I should like to to take a moment of your time to tickle your interest with a report from the White Sea. We had finally managed to visit the tourist center "Polar Circle" and take advantage of the ice-diving excursions offered. The trip from St. Petersburg takes 12 hours by car (a distance of 1,030km of which exactly 1,000km runs along the Murmansk highway with quality coverage, though from time to time herds of deer run across the road, followed by about 25km along a snowy serpentine with elevation differences).
The base of the diving center "Arctic Circle" was just awesome. Here there were brand new warm wooden houses with all the necessary amenities inside. The food was fantastic (a buffet with a large number of dishes and delicious quality pickles from early morning until late evening). The staff was super responsive. Honestly, I was just stunned by the level of service, something I hadn’t seen when diving anywhere else. For the non-divers, there was also an assortment of entertainment (sledding, skiing, sled dogs, snowmobiles, acquaintance with reindeers), sauna, fishing, etc.
Now to get on to the diving. Dives are conducted here twice a day, with divers being taken to the ice on sleds pulled by snowmobiles. Several dozen ice-holes are located at each dive site, with people on-hand managing the logistics. In the dive center there is a worthy stock of rental equipment. The dive participants are divided into groups of four and each of the four is allocated a warm house for changing clothes on the ice, as well as a number of dry closets and catering (lunch is taken on the ice between the first and second dives).
As for the details; the temperature on the surface was 3 degrees Celsius, the wind was moderate and the thickness of the ice was 20-25 cm. The water temperature registered by my computer was minus 2 degrees! Underwater, as usual, ice, hummocks, sponge, stars, shrimps, angels, nudibranchs, gobies, snails and small crustaceans were all apparent. It’s supposed to be possible to meet catfish and cod but I didn’t see any. There were no white whales this year; they went to the dolphinarium in St. Petersburg. 6 dives were planned (2 dives per day), but I stopped diving after the 2nd day, because by all indications I had contracted hypothermia on the first day (the first dive lasted 20 minutes, the second was 30 minutes). In spite of this, I went to dive on the second day (both dives were 25 minutes long) and on the third day I was completely sick from hypothermia, and only helped the guys with their equipment and "stood on the rope."
Very soulful people work in the Arctic Circle and, moreover, everything is regulated and works like clockwork. An indicator of their success is the fact that many people come here 5-10 times a year and the number of foreign divers is impressive. Along with us were Irish, Chinese (well, is there anywhere in the world where one won’t find them?), they pass ice diving courses here) and Finns, who came in a crowd on snowmobiles directly from Finland. There may well have been other nationalities present, the base is big after all. In general, my having dived in the White Sea put another tick on my bucket list but, unfortunately, my body was evidently too weak or I hadn’t prepared properly for insulation and as a result I refused to dive for the first time in my life.
P.S. In fact, the Polar Circle diving center is technically not in the Arctic, just a few kilometers to the south, but this doesn’t change anything.