DIVING BETWEEN CONTINENTS
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.