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Scuba Diving at Silfra Fissure

Scuba Diving at Silfra Fissure

One of the adventures I looked forward to most when visiting Iceland last year was the opportunity to dive in Silfra in the Thingvellir National Park.

There are two exciting draw-cards to diving at Silfra—the famously clear water and the fact that the dive occurs in the fissure between the continental plates of Europe and North America.

Des & Belinda diving at Silfra Fissure in Thingvellir National Park, Iceland. 
Photo by Tania Roque of DIVE.IS

We booked on with DIVE.IS, and completed our dive medicals and equipment sizing online, well before we left Australia. DIVE.IS’ system and customer service were seamless and responsive.

We were picked up from our hotel in Reykjavik at about 7:15am and then travelled to Thingvellir National Park for our dive.

As stated, Silfra Fissure lies on the tectonic fissure between the North American and European continental shelves. Above the surface the fissure is a couple of kilometres wide, but underwater you can reach out and touch both continents simultaneously.

Europe on one side, North America the other while scuba diving at Silfra Fissure in Thingvellir National Park, Iceland. Photo by Tania Roque of DIVE.IS

The visibility here was nothing short of amazing — it was at least 50m, but the range of vis was limited by the rock shelves and formations in the distance. The water is glacier fed water filtered through the rocks of decades and centuries.

Crystal clear water at Silfra Fissure in Thingvellir National Park, Iceland. Photo by Tania Roque of DIVE.IS

The dive entered at a set of metal stairs onto a metal platform where one group enters at a time, does their buoyancy checks before descending to 5-6m. You swim along, coming back up to the top of a wall in <1m ,before re-descending to a maximum of 18m (we got to about 15m). After a time you do a left turn into a lagoon, with a separate exit platform followed by a short walk to the carpark.

One of the shallow sections at Silfra Fissure in Thingvellir National Park, Iceland. Photo by Tania Roque of DIVE.IS

The water was, of course, very cold. While the dive leader (Tanya) stated that the range was 2—4C, my (borrowed) Oceanic OC1 computer showed that the temp got down to <1C. The rental drysuits (Bear hyper crushed neoprene) and undergarments did a perfect job — no leaks. We also wore mitts and a hood, and although these were not sealed they did an adequate job of keeping relatively warm — although the hands did get so cold that you lost most dexterity.

Des and Belinda scuba diving at Silfra Fissure in Thingvellir National Park, Iceland. Photo by Tania Roque of DIVE.IS

No life to speak of in the fissure — the reason to dive the site is for the site itself, with its spectacular rock formations and crystal clear water. The guide did mention that there are fish in the lake Silfra empties into, but they don’t come back up in into fissure.

Incredibly clear waters at Silfra Fissure in Iceland. Photo by Tania Roque of DIVE.IS

DIVE.IS1 is a professional dive operator, with good equipment, facilities at the dive site and very good leaders. Group sizes were small (3:1 max), and there was a very welcome hot chocolate waiting back in the carpark.

The dive itself was conducted very professionally, following strict safety protocols. There was oxygen at both the entry and exit points, and additional staff were on hand to assist with gearing up and de-kitting, and to assist during entries and exits.

With over 1,500 scuba dives to my name, I have had the opportunity to dive in many very special places, but the experience at Silfra will certainly go down as one of my top five dives to date.

An outstanding dive.

Des & Belinda kitted up and ready to dive at Silfra Fissure in Thingvellir National Park, Iceland. Photo by Tania Roque of DIVE.IS
With thanks

Images by Tania Roque of DIVE.IS and used with permission.

  1. As I write this the world is in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. DIVE.IS has suspended tours until things improve, and are currently intending on resuming limited operations in early May. I wish the DIVE.IS team all the best, and look forward to diving with them again in the future. 
Diving PNG

Diving PNG

Belinda and Elephant Ear Coral by Des Paroz on

I was surprised today to see blog post from DeeperBlue on Diving Papua New Guinea, featuring one of my images from a trip my wife and I made there in 2006.

We love PNG, and have dived at Kavieng, Kimbe Bay (Walindi), Milne Bay (Tawali) and Tufi. These are all amazing diving locations, and I am happy to see one of my images being used to promote diving in this part of the world.

With that said, a bit of advance notice and link back would have been nice!

Grant W Graves—the guru of Soggy Science

Grant W Graves—the guru of Soggy Science

My friend and mentor Grant W Graves is not only a diving guru[1] but is also a degree qualified marine scientist. In the diving world, Grant is one of the foremost connectors in the industry. He literally knows everyone in diving.

Last December Grant launched a new initiative—Soggy Science. Soggy Science is a weekly video roundup of news about the aquatic world.

Divers everywhere will enjoy the way he makes nerdy topics fun and approachable.

  1. Grant is a PADI Course Director; a Technical Diving Instructor-Trainer with PADI and TDI; a DAN Examiner; and is President of the US Freediving Association among other qualifications.  ↩

Make or Take

Make or Take

Recently I read a great book called The Inner Game of Outdoor Photography by Galen Rowell1 , a renowned outdoor photographer from the US. This book is one of the best photography books I have read, even though it hardly even touches on technical aspects – there are no explanations of apertures and shutter speeds, except in discussing how to capture a particular image.

Instead, this is a book that delves deeply into the “inner process” of photography, and the important philosophical approaches that differentiate the snapshooter from the serious photographer. Irrespective of whether you shoot underwater or topside, outdoors or inside, close-up or wide-angle, your thought processes help you to identify potential subjects, backgrounds, compositional opportunities, lighting approaches and technical requirements to express your vision through a photograph.

One of the things that struck me on reading this book, and set my mind thinking, was that the essence of the language used by Rowell to express his philosophy. Rowell never uses the phrase “taking a photo” – instead he contemplates “making a photo”.

From our earliest introductions to photography, we are exposed to the phrase “take a photo”, and indeed the common vernacular enshrines this expression as the standard amongst all of us. But if we stop for a minute to consider the expression, we note very quickly that it suggests a passive approach to photography – one of recording the moment.

It is no secret that the vast majority of photographers are snapshooters – people who are simply recording the moment. These “momentary records” have an important place – they show family, friends and scenes that are important to the individuals. They have a context and value to the snapshooter and those close to them. In many cases, however, these momentary records are otherwise unremarkable.

Likewise, many underwater photographers are snapshooters, and again, their photos have a meaning to them that is also implied and contextual. They take good photos that trigger a memory for them.

In an effort to move beyond the simple snapshot, we invest time, money and effort into the process of photography. We get better equipment, we study composition and lighting, and we try to take control of the photographic situation. We are no longer passive “takers of photos” – we are looking for more than the momentary record.

We are now actively “making” our photos, not taking them.

To be active in the process of photography, whatever the setting, we need good technical skills, and good equipment. We also need a thorough understanding of our environment, the behaviour of our subjects, and how we can interact responsibly with them. We then need the mental approach to put all that together to make great photos.

Do you take or make photos?


Originally published on on 14 July 2002.