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Features of ice diving on Baikal

Ice diving (also referred to as ice diving from the English. “Ice” – ice) is not necessary or, more precisely, not only winter diving. Baikal is covered with a thick crust of ice only in January, and even then not completely. (For example, at the source of the Angara, the water never freezes.) The most successful period for ice diving is the off-season, February and March, during which time there are most sunny days, which provides good visibility under water. So ice diving can also be attributed to spring extreme relaxation.

What is so good about ice diving?

Winter diving on Lake Baikal is special, it differs from ice diving in other places of our planet. It’s all about the unique clean water of Lake Baikal, which turns into crystal clear ice (there is practically no such ice anywhere in the world, except for a couple of places). This feature gives impressions to divers and their accompanying on the surface: they can see each other even through great depths. On a sunny day, the diver will look at people and cars from below to a depth of 30 meters, and people on the surface will be able to observe the divers moving along the bottom. This is an incredible cosmic sensation of weightlessness!

But this is not the only feature of ice diving. The second thing that attracts people to dive in the winter is incredible, wonderful and each time unique ice sculptures created by nature under water. Huge masses of ice can form whole galleries with intricate mazes, grottoes and cracks. Perhaps this is exactly what the fairy kingdom of the Snow Queen might look like. To see this beautiful phenomenon with your own eyes, at least once in a lifetime, every person.

Which month to choose for diving on Lake Baikal?

Each month has its own specifics of ice diving. Baikal begins to freeze in January, but at this time the ice is still thin, so diving is near the shore. In February, the ice is already quite thick (up to 100 cm) and can support the weight of the car. Ice is very clear these months. In March, the thickness of the ice increases (up to 120 cm), and the transparency of the ice becomes less. Ice hummocks form, which makes it difficult to navigate the ice on a car. Since April, the ice begins to melt: puddles appear on the surface of the ice, then the ice becomes loose and drifting ice floes appear. Baikal thaws completely only by June.
How is ice diving going?

When diving under ice, it is necessary, first of all, to prepare an ice hole (lane). This process takes an hour or two using one or several tools: an ice ax, an ordinary saw, a climbing drill, and sometimes a chainsaw is used. Depending on the conditions, various shapes and sizes of the hole are made:

In the shape of a triangle: the approximate size of one side of such a lane is 1.5 m. The size is selected on the basis that one submariner freely feels in the hole. Adherents of such an ice hole argue that it is easier for a submariner to get out of the water, pushing up on his hands.
In the shape of a rectangle: the approximate dimensions of the sides are 1 by 2 meters. In such an ice hole, two submariners can simultaneously be located. It is also easy to get out of the hole, pushing up on your hands.
In the shape of a square: approximate dimensions are 2 by 2 meters. Such a hole is used when 3-4 people or more are simultaneously immersed.
The lane is cut out, hollowed out around the perimeter, then all the ice from the hole is pulled to the surface (it is strictly forbidden to push excess ice under water). The sharp edges of the lane are also cleaned and sanded.

At the edges of the lane it is recommended to make flooring from boards, put up fences and fix the gangway (most often this is not necessary). The signal end on the surface is attached to a drill screwed into the snow.

At least three people participate in the descent:

Providing – helps to put the descender and the insurer on, provides preparation for the descent site, monitors the working equipment check, works with the signal end, duplicates with voice the signals received at the signal end from the diver, in case of an alarm sends a command to the insurer for immediate descent.
The insurer is prepared for the dive (the degree of readiness is determined by the descent supervisor – instructor). On command puts on equipment and assists the descent.
A descending one is one who plunges.
Each swimmer is necessarily equipped with a personal signal end. As a signal end, a vegetable or synthetic cable with a diameter of 10-15 mm is used (such that it is convenient to hold it in your hand). The length of the signal end is 40-150 m, the tensile load is 150 kg.

End Signal Rules

In addition to the usual visual signals between swimmers, signals transmitted along the signal end are used. Upon receipt of the signal, the swimmer withstands an interval of 3-5 seconds, duplicates the signal, then performs. Providing the same when receiving a signal from under water does the same.

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