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Ice Diving Adventure

  • Ben Brettingen
    Moderator
    Mississippi
    Posts: 605
    #1519354

    I’ve always had the curiosity to get underneath the ice and see what the underwater world looks like at 32 degrees. I’m not going to lie, the thought of it was both intriguing and a bit spooky at the same time. Say something happens, there’s only one hole you can get back to the oxygen rich topside. Otherwise you’d be SOL underneath the ice.

    At any rate, last Saturday I joined the Carver County Dive team on a gravel pit near Carver and prepped for my inaugural journey. The whole process was very regimented, and it went off like clock work. First the hole was cut with a giant barred chainsaw. The ice wasn’t too thick on the pit, only 12″, so it wasn’t too bad. The hole is cut in a triangle, and the important part is the edges. When you breath underwater all of the bubbles float up to the top of the ice and with no other way to escape up, they ride the bottom of the ice all the way to the corners of the hole. You wan’t to cut the edges perfectly so there are no jagged edges for the rope to get caught on and so the bubbles don’t erode the corners of the holes in an odd fashion.

    Another interesting part involved shoveling of arrows in the snow. A set of four lines were shoveled in the snow with arrows off it pointing back towards the hole. This is done in case you’d become detached from the rope, you could look up and see the lines with arrows and follow it back towards the hole. Interesting!

    A massive tent was set up around the holes, and wooden planks were screwed in around the holes for traction. A few propane heaters piped in and we were in business.

    While everybody was diving in a drysuit, I was only prepared with a wetsuit. Was I a little afraid for the boys….you’d be crazy if you thought otherwise!!

    The CC Dive Team had underwater communication set ups so I’d go down with one of them so they could communicate topside. I was the second diver to go down and as I filled up my wetsuit with a thermos full of hot water, I downright excited!

    I slid into the water and was pleasantly surprised! My 11mm of neoprene kept me surprisingly warm, this wouldn’t be so bad after all. The water clarity wasn’t great by any means, around 12′, but it was enough to keep occupied. I was attached to a rope and on the top I had a tender whom I would communicate by a series of tugs. 2 tugs of the rope by the tender, with a return of two tugs meant everything was A-Okay! 4 tugs meant get me the heck out of here!

    Overall it went off without a hitch, two dives later and my lips were getting a little blue! We had a couple of equipment mishaps which bumped the heart rate a little bit! I wasn’t the one who it happened to but I knew something was up when I was abruptly yanked to the surface. One diver had a hose off his full face mask come loose leaving him without air.

    One more incident involved a free flow. The cold temps will often “stick” a regulator, and allow air to flow freely from the tank. You can still breath but you don’t have long before you’re out of air!

    I was on top tending when this happened and all of a sudden it looked like the water was boiling, as air bubbles erupted in the hole. That warranted a quick trip to the surface for my diver.

    All in all it was a fantastic time, and I learned a ton from some really experienced divers, but holy cow was it a lot of work! It was at least a two hour process to set up and an hour of take down time..well worth it!

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    Andy Fiolka
    Participant
    Boise, Idaho
    Posts: 543
    #1519589

    Did you get any video down there? Very cool.

    Ben Brettingen
    Moderator
    Mississippi
    Posts: 605
    #1519598

    Unfortunately I didn’t! They suggested I just concentrate on diving for the first couple dives. Word is there are some giant pike floating around!

    Nate Northup
    Participant
    Iowa City, IA
    Posts: 169
    #1519608

    That’s pretty cool Ben! I’m getting my AOW certification this Spring, and I’m really looking forward to it. Live right by an old filled quarry that has great visibility and is a big WI dive hotspot…would love to try ice diving at some point! Dove once the day *after* the ice went out and it was about 39 degrees. Pretty cool though, being able to check out structure from a fish’s perspective!

    Ben Brettingen
    Moderator
    Mississippi
    Posts: 605
    #1519683

    Good old Lake Wazee! Never been but sounds very interesting! I initially was thinking about doing it with a couple other guys but after going through it, I think I’d only do it with some sort of dive group or at least a few people who are more experienced.

    The day the ice comes out in the Metro I’ll be out on Tonka swimming around!

    Nate Northup
    Participant
    Iowa City, IA
    Posts: 169
    #1519933

    Yeah man! Wazee is great! I’ve pulled lots of good sized trout through the ice out of there…and, have seen some monster walleye while diving…just can’t ever find them when I fish though.

    It’s definitely a great place to dive, with awesome visibility. About 50′ in the summer when I’ve dived – guys say it can get up to 80-90′ in the winter. I’ve dived it a few times by myself but don’t really like to, safety-wise…I prefer going with other people. There are some great things to see though – a sunken boat, a concrete great white shark, and all the sunken forests – and then of course all the fish cribs and other fish holding structure.

    Let me know if you ever wanna dive it! I’m always game!

    Ben Brettingen
    Moderator
    Mississippi
    Posts: 605
    #1519940

    Nice! That’s how it goes a lot of the time for me, I’ve put my eyes on some nice Walleyes in a few lakes but went back and fished to no avail.

    Man Talk about some awesome vis! I consider 20-30′ outstanding but I haven’t been on too many destination dives.

    Sounds like fun, I’m guessing there is a reason so many people go to dive it. It would be great to get together and do a little diving, I’m always looking for people to go with!

    Tim Bossert
    Participant
    Cochrane, WI
    Posts: 429
    #1528967

    Love ice diving! Wazee is a good dive. Clarity is great. Safety is a must.

    Also get some crazy responses from the southern boys when on a dive boat in Florida. Tll them that last time I was diving was through the ice!

    Ben Brettingen
    Moderator
    Mississippi
    Posts: 605
    #1531471

    Haha I bet… I was watching a gear review about a 7mm wetsuit, and they kept talking about how the water is 50F and how that’s absolutely frigid and how they really should be diving in a dry suit……50 Degrees! That’s called 25 ft. down in August!

    Aaron
    Participant
    Posts: 245
    #1538531

    I was thinking in a week or two the water should be warm enough to get everything out and start diving. Anything above 50 is good enough for me.

    Ben, let me know when you get back up North for some more diving.

    Ben Brettingen
    Moderator
    Mississippi
    Posts: 605
    #1538791

    I tried to get out on Tonka the day after the ice went out but that was an absolute mess. Poor water clarity and windy made for a less than ideal dive. I just got these damn wisdom teeth taken out last week and they are cramping my style.

    I’m hoping to get a little diving done opening weekend. After that the cabin season begins so we’ll definitely have to get together and dive some new lakes.

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