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Too Many Tourists Visit Silfra

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Too Many Tourists Visit Silfra

Silfra in Þingvellir

Silfra, Þingvellir National Park. Photo: Sverrir H. Geirmundsson.

There have been instances of people fainting while waiting their turn to snorkel or scuba-dive in Silfra fissure, according to Einar Ásgeir Sæmundsson, communications official at Þingvellir National Park, Southwest Iceland, RÚV reports. He believes too many tourists visit the fissure, but 50,000 tourists came there last year, either to scuba-dive or snorkel. He’d like to see increased monitoring of the popular tourist site.

A US tourist died yesterday, after snorkeling in Silfra. That was the eighth serious accident to occur at the site since 2010 and the fourth fatal one.

Einar noted that all equipment has been improved and that response planning to accidents is as best as can be. The persisting problem, however, is too many visitors.

“One of the downsides is the long wait at the waterside, and it’s not only inconvenient for visitors to stand idly and wait; it’s a safety issue, because in winter, people are cold and they get numb,” Einar explained.

Standing by the waterside for a long time wearing a tight dry suit constricts the jugular veins, he added. “So, we’ve had instances of people fainting, because they’re waiting,” Einar commented. Numbers of tourists must be limited, but for that to happen, the law must be amended, he added.

Park ranger Ólafur Örn Ólafsson agrees. He told RÚV that monitoring of companies selling access to scuba diving and snorkeling had to be increased. At Silfra, there would have to be a specialist, experienced in diving, capable of taking action when need be. To finance such monitoring, Ólafur suggested raising the fee for scuba diving or snorkeling from ISK 1,000 (USD 9, EUR 8) to ISK 1,500 (USD 13, EUR 12).

Ólafur knows of instances where people don’t have adequate equipment for diving, pretend to have experience diving, and claim to be in good health, but turn out not to be. “I have to be honest with you,” he stated. “Many people who go down there don’t even know how to swim.” He pointed out that jumping into water that is 3°C (37°F) is trying, even when people are only snorkeling.

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