Scuba Diving Silfra, Iceland: Between Two Continents

Posted on March 19th 2013

In the moment I placed my hands on the opposing rock faces of the narrow fissure of Silfra in Iceland my outstretched arms literally spanned two continents.

For just six metres beneath the surface of the chilly waters trickling through the rift of the recognised world heritage site I was between worlds, a watery No Man's Land.

And I was desperately trying to control my shivering hands.

"Don't push too hard," joked dive guide AJ, from Dive.Is before we plunged into the crystal clear but bracing 3C waters. "We all know about the Butterfly Affect and I wouldn't want you to create a problem in Japan."

It was obvious what he meant. Here, the surface of the earth is being ripped two, slowly driving apart the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates at a rate of about 2cm a year. 

The last thing AJ wanted was for me to have a little sneeze, give the parting continents a helping hand and trigger a giant disaster on the other side of the world.

The open tear in the world's surface is widely recognised as one of the world's top dive sites, a place of immense geological importance. And it was the reason I found myself in Iceland.

AJ had picked me up from the CenterPlaza Hotel in central Reykyavik as the sun was rising at 10am on the clear Winter morning and we made the 45-minute drive to Thingvellir Lake, National Park Thingvellir.

The snow-topped mountains that ringed the car park were truly breathtaking - even more than the frosty -4C showing on the car's temperature gauge as we drove in-country.

With the slowly rising sun painting pink hues across the brilliant white landscape and the giant blue lake stretching as far as the eye could see the surface of Silfra was a picturesque wonder.

Wearing a Bare neoprene dry suit, think hood and 7mm mitts to protect me against the elements  I sliced beneath the surface.

And it took my breathe away. Not the water temperature that is, but the sights dancing in front of my eyes - more than 100 metres in front of my eyes.

Silfra is famed for its stunning visibility - I shall refrain from using the word gin here - the glacial water having filtered through the rocks for up to 70 years emerging beneath us as pure as a newborn.

As a result, everything took on a whole new wonder. Instead of fading into the distance the rock formations all around shimmered with clarity; this a detailed Haselblad panorama in a sport typical for offering compact camera vistas.

I did not see one fish. Not that it mattered with towering walls of rock acting like a continental honour guard as the gentle current pushed us from the Silfra opening towards the lake itself.

However, it wasn't enough to be between the continents, I had to find somewhere narrow enough to hold them in a boxer's reach. At the point I did, I was a man who held two giant slabs of the earth in the palm of my hands.

Now it might not have the colourful marine life but what other dive site lets you do that?

The full story of the trip will be told in a future issue of Sport Diver. 


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