Day 4: Diving Iceland: Silfra in the Midnight Sun

After an adventurous morning journey to the center of the earth, we only had a few hours to eat and relax a bit before heading out on our next adventure.

What could top braving 50 MPH gusts, horizontal rain, and descending 400 feet into a volcano? Diving between tectonic plates in 2ºC crystal clear water, of course!

We drove about 45 minutes back out to Thingvellir, which we had visited two days before on our Golden Circle Tour. Thingvellir is a valley through which the mid-Atlantic ridge cuts and is exposed. As you may recall, the mid-Atlantic ridge separates the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates that are moving apart by about a couple centimeters per year.

Silfra is the name of the water-filled gap or rift between the plates. It is open year-round for diving, but during the summer, offers midnight sun tours that start around 6PM and end at 10PM. We were told that the lighting is actually better during this time because the sun is not directly overhead, so it doesn’t beam into the water and scatter off particulates.

Suiting Up
Like the Jökulsárlón Lagoon zodiac adventure yesterday (wow, was it only yesterday? – whew!), we needed to be dressed in the right gear. For diving in 2ºC water, we donned quilted jumpsuits for a base layer:

Next we stepped into crushed neoprene drysuits with rubber cuffs at the wrists, ankles, and neck to ensure a tight seal from the chilly water. We completed the outfit with hoods and 3-fingered gloves, leaving only our faces exposed, half of which would be covered by our masks:

This was our first dry suit dive which relies on air inside the suit to add buoyancy control. In wet suit diving, this is typically done with a buoyancy control device (BCD) which looks like a vest. With a dry suit, the air also provides insulation from the cold water outside.

It was a short but burdened walk across the parking lot and road and down a path to the entry point. We tried our best to pay homage to the Beatles’ Abbey Road:

Now we were ready to take the plunge!

It’s hard to imagine the amazing views that lie below the surface just by looking at it…

And then we stepped into the amazing blue abyss:

The first thing we noticed when we stepped into the water was how cold it was on the exposed areas of our faces. After about a minute, the shock subsided and our faces were numb. Once numb-faced, we were floating pretty comfortably in the water, aware that it was cold, but comfortably insulated against it.

Silfra varies in depth from 3 to 120 feet deep, and visibility is up to 150 meters. Meters! That’s really far! One of the important instructions is not to stir up the silt with our fins or hands as the next diver won’t be very happy.

For much of the dive, we were floating between walls of basalt in the blue canyon:

And there are places where the water suddenly becomes shallow:

This green algae is so vibrant and bright against the deep blues. Close to the surface there was mirroring effect, reflecting the bottom colors all around:

The end of the dive opens up into a large, shallow, brilliant blue pool:

Look how the water colors change as the bottom changes from green algae to golden sand to cobalt blue:

Stay tuned for Icelandic horses tomorrow!

Happy RTW Travels!

Diving Silfra

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