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April 14, 2011


BY: Gorka Leclercq


© OCEANA Carlos Minguell


Today they sound the reveille at half past six; I go up on deck to see what the weather is like, because we will be diving at 8.00 A.M.

I decide to go back inside the boat to have breakfast, because with the fog outside and the temperature only being two degrees, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

After “stuffing our faces” at breakfast, using the dive as an excuse, we equip ourselves with the thermal clothing, two pairs of socks, the drysuit underwear and the drysuit (we bear more resemblance to the “Michelin Man” than divers).

We launch the two tyres onto the water and we load them with our cameras and equipment and we head to the diving point. We are in “Kopparstenarne”, a marine reserve which is in Sweden’s territorial waters.

We carry out the dive outside the boundaries of the reserve because our permits are currently being processed and we do not want to break any laws which forbid diving in the area.

We zip up the drysuits, carefully checking that not a single drop of water can get in anywhere because in this area, with temperatures close to freezing, any potential entry of water could cause us series problems.

The final piece of equipment has to be placed on us by the boatman; with the gloves we are wearing being so thick it is almost impossible to fasten the clasps and Velcro fastenings on our jackets or to adjust our drysuit hoses.

Without giving it too much thought, we dive into the water and we descend 18 metres along the anchor line. The temperature is freezing, and I inflate my drysuit as much as possible so that this icy water is as far as possible from my body and in order to maintain my body temperature as much as possible.

Although the water is a greenish colour, visibility is not too bad, and I soon realise why: my safety diver, Jesús Molino, has to collect samples of sand from the seabed so that they can be analysed on board. When he tries to collect them “by hand”, he realises that the sand is as hard as stone… what the devil is going on here?

We look at our dive computer and we realise why: the temperature of the water is -1°C!! The sand is frozen so it is as hard as stone. The temperature is the reason for the seabed sediment not lifting and for visibility being “good”.

The seabed is full of horse mussels (Modiolus modiolus), among them I manage to film a couple of bullrouts (Myoxocephalus scorpius), some brown algae and some spawn which we will try to identify on board after the dive.

 We have been on the seabed for 25 minutes and although the drysuit and thermal clothing insulate us quite well from the cold, I can barely feel my fingers and I have to put the camera on automatic mode because I am incapable of operating the buttons on the casing.

 After gesturing to Jesús, I tell him it is time to go back up. On other occasions it is the amount of air in the bottle or the depth which limits our diving, in these waters it is the cold that makes you come up before you normally would.

 Our dives for the Oceana campaigns normally last for an hour; in the Baltic we plan our dives so that they only last for half that time.

 After reaching the surface, all we do is float, facing upwards, so that the boatman can remove our equipment, because we are incapable of doing so ourselves, and quickly get onto the boat to have something warm and put on dry clothing; there is not time to lose because we have scheduled several dives for today. Fortunately they will be carried out by the ROV, and that does not feel the cold.