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I swam in Iceland’s icy cold Silfra Fissure and lived to tell the tale

Iceland Landscape

I’ve always been the daring type, but as I stand knee-deep in glacial water no warmer than 2°C I do begin to question my sanity. This is Iceland’s Silfra Fissure, a crack in the Earth’s crust northeast of Reykjavik that marks the divide between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates…

And I’m about to snorkel in it.

The volcanic ground surrounding me is coated in thick snow and an Arctic wind is whipping up a bone-chilling temperature. A dry suit keeps my body from feeling the chill, but my hands and face have lost all sensation. So much so, that I struggle to press ‘record’ on the GoPro I’ve brought along to capture the experience. Any logical person would scuttle back to the heated van for a hot chocolate, but no, something makes me press on. Could it be insanity?

A sharp intake of breath marks my leap into the water. Instantly struck by the clarity, it’s easy to forget about it’s temperature (albeit the adrenaline helps). Through my snorkel I can see scuba divers in the distance dancing in a blue dream-world, being gently carried down the fissure by a soft current. The water, which melted from the Lángjökull glacier 30-100 years ago, has been filtered through lava, which leaves it the purest of the pure.


Snorkelling along the fissure towards the Silfra Lagoon, I can see at least 100m ahead and 45m below, which is the entire depth of the fissure. The rocks on either side are grey-brown and blocky – you can almost imagine matching them up from one side to the other like a jigsaw – and icicles hang from them above the water’s surface. By the time I reach the lagoon it’s getting choppy and harder to swim, but that doesn’t detract from the crystal clear underwater world. Reaching full insanity, or so I think, I choose to stay in the 2°C water for a little longer to explore every nook and cranny of the turquoise lagoon.

There’s something about travelling that makes pushing your mind and body to their limits and your logic to the side unquestionably sane. And that, to me, is what makes it so addictive. So next time you’re faced with a crazy challenge, I say, say ‘yes’ without question.

Now, where’s that hot chocolate?


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