Scuba Diver Australasia - - Contents - By Wolf­gang Pölzer

Full of an­tic­i­pa­tion, we walked heav­ily down the steep metal stairs with a 12-litre tank on our backs. We fi­nally reached the wa­ter, al­most sweaty in­side our stiff neo­prene dry­suit. A quick look be­low the sur­face and all ex­haus­tion was for­got­ten – just be­low us, a canyon opened up amidst the crys­tal-clear wa­ter of Sil­fra. I felt as if I were about to bungee jump as I took a step in and de­scended into the pris­tine glacial wa­ter. It takes up to 100 years for the wa­ter to find its way through 48 kilo­me­tres of vol­canic rocks from the giant glaciers in Ice­land. The look in the eyes of my wife, Bar­bara, told me that we were in a scuba diver’s par­adise.

As we floated through the 3°C wa­ter, I could feel the cold slowly creep­ing in. Thank­ful for the rigid dry­suit and gloves, we crossed the nineme­tre-deep canyon sur­rounded by giant blocks of basalt, mak­ing sure to stay above the frag­ile for­ma­tion of rocky cav­erns where a tragic ac­ci­dent had oc­curred; the brightly lit sur­face was much more ap­peal­ing.

We en­tered a nar­row pas­sage where bright green al­gae sprouted out of the ground, sway­ing in the mild cur­rent – a per­fect con­trast to the dark rocks. We fol­lowed the snaking pas­sage till we hit the iconic nar­row crack at the end. Bar­bara squeezed into the fis­sure, push­ing Europe’s plate with her left hand away from

North Amer­ica’s plate with her right hand. Even as the photographer, the feel­ing was ab­so­lutely amaz­ing! Be­ing in­side the in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal fis­sure, it was fas­ci­nat­ing know­ing that some thou­sand kilo­me­tres be­low us, a steady flow of lava was in­creas­ing the dis­tance be­tween Europe and Amer­ica by two cen­time­tres a year!

Feel­ing nei­ther the hot lava nor the move­ment of con­ti­nents deep be­low us, we swam fur­ther into a giant canyon known as the Sil­fra Cathe­dral. The huge sub­merged val­ley in­deed re­minded me of an over­size church. De­spite al­most reach­ing 91 me­tres long and 18 me­tres high, we could see to the other end clearly – if not for the cold wa­ter in our faces, we would have for­got­ten that we were on scuba!

At the end of the “cathe­dral”, the sandy bot­tom as­cended gen­tly, open­ing to a 122-me­tre­long basin (yes, we could see to the other end of the shore). It was the most colour­ful part of Sil­fra, car­peted with bright green and brown al­gae, with some small rocky cracks and lit­tle sink­holes that of­fered great photo op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Chilled to the bone, we re­moved our fins with stiff fingers and crawled out of the freez­ing wa­ters in high spir­its.

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