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Frequently Asked Questions
What’s there to see on a wreck dive?
There is a lot to see on a wreck dive. Intact wrecks sitting upright or on their side are impressive sights under the water. Deck rigging, stairs, stacks, hallways, cranes, propellers, are all examples of what you’ll see on a wreck dive. The more intact the wreck, the more you’ll see as it was when it sailed the seas. Wrecks that have been damaged or destroyed could be simply debris mounds on the bottom or pieces of the wreck could be spread out in a large area. Either way, there is always something to see on a wreck.
In addition to the wreck itself, there are always large amounts of fish and other reef creatures on wrecks. Wrecks are basically artificial reefs that provide shelter and homes for a variety of marine life. Large and small fish, sponges, corals, eels, etc. are all common on wreck dives. The different types and species of marine life you see on a wreck are dependent on where you’re diving. Warm water wreck diving in shallow water will have many “reef” type species. Colder water and deeper wrecks offer many other kinds of marine life than what you’d see on a typical reef. Research the area you plan on diving so that you know what you might see while diving.
Where do I go to dive wrecks?
There are wrecks all over the world that you can dive. The most popular areas for wreck diving are the Atlantic coast of the U.S., the Great Lakes, Truck Lagoon, and Bermuda. Other areas also offer great wreck diving, so no matter where you go on your next diving vacation, there is probably a wreck you can dive.
Do I need a special certification to dive wrecks?
This depends on the kind of wreck diving you would like to do: exterior exploration of the wreck or interior (penetration) of the wreck. Exterior exploration involves exploring the outside of a wreck. There are a number of training agencies that offer basic wreck certifications, which cover mostly the hazards you may encounter. These hazards are disorientation, sharp metal edges or objects, and entanglement hazards created by rigging, nets, and fishing line. To dive wrecks within the recreational diving limits can usually be done with dive operators if you have advanced training or a previous logged wreck dive.
If your interest lies in penetrating a wreck to find out what’s inside, even if it’s in recreational diving limits requires special training. When you enter a wreck, you enter an “overhead” environment, meaning that there is no way to return directly to the surface. Exploring the interior of a shipwreck is both alluring and can be very dangerous. Whether looking for artifacts or trying to find the engine room, penetrating a wreck, no matter what the depth, is an advanced form of diving, similar to cave diving. This type of wreck diving requires special equipment and training because getting lost is a real possibility if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Do I need to purchase special gear to wreck dive?
Depending on the type of wreck diving you’re planning to do, there is some basic equipment you should probably carry while wreck diving. Wreck penetration dives require much more training and have a special list of equipment that is required to safely penetrate a wreck.
Dive knife, line cutter, or scissors: This can be critical. Wrecks are favorite sites for fishing because that’s where the fish are. This means fishing line, leader line, etc. can cover wrecks and can entangle you.
Dive light: This adds immeasurably to your enjoyment of seeing the wreck better. If you’re diving shallow tropical waters, you may not need a light, but diving in less tropical areas where visibility is less, a good dive light is a must. A dive light restores color and helps you spot things easier on the wreck.
Goodie bag: If you plan on hunting lobster, fish, or plan on collecting artifacts in areas that allow this, a goodie bag or catch bag is important.
Recreational wreck diving is classified as diving the exterior of a wreck, meaning that you don’t penetrate or go inside the wreck. Recreational wreck diving is defined as any dive on a wreck or object that is at a maximum depth of 130 fsw and is conducted within the normal no-decompression diving limits.
Photo: Steve May
Recreational wreck diving training prepares you for planning and conducting wreck dives within the established recreational diving limitations. Wreck diving training involves taking a course or series of courses from a training agency such as SDI/TDI, NAUI, PADI, IANTD, or GUE. Your training involves learning about the potential hazards of wreck diving, such as possible disorientation, sharp metal edges or objects, and entanglement hazards created by rigging, nets, and fishing line. It also teaches you about the use of line reels, air management, safety procedures, and proper techniques for exploring wrecks. Wreck diving training also covers the location of wrecks, sources of information, search methods, navigation, legal aspects, artifacts, salvage, and archaeology.
Your in water training consists of conducting up to four wreck dives over a couple of days. During your in water training, you’ll develop the skill and experience needed to safely plan and explore wrecks.
Scuba diving on shipwrecks has been around since people started diving beneath the sea. Shipwrecks offer a certain amount of mystery and lure and are invariably equated to sunken treasure. Diving on a sunken ship brings questions like: Where did the wreck come from? Did the people parish when this ship sank? What caused the wreck to sink? What’s inside the wreck? Whether the ship sank due to bad weather, navigational error, a wartime battle, or if it was sunk purposefully as an artificial reef, the lure of exploring a sunken ship is often intoxicating. Diving wrecks allows you to examine history and share an exhilarating experience with friends. Wrecks also are usually abundant with marine life of all kinds, and wrecks in cold, fresh water, such as the Great Lakes, are often well preserved.
Most recreational wreck dives involve external surveys, however, limited penetrations are also considered recreational dives and are defined as involving no penetrations beyond the natural light zone, no deeper than 130 feet, and not involving stage-decompression. This type of training is designed to expose you to additional, in-depth training for the purpose of pursuing penetration wreck diving.
Photo: Steve May
An advanced wreck diving course is designed to provide you additional training, skills, and experience in planning, organization, procedures, techniques, problems, hazards and excitement of penetration wreck diving within excepted recreational diving limits. Advanced wreck diving training involves taking a course from a training agency such as SDI/TDI, NAUI, PADI, or IANTD.