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Ice diving at Baikal

Seasons for under ice diving at Baikal:

Foto I. Khanaev

January: Ice is about 20 cm thick. It is usually see-through. Dives are done 50-150 meters away from the shore, because it is still dangerous to get on the ice in the car. The dives are done in open water or with short visits under ice for advanced divers. Diving under the ice in a whole is available too. Dive sites: Rogatka, port Baikal, Listvyanka. Depths are 3 to 45 meters. 
February: Ice thickness is 80-120 cm. Ice is very proof and clear. In the beginning of February (because of changes in temperature) crack start to form. You can move on the ice with car. We also put warm tents on the ice. Dives into open water at the Angara River. Dives into ice-whole at Listvyanka, port Baikal, Railway. 
March. Ice’s about 80-120 cm thick. It’s very safe to travel on it. However, in the middle of March ice gets less clear. It’s the time when some ices crack a little forming “constructions”. The dives can be made into an ice-hole at Listvyanka, port Baikal, Bolshie Koty, and Railway. 
April, 1-15. Trip to Barguzin (eastern shore of Baikal, Buryatiya). There you can watch nerpa and baby-nerpa. There will be no snow on ice at this time. The dives will be done into an ice-hole next to nerpa’s habitat. 
April. Ice thickness is about 80-120 cm. Ice is usually very unclear. About April 10th it’s unsafe to move on the ice on cars. The dives will be done into open water with getting under the ice itself, in Listvyanka and Port Baikal. 
May. Ice is starting to melt.

Diving conditions: Water temperature is 0.5-1C. Visibility highly depends on snow on the ice. If there is no snow when from depth of 40 meters you can see cars and people on ice. If you look at the ice from the top, ice looks black, due to the depth. You can see divers through ice. Beginning in the middle of March visibility drops down to 10 meters. Depths vary from 3 to 30 meters. Dive tie is 45 minutes. There can be one or two dives a day depending on weather conditions. Advised equipment includes dry suit, dry gloves, and two winter regulators.

What can you see: except for usual Baikal’s landscapes you can see variety of ice constructions. In March ice starts moving which creates fascinating sites. Also caves and grottos often form in ice.

Во льдах на Ушканьих островах. Фото И. Ханаев.JPG

Прозрачный лед Фото А. Некрасов

Нерпа и дайвер под льдом Байкала. Фото A. Сидоров

Хариус и дайвер под льдом. Фото О. Каменская.jpg

(Andrey Nekrasov)
Almost 6,000 kilometers and four different kinds of transport were left behind. I had to change transport for three times and, finally, I got to Siberia, Lake Baikal. Gennady Misan, the director of the dive-center “BaikalTek” met our group at the Irkutsk airport, and took us to the island of Ol’hon. A wooden estate situated in Khuzhir, the main village of the island, was our place of residence for the next week. Before the trip I had thoroughly looked through the Internet pages concerning Lake Baikal and without any hints could indicate that Ol’hon Island was the largest island of the lake, located in its middle part, near its western shore. Its maximum length is 71 km, width is 12 km. The western side of the island is washed by the Small sea which is a huge shallow bay (or more precisely it is a strait). Its width is 20 km. But the bottom on the other side of the island is literally an abyss. The deepest point of Lake Baikal (1642 m) is only in 5 – 6 kilometers from the bank. But as a saying goes, seeing is believing so it’s better to go there than reread the published data a hundred times. After all, I came here with a specific purpose which is a detailed (in the literal sense of the word) exploration of ice in Baikal.