Episode 109: “The Smoking Earth”

E109:  “The Smoking Earth”

Facing frigid waters, the Descending team travels to Iceland to witness the newest part of our planet being formed.  Scott and Ellis touch two continents at once in some of the world’s clearest water and attempt to dive where no one has gone before.

Special thanks to the organizations that helped make our trip possible:





Episode Commentary:

Ellis:  Diving into the crystal clear, 3-degree waters of Silfra felt like a voyage to the center of the earth.  It was a real mental battle to stay calm and focused as we descended into the aquatic ravines; the walls narrowing to not much more than shoulder width and the black frigid waters disappearing into the depths of the earth beneath us.  This was a very powerful place, where I was left feeling very insignificant indeed.

Scott:  Iceland went down as one of my favourite adventures of the year.  I think I was out of bed earlier and into my drysuit sooner than any of the other shows. Having now visited Iceland several times, I can say it’s a place that always has me buzzing.  It is true natural beauty at its best.  No other place on earth encapsulates the power of nature better than here, however this time around was particularly special thanks to our guide and friend David who seemed to gel better with our team than anyone else we worked with this season. His enthusiasm and his dedication to the job and country allowed us to capture the show, the experience and adventure the way we did.  Doing these dives by ourself would have still yielded a great show, but David gave it a soul and a spirit that exempliflies why I continue to go back to Iceland. 

Our Icelandic guide, David Sigurthorsson, share’s his “behind-the-scenes” commentary of what it’s like to travel and work with the Descending team:

When I first met the guys I have to admit, I wasn’t too impressed.  I’d worked with TV crews before and usually the first impression is one of palpable professionalism, seriousness and a sense of urgency; the planning is engraved in stone, the schedule is tight and the focus is sharp – HD!   But here is this laid back, youngish, slightly chaotic, rag-tag motley crew.  Nothing about them said ‘we are the cutting edge of adventure TV’.  

In reality though, the next 10 days were to become some of the most memorable, fun-filled and physically tiring, yet emotionally up-lifting days, and nights, I have had the pleasure of sharing with anyone.  One of the advantages of the Icelandic summer for TV crews (not so much for the guide) is the white nights that allow (force) you to work long days – you just have to be home by dark!  It was dawning on me how I had misread this bunch on our first day.  As fun-loving and easy going as everyone was, when it came to putting in the effort with an eye to creating a world class adventure show, these guys meant business.   At one point during our 10-day journey I thought I saw Andre put the camera down, but I can’t be sure (guess that explains how one guy can get footage that would otherwise take a team of Nat Geo’s finest twice as long to shoot).  

Fortunately, as it happens, the spirit of the show is as laid back, natural and spontaneous as the guys themselves – what you see is what you get.  So we worked (if you can call it work) from early morning until a late dinner somewhere on the road before getting to our rest place. Then it was a bottle or ten of Reyka vodka in a hotel room – at least that was the case on my birthday, which we celebrated in the lovely town of Akureyri (Iceland´s prettiest village, until the villagers wake up!).

Most of the dives I have done many times before but it wasn’t until I hooked up with Scott and Ellis that I got the chance to dive some places no one had been crazy enough to dare diving.  Most memorably, we decided to dive ‘Hell’, a huge volcanic crater in the middle of Iceland’s most active lava fields.

At the end of our Iceland expedition I was bushed and looking forward to a well-deserved couple of days’ rest, while the guys were off to some other remote location to bring to the world.  But I’d do it again at the drop of a hat. I had not just had a blast doing what I love to do the most for 10 long days; I had met and formed what I hope to be lasting bonds with some of the coolest cats on the planet. I thought I knew how to live for the day and get the most out of life; these guys live for the day for a living and get more out of life in a day than most do in their entire lives! It was a true privilege and a pleasure ´working´ with the Descending team.


Diving at Silfra

Dive guide Dave, ready to get back in the water.

Andre and Scott enjoying 1000-year-old hot chocolate

Ellis recovering from his diving mishap.

Ellis taking the plunge