The Iceberg - The Reykjavik Grapevine

The Iceberg

The Iceberg

Published July 22, 2005

After an hour of photographing, I was welcomed back to the boat, though we had to stop again as Helvítis got out to stand in the shallows and take a few more photos of the boat.

“So you’re all professional divers?” I asked as we headed back to open water.

“No. No I started diving when I was 14. In 1984. They didn’t have any rules back then,” Helvítis said.

“And is he a full-time diving instructor,” I asked about Instructor.

“No. You can’t be a full-time instructor in Iceland,” Helvítis said, then pointed us toward an iceberg. “We’re going to head out to this iceberg. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime dive.”

Cold as I was, I realized I had no story as of yet, and no photos, so I acquiesced. Yes, a diver in front of a massive iceberg might be impressive.

After 90 minutes of extremely rough riding, we were stationed beneath the iceberg. In fact, we were stationed a good deal closer than prudence would allow. “You know, pieces of ice break off these things,” I pointed out.

The point I made was immediately repeated in Icelandic to a laugh. Then, a few minutes later, Helvítis quietly backed us away a little.

We had a brief consultation about what might make a good photo, and the divers jumped in. Instructor and the photographer, with Helvítis manning the engine to keep the boat a safe distance from the iceberg.

“It’s all freshwater here, because so much water is melting off the iceberg,” the photographer shouted. And then he and Instructor disappeared.

I reached my body over the boat to taste the water. “It’s just salt water.”

Helvítis checked. “Yeah. You have to be an experienced diver to taste the difference.”

“Helvítis! Helvítis!” We heard, suddenly.

It was our photographer. He lunged his way onto the raft.

“There is a problem with the camera,” Helvítis told me. And the members of the crew began a frantic round of battery swapping.

“There won’t be any photos?”

There followed twenty minutes of frantic battery swapping. Finally, the photographer conceded, in Icelandic under the assumption that I didn’t understand the language, that there had been nothing wrong with the camera or battery. He and Instructor returned to the water briefly.

At this point, honestly, my notes get sketchy. My hands, frozen and experiencing their sixth hour at sea, can no longer grip the pen. I have written something about the computer on Helvítis’s arm, which he says detects gas levels in his blood. I have written that he gave up on diving ten years ago, but returned to go on adventures when he and the Instructor bought this boat. There is also mention of guaranteed copies of the Iceland Review to the owners of Hindisvík, who don’t want anyone disturbing the seals, but who feel the farm, if respected, could be a decent resource.

Then the divers returned and Helvítis was donning his gear again. Shaking, he chugged down half a litre of juice and inhaled a sandwich.

“He has diabetes,” the photographer told me. And, seconds later, Helvítis was in the water. And then he disappeared.

“You are an accomplice to manslaughter,” is written in my notebook, repeatedly, in shaky handwriting.

I remember looking at the water trying to find bubbles, but noticing only the bright blue jellyfish that surrounded the iceberg.

An hour later, after Helvítis has appeared, healthy, and after we had raced back to land without securing the tanks, so that we heard loud hissing over many of the pronounced jolts as the raft bounced from one wave to the next. After we were back on dry land, and I was helping to pay for gas, Helvítis recounted, again, how his interest in diving had faded once.

“I even stopped diving in 94, but then we got this boat. Now we can go on adventures. There’s an island south of Iceland, Hæna, do you know it?”

“No.”

“Well, it’s a very small island with very steep cliffs. But we’re the only group we know of to have dived there,” he told me. “You know, maybe you could do a story about the iceberg. Along with the seal piece.”


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