Best Cities to Scuba Dive Through When the Polar Ice Caps Melt
By Jeanette Smith
In 2015, this video was posted showing what Earth will look like when all the ice in the world has melted. In reality, this entire process will take millions of years. But with many cities already threatened by rising ocean levels (eight inches since 1880, half of that occurring since 1993), the shape of the world’s coastline will be dramatically different in just a few decades.
Let’s imagine all the ice melted tomorrow and the sea level rose by 216 feet. Where and how we can dive would change in an instant. Don’t miss checking out these six amazing cities you can dive in when the polar ice caps melt!
Home to nine million people and standing at an average of just 36’ above sea level, London is our first not-to-be-missed underwater city when the polar ice caps melt. The UK’s 2008 Climate Change Act aims to reduce net emissions by 80% by 2050. But despite past successes, current policies and projections show that the UK will only cut 10% emissions over the next decade, a bit short of the 31% needed to meet their interim goal.
But don’t worry, you’ll still be able to see the iconic sites of London. At only 80’ high and sitting 20’ above sea level, Buckingham Palace will now offer scuba tours of the residence and grounds. Don’t forget to stop by the iconic Abbey Road and recreate the Beatles album cover from underwater (one person sans fins). And you can time your surface interval by the half of Big Ben still visible above the waves.
Let’s be honest, you can probably dive parts of the city and canals already (though, maybe not legally speaking). But the beauty of Venice has been slowly sinking into the sea for a long time and experts predict the city could be permanently flooded by 2100. The annual average of 36 million tourists will now be reduced to adventurous divers looking to explore a modern-day Atlantis.
In 2019, St. Mark’s Basilica (which has only flooded six times in 1200 years) suffered irreparable damage due to a historic acqua alta event. But you can still send up a quick underwater prayer here when you visit the St. Mark’s dive site. Other popular spots include swimming down the grand canal and through the Rialto Bridge swim through or heading East of the city to Burano to dive amongst the colorful fisherman’s homes. Feel like exploring without a dive guide? Hire a private gondolier and dive off a traditional canal gondola!
The lowest points of Barcelona are a mere 39’ above sea level and emissions from Spain are threatening this beautiful city as global temperatures rise and more and more ice melts. To be fair, they are one of a handful of countries who are trying to cut emissions to zero by 2050, so we can’t say they’re napping on the job of protecting our planet.
And you won’t want to take a siesta on your Barcelona vacation when it’s partially underwater—there are too many dive sites to visit! First on your list should be La Sagrada Familia with its impressive and ornate architectural “mounts” half-buried in the sea. Next, head over to dive the wall faces of Antoni Gaudí’s wild residential apartments. And don’t forget to do a little underwater shopping on Las Ramblas before you leave.
India’s largest city and an important hub for finance and industry in the country, Mumbai will be missed when it’s underwater. But Mumbai is trying hard to avoid that happening, becoming the sixth city in India to join the C40, a global group of cities pledged to lead actions to combat climate change.
But originally built on a series of islands, this megacity’s low-lying lands have a high chance of flooding with current global projections. At an average of only 46’ above sea level and with 18.4 million residents, this bustling city will soon be a divers paradise. Stop off at the Victoria Terminus, Mumbai’s railway station and a UNESCO (now underwater) World Heritage Site. Then head to the Gateway of India, now a magical swim through.
Home to over 7.5 million people, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas on the planet and the lowest elevation is exactly 0’ above sea level. Science predicts that with a mere 4-degree (Celsius) rise in Earth’s temperature, Hong Kong will be underwater, and the vast majority of its residents displaced.
Of course, that will make the diving here even more amazing. After all, underwater Disneyland! In addition to getting your thrills diving through the defunct rides of the amusement park, head over to the East Dam Sea Cave where a whole new system of underwater caves and tunnels has opened up for diving. And don’t forget to drop off and see the Tian Tan Buddha, whose previously grueling 268 steps have now been reduced to a few dozen sitting above sea level.
Not a stranger to coastal flooding and natural disasters, New Orleans residents know the power of the ocean and the climate threats to their city. Unfortunately, the United States is one of the worst offenders when it comes to carbon emissions, coming in at number two with over twice the emissions of third place, India.
But if it’s March, you better be headed to flooded New Orleans for underwater Mardi Gras! That’s right—colorful wetsuits, biodegradable bead necklaces, and beignets and chicory coffee during surface intervals. Who could ask for a better scuba event?
It may be fun to imagine new dive sites when the world is underwater. But with an eight-foot rise expected by the end of the century, there is an immediate and pressing need to curb our emissions and reduce our impact on the Earth’s climate. As divers, we should be leaders in this change. Awareness is key, and by reading this article, you’ve got a great start. Now, go out and learn more so we can all save the ocean we so desperately love.