Extreme Ironing Under Ice

Note: I did this ice dive in 2003, and submitted this report to the Extreme Ironing Bureau. It featured in the Extreme Ironing record book.

Map of the location in relation to the Great Lakes
This event combines the best of art, technology, and extreme sport. I am spending this winter in Wisconsin, and so I travelled north to a flooded quarry in a remote part of the state. The nearest "town" is called Amberg. It lies at one end of the peninsular that separates Lake Superior from Lake Michigan. There isn't much there until you reach the Canadian border at Sault Sainte Marie.

Anyhow, my project has been to saw a hole in the ice, scuba dive under it with the appropriate gear, harness, and surface support team, and iron my shirt on the ice sheet above me. The iron was a Black & Decker Quick 'n' Easy 410, and the board was a wooden frame around which the shirt was buttoned. Thus, when placed against the ice above me, I effectively combined the ice sheet with the frame into an ironing board. As you can see, this study makes the artistic statement that the technology of ironing should meld with Nature herself.

Sawing a hole in the ice
After arriving at the quarry we cleared the ice of snow and commenced sawing a triangular hole. An old-style lumber saw (here shown point first in the snow behind the hole) was used for the first edge but we found it was much more effective to use a chain saw, which we used to complete the other two sides. We also shovelled some radial lines from the hole. This meant that if the divers - myself and the photographer - became separated from our tether ropes, we could see the bright lines above us and follow them back to our entry point.
Ready to ice dive
Equipment included a vulcanised rubber drysuit and gloves, thermal undergarment, buoyancy compensator with tank and "pony" (emergency bail-out) bottle, harness and line, mask and fins, shears for cutting away any entanglements, compass, hoses and gauges, and 22 pounds of lead shot. Obviously there was no need for a snorkel.
Under the ice, commencing to iron, with some trout watching
Once in the hole I placed the frame, with the shirt around it, against the lower surface of the ice and commenced ironing. The fish above us are trout - there were about a dozen of them that were attracted by the activity. Our tether ropes are shown at right, leading back to the hole, and at lower right you can see the slab of ice that we cut out and nudged under the sheet. You can see it floating against the underside of the surface. I was careful to replace the slab afterwards, since deer are in the area and we didn't want them falling in. The ice is about 14 inches thick. 
Ironing a shirt underneath the ice sheet
These pictures give a better view of the iron itself. You can just make out the wooden frame inside the shirt. Visibility underwater was crystal clear - you could see about a hundred feet.
Frozen shirt after ironing
Brrr! This is the shirt after ironing. Due to the rapid formation of ice crystals, the shirt freezes in a few seconds. If you are quick enough you can stretch it into shape properly. I wasn't!


Team Credits: Thanks to Kevin Beck for taking the underwater photographs; Green Bay Scuba for organising the logistics and surface support at Amberg; The Underwater Connection of Milwaukee for the practice ice dives at Lannon Quarry; and the Urge to Submerge dive club and Diver's Delight of West Bend for the test run at Wallace Lake

Get me out of here