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Andrey Matveenko. Freediving under the ice of the White Sea, April 2019

Freediving CWT under ice, depth reached: 76.7 m (251 ft)
water temperature: -2C (28.5 F)
date: April 9, 2019
place: White Sea, offshore in front of Nilmoguba, Russia
freediver: Andrey Matveenko

A freediving documentary about Natalia Molchanova was made by Russia Today Channel. The crew learned and liked our sport and in 2017 they approached me with a project about freediving under arctic ice. Since it all looked very far away, and since my teammate Tatiana Zemskikhenthusiastically pushed me, I ended up by agreeing. In 2018 filming was endlessly postponed. We never could find a mutual opening in our busy schedules. And suddenly it all accelerated into reality in 2019 and here we are gathering equipment and traveling to Karelia to the "The Arctic Circle Dive Centre and Lodge" and being welcomed there by our friend Konstantin Novikov. 

The filming script remained a bit of a mystery for me, but the main action was clear: the protagonist has to freedive deep into ice-covered sea. If possible, deeper than any freediver ever. Facebook searches revealed the deepest ice-dive was 75 m or 246 ft, so I decided to go deeper. 5 days were available for on-site training. I did 4 dives and kept one day-off for recovery:
day 1 - 40 m
day 2 - 58 m
day 3 - rest
day 4 - 69.5 m
day 5 - 76.7 m (251 ft)

Only this last dive was somehow difficult because of the weather, ending up though to be a perfect success. 

Apart from the deep dives, there were also plenty of underwater takes. The resulting film should be aired in two or three months. I am very curious to see it. Shots should be beautiful. 

The 76 m dive did not felt as a big deal. Mostly technical issues had to be solved at each step of progressing towards the fifth day. It should be possible to go deeper with more training days and a better technical preparation. May be I will give it another try one day, or may be not :--) 

The dive conditions were ideal. Константин Новиков (Konstantin Novikov) and the Туристический центр "Полярный Круг" ("The Arctic circle" PADI dive centre and lodge) team provided us with the best comfort. I believe it was word class and possibly the best and safest place for diving under ice. 

Lessons learned: 
1. wetsuit hood seal around the face should be modified in order to reduce pressure on the cheeks and allow more air into the mouthfill for equalization;
2. I should have brought MY own monofin;
3. should have chosen thinner socks and gloves; eventually a thinner neoprene should also be glued into calves and forearms areas of the wetsuit;
4. need a better clamp for the head flashlight (Игорь Мигунов (Igor Migunov) suggested a good option);
5. more workouts for strength and speed and willpower when preparing for such dives;
6. need more experiments with cold-protective creams for the face areas in direct contact with cold water;
7. some face-into-cold-water training one or two weeks before going into the Arctic;

Overall this adventure gave me plenty of new experiences and emotions. Big thanks first of all to Tatiana Zemskikh, she practically forced me into this project, and she was my safety in all the dives. Thanks to the whole team of Russia Today, and especially to Лидия Василевская (Lidia Vasilevskaya) and Artem Somov and Сим Фёдоров (Sim Fedorov). Thank you Konstantin Novikov for impeccable logistics and organization of the dives and for being my safety. Thanks to all guys and girls from Arctic Circle Dive Center for making us feeling at home, for the comfort and for your cordial welcome. 
Михаил Сафонов (Michael Safonov) for most interesting lectures. 
Molchanovs for the 7-mm wetsuit. 
Alexey Lobanov for the fins. 
Сергей Боговин Sergey Bogovin for your help and support.
Вадим Шестаченко (Vadim Shestachenko) for your professionalism.
My team Команда котиков Sealteam freediving.
And biggest thanks to all who supported and who still care about us. 

Photo credits: Lidia Vasilevskaya and Vadim Shestachenko


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