White Sea, Russia

We did an ice diving course in the Russian Arctic in February 2014 and enjoyed 6 days of diving in -2°C waters. A very cool experience in every sense of the word!

Dive Sites
 

General Diving Conditions in the Winter: 

The ice-diving season is usually from February to April but it depends on the thickness of the ice. 

Water temperature: is -2°C.

The thickness of the sea ice: about 40-50cm but can get up to 1m.

Visibility: is very good, about 25m.

Air temperature: average temperatures in February is around -10°C (however, when we went it was just below zero).

Description: Underwater you can expect to see predominantly sandy bottom with some kelp and rocks. When it comes to marine life, there are not many fish to see, but you can meet many anemones, starfish and different squidgy things floating around including the beautiful sea angels. Main attraction is obviously the ice and ice formations. 

Site: Big Cross Island - Plateu

 

 

Location: 3,9km from the Dive Centre

Depth: 2-10m

Currents: weak

Description: This is an easy site used for most of the ice diving training. The bottom is sandy/silty with algae and kelp growing in groups at the bottom. There are not many fish, but you can spot lots of different small invertebrates. 

 
 

Site: Big Cross Island - Rock Garden

Location:  3,9km from the Dive Centre

Depth: 5-12m

Currents: weak

Description: Kelp forest on sandy bottom with some scattered rocks. Lots of invertebrate life, some scorpion fish. 

Site: Big Cross Island - Anemone Rock 

 

Location:  3,9km from the Dive Centre

Depth: 6-21m

Currents: weak

Description: This very popular dive site is a stand alone rock on the sandy plateau right next to the slope of the Big Cross Island. The top of the rock is about 6m deep and its base is at 13m on the side closer to the island and up to 21m on the open-sea side. The main attraction is that the rock is covered in a carpet of colorful anemones and lots of other marine life including fish, crabs, shrimps. 

Pictures from the Arctic Circle Dive Center Website 

 

Site: Biofilters Bay

Location: the Great Salma Strait of the Kandalaksha Gulf of the White Sea (4,25km from the Dive Centre)

Depth: 2-12m

Currents: none

Description: This is a site in a small bay next to steep cliffs, definitely a site worth doing due to the impressive ice formations. The vertical rocky wall goes down to 7-8m then gradually changing to sandy bottom at 12m. The tides and changing water level between low tide and high tide (almost 2m difference) break the floating sea ice creating really nice ice formations underwater, with broken ice pieces up to 3m big. Sometimes you can also see ice-stalactites formed by desalinated water. These formations are very fragile  and can be easily destroyed by air bubbles.

The name ‘the Biofilter Bay’ comes from the water filtering aquatic animals that are present in this area in high numbers such as mollusks and crayfish, 

One very interesting inhabitant here are very small shrimps living directly in the ice, where they hide in the grooves from the fish. 

Logistics

Diving:

What to expect: Arriving to the divesites is done with snowmobiles. On site there are small heated wooden huts, where you can comfortably change and warm up before and after the dive. There is one hut next to each "maina" (triangular opening in the ice and entry point to the water) and since they are on skis they can be transported each day to a new maina. On site you will also find one heated hut with toilet and one bigger hut for lunches, socializing and briefings in between the dives. 

Ice diving has also several specific characteristics, that you will learn in the course. One of the main differences is working with the ropes and sending signals to your tender (person on surface holding your guiding rope). The rope also limits the perimeter of how far you can swim away from the maina to ca 25m.

Dive Center: We did our dives and ice diving course with the Arctic Circle Dive Center, http://www.pkrug.ru/ located in Nil'moguba in Russian Karelia. It is a very experienced, well organized dive center and amazing place in the middle of the woods. They are both a TDI and a PADI center offering courses with both agencies. The ice-diving course takes about two and half days including theory and 4 dives. We directly contacted them and arranged everything with them, bringing down the costs significantly. 

Accommodation:

The center offers accommodation on-site in different categories/price ranges, we opted for the cheapest option and they were very comfortable.

Transport:

To get to Nil'moguba it is an all terrain vehicle/snow truck ride, which can be provided by the dive center, either from the Finnish airport of Kuusamo or from Chupa train station. We kept it cheap and took the train from St. Petersburg to Chupa (it takes about 18hrs with a change in Petrozavodsk)

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