February 5, 2019
On February 3, this year we took ten student ice divers in for two dives in Philips Outdoor Center under three inches of ice. The day couldn’t have been more favorable with outside temperatures reaching 60 degrees F (16 C). Each student needed to make two dives as part of the class. The first was with a buddy and an ice instructor. The second dive was as a buddy pair on a tour dive. We had a staff of five instructors making it so each of the staff only made one dive.
We teach a recreational ice class that has the participants tended on a line from the entry point. Advanced ice divers often use a reel like diving in cave or wreck. Of the ten students, five were from Muncie Fire Department and one student from the Indianapolis Police Department. The other four were local divers wishing to extend their diving experience.
One of the greatest challenges in ice diving with water temperature less than 38 degrees F (3 C), is regulator freeze-up. If any level of free-flow occurs, the second stage of the regulator fully opens and will drain the air cylinder within a couple minutes. One of the skills during the first dive is to remove the regulator from the diver’s mouth while lightly exhaling, then replace the regulator. The diver must turn the mouthpiece down to prevent a run-away free-flow. The first of my students did as instructed and the second diver removed his mouthpiece pointing up and it locked-on freezing immediately. We were only a few feet from the ice hole and the diver returned immediately where the surface crew turned off the tank valve and defrosted the regulator. We then continued an uneventful and very enjoyable tour dive.
The water clarity was at least 40 feet (12 meters) making the dive very enjoyable. At the end of the dive, I wanted to go on a fun dive, but others were waiting their turn in the ice hole. Another of our staff had the same thought but there wasn’t time.
My wife Bobbi was prepared in the classroom trailer with hot sippin’ chili that really hit the spot. Incidentally, half of our ten students were in wet suits and the balance used dry suits.
With our annual weather changes, we rarely have ice in Mid-Indiana. In the past five years, we have only had enough ice to dive on two of those. Prior to that we could count on several inches of ice every year. The most we have had over the years is 24 inches (60 cm) of ice.
It was a great dive experience with weather that cooperated fully.