The frigid chill of winter has fully descended upon the Northern Hemisphere, and for your average traveler, that means either being locked down or taking off to warmer locales. But for the brave and the strong, the icy thrill-seekers, there’s the option of diving with a drysuit.
While most of you probably know, I’ll explain in brief for the newcomers. A drysuit is a thermally insulated diving suit for cold climates that not only keeps the wearer warm but, as indicated in its name, keeps them dry. Since they come with some pretty complex tech in them, they run a lot more, cash-wise, than the average wetsuit. The three types of drysuit are neoprene, membrane, and hybrid. Each have their own benefits, and most come with places to clamp external gear such as gloves, helmets, and boots in order to keep the wearer bone-dry while exploring colder waters. Even the zippers come together firmly to prevent leakage.
In short, you’re going to be warm and toasty, and you’ll get to see things that you normally wouldn’t get to. But where should we start? Glad you asked!
British Columbia, Canada
British Columbia was voted the best dive destination in North America by Scuba Diving Magazine, and with good reason. Its biodiversity, welcoming dive centers, and underwater sights and shapes make for some of the most unique diving on Earth. That said, it’s cold, and because of this it’s a great place to learn how to work a drysuit. As waters sometimes sit just around freezing, you’re not going to be skin diving anytime soon.
The great Scandinavian oceanfront is full of mysterious shipwrecks and haunted by ghosts. Well, ghost sharks anyway. You can expect to find all kinds of cold water species when hunting around the coasts of Norway. Orcas, king crabs, harp seals, herring, and several other species are around if you have the right insulation to catch a glimpse of them.
Just above the “Great White North” lies something a little colder, and Alaska, as a state, is a great place to get into the colder side of things. The waters of the area have always been popular among Americans, and their treachery and attitude were spread far-and-wide by the Discovery program “Deadliest Catch.” Expect to see sharks, king crabs, orcas, humpbacks, and all kinds of life when you hit the seas. While there’s a lot of snow up top throughout much of the year, life between the surface doesn’t take a break.
Iceland is home to Silfra, the underwater canyon where the European and North American continents meet. With temperatures averaging in three degrees Celsius (34 Fahrenheit) this unique dive comes at a shivery price. But the view is completely worth it, as clear waters make for visibility up to 100 meters (roughly 330 feet). Iceland has also become a popular tourist destination due to discount flights, which means you won’t break the bank getting there.
Scapa Flow, Scotland
The Scapa Flow lies just off of the Orkney Islands, almost the farthest north one can go in Scotland. While ferries run daily from the Scapa Flow Visitor center, dive shops in the area are willing to take you into the depths of one of the best cold water dives on Earth. At the bottom sits the wreck of the German ship SMS Markgraf, one of the eeriest wartime graves with a story of its own to tell. While many scuttled ships were pulled for scrap, it was deemed too deep to recover and sits as a piece of living history.
Wherever you’re headed in your drysuit, keep warm and dive on.
– Todd Allen Williams, Senior Editor