Wreck diving has to be one of the best types of diving. Each wreck is unique, it’s history always interesting and normally a haven for marine life. It has without doubt got a lot going for it. I will venture to say that wreck diving in good visibility is much more enjoyable, at least for me. Having done many low viz wreck dives, having crawled along them my mask only inches away from the wreck I feel on balance the panoramic view is my preferred one.
As all good instructors would advise always get some training before embarking on your first wreck dive. Do some research with the PADI Wreck Diving Manual, DVD or Wreck Diving Speciality Course. It may not seem much different from any other dive you have done but there are things you should be aware of and ready for. For example wrecks attract fishermen because a lot of marine life will colonise a wreck as an artificial reef, this over time leads to a lot of mono-filament caught on the wreck which is nearly invisible to divers but a real entanglement hazard, so you need to have a knife, or dive scissor easily within reach (see my blog about where to wear your knife).
So let’s now go to the next level, we now want to go inside the wreck. This presents a whole new level in dive complexity. Generally I advise all my students not to go inside wrecks. Do they listen? Generally not. When you go inside, options for escape reduce and possibility of new hazards increase. In any overhead environment you lose fundamental escape options: the not to be advised weight belt drop. If the whats its hits the fan you are generally better off on the surface than underwater. In the overhead environment drop your weight belt and you are pinned to the roof, still underwater… The much debated CESA (controlled emergency swimming ascent – you remember, keep your regulator in, swim up slowly looking up making a continuous argh sound – if you have ever done one a few other choice words other than argh can be used). So the CESA requires direct access to the surface, it requires you to be continuously swimming up so the air in your lungs expands making the whole thing possible. If your wreck is say 20m underwater and you then venture a mere 10m inside then you are effectively 30m for the surface. Wrecks tend to rust, that leaves sharp edges, personal injury or equipment damage is much more likely. Silt settled inside the wreck can be disturbed by your fins causing a silt out and zero visibility. Where this is likely wreck reels should be used (speak to your instructor about learning how). Wrecks don’t always settle bolt up right so disorientation is easy when you lose sight of the surface or bottom.
Now I don’t want to put anyone off wreck diving, it is fantastic. I would quite happily like to put people off wreck penetration. There is little point to it and many unnecessary additional dangers. Remember a happy diver is a safe diver! Safe diving. For some wreck diving related resources why check out the following: