Some hazards of SCUBA Diving in Antarctica

It has to be stressed that when you Scuba Dive in Antarctica you are diving in a REMOTE dive site. Assistance may be some distance or time away so try to make sure it won’t be needed. The staff and crew on board The Polar Pioneer have much experience for most situations should they occur. I found some of the useful to take note of :

Regulator Malfunction

  • Not necessarily a problem with the right well maintained and environmentally sealed units.
  • Be aware that if free flow occurs, the low temperatures will affect the regulators fairly quickly.

These regulators froze and free flowed on the first introductory dive. It was lucky this didn't occur at depth...

Wind Chill

  • This can be experienced on the way to the dive site before a dive; however, it is probably more noticeable once the dive is complete.
  • Your body will be cooled to a certain extent during a dive and getting out of the water will involve getting wet with very cold water.
  • Ensure that you have warm head gear, dry gloves and a warm waterproof jacket for the trip from and back to the ship.

Frostbite and Frost nip

  • Particularly prone when using inappropriate gloves or during extended unprotected exposure to low temperatures likely to be experienced in Antarctica.
  • Take warm protective gloves, hat for the boat rides before and after each dive.
  • Take a container of warmed water to fill dive mitts before a dive and warm cold hands after a dive.

Frozen Gear

  • Do NOT leave your any of Scuba Equipment outside over night.
  • The cold temperatures and the remaining water will freeze your gear solid and may render it non-usable.

Ice and Water on the Decks

  • Overnight the decks may become slippery due water turning to ice.
  • During the day the decks may be covered in patches of melted ice and wet water.

Fitting Your Dry Suit

  • Make sure your suit fits well so no water can enter and all of your body is protected and covered in warmth.
  • Extra thermals in Sub Zero diving add extra thickness and bulk not encountered in warmer water training runs.

Dry Suit Malfunction

  • Be aware of all procedures in case of a malfunction at depth. Antarctica is a REMOTE dive site.

Moving and Shifting Ice

  • Ice Bergs can rest on the sea floor and be relatively stable; or they can be free floating and dynamic.
  • Tides, wind, and constant melting can cause the ice bergs to move unexpectedly and rapidly.
  • Do not dive within crevices or down some of the inviting ice tubes you will find.
  • Ice Bergs are HEAVY and SOLID so if a chunk of ice falls your way you may sustain heavy injuries.

Sea Sickness and Prevention

  • This may come about during the journey while crossing The Drake Passage.
  • A queasy stomach can usually be overcome with a good lie down and relaxing after taking a sea sickness tablet.
    • Doing a couple of big belches helped settle my tummy but do whatever works.
  • Once there, the Antarctic Peninsula is relatively protected from the seas of The Drake so you should be OK for most of the trip.

Cranes on Board the Ship

  • The Polar Pioneer uses small cranes to manoeuvre the zodiac craft to and from the water.
  • Be aware of large moving objects around about head height as you are preparing for a dive.
The Zodiacs take you to the dives sites and are lowered off the side of the ship by crane

Loading the Zodiacs

  • Care must be taken of persons below when loading heavy gear into the zodiacs including weight belts and tanks.
  • These are lowered from the deck to the zodiac in the water.
  • The rope ladders may become slippery when wets.
Gear and Divers are loaded off the side of the ship into the Zodiacs.  Wet ropes can be slippery

Over Confidence

  • It must be remembered that Scuba Diving in Antarctica is in a REMOTE site and in Sub Zero conditions.
  • Scuba diving in Antarctica is relative easy but it is very cold and remote so extra precautions must be taken.