Drift Between Two Continental Plates: Diving Silfra

Drift Between Two Continental Plates: Diving Silfra

 Scuba diving Silfra could be Iceland’s best kept secret, the only place in the world where you can scuba between two continental plates. DIVE.IS took us out for the day and showed us a new way to explore Iceland and what life was like submerged between North America and Eurasia.


It had been a breathless morning with sunshine spiking from the clouds in sporadic and playful attempts to touch its own reflection. Beside us, Iceland’s largest lake looked purely at peace, not the least bit disturbed by the enormous rift wall flanking it western shores. Dark and menacing, the rock face of this Almannagja ridge scars the ground for 2km. It is an obvious sign that this North American tectonic plate has had some rivalry with its Eurasian counterpart. Trying to focus on dive briefings and equipment, it was tough not to lose yourself amongst the stark natural beauty surrounding us. Our dive site in Thingvellir National Park was obviously somewhere very special.


Helping the team to pull and push their way into their drysuits, Chris had remained enthusiastic, it was obvious that our dive guide loved this place. I had been turned into a bubble of air, air that would keep me warm in 2Degree water. With in-built boots, my sock covered toes wiggle about contentedly and I began to feel invincible to cold water. After applying a nifty neck strap, we had quite literally sealed the deal, my body would be staying dry. As for my face and hands, thick neoprene would have to do its best.


Diving Iceland, Silfra Fissure, scuba diving, explore Iceland


I’m the last diver to descend towards Silfra, the name given to the crack that fills the void between two walls of volcanic rock and two tectonic plates. The first couple have already entered the water and next it’s Prue’s turn. One by one we are plunging into ancient glacial water, after having been filtered by porous volcanic rock, it has flowed towards the surface from an underground well to join Thingvallavatn Lake. 30 years of filtration makes the water of this Silfra stream the purest water on Earth: so pure you can drink it from the surface, so pure it boasts the World’s best underwater visibility. In spite of my enthusiasm and heavy scuba gear, I am slightly hesitant to accompany the others, the water might be pure but it is near freezing.


I bite the bullet and my regulator and take the plunge, not a heroic stride but a rather haphazard ‘my face isn’t wet yet’ wallow into deeper water. Any second now I am due a brain freeze but when Chris asks us to do a weight check I am more than ready to get going. What hits me first is hard to say, the cold seeping in around my face or the striking tunnel of excruciatingly blue water. Both catch my breath and I have to remind myself to breathe, to keep my buoyancy and when all is settled, to swim.


Diving Silfra, scuba diving


Kicking gently between the bold edges of the canyon, I am continually in awe of being submerged between the North American and Eurasian continental plates. Block-like walls, as if carelessly stacked upon each other rise from the canyon floor as deep as 40metres. The slice of water separating the two land masses is a rainbow of blues, from turquoise to navy making the moment not only momentous but spellbinding. Dark caverns linger off the channel and through the surface above our heads, the rippling shadows of the gorge continue their mighty ascent. Everything is peaceful. Aside from us and a gentle urging current there is not a breath of movement. Algae lines the monumental walls, when disrupted they create a fleeting cloud of fog that reduces the 80m visibility. I remain careful not to touch the sides although the desire to connect the rift between Europe and North America with my fingers is very tempting. We wouldn’t notice it of course but these gigantic columns are drifting apart 1.5cm every year, proof that our World is ever changing. Our scenery also begins to change, the jagged rocky bottom takes on a beige hue. Making a steady incline with the sand from the area known as the cathedral, we cross from the volcanic gorge into a blue lagoon, a crystal clear pool and captivating finale of our dive.


You don’t get many mornings that are this good!



Diving Silfra, scuba diving





DIVE.IS conduct snorkel and dive safaris of Silfra from Reykjavík. Check out their Diving Silfra day trip or visit www.dive.is for an overview of diving adventures throughout Iceland.





Return to our destination guide:  ‘Explore Iceland’





Written by

Rebecca Mayoll is a ‘just turned 30’ freelance writer and photographer from England. She is the co-founder and author of straightondetour.com, a travel website with the mantra ‘find your own adventure.’ Promoting adventurous destinations, independent travel and giving a humorous insight to the World of travel is what Becky does best.


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Hi we're Prue and Becks, travel writers and photographers who have been travelling the world together since 2012. Without taking ourselves too seriously, we divulge the lesser known, out of the way places and give you the tools to replicate it. Want to know more? Click on our pic.