Diving in Antarctica, Gear Choices & Packing – by Sue Crowe
We are following Sue Crowe as she is getting ready for her diving expediton in Antarctica. Sue is an experienced diver who has explored the waters of may exotic destinations around the world. Diving in Antarctica has been her dream for many years and now it will finally come true! But where do you start if you want to go diving in Antarctica? Sue explains how she chose her diving gear and packed for this unique adventure.
Sue: “Having decided on equipment 3 years ago, before COVID, and being prevented from travelling at the last minute, the intervening years have seen a few changes. For a start, I needed to buy a new dry suit and get used to it! One very big change, plus a change of undergarments. So here are the final decisions on dive gear to pack.
My most important consideration, whilst this trip is a lifetime dream of mine, most of my diving is in temperate or warmer waters around Australia. So when, 3 years ago, I decided to upgrade my equipment, I looked for a system I could adapt to more extreme environments, but, which essentially, would carry me through the majority of my diving. Apart from obvious pieces for seriously cold environments, like dry gloves and a 10mm hood, most of my new equipment can now accommodate any future dive training or situation I choose to do.
In the end, I settled on Halcyon Dive Systems because:
- I had used and liked it during training. It is comfortable and fully adaptable.
- It is readily available in Australia for ongoing servicing, spare parts etc – some other very good brands, like OMS, are not.
- I requested and received for my birthday a heated vest. I’m told this is a gamechanger, not simply for places like Antarctica but winter diving and when under water for a along time.
Specific Antarctic Regulator set up
Waterproof Expeditions has been excellent at providing all the information I need to prepare. I asked how the regulators were set up and this is the diagram.
Normal regulators will not function in polar water as both the first and second stage will freeze. Therefor I need to bring two sets of freeze-protected regulators, first stage and second stage (including hoses).
Weights will be provied on board, as well as 12 liter steel tanks, with DIN and Yoke (INT) adaptable connections and two separate outlets.
Now I simply have to take my split regulators for a dive and see how I get on!
You don’t have to wear dry gloves (I do also have a backup pair of 3-finger gloves with me), but it was highly advised. If you are like me, with sinewy wrists, dry gloves prevent leakage up the wrist seals … something I was keen to avoid in such cold water. My new dry suit needed a new dry glove system (of course!) but they were easy to adapt and the new system, the Waterproof Ultima is super simple. Far better than the old one!
Final Weight Testing
Because I don’t wear this amount of underwear and equipment normally, it was important to do a weight test prior to leaving. I wanted to only be tweaking weight – not trying to work it out. I had the original weight but because I had changed suits etc. I needed to be sure.
Weight testing and preparation is tough in 29 Celsius! But what choice is there? So, I put everything on – all the underwear, heated vest, 7mm hood (I’m keeping the 10mm aside) – sweated away and hopped in. It was not a long dive – just enough to get comfortable and move around. Here we go, have a laugh!
Time to start packing for Antarctica!
I’ve been collecting gear for Antarctica for over 7 years!! I bought an ice-rated regulator when I first hoped to travel and it’s been sitting on the shelf ever since. Shiny and new, it’s finally going to get properly dunked in the cold waters it was designed for. This year I got a heated vest for my birthday (thanks girlfriends!). All my diving gear is coming with me to Antarctica. The only things provided on board are the tanks and weights.
How did I start the packing process?
Waterproof Expeditions provides an excellent and comprehensive packing and checklist for polar travel, which was invaluable. Firstly I made a list of my own based on theirs and split it into sections;
- Dive Gear
- Dive Underwear/Thermals (they advise taking at least 2 sets)
- General clothes inc. waterproof pants and jacket
- Jackets, gloves, glove liners and beanies etc
- Boots/footwear (rubber boots are supplied on the ship)
- Camera gear
- Final checklist – passport / paperwork / transfers etc
Then I got everything out and laid it all on the bed in piles (there was a lot!). Dive and camera gear are not optional and so, when I needed to reduce weight (and I did!) it was in general clothing, shoes and toiletries areas. I did a first general pack, here it is in fast motion:
In the end, because the dive equipment is so bulky, I needed to use large bags with less in each bag to be able to distribute the weight effectively.
Tips for packing
Lesson 1: Luggage allowance
Check the luggage allowance with ALL the airlines you’re travelling on! On my flights I could take 2 x 30kg bags as far as Santiago. Then 2 x 23kg bags to Buenos Aires. But the local Argentine airlines Latam and Aerolineas Argentinas only allowed 1 x 15kg bag. Oops! Plus, when flying from Buenos Aires, if your bags weigh more than 23kg they ship them cargo, good bye bags!
Ultimately I decided to go for 2 x 23 kg bags and pay excess for the last leg. With all the diving equipment and clothes for 2 weeks, it’s a big ask. Not the space, the weight!
It’s worth checking the bag status and keep it in mind when buying a ticket.
Lesson 2: Repack – weigh, repack – weigh, repack – weigh
There was no wiggle room on the baggage weight, so I had to trim down on thermals, clothes and shoes. After what seemed like endless packing and discarding, I finally got the weight down to 22.8kg each bag plus a backpack for batteries and personal items (which also weighed a lot!). Packing was stressful and I”ll be interested to see if I’ve actually packed what i need. If you’ve never been somewhere, it’s very hard to get it exactly right.”
Ready to go diving in Antarctica yourself?
This ‘bucket list’ trip is available for advanced cold water divers! Even for the most experienced divers this is truly a unique experience. You will see amazing ice formations and marine life seemingly from another planet.
We will advise you about the possible trips and which ship would be the best suitable option for you.