Prepping for Elysium Arctic Expedition

September 30, 2014

In late August, early September my husband and I took a short flight from Wroclaw, Poland (where we currently live) to the Tri-City up along the Baltic Sea. We had always heard great things about the region however after living in Poland for a year and a half we somehow still hadn’t made it up there. With Santi as one of the equipment sponsors for an upcoming expedition to the Arctic, and with their headquarters so close by in Gdynia, we decided to make our way north to personally place our dry suit orders. Flying in on Saturday afternoon and leaving Monday evening we had roughly 48 hours to see the highlights of the three cities (Sopot, Gdansk, & Gdynia) and get fitted for our first drysuits. It was a hectic but exciting trip!Santi Drysuit Headquarters

Santi Drysuits Headquarters

We had a hotel booked in Sopot since it is situated between Gdansk and Gdynia, and quickly realised it is the heart and soul of the Tri-City. The salty air, long expanse of the sandy shore and wide array of seaside restaurants provided a nice break from landlocked Wroclaw. With Europe’s longest boardwalk just outside of our hotel, I must admit it felt as if I was back at home along the Eastern Seaboard. The three cities were definitely worth the visit and from what we learned there are some really cool wreck dives along the coast. Since the Baltic isn’t known for its warm temperatures we would first need some drysuits before getting involved with any cold water diving.

Monday morning, once inside Santi’s headquarters we were immediately impressed with both the hospitality and layout of the office/workshop. The atmosphere was very welcoming and also visually pleasing. Highly saturated diving images and graffiti art were splashed across the white walls while a large assortment of dive gear seemed to be calling out to us.

Santi HeadquartersSanti Headquarters

The first order of business was the measurements and there were many. This was our first time ordering dry suits and we were probably a bit too particular but they are really too expensive to have mistakes made. It was an interesting and rather warm experience as we layered ourselves in to thermals, heated vests, under suits and then the outer shells. Surely I would be warm in the Arctic but once everything was on I struggled to understand how exactly I was supposed to move; let alone dive and photograph in such an alien environment. If you’d like to learn more about the upcoming expedition, Artists for the Arctic; click here: http://www.elysiumepic.underwaterartists.com

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Malta: Dry Suit Diving

April 22, 2014

One of the first steps in preparing for an underwater expedition next summer in the Arctic is getting acquainted with a type of exposure suit that will keep me warm and dry in one of the most extreme places on the planet. Having only been scuba diving in warm, tropical destinations I’ve only ever needed a wetsuit. So I wasn’t sure what to expect when it comes to drysuits. But I do know that if I want to dive in the Arctic, getting drysuit certified is obligatory.

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Arriving in Malta for Easter weekend, I made my way over to the dive shop, Divewise, in St. Julian’s Bay. I spent some time diving with them back in September and felt confident that I’d be in the best hands on the island. Viv and Jacques (the dog) are quite welcoming and quickly get things sorted for the course. I’m given a new Otter dry suit to try on and while getting my head through the latex seal was much more difficult than I anticipated, I like the look and feel of the red and black suit. I slightly feel like an astronaut; especially after I learn that the zipper on the suit traces its roots back to the space program’s need for a water/airtight seal. I’ve certainly never seen a similar zipper anywhere before.

As I took my first steps into the chilly 16C Mediterranean Sea, I quickly realized the importance of the undergarments I had on below the shell of my dry suit. Ultimately these undergarments are where the warmth comes from as the shell itself simply keeps the water out. Adding air to the suit will also provide necessary insulation between your body and the cold water.

Walking farther out my legs experienced their first suit squeeze which would only be released once I descended and made my way into a horizontal position. But getting myself into a horizontal position was dreadful as it meant my face needed to be in the water. To be honest, I couldn’t help but think to myself what the hell am I doing as I sunk below the surface. It was damn cold! What’s worse was that I was trying to asses just how much more uncomfortable 0C would feel in the Arctic. I was covered from head to toe (albeit a few exposed areas on my cheeks and forehead) and I was shocked at how cold it felt.

Some time passed and the water temperature finally faded to the back of my mind as I performed the required skill sets of the course in some incredible visibility. Along the way I met an adorable little octopus who was quite perturbed by our presence and even though he squirted ink at me several times I still enjoyed running into him. Unfortunately, my GoPro was back at the dive shop so I’ll have to remember him the old-fashioned way.

Having completed the certification with only some very minor hiccups I still think I have a long way to go before the Arctic trip. Next up on the list is getting a minimum of twenty dives in water temperatures below 10C and getting fitted for my own aquanaut suit!! Stay tuned!