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Antarctica-bottom of the earth

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#1 madguppy



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Posted 25 September 2005 - 12:05 AM

I caught the article in Sport Diver mag this month about this trip...and finally said, best do this trip while im younger. Soooooo.....being a warm water diver only, Antarctica has me in the market for alot of new gear. I was hoping some of you would have some suggestions as what gear I should look at for this trip and where to get it...hopefully at a discount as I doubt I will become addicted to Ice Diving. Is DUI the dry suit of choice these days?...should I spend top dollar and still use a dry suit for warm water diving? is it possible to get a good deal on a used suit or dont trust it for this piece of gear? same goes for regulators, they seem to require 2 regulators on this trip for some reason i have yet to research further, but I did see a few deals on ebay for ice diving regs. Any suggestions on a decently priced reg?

Any further help or comments from any who have dove here would be welcome :)

I know this comment is foolish but I'm gonna ask it anyway...I have a Canon 20D w/ Ike housing...how feasible is taking pix in these water conditions? Is it too cold to do anything? I've seen many pix underwater so as I say...I assume these are dumb questions...but I'm also not a hard core ice diver...was wanting to hear comments from other warm blooded tourists :)

thanx much!

John Paul Abramo
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#2 MikeVeitch


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Posted 25 September 2005 - 01:28 AM

Damn John i am jealous of your trip.

I would think 2 regs because it is a long way to go and you don't want one screwing up on you. Ice regs are definitely the way to go. Most regs can be sealed for cold water, you might want to check with your local shop if this is the case with yours.
DUI is a great drysuit, but any top end one should be fine, Whites, BARE, Viking, Oceaner etc. The key is getting alot of undergarments cuz its going to be cold! You would also be best to get a fitted suit as buying a used one might be risky for fit, especially if you buy it online without trying it on. You can always sell it afterwards if you don't see yourself doing any more cold water. I wouldn't use it in warm water, its a bit of a pain in the butt. You should also use it a bunch at a pool or in some local water to get used to it first, it does act differently than a wetsuit due to adding air to the suit itself. The air in the booties can be a pain at times....

Also, a full face mask might be a plus. The water there is literally freezing and can freeze your face very quickly as it is still exposed. If that is not to your needs then definitely bring some sort of gel like lard or petroleum jelly to smear on your face before submerging to give you some protection.

As for the Ikelite, i am honestly not sure about that, perhaps send a PM to Ike who is on this board or contact them on their website for their thoughts. Or put up a post asking about Ike housings and Ice diving in the DSLR section, Ike will be sure to see it there as will some other knowledgable people

Have a great time and watch out for those Leopard Seals....:)

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#3 mattdiver


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Posted 26 September 2005 - 01:02 AM

Mike's reply is pretty much spot on. If I may only add my 2 cents' worth:

1) Take a dry suit course prior to your trip, as dry suit diving skills are quite different, and you don't want to learn that on the spot, in one of the harshest environments on Earth!

2) The course will also teach you on what to look for in a dry suit and undergarments, so you can make an informed choice when you buy one.

3) If at all possible, once you've purchased your dry suit, do a few dives with it to fine tune your buoyancy. Otherwise, taking pictures will be quite challenging. I switched to a dry suit after more than 1000 dives, and it proved a rather frustrating experience at first... apart from the fantastic thermal comfort :)

4) In terms of brands, a friend of mine has dived in Antartica several times using an Apollo dry suit. I'm using the same and am very happy with it. If you intend to buy second hand, provided you can sort out the sizing (which is quite a complex business in itself!), you may need to change the seals (if they are in latex). In this case, the new DUI system for a quick change of seals may be the most adapted to your needs, especially if you sell it again after the trip...

5) As for ice diving regs, as suggested by Mike, check first whether your reg(s) can be converted. If not, check out the Beuchat VX10 Iceberg or the Mares Proton Ice which are dedicated ice diving regulators.


#4 Drew


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Posted 26 September 2005 - 01:46 AM

First off, essential equipment list:
Sealed Regulator
Too much insulation (because you can never be warm enough esp in -1.8°C thermoclines)
Full face mask if you like your facial skin.(That's my preference and also doing some ice dives BEFORE you go). My face mask was ripped off and I near blacked out from the coldwater rush seeping in. Don't know how people dive with just a mask in that water... but then again Doug Allan does it easily.
I got the E-liner from DUI. Others on my trip didn't need it but I'm a 8% body fat guy so I freeze easily. Most people were good with thinsulate...lots of it.
Learning the idiosyncracies of ice diving is a must to avoid freezing 2nd stages etc.
As for housing, make sure you keep it in a cooler place to minimize condensation inside the housing.
And those leopard seals are puddy cats... until they think you are a penguin. I think there was a woman who was killed by one when she was dragged down deep and drowned. The leopard seal was playing. 10 ft of muscle play hard!
Also watch out for upwellings and glacier movements. I was caught in one and it was pretty narly... If you do see a VX950 housing with a PDX10 floating around 10... that's mine... I had to make it neutral!

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#5 Paul Kay

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Posted 26 September 2005 - 01:50 AM

The key to diving in very cold water is quite simply, viable gear and full familiarisation with it. Whichever drysuit you buy, you need not merely a course but a good number of dives with it until you are absolutely confident in it (I say this from having seen people struggle in cold but much warmer water, having simply not got to grips with their new gear).

You may be surprised to know that the British Antarctic Survey used to dive in wet suits! The water there is can be a degree or so below freezing. Put that against the 3 degrees C that we get in freshwater where I live, and you can see that it isn't actually that much colder. I really wouldn't recommend a full face mask or grease, etc. - just a well fitting mask and good, warm, comfy hood - the current favourite of mine is the very flexible scubapro hood - not that thick, but very close fitting and stretchy.

Try looking at 5th Element thermal undergarments - avoid bulky 'lofting' systems - I see no advantage, they are awkward to carry and wearers seem no warmer - the 5th Element stuff is very usable above water too!

As long as the reg you buy is from a reputable manufacturer and is rated for cold conditions then it should be ok. There are cold conversion kits, etc.. Most people reckon that metal bodied valves are less likely to freeze up.

Lastly, ensure that you carry very good insurance which will cover every eventuality. I nearly made it to Antarctica, but our ship hit a rock off South Georgia (which is a very long way from anywhere when this happens) and it proved a long drawn out process to get money back!!! You don't even want to contemplate a bend but it might be worth seeing if there is any sort of medvac available or if not what can be done. Depending upon you leaving port and trip itinerary, there may be other good diving - giant kelp in the Falklands for example. The Beagle Channel (Ushuaia) was a bit murky and very reminiscent of a Scottish sea loch.

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#6 Arnon_Ayal


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Posted 26 September 2005 - 03:13 AM

John, can you bring some data about this trip? (links will be great)
Its one of my dreams is to dive in Antarctica, its will take me some time before I'll do it since my buddy claims that every dive in water colder then 26C is cold water dive. :) but I can fantasize until then.
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#7 Roulston


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Posted 26 September 2005 - 03:57 AM

I likewise share the dream of diving in Antartic, having fished down there I can attest to the beauty, however apart from under/near ice formations I have been told the diving is nothing to write home about.

Not even much diving, bare rocky bottom, sea stars and nothing much else.

I would dive for the ice images alone myself, but even Michael Aw's expedition is none diving.


#8 Kelpfish


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Posted 01 October 2005 - 08:53 AM

"The cold wreaked havoc on my underwater cameras. (For the first trip), I brought a dozen camera bodies, seven underwater housings, and a dozen underwater flash units. By the end of my (first) stay, only three housings and strobes were working properly, and I had shot 400 rolls of film."



Does this mean we need to invest in and haul seven camera systems if we want to dive and photograph in the Arctic? :)

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#9 paquito


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Posted 17 November 2005 - 09:51 AM

Hi John,

I'm not trying to stick my nose in here too much, but I was curious about a few things that you may or may not have researched already?

Most of the dive expeditions that I'm familiar with in Antartica REQUIRE that you dive in a dry suit, but also have AT LEAST 20 dives with it prior to your trip. I think this is sound advice, especially sicne you may encounter changing environmental conditions.

I have taught ice diving each year for over 8 years now and regularly dive in water less than 38 deg F all year. There are many different ways to prepare your regulators and other equipment for that kind of extreme diving experience. Take at least one ice diving course and do as much cold water diving as possible prior to this kind of trip. Even if the learning experience requires you to do some short travel weekends to reach those areas, it would be worth it. Freezing, 33-34 degF fresh water places more stress on the performance of your equipment than 28-30 deg salt water because of the salinity factor. It should be easy to explore that learning curve without too much effort.

If you don't dive with a full-face mask, don't bring it. Watching those who have to pull off a full face to switch regs is a nightmare - talk about shock and blindness. If you are determined to wear a FF mask, its best to know it well, and practice wearing your spare mask around your neck in the event of a big problem. For all the years I've been cold water and ice diving (quite a lot of those dives) I've never needed a FF mask. Your face will adjust after that first minute or so of what the? stinging. Your lips wont freeze, the collagen in them prevents that. There are some face coverings you can bring that may help if you have sensitive facial skin, etc.

Cold water/Ice Regulators, lets say not all regulators are the same. Feel free to PM me if you wish my opinion on which brands I have seen offer the less issues. If you are not a regulator repair expert, you better have two regulators with you. If you are experiencing problems or freeze ups, its better to change out the regulator than create clouds of bubbles disturbing not only your diving experience and safety, but the other divers there as well.

I'm coming across a little negative (not my real intent) but most of the Antartic trips have cost about $10,000 US, if you had any problems I'd help you in an instant on the trip. But don't show up unprepared and without any good cold/ice experience, I'd be pretty upset I spent all that money and you might be shortening mine or other people's dive experiences or safety. Let's not go there, take the time to get some good experience and equipment. This is extreme diving.

Have a ton of fun! It is an amazing experience and one which you will not regret.
At the very least you can say you went to the bottom of the world -how many of your friends have been to Antartica?