That just doesn’t seem like a good idea. Way to cold. Hypothermia could be a huge problem right? Not if you’re adequately equipment for snorkeling during the summer with water temps around 50 degrees F. We’ve been snorkeling in the Caribbean several times along with Hawaii and loved it so when the opportunity to snorkel in Alaska came up, we took it. Sure, being cold while doing this was a concern but full wetsuits were provided and I’ve been swimming in water that cold before and survived. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for our entire family to compare snorkeling in Alaska to the Caribbean. We did this through Snorkel Alaska in Ketchikan. Our adventure began just after six in the morning. As you can see in the photo below, the sun was close to the horizon as the day was beginning.
First off, protection against the cold water is required and 7mm thick wetsuits were provided. They work by trapping a thin layer of water between you and the wetsuit and that water is warmed by your body. In order for this to happen cold water from the water you are swimming in needs to enter the wetsuit. My expectation was to have a cold water shock for a short time. What actually happened was feeling cool water for a second or two before it warmed to body temp and remained warm for the duration of the snorkeling experience.
I often forgot that we were in cold Alaskan waters because almost everything was covered by the full wetsuit or the mask and snorkel. There was a small section of my face exposed to the water and that is the only way I cold compare the ocean water temp to my wetsuit temp and I had to concentrate a few times in order to feel the cold water. Otherwise I didn’t even notice. The most difficult part about snorkeling in Alaska is putting on the wetsuit. Imagine putting on a pair of leather pants about two sizes too small and you’ll get the idea.
Once in the water there were amazing kelp beds and sea stars of varying shapes, sizes, and colors all around. After the entire group was swimming comfortably our dive instructors began bringing up animals from the bottom and providing interesting information about each one. Most of them ended up in our hands for a minute or two before being put back where they were found. It was nice to be able to see these because the water clarity was not great on this day and it was mostly cloudy so not as much light was available to penetrate deeper into the water. We were able to see about 10 feet under the surface before losing visibility.
These dive instructors were the best I’ve been with. Always helping and showing us different highlights with great enthusiasm and energy. What was even more impressive about these instructors is this was the last few days of August and they had been doing this same adventure all summer. Most people seem to tire of giving the same tour day in and day out over several months. If these instructors were tired of this excursion, they didn’t let it show.
During our time in the water two Bald Eagles joined us and watched as we moved around in the water. That really added to the overall experience. I’ve never been observed by an Eagle at such close distances before. Soon it was time to get out of the water and head back to our cruise ship. I was amazed just how short this time seemed. It felt like we were in the water for less than 30 minutes. We used a GoPro camera to record the event and when I went back over the video we were actually in the water for over an hour. Unfortunately the camera direction was adjusted during the swim by a nearby fin so the video doesn’t really show much. I could have used another hour just to continue exploring these Alaskan waters.