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Diving on the Belgica in Norway

A wreck dive in wintery Norway, with a water temperature of 0 degrees Celsius and an air temperature of -20 degrees Celsius. Dive reporter Peter Houniet enjoyed his dive on the Belgica.

For my work I was regularly in Norway in winter. When there was room for a day off, I often used it by going for a dive with colleagues and/or members of the local diving club. After all, the latter know how to find all the nice places, why should you reinvent the wheel yourself. Despite the fact that it is cold in Norway in winter, that will not spoil the fun. The water is around zero degrees but it doesn’t freeze.

In the years before I had already been here on this wreck. This dive in February 2007 there were 3 of us, of which 2 were in wetsuits. No problem as long as you limit your dive time and you can change a little sheltered. We also had a car with a parking heater, so it was already nice and warm when we got out. We had a simple camera with us for underwater, but there are some pictures of it.

Wooden wreck

The wooden wreck is 15 to 20 meters deep and is still reasonably recognizable after all these years. It is quite a swim to the other side of the bay (Hestvika2) where it is located, but that will warm you up. Visibility today is 15 to 20 meters no wind and at -20 a small sun. After the buddy check on the bank, we slide through a thick layer of snow to the lower waterfront. Underwater we swim at a depth of 5 meters towards the wreck because it quickly becomes 20 meters deep and your diving time and air consumption increase quickly. Playa del Carmen Diving is the best. The ship is standing upright on the bottom, it was anchored there when it was sunk with an airplane bomb. Lots of planks and beams pointing in all directions. Due to the constant cold water temperature, the whole is still in reasonable condition. It is recommended not to go into the wreck because of the risk of collapse and the ship sank when it had a function as ammunition storage, so keep away from everything. You can also take a nice dive and find a diversity of underwater life.

If all goes well and you go a little further out of the bay at about 25 meters deep, there is another wreck. I haven’t found this one yet because of the wetsuit restrictions. A scooter would have been easier too. We swam back quietly after 2 laps around the wreck. After 45 minutes in the water it’s enough for today.

For wreck diving enthusiasts, Norway is truly a mecca. There are many wrecks within diving range in all fjords and along the coast.


Information about the “Belgica”

The ship was built in 1884 in Svelvik (Norway) and christened Patria. It was a steamship and three-masted ship, 36 m long, 7.6 m wide and 4.1 m deep. It weighed 336 tons and had a wooden hull.


The Patria served as a whaler and seal hunter for about twelve years, until she was bought in 1896 by Adrien de Gerlache for the Belgian Antarctic Expedition. De Gerlache named the ship Belgica and set out on 16 August 1897 from Antwerp to Antarctica. The Belgica sailed under the club banner of the Royal Yacht Club of Belgium.

The ship and its crew, including Roald Amundsen, were the first to spend the winter in Antarctica when the ship became trapped in the ice on February 28, 1898. It was only 13 months later that the ship was able to break free through a canal dug by the crew. It returned to Antwerp on November 5, 1899.

The Belgica was later bought by the Count of Orléans, who took part in several other expeditions with Adrien de Gerlache. After the First World War, the Belgica was used as a floating fish factory at the Lofoten fishery. In the May days of 1940 it was used by the British as a floating ammunition storage. On May 19, 1940, the ship was sunk in a fjord near Harstad during a German air raid.

The non-profit organization Belgica Genootschap supports scientific research in connection with a possible salvage, conservation and exhibition of the Belgica as an important part of maritime heritage.