I recently experienced something I never thought I would: scuba diving in the Arctic. Yes, I love scuba diving. Yes, I love living in the Arctic. But together? Never. Check out the video below to get a glimpse of what my 30-minute dive was like.
The thought of scuba diving in Iqaluit never crossed my mind; that is, until an email arrived in my inbox from a soon-to-be friend with a signature that included “Arctic Kingdom, Dive Program Coordinator” – wait, what?! My interest was piqued.
Of course, Arctic Kingdom is known for its epic northern adventures: from casual weekend getaways to Northwest Passage cruises to floe edge scuba diving safaris. But this summer, Tour Iqaluit, a local subsidiary of Arctic Kingdom, was also offering diving in Frobisher Bay.
So I rallied some friends and planned a scuba diving trip with Jamessee, an Iqalummiut who had been waiting to go diving in Iqaluit for seven years, Francois, a Quebecois who repped a Pang hat *almost* the whole time, and Rob, our fearless dive master who has spent a large part of his life submerged in Lake Malawi.
Having not been diving in eight years and having only dived in equatorial climes, there were a few lessons learned. Here’s what to expect when scuba diving in the Arctic:
Different: Clumsy gear
In Southeast Asia, all I needed was a shorty wetsuit (and some Muay Thai boxing shorts over top for good measure). In Iqaluit, a dry suit, wet gloves, neoprene hood, and thermal layers add some complexity to the experience. The extra gear takes a bit of getting used to, but luckily Tour Iqaluit offers a dry suit orientation in Upper Base Lake beforehand.
Similar: Awesome dive masters
I don’t know what it is about people who choose to dive for a living... they just seem cooler than most people. Rob is no exception. He is both friendly and professional, and was far too patient with me and my buoyancy control issues. I feel very fortunate to have gone snowmobiling to the floe edge and scuba diving in Frobisher Bay with him.
Different: Sub-zero temperatures
Negative two degrees Celsius, to be precise. So yes, it is literally freezing cold and your face goes slightly numb and your hand is assaulted if your glove comes undone (true story). But it honestly wasn't that bad, and there’s nothing that a hot water bottle and mug of hot chocolate can’t fix once you’re back on the zodiac.
Similar: There is SO MUCH to see
Sure I couldn’t identify half of the neat things I saw, but that just made it more intriguing! There were some similar oceanic species, like kelp forests, snails, and anemones. But there were some completely bizarre looking things, too, like this little guy who I named Jabba the Hutt.
Would you ever go scuba diving in the Arctic? Or do you have any questions about my experience? Let me know via Twitter or in the comment section below!