Nerdy Cat Scuba Travels

A Cat Lovin' Engineer taking a career break by traveling, doing a divemaster internship, and diving around the world

Category: Iceland (page 1 of 2)

More information about my experience in Iceland

What would a local recommend: My top spots and favorites to check out in Iceland!

Since getting back to the States, people have been asking me if I had any recommendations for Iceland. And I do! I love Iceland. It’s a small town city with lots to do. Within the city, you can ride your bike everywhere while feeling safe and secure. Outside the city, you can drive in any direction for 1-2 hours and have plenty of activities to do.

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Divemaster Project Completion: Big Crack in Davidsgja, Pingvellier National Park Map

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I channeled my old “worker bee self” and used powerpoint to do my divemaster mapping project.  As promised, here is the final submittal I gave to Dive.Is to satisfy my divemaster training requirement.

If anyone sees any errors, please comment down below!

Divemaster Mapping Project Day

On Tuesday, we (3 DMTs) all went to Davidsgja to do our mapping project.  The day started off really beautiful. Here’s a snapshot:

davidsgja 2    davidsgja 1

We planned to one person stay at depth of the “Big Crack”, another person holding the measuring tape, and then another person using the measuring tape.  We would measure the width of the crack and then also use a buoy to mark every 20 meters.  We practiced a couple times on how everything would play out in the water.

The water at Davidsgja was about 6-8 deg.C. A nice warm up from Silfra. The visibility was about 15 meters.  I think the visibility at the bottom of the crack (approximately 160 meters from our starting point) was about 20-30 meters. Very Beautiful.

We had a couple of hiccups during the task.  For one, the diveshop didn’t have a measuring tape, so we had created our own from a line and some electrical tape.  This made measuring easy to spot the 1 meter tags, but difficult when trying to reel the line back in.  Consequently, it took us longer to measure out 20 meter increments.  We also had to split the task into two separate dives because of the length of the task.

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Stykkishólmur: Diving on my day off


Stykkishólmur is a city in the west area of Iceland where most people come to take a ferry to the West Fjords. About 1000 people live in this small city. After speaking to the harbor master we learned we could dive right next to the bay and at the surrounding islands. The visibility was pretty good- maybe 5-10meters, but the currents were pretty strong. We spotted some cod, many many crabs, medusa jelly fish, sea urchins, and star fish.
I’m getting hungry. We hop on Seatours on the Viking sushi sea tour. The ship took us to various islands along the bay. It starts to rain lightly rain. Bad idea to wear jeans.  The boat stops at various islands and talks about the region and points out a lot of different birds.  Like most tourists, I’m most interested in Puffins.  In Reykjavik, the puffins are all on one island and kinda far away. On this tour, I can really see these cute little birdies! Look at those cute beaks!

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Learning how to Demonstrate Scuba Skills

Ok- now time to turn the boys into men, I mean turn these guppies into sharks, I mean turn these divers into divemasters.

Divemasters are required to learn and demonstrate a total of 24 skills. It’s late into my program, but we finally got around to doing these skills. If I would have a recommendation to others doing the divemaster program, I would try to do these skills before the Open Water Course. This was some fun stuff. It made me feel like I was advancing to a new level of scuba diving.

Here are the skills we learned:
1. Equipment assembly, adjustment, preparation, donning and disassembly
2. Predive safety check (BWRAF)
3. Deep-water entry
4. Buoyancy check at surface
5. Snorkel-regulator/regulator-snorkel exchange
6. Five-point descent
7. Regulator recovery and clearing
8. Mask removal, replacement and clearing
9. Air depletion exercise and alternate air source use (stationary)
10. Alternate air source-assisted ascent
11. Free-flowing regulator breathing
12. Neutral buoyancy
13. Five-point ascent
14. Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent
15. Hover motionless for 30 seconds
16. Underwater swim without a mask
17. Remove and replace weight system underwater
18. Remove and replace scuba unit underwater
19. Remove and replace scuba unit on the surface
20. Remove and replace weight system on the surface
21. Vertical, head first skin dive
22. Swim at least 15 metres/50 feet underwater on a single breath while skin diving.
23. Snorkel clear using the blast method after ascending from a skin dive.
24. Snorkel clear using the displacement method after ascending from a skin dive.

We split the skills into 2 pool sessions.  While we (the DMTs) all knew how to do these skills, it was another experience to demonstrate them clearly.  I kept doing the skills to fast, and got dinged for it. Slower. no, Slower. Slower. SLOWER…. perfect!

The best tip I can tell others is to slow down, exaggerate, and practice a lot before the evaluation is given.

Overall, this was one of the most beneficial and fun times during the divemaster program at Dive.Is. After the sessions, I wanted to go slow and over demonstrate everything.  Do…. you…. want.. to eat? (insert hand signal for “You” and “eat”)

Click this link For more information on my ongoing divemaster experience at dive.is

Benefits of doing your DMT at Dive.Is – Dive Expeditions

Dive.Is Divemaster program advertises the “opportunity to join dive expeditions to a number of locations around the country.” Dive Expeditions (part of Dive.Is) organizes 3, 5, and 10 day tours around Iceland.

Recently a fellow DMT was able to go on a 5 day tour to the West Fjords and Northern Iceland.His trip included Strytan- the only location in the world where you can dive a Geothermal Chimney/cone.

Unfortunately for me- my program ends before the next trip starts.  (insert sad scuba tears here)

A note for future DMTs at Dive.Is!!!! Check the expeditions as soon as you arrive. I wasn’t informed about this experience until another DMT was on his trip.  By then, my DMT program only had less than 1 month left, and little time to join such a fun opportunity.

Here is a picture of instructor Patrik enjoying Strytan.

strytan geothermal cone

Strytan is the only geothermal cone found in the world you can scuba dive to, the others are found at 2000m or deeper.

Leading a Tour Group – nobody puts baby in the back

kleifervatn scuba 3This week has been a whole lot of diving. I went to Kleifarvatn again and had my first free flowing regulator problem, followed by a diver requiring to manual inflate his BCD and use my alternate air source.

Here’s what happened: The winds created a pretty strong current at the dive site. Patrik chose to swim diagonally past the exit point so that we could drift back to the shore. We were almost there when one diver floated to the top, then her husband went up to check on her. I came up as well to  make sure everything was ok.

At the surface his regulator started to free flow. I tried to turn it down and stop it, but was unsuccessful. The diver started to manually inflate his BCD. I came behind him and told him i was going to turn off his tank and turn it back on. Once back on, the pressure was almost NIL. I gave him my alternate air source while he leaned back to fight the waves and rest.

Patrik was with the other diver and then we all did a surface swim/ drift back to shore. Later I double checked with Patrik that I did everything correctly.

The good news is that everyone was safe and happy and I got to practice helping someone in distress solo.

The geothermal activity at Kleifervatn was above average. The visibility was also in our favor despite the wind.

The next day, I led our dive group (did the dive briefing and took photos).  There were minor problems for each dive…. preventing a diver from rapid ascent, loose weight belt, and a cranky dry suit hose, but nothing we couldn’t handle.

It’s finally happening! I’m finally becoming confident. I’m feel like I can help people. I’m less nervous and I’ve actually started enjoying the environment. I feel like a little caterpillar coming out of cocoon.  Where are my butterfly wings?

Now, if I can only get Patrik to come over and lift me like Patrick Swayze/ Jennifer Grey and dance  to “The Time of my Life” the scuba divemaster movie would be complete.

Assisting an Open Water Course in Iceland

open water ocean dive

In June 2010, I got my open water certification from Phil Rake. It was a fun experience and he even convinced me to do an advanced open water course three months later. My course consisted of two days in the office watching PADI videos followed by knowledge reviews, RDP tables and dive planning. After I completed the course work we went to the pool. The first day I floated for 10 minutes and then did a quick 200 yard swim. After I got out of the pool he went over the dive gear required and how to put everything together. I practiced a few times and made a log of all the equipment I would need to bring from the confined dive sessions.

The pool session (from what I remembered) was pretty quick. I think I did it all in one afternoon (max 4 hours). The only part I felt nervous and panicked was the underwater swim without a mask.
From my log book I saw that I did 4 open water dives at the same location (Redondo Beach). They were shore dives, each lasting 21 minutes. Dive info: 65 °F water temp, full 7mm wetsuit with hood, gloves and booties, shore dive, max depth 35ft, weighted 18lbs in salt water. He separated all the tasks pretty evenly so that I wasn’t more tired one day then the next. We used the parking meters- so I don’t think we could of been at the beach for more than 4 hours.

*****FLASH FORWARD TO OPEN WATER IN ICELAND*****
This time around I participated in the confined pool session, and open water dives day 1 and 2. The pool session lasted from 930am to 840pm. No joke! – (however, we did take a lunch break at 12:50pm).

Iceland may be the most difficult place to get an open water certification. The day started off with the student swimming for 10 minutes. Then they needed to dry off and put on a drysuit and snorkel for 300 yards with fins. Afterwards, their instructor, briefed them on dive 1 requirements and reviewed the diving activities. As a divemaster trainee, we were each assigned a student to monitor. We sat behind each student as they completed the task.

Dive 1 required the students to do a buddy check, clear a partial flooded mask, breathe an alternate air source from another diver, descend, use an SPG, demonstrate hand signals, ascend, snorkel, manually inflate a BCD. This took about 2 hours to complete.

One of the students asked me how much time was required for the rest of the day- I wrongly guessed about 3 hours. From my experience, my pool session was about 4 hours, this was about triple the time. I wonder if its because they had to do all tasks in a dry suit?

Dive 2- one of the students struggled with the snorkel to regulator task. This requires one to take a deep breathe from a regulator and then slowly breathe out while changing to a snorkel. When the snorkel is secured, they need to do a deep breathe outwards to clear the snorkel. What most people fear is sucking in water and drowning. After a few attempts, the student’s sinus started to clog and make her tear up. Eventually she couldn’t breathe out of here nose and had problems taking a deep enough breathe to clear the snorkel. During the break, I tried explaining to her what happened and that in this case, I would blow out all the “snot” from the nose and wait for your sinuses to clear before reattempting the task. However, she was already wet and frustrated and decided not to continue. I forgot to mention that during dive 1, she felt uncomfortable with the neck collar and asked for it to be removed. This caused her dry suit to leak and make her cold during the long 2 hour dive session. I really felt bad that she could not get her open water certification. I think she’s a great swimmer, very smart, and has the ability to get this certification. Maybe another time…

I would go into more detail on Dive 3-5…. but you get the idea. By 840pm, everyone had left the pool and the staff was washing the floors. We rushed to throw everything outside of the pool so that the staff could close by 9pm. I was exhausted, both mentally and physically.

The next day we went to Davidsgja for Open water Dive 1 and 2. It was another 14 hour day. We were at the dive site from 930am to 630pm. Logistically, I think Iceland may be short of open water dive sites. I was spoiled walking from a parking lot, down stairs, and doing a shore dive in California. These students had to gear up in the gravel and get up walk down a stoney path into a stoney lake and then do a surface swim for about 100-200 meters (at least). This dive site didn’t have a proper bathroom so I held “it” for the entire day. On top of that, my zipper wasn’t closed on dive 1, so I spent the entire day freezing in my drysuit. I tried to downplay it, but it wasn’t very nice to be wet through the undergarment, two layers of clothing and thermals. We had 3 women students and 1 male student. One of the women, tried to hold her pee….. but then couldn’t last the entire 10 hour day, and then had a mad panic to get out of the dry suit. I was left lugging her 18kg of weight and gear out of the stoney water. The good news is that she didn’t pee her self. The bad news is that afterwards the dive master trainees had to round up all the weights from the “emergency weight drop.”

Whining alert!! 2 of the 3 DMTS were wet. I was wet from an opened zipper and the other student was wet from the wrist seal (he wasn’t allowed tape). Then we had to run back and forth in the water fetching weights. All the while, we put on a HAPPY face because we didn’t want the students to feel bad. One of the students actually pulled the instructor aside and was concerned that one of the DMTs needed help.

I could go on and on about all the bad things that day… but then what good would that do anyone?

Seeing how this day went, I knew we were going to have a very long day for Dive 3 and 4.
For Dive 3 and 4, we ended up at Kleifarvatn. The same site Patrik took us for the Geothermal tour. Patrik had carried the tanks of the customers to the dive site. At the end of the day we floated the gear and walked back in the water. I made a suggestion that we float the gear in the water, but was denied. So instead, I decided to stay back and go last (so that I could float my gear). The site was rather difficult because we had the placement of the car 200meters away from the dive site. While trying to be helpful, us DMTs carried the weights to the dive site. But then, that led to the students partially gearing up in one spot, and then trying to remember if they had everything. We forgot one weight pockets out of the students for the first dive.

Then the other customers started to get really cold because they were at the surface for 30+ minutes while waiting for another student to do her scuba remove and replace requirement. I almost forgot to mention that while securing a buoy for the CESA task, my weight pocket fell out and then I had horrible ascent from 6m. I was really thankful that the other DMT bailed me out and helped me retrieve my weight pocket. Thank god for fellow DMTs.

After the dive, the DMTs had a conversation on we should do the gear, we suggested that we leave the gear and only carry tanks back. We got half way through before our instructor came out of the water and told us to leave everything. So after walking back we started carrying tanks from the car, and realized we were too tired to carry everything. So we decided to float the gear. That led to another mix up, half of the gear was at the site and the other was at the car.

The instructor gave a dive briefing to do the tasks, swim past the craters, 3 minute stop, then CESA. At least thats what I remember him saying. We did a surface swim for at least 15 minutes before descending. Then we swam to the craters. The students kept hitting the sides and finning onto the crater. I was exhausted swimming around and trying to keep them away from the site. I was really concerned about the dive site and if there would be damage to the craters. By the time we left the craters, there was about 1ft of visibility from all the silt kicked up.

At the end of the dive, one of students was only at 40bar. I’ve never been so happy that someone was in the “red zone” for air. That meant we had to stop. The day had to end. Thank god.

I hope I never have to participate in an open water dive course again. Maybe I will change my mind in a week or two. Or at least, I pray that I will change my mind.

Diving should be fun, not exhausting. I hope my honest review isn’t too scary for anyone thinking about doing the DMT thing. But I wish someone had told me about this earlier so I wouldn’t be so surprised courses could be like this. Maybe there is some way the program could be improved so that it doesn’t end up like this again.  Here’s hoping…

Being a Tourist in Iceland: Dogsledding Day!

dogsledding Iceland

Finally! A reason to take some time off from the internship. My sister and her BF have come to Iceland to visit. I started planning all the fun activities as quickly as I could. One awesome thing about Iceland is that the touring companies give out discounts to other companies’ employees. If I like the tour, I can recommend it to our customers as another activity to do.

In case you are wondering what awesome adventures you can do in Iceland, here’s what I have planned for my Sis:

Day 1: Pick up from Airport. Relax. Walk around the city, go to the Summer Festival. Eat at Icelandic Fish and Chips.

Day 2: Dogsledding on Langjökull glacier. Then take the 4×4 route to Thingvellier National Park. Go to Fontana (the real icelandic geothermal spa!)

Day 3: Puffin Tour in the morning, Laxness Horse Riding in the afternoon

Day 4: Big breakfast in town. Escape Room. Fishmarket, then Drinking at Fredrickson for the boot liters.  Meet the rest of Dive.Is staff. Party!

Day 5: DIY Golden Circle Tour. Snorkeling at Silfra.  Geysir. Gulfoss. Followed by the best restaurant in town – Grill Market.

Day 6: bye bye 🙁

There’s so many things I wish I could take them to if they had more time. Hopefully they like what I’ve organized and love Iceland as much as I do.

Its a Sad Bloody Rainy Day at Silfra

weather_iceland

Feels like 4°C. Brrrrr….

Today I worked the surface shift for about 12 hours. At Dive.Is, they have a position called “Surface shift.” Its a person that’s not getting into the water. The responsibility is to prepare the morning gear (get all the hoods and gloves for the day ready). Organize the dive site and prepare for the morning customers to arrive. Assist the dive and snorkel teams get ready to get into the water. Go to the entry point of the dive site and assist each customer by having them spit into their own masks and then rinsing them out, putting on the customer’s masks so that they fit properly, and strapping everyone’s fins on. I probably put on over a 100 pairs of fins during a shift.  It’s not the funnest shift to work, but its part of the whole learning experience. Here you learn how to fix stuff before someone gets into the water. Let’s say the regulator kept free flowing, well now you get to change the regulator out while the customer stands at the stairs. Its real “on the job training.”

Ok back to my rant of the day….. It was a really cold, windy and rainy day. My hang nails were at peak nastiness. Nothing could be done about them. At one point, I left a bloody mark on a customer’s cheek while assisting her with her mask and hood. It wasn’t that bad, but I was embarrassed that I got stuff on a customer.

At the end of the shift I couldn’t even unzip a guide’s drysuit. My hands and strength were just gone.

I’m glad that I’m experiencing all this as a trainee, I can’t imagine experiencing cold like this after working in dive industry for a bit.  It’s only going to get easier, right?

BIG Props to all the guides that did this throughout the winter.

Now…I can’t wait to go home and defrost for an hour or two.  Thanks to my app… I’m bloggin in the car 😉

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