AD­VANCED AD­VEN­TURE

Scuba Diving - - Contents - TEXT BY SAB­RINA BELLONI // PHO­TOS BY FRANCO BANFI

Ice­land is hot right now — for divers, the land of ice and fire of­fers spe­cial chal­lenges, and equal re­wards.

THIS LAND OF FIRE AND ICE SHEL­TERS MANY UN­KNOWN AND NEVER-DIVED SPOTS, PLUS A FEW SPE­CIAL PLACES THAT CAN BE DIVED END­LESSLY, AL­WAYS PRE­SENT­ING SOME­THING FRESH AND NEW

PERCHED ON THE EDGE OF THE ARC­TIC, Ice­land is one of the most ge­o­log­i­cally ac­tive places on Earth. Home to hun­dreds of vol­ca­noes, gey­sers, smok­ers, fis­sures and hy­dro­ther­mal vents, it strad­dles the rift zone be­tween the North Amer­i­can and Euro­pean con­ti­nen­tal plates and lies just be­low the Arc­tic Cir­cle, with the small off­shore is­land of Grím­sey the only part of the coun­try that ac­tu­ally touches that lat­i­tude. Most vis­i­tors come to take in the stark vol­canic land­scapes, visit the thun­der­ing wa­ter­falls, tour his­toric cities, and hope to see the mes­mer­iz­ing north­ern lights van­ish­ing in a kalei­do­scope of green and red. Divers jour­ney here to sub­merge in some of the clear­est fresh wa­ter on the planet.

Ice­land is a coun­try of con­trasts. Above and be­low we feel the power of na­ture, am­pli­fied by the clar­ity of the air and wa­ter, which re­flects the con­trast of col­ors and scents. Blue is the nat­u­ral color of the purest wa­ter and sky I’ve ever seen. Cold, wet and slow, it fills the fresh­wa­ter fis­sures, dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent from the red warmth, fire and in­ten­sity of ac­tive lava flows from count­less vol­ca­noes (although many more are dor­mant). The black of basalt rocks and the dark­ness of the long win­ter nights are in to­tal con­trast to the pure white of the un­touched snow cov­er­ing the glaciers, the whipped­cream­like clouds run­ning in a pure blue sky, and the al­most 24 hours a day of shim­mer­ing light in June.

Float­ing on Earth’s man­tle, where con­ti­nen­tal plates meet and drift apart, Ice­land is in never-end­ing mo­tion, in­spir­ing vis­i­tors to ex­plore its most re­mote lo­ca­tions. At the same time, Ice­landers re­spect and value time to re­lax, con­tem­plate, and con­verse over a good meal. It’s a world worth ex­plor­ing, from its fa­mous and iconic places to the ones that are kept se­cret in the hearts of Ice­landers.

CRYS­TAL-BLUE PER­SUA­SION

With luck, I bump into an Ice­lander who knows this coun­try like the back of his hand, a world trav­eler who yearns to share the won­ders of his is­land. From Davíð Sig­urþórs­son I hap­pily dis­cover that Ice­land is more than fa­mous Silfra and Strý­tan — and I learn that those iconic places are more than just the clas­sic images we have all ad­mired.

Crys­tal-clear blue is the dom­i­nant color of fresh­wa­ter dives in Ice­land. The best-known, Silfra and Davíðs­gjá, are the two div­able rifts in Thingvel­lir Na­tional Park, but there’s also the gem of Nes­gjá, in the north of Ice­land, and other un­named spots.

Silfra is a large fresh­wa­ter spring — about 16 by 32 feet wide, 20 to 40 feet deep and more than 650 feet long — where wa­ter from the nearby glacier Langjökull sur­faces and runs into the lake Thing­vallavatn. It’s the most crowded dive spot in Ice­land in the

A diver in­side the vol­canic crack Nes­gjá; be­low left, Goðafoss, known as the “Water­fall of the Gods”; a wolf eel at Lit­tle Strý­tan. Pre­vi­ous pages: A com­pos­ite shot brings to­gether the top­side and un­der­wa­ter thrills of heli-div­ing.

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