Little Falls, Minnesota. (January 22, 2024): The last place you would expect to find Navy Divers is roaring through frozen forests on snowmobiles. In this photo by Lance Corporal Hunter Jones, Sailors undergo Arctic mobility training during the annual Snow Crab exercises at Camp Ripley, Illinois. This 53,000-acre military and civilian training facility is operated by the Minnesota National Guard and is located near the city of Little Falls in the central part of the state. The location of the camp is ideal due to its numerous frozen lakes and harsh environment for most of the year.
As part of the Navy’s expeditionary combat force, deep-sea divers use the camp to evaluate their performance and to test their equipment in a simulated Arctic environment. At Camp Ridley, the ice is about 16-inches thick and the water temperature hovers just above freezing which leads to equipment challenges that many divers have not seen. During the exercise, the divers spent as much as ten hours below the frozen surface.
The Navy has increased its presence in the Arctic in recent years as have peer adversaries Russia and China. Under the Navy’s Strategic Blueprint for the Arctic, Navy divers are at the tip of the spear in building a more capable Arctic naval force. This global competition ensures we will likely see divers in some strange places well into the future.