun Jul 01, 2018 9:10 am

Jeff Pack wrote:I was reading one of the cracks goes to 200ft, but with 38d water, thats some cold deco


Yeah, there is the "official" depth, and then the reality. You can imagine they don't publicize even the swim throughs and shallow caverns much if at all. With thousands of tourists every year, many of them absolute newbies, it wouldn't take much for an accident to shut down an amazing place. The guides rightfully ride herd on tourists through here pretty closely.
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Re: Iceland - Silfra in September

Post by Tom Nic » Sun Jul 01, 2018 9:12 am

YellowEye wrote:Awesome, Tom!

I don't think I've seen surface shots here before. Very pretty, appreciate your wife taking those.


Thanks Eric! I will pass that on to my lovely wife.

She kindly tolerates my scuba addiction, but doesn't often come with me on dive trips or even local dives... which does sadden me a bit. When she does the awesome above water shots are the result!
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Re: Iceland - Silfra in September

Post by Tom Nic » Sun Jul 01, 2018 9:13 am

Sharkb8 wrote:Really nice photos and a great write up. I can't even begin to imagine what 300 ft of vis would look like! I'm also looking forward to your report on diving in Denmark. We visited Copenhagen a couple years ago and unfortunately there was no diving involved, but I've heard there is some good stuff to be had out there.


Thank you!

Yeah, I'm procrastinating on the Denmark write-up. I haven't been posting too much as of late, and since my tendency is to write a book I either don't post at all or only post infrequently.

I will get to it! There is actually some pretty cool diving there that I am anxious to share with the board.
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Re: Iceland - Silfra in September

Post by ScubaJess » Sun Jul 01, 2018 4:04 pm

So cool! I love Iceland!!! I visited that spot before I was as a diver and the water looked so beautiful! Fantastic report & pictures!

Did you go on the puffin tour? I loved it so much! It would be amazing to go dive by the puffin island!

Looking forward to the future reports :)
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Re: Iceland - Silfra in September

Post by Tom Nic » Sun Jul 01, 2018 6:40 pm

ScubaJess wrote:So cool! I love Iceland!!! I visited that spot before I was as a diver and the water looked so beautiful! Fantastic report & pictures!

Did you go on the puffin tour? I loved it so much! It would be amazing to go dive by the puffin island!

Looking forward to the future reports :)


Thanks Jess! Yes, I love Iceland as well! It really is an incredible place. We got to spend a week there, rented a car and drove and drove and drove. Every time we went around a corner it was breathtaking. I'd love to spend 2 to 3 weeks there driving the Ring. I didn't do the Puffin tour... I have a place in Gustavus, Alaska and have spent a ton of time around Puffins there, and Iceland is expensive enough without springing for the tours, although I am sure they are well worth the price!

I did two more dives in Iceland I'll report on, at a well known local site called Gardur. My guide was raised up north of Iceland by a Dad who was a fisherman. He was regaling me with tales of diving in the north, and that there are not really any regular dive ops up there. If I ever get a spare few thousand I'm going to arrange for him to guide me for a week up in his old stomping grounds. Sounds positively Canadaesque as far as the diving goes.
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Re: Iceland - Silfra in September

Post by stphnmartin » Sun Jul 01, 2018 6:45 pm

Nice report Tom! Any critters in those beautiful cold waters? Those stairs are indeed sweet!
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Re: Iceland - Silfra in September

Post by Tom Nic » Wed Jul 04, 2018 1:46 pm

stphnmartin wrote:Nice report Tom! Any critters in those beautiful cold waters? Those stairs are indeed sweet!


Silfra is fresh water, and consequently pretty bare of aquatic life except for the occasional lost trout. The attraction is 40 to 45 minutes in crystal clear water and incredible underwater volcanic and tectonic scenery. Alas, no critters... Video and wide angle is the way to go here!

Working on an Iceland report that has a few critters, however. Stay tuned!
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"Anyone who thinks this place is over moderated is bat-crazy anarchist." -Ben, Airsix
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