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What is Wreck Diving?

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Ron's Wreck, Utila, Honduras

Ron's Wreck, Utila, Honduras

Nicholas McLaren

While the idea of wreck diving can conjure thoughts of the dark and mysterious in the minds of many people, it can also be exhilarating, educational, and awe-inspiring.

Types of Wrecks

Let's start by having a look at the types of wrecks you're likely to dive.

  • Boats and Ships
    Not surprisingly most wrecks are boats and ships. Historically, most ships were sunk accidentally but it is now quite common for many of the world's navies to deliberately scuttle decommissioned vessels for the use of recreational divers. There are many different types of ships that can be explored, from four hundred year old pirate ships to modern Navy warships and cruise liners. Most ship wrecks also serve as spectacular artificial reefs, attracting an incredible diversity of marine life.

  • Submarines
    Submarines tend to have more of a mysterious aura surrounding them and this may be because they are less frequently found by divers. Submarines are usually not as easily accessible due to tight, confined spaces and the tendency for submarines to sit in very deep water.

  • Airplanes
    It is also fairly common to be able to dive the wrecks of airplanes, particularly fighter jets from World War II. There are many airplane wrecks found in the South Pacific and the most famous place in the world to dive airplane wrecks is Truk Lagoon in Micronesia.

  • Automobiles
    Automobiles are less common as underwater wrecks, but can often be found in lakes, rivers, and quarries. There are even some ships that sank with automobiles such as cars and motorcycles onboard.

Wreck Diving Dangers

Wreck diving can be very safe and no more threatening than regular reef diving, but it can also carry much greater risks, especially when penetration of the wreck is involved.

At its most simple, wreck diving can involve swimming around and over wrecks to admire and photograph external features and the underwater creatures that have come to live on the wreck. This form of wreck diving carries very little risk. The main concern is with a need to more closely monitor depth, air consumption, and no-decompression times, which can all be affected by the greater depth of well preserved wrecks and the disorienting effect a wreck that doesn't sit upright can create. The other danger to be aware of is objects that can snag clothing and equipment, and it's a very good idea to be extra vigilant for these obstacles, ensure you're gear is streamlined, and carry at least one dive knife.

In addition, wreck diving does have its more dangerous side, which is encountered when penetrating the wreck. Many wrecks are not safe to penetrate and it is important to remember that even wrecks that are safe to penetrate pose many additional risks and should not be penetrated without specialized training and advanced planning.

Wreck Diving Courses

All agencies offer basic wreck courses which will teach you everything you need know about wreck diving. You'll learn how to safely plan and execute a penetration dive inside a wreck. These courses are normally taught over two to three days and involve theory and practical training.

Theoretical training covers rules and regulations related to wreck diving, safety training, and wreck dive planning.

Practical training will normally involve about four training dives beginning with a non-penetrating dive to examine and chart the wreck, followed by at least two penetration dives using your dive plan, reels, and other special wreck diving equipment. There are more advanced technical training courses that cover deep wreck penetration.

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