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First of all, I was very happy for the invitation to write-up for this very cool blog from an even cooler couple. So, as we met in Russia, nothing better to take this opportunity to say a little more about this country. And what is more, to talk about a topic which is rarely remembered when it comes to this huge country: Diving.

That is right. Whenever diving is a subject matter, the majority of the people immediately think about tropical destinations with its warm and crystal clear waters, full of colourful fishes and its reefs full of corals. Yet, the giant Russia, which is famous for its freezing cold in most part of its territory, doesn’t seem like the place where someone would like to spend about one hour underwater. After all, what is there to see in cold water?

diving into cold water

Very well, having this question in mind, I have chosen to visit one very specific country’s region: The Karelia Republic, near the White Sea. So, before we even start talking, yes, the water is really cold. To deal with it, the first thing a diver needs to do is learning how to dive using appropriate clothes for this situation. Forget all about those neoprene thin clothes. The Dry Suit, as it is commonly known, can even be made by neoprene too, though it does not stay fully stuck on your body. It is made to be filled with air and not with water. Therefore, with no water circulating and with an isolating air layer, we can manage to keep the body temperature reasonable, having some warm clothes underneath the diving one. Furthermore, a good hood and gloves will make the full vestment. In the end, only a tiny bit of your face will be exposed to the cold water (there are full face masks which can even solve this little problem as well).

A detail: Whoever has dived before knows that buoyancy is usually the beginner diving’s biggest difficulty. The Dry Suit makes everybody a beginner again. Now, you have a suit filled with air which makes aleatory parts of your body, particularly your legs, to go up to the surface. For this exact reason, all diving certification centres provide a specific course for those who would like to wear the Dry Suit. And, before diving wearing it, practice is necessary.

Now, properly certified and trained, let’s go to the diving.

The Karelia Republic is one of the federal subjects of the Russian Federation. It is located in the northwest region, bordering Finland (in fact, Karelia and the Karelian people are also in Finland and they exist since the XII century). The chosen diving point was the White Sea, which is an arm of the Barents Sea. It is one of the few seas in the world which freezes in the winter, which explains its name. The closest city from the chosen diving point was Chupa.

To get there involves facing long distance travels typical in Russia. It is almost 1000 Km away from St. Petersburg or 1500 Km away from Moscow. The city is at the Arctic Circle. You have already got how cold it is, haven’t you? The salty water can go down to 2 degrees below zero before freezes and that is the typical temperature during the winter. In the autumn, when I was there, the temperature was around 5 degrees. At deep water, around 20 meters deep, the temperature neared zero.

And what is there to see in so cold water? A set of outstanding invertebrates, almost impossible to be found in warm water. In particular, at the coldest points you can see the typical arctic marine life: starfish, jellyfish, small crustaceans and anemones. A lot of anemones. They are the main highlight of most of the dives (the diving spots have names such as The Anemones Garden, Anemones Stone…). Thus, the vibe is to enjoy beautiful dives with incredible gardens and miniscule creatures, only seem down there.

Alright then, anemones. Is it only it? I am a big anemones fan and this alone was enough to make me go into the cold Arctic water. But no, it is not only anemones. Over there in the Arctic, it is possible to find one of the most likeable animals that live in the ocean: The Belugas. They are cetaceans, the same family of dolphins and whales (in fact, they are called white whale very often). It is a very curious, docile and sociable animal (what unfortunately becomes their main problem in nature). When adult, they get completely white, up to 5 meters and 1.5 ton. To dive with them is a fascinating spectacle. They come near divers and interact with them very much. They behave basically like a child, nibbling the equipment and the diver’s hand in order to understand what all of that is, making bubbles and racing the diver. An amazing experience which easily justifies diving into so cold waters.

belugas


The Practical Part

How to get there

There is one diving shop in the region, the Arctic Circle Dive Centre, involved in big Russian diving groups. It is possible to get there by train, stopping in Chupa. Going from Moscow to there will take about 30 minutes (which is not so absurd in Russian terms). Also, there is an airport reasonably near. The dive shop provides a pick-up offer from all the nearest points (train, airport and region biggest cities such as Murmansk, more in the north and easily accessed from Finland).

The dive shop infrastructure is really good. It has sauna, delicious food and a forest nearby, which makes possible some small trekking. In the autumn, the temperature near zero. In the winter, it is very cold but still possible to learn how to ice diving and try out this quite unknown modality.

Price

Yes, it is expensive. You will spend around 1 thousand Euros for 4 to 5 days diving, including accommodation, food and equipment.

To finalise, the cold water aquatic life can be surprisingly interesting. There are so much colours and a great variety of shapes. And, with the right equipment, not feeling cold.


About the author

ed

Edgar Perlotti was born in Minas Gerais, Brazil, but lived in Sao Paulo for a long time. Diver and a mountaineering, bicycle touring, kayaking and everything else related with outdoor world enthusiastic. Currently making a trip around the world with no date to end

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