Is Ice SCUBA Diving for you
Nate Putbrese emerges from the ice hole after a successful dive. Submitted photoGrecula was looking at the Hopkins/Minnetonka shipwreck, which was once part of a fleet of six streetcar boats that transported people around Lake Minnetonka in the early 1900s. When her sister boats were being dismantled and sunk in 1925, Capt.
Brad Grecula could not see anything in the pitch-black water. Very slowly, something came into focus before him.
Nate Putese emerges from the ice hole after a successful dive. Submitted photo
Grecula was looking at the Hopkins/Minnetonka shipwreck, which was once part of a fleet of six streetcar boats that transported people around Lake Minnetonka in the early 1900s.
When her sister boats were being dismantled and sunk in 1925, Capt. George Hopkins purchased it, renamed it Minnetonka and operated it as an excursion boat until 1949. At that time, it was sunk near her sisters north of Big Island. The state recognizes it as an archeological site, according to Maritime Heritage Minnesota.
As an outline of the wreck appeared before him, Grecula was sure it was the Hopkins/Minnetonka. After all, he and his friends had a GPS location on the shipwreck as they drove through a dense fog over the frozen lake, but diving through pitch-black water can mess with your mind.
“Your imagination can run away from you when you’re down there,” Brian Dahl said.
Divers going so deep that sunlight does not reach them can attest to what Grecula and Dahl are saying. What makes their tales even more harrowing is the only way they can escape the water is through a small hole in a thick sheet of ice.
Ice diving can be a deadly recreational activity if you are not properly trained and do not take the safety precautions seriously.
MyFox Twin Cities reported a story two years ago of a pair of ice fishermen hooking a scuba diver. The story had some comical elements to it because the fishermen thought they caught a big one. The diver was unharmed and offered a couple of beers as a peace offering, the fishermen told Fox news.
Dahl of Andover, Grecula of East Bethel, Art Gullette of Andover, John Oliver of Isanti and Nate Putese of Camidge know this diver and this story was no laughing matter because several safety measures were not followed, they later learned. Ice divers are a fairly tight-knit group in Minnesota because there are so few of them, Gullette said.
Mitigating the dangers
There are many safety measures to check off before going on an ice dive. The obvious first step is to make sure the ice is thick enough on which to drive a vehicle. Once on the site, they usually have a chainsaw to cut a triangle hole in the ice. They can cut a square, but a triangle takes less effort to cut because it has one less side.
They must be attached to a rope so they have an easier time finding the ice hole. Another step that can be taken is to clear snow in the shape of an arrow. Sunlight will highlight the arrow and give divers a bearing.
Art Gullette (left) serving as a rope tender during an ice dive. Submitted photo
The most ideal situation is to have one person diving and another person on the ice in their gear in case the diver has to be rescued. There should be at least one and preferably two tenders in case both are in the water.
Ice diving is such a challenge that Dahl said PADI recommends a person have at least 50 dives before they can be trained.
According to Dahl, one of the most important traits he picked up from ice diving is the ability to remain calm and problem solve in tense situations.