PADI Wreck Diver
Specialty of the Month May 2015
Having been a diver for over 15 years I have been lucky enough to experience all sorts of dives including fast drifts, walls, pretty coral reefs, lakes, sharks, night, underwater scooters (DPV) as well as numerous wreck dives.
Of all of these types of dives wrecks have to be up there amongst my favourite. Many countries are sinking wrecks as it has several benefits; they act as artificial reefs which helps to protect and grow the local marine life, and they attract divers which benefits the local economy.
Personally I get more of a buzz out of non-artificially sunk wrecks. They tend to be historical moments frozen in time that the vast majority of the world’s population can never get to explore.
Probably the most famous wreck for scuba divers in the world is the SS Thistlegorm in the Egyptian Red Sea. Sunk by the Germans in World War II, it lies at 30m in the same position on the night it was hit. Inside you can still see the motorbikes in their racks, aeroplane wings, Enfield Rifles and Wellington Boots. Externally lie a couple steam engines, munitions and the guns that failed to protect the ship. Unfortunately in the last 10 years or so, many unsavoury divers have removed many of the artefacts and some irresponsible dive guides have damaged the wreck by tying their dive boats to weak parts of the ship. If you have never dived this wreck, it’s definitely worth a visit but get there soon before it is totally ruined.
The most famous area in the world to dive with wrecks is Truuk Lagoon which is often referred to as the ‘Japanese Pearl Harbour’. Other places closer to home are the Zenobia in Cyprus, a huge 178m ferry that sank in 1980 along with its £200m worth of Cargo that includes 104 lorries. Malta has some exciting wreck diving which includes a Blenheim Bomber from WWII, and Portugal has recently sunk about 5 ships close to each other to form a large reef system and playground for divers.
On our own door step we have some of the best wreck diving in the world, dotted around the UK coastline are wrecks from both world wars and some go back many hundreds of years. Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands is one of the best places in the world to experience wreck diving as it has many British and German warships from both world wars – definitely worth a Google!
While diving with wrecks is fascinating you do need to take extra precautions. If you penetrate them it can be easy to get lost and there are more obstacles to get entangled on, so you need to make sure you are prepared and your skills are more than adequate.
So if you relatively inexperienced and are planning on diving on wrecks then it is recommended that you take a wreck diving certification first such as the PADI Wreck Diver course first. The Wreck Diver course teaches you things like:
- Safety considerations for navigating and exploring wrecks.
- Surveying and mapping a wreck.
- Using penetration lines and reels to guide exploration.
- Techniques to avoid kicking up silt or disturbing the wreck and its inhabitants.
The course can be completed in four fun dives over one weekend, the minimum age is 15 and you will need to be an Adventure Diver or equivalent, or a higher qualification before you start.
Not only will it make you a safer diver but it will also help you to protect the wrecks so that they can be enjoyed by other divers for many years to come.