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!