Gaggenau: What can you tell us about ice-diving?
FG: Cold-water diving is very challenging. The groups we take out are mostly experienced divers [an Advanced Open Water PADI is required] and we dive under the ice with rope because if the current suddenly comes, it can be very dangerous. If we have less experienced divers we start them off in the open water, and once they’re comfortable we’ll take them to other places where they can dive under the ice.
Gaggenau: Baffin Island is the land of the Inuits. How much contact do you have with the locals?
FG: A lot. In many ways my role is acting as a conduit between our guests and the Inuit. The Inuit are very quiet people. They have incredible knowledge of the land from their fathers and their grandfathers before them. I’ve been living here for five years but I’ll never have the amount of knowledge they have. Mostly they fish and they hunt and they can teach us so much about that, but they are also so enthusiastic about diving because that’s new for them. They help us to find entry points that are safe. Their knowledge of the ice is essential when it comes to picking our dive locations.
Gaggenau: What are biggest dangers when it comes to diving under the ice?
FG: Well, first of all it’s the gear. Having the right gear. Then it comes down to experience. We always have an Inuit guide with us so we have the best local knowledge possible. Walrus and polar bears can be very dangerous. Some walrus eat seals and their eyesight isn’t very good, so my main fear is that a diver will be mistaken for a seal.
Gaggenau: What kind of accommodation does Arctic Kingdom provide?
FG: We have a base camp set up in the middle of the sea ice with yurts and a dining room. It’s not luxury like on an African safari but we have showers, fireplaces and heating. Our guests are always surprised by how comfortable it is.