Wreck Diving: Do’s and Don’ts

I thought I’d share a list of some basic do’s and don’ts for divers new to wreck diving.

How Logging Your Dives Can Make You a Better Diver

Here are a few items you can include in your logbook to help you stay organized and honest, track progress, and work on self-improvement as a diver.

5 Best Wreck Dives in North Carolina’s Famous “Graveyard of the Atlantic”

When divers ask North Carolina natives what the best dive sites are off their coast, very rarely is the same answer provided. For that reason, I have chosen to list five favorites that are only a small portion of what North Carolina waters have available.

The World’s Best Wreck Dive Is…

TDI asked 3 accomplished divers what they thought was the world’s best wreck dive, and here is what they said.

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by John Chatterton
“I am incredibly fortunate to have had all the opportunities in diving that I have had. I have been to big steel wrecks like the Andrea Doria, the Lusitania, the Britannic, and yes, even the Titanic. I have dived and excavated wreck sites far more subdued, like the Spanish ship Concepcion, and the pirate wreck Golden Fleece. I have been part of finding and identifying more than a few wrecks, like the German submarine U-869.” Some of these wrecks have been very kind to me, while others have challenged me almost to the breaking point.
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by Steve Lewis
“Not trying to cop-out of making a definitive choice, but this is an impossible question to answer. Well, not impossible perhaps but whatever choice i make today, it would be changed by next month or at least the next time I get the chance to dive on a wreck that I’ve never seen before.And therein lies the appeal of wreck diving… it’s the NEXT wreck that has the potential to top your all-time, best in the world list.“
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by Mark Powell
“How do you choose the world’s best wreck dive? Well for me there are a number of criteria involved. I find that the more history that is involved with the wreck the more interesting it is. Equally, the better preserved, the more you can appreciate the layout of the wreck. While there are some very interesting smaller wrecks it is true that the bigger the better definitely applies to wrecks.“
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by John Chatterton:
“Some men will never make divers. Any man can go down, I believe, but not every man can dive and accomplish anything. “ Tom Eadie – 1929

Tom Eadie was one of the US Navy divers deeply involved in the rescue and salvage operations of the S Class submarine disasters of the 1920’s. His autobiography was simply titled, I Like Diving. In peacetime, he won the Navy Cross while diving the submarine S-51 in 1926, and the Congressional Medal of Honor for his dives on the US submarine S-4 in 1927. He is not just one of America’s heroes, but he is one of my heroes.

I have always wanted to be that guy, the guy to accomplish something underwater. This is especially true on shipwrecks. I love the idea of the big dive. Not every dive is a big dive, but I look at every dive as a training dive, to get ready for the big dive, even if I am not sure where or when the next big dive is.

I always want to have goals, address the challenges in making those goals a reality, and ultimately accomplish something. By its nature, wreck diving is complex and challenging. How complex and challenging we make it, is up to us. Every new shipwreck offers original and interesting ways for me to challenge myself intellectually, physically, and psychologically.

To dive any wreck that is important to me, I don’t just want to know about the wreck, I want to understand it. What is the history of the ship, and the circumstances of the sinking? What can I learn about the it’s design, and how it was constructed? How might the ship have aged, since landing on the seabed? If the location of the wreck is known, what can other divers who have been there tell me? If the location of the wreck is unknown, where have others looked for the wreck, and why have they been unsuccessful? Where can I look to know more, about what to expect on the bottom. How can I look at the wreck in ways that will take me to places no one else has been?

For any wreck dive, I will need the education, equipment, and experience to make the dive happen. This is even truer for the big dive. If I don’t know what I need to know to understand the dive and the hazards it presents, then where can I learn all that I need to know in order to plan the dive? Perhaps some of what I need to know, is not really about diving, but about things that may relate to my diving? Education often requires a broad base.

If am educated enough to plan the dive, then what equipment will it require? I have made dives on wrecks while freediving. I dive on Air, Nitrox, Trimix, Heliox, rebreathers, surface supplied hardhat, and even submersibles. If I know about a particular wreck, and I know enough to plan the dive, what equipment will best help me to get down there and accomplish what I need to accomplish. Often, there is not just one right answer, or one wrong answer to a problem, and this is usually true in diving. Good decisions can involve personal preference based on any number of things including experience, resources, or team capabilities. I need to fully understand where I am going, and how to get there, to accomplish something.

If I am not already experienced in making dives similar to the ones I am planning, then I need to obtain the experience to not just make the dive, but to dive with the kind of confidence that can allow me to accomplish my goals. On the big dive, the diving has to come naturally, if not comfortably, allowing me to focus on the tasks at hand. Even armed with the experience and equipment necessary, I believe it is always important to make tune-up dives, prior to the big dive, to get one’s mindset right.

Physically, it is obvious that I will need to have the appropriate level of fitness to execute any dive. However, I also need the resources to make everything happen, when it needs to happen. I will need to have the cash, the time, and the energy to invest in any diving agenda. If I do not possess all that I need, then I have to figure out a way to get what I need, or simply pass on the dives.

Finally, if I am going to accomplish something underwater; do I have the courage, the discipline, and determination to do just that? Often, accomplishments do not happen as easily as we expect. When things are easy, and go as planned, anyone can be successful. When times are trying, will I have the mindset to continue, or not? These are the kind of rare situations which allow us the opportunity to show who we are, and what we are really made of.

I am incredibly fortunate to have experienced all the opportunities in diving that I have. I have dived wrecks all around the world. I have been to big steel wrecks like the Andrea Doria, the Lusitania, the Britannic, and yes, even the Titanic. I have dived and excavated wreck sites far more subdued, like the Spanish ship Concepcion, and the pirate wreck Golden Fleece. I have been part of finding and identifying more than a few wrecks, like the German submarine U-869. Some of these wrecks have been very kind to me, while others have challenged me almost to the breaking point. Still, wreck diving has been very good to me.

What is the best wreck dive in the world? Every wreck is unique, and interesting, with its own particular challenges, but the answer to me is obvious. The best wreck dive in the world is always, and has always been…… the next one. It is what keeps me exploring, and working, and diving. It is also most likely the only answer Tom Eadie would have understood.

by Steve Lewis:
Not trying to cop-out of making a definitive choice, but this is an impossible question to answer. Well, not impossible perhaps but whatever choice I make today, it would change by next month or at least the next time I get the chance to dive on a wreck that I’ve never seen.

And therein lies the appeal of wreck diving… it’s the NEXT wreck that has the potential to top your all-time, best wreck in the world list.

The truth is, I regard myself as a cave diver: a cave diver who happens to live a considerable distance from divable caves but really close to some stellar wreck sites, but a cave diver nevertheless. However, that said, in the past 20-odd years, I’ve had the chance to see some incredible wrecks: some of them virgin sites that have been visited by fewer people than the moon: others, regular stops for sport divers from all sorts of backgrounds and with varied tastes.

So, let’s go back to the question. As stated, my list of potential candidates is long, and I am sure to forget a few but here are some that come to mind right now as I sit on a Delta flight taking me home from Florida’s cave country. To keep this simple — and within the space TDI has allotted each contributor — let’s restrict this list to cold-water sites.

Steam Yacht Gunilda. Around 80 metres deep (260 feet), in Lake Superior. Notable because of the level of preservation due to cold water.

Schooner Cornelia B. Windiate. Fifty seven metres deep (just shy of 200 feet), Lake Huron. Another site notable for the preservation of the wreck and the number of historical artifacts aboard, and the near freezing water temperature at depth.

Wooden freighter SS Florida, close by the Windiate and similar depth and water conditions. She was carrying general cargo when she sank in 1875 bound for Buffalo, New York, and diving her and exploring her interior is like taking a swim through a late 19th-century general store. Remarkable as well for the artifacts preserved in her engine room.

The Cedarville, which rests at sport-diving depths in the Straits of Mackinac. An advanced wreck-diver’s dream; on its starboard side with so much to see inside (including a massive triple-expansion steam engine) that even after several dives, most have only begun to get an idea of what secrets she holds.

The bow and stern sections (yep, two different sites miles apart) of the formally 184 metre long (600 foot), Daniel J. Morrell, in Lake Huron. This wreck is deep, historic, tragic and awe-inspiring. This enormous steel freighter broke in two and went down in 1966 with the loss of 28 of her 29 crew. This is a very sobering site to visit with excellent photo ops for cold-water enthusiasts.

Then we might consider the “Long Point” collection of wrecks in Lake Erie. Any one of these half-dozen or so wooden vessels could be serious contenders, but let’s settle for the St. James: another intact schooner.

Or if we head east into Lake Ontario, we have to include the Hamilton and Scourge, two War of 1812 American merchant vessels pressed into military service by the American Navy and sunk by a freak wind storm while at anchor just off Port Dalhousie, Ontario at the western end of the lake. To be fair, these small schooners can only be added to the list as an addendum since both are protected heritage sites, and the Canadian government refuses to grant permits to divers to document what remains. However, although prohibited, a handful of divers have visited the wrecks, especially as rebreather technology has rendered their depth (slightly less than 90 metres or 280 feet), within the experience of scores if not hundreds of Great Lakes wreck divers. Features include a carved figurehead on the Scourge, cannons, muskets, pumps, rigging and navigation lights.

The St. Lawrence River carries the outflow of all the Great Lakes as their contents spills east towards to Atlantic Ocean. There are several neat wrecks in the river but the most exciting for my money is the Empress of Ireland. Several hundred kilometres downstream of the great lakes, the Empress settled in about 40 metres (130 feet) of ice-cold water within sight of Sainte Luce sur Mer, Quebec. Nick named, Canada’s Titanic, the Royal Mail Ship Empress of Ireland was an ocean liner outbound from Quebec City heading for Liverpool, England. Following a collision with the Norwegian collier SS Storstad in the early hours of 29 May 1914, she sank in 14 minutes and of her 1,477 passengers and crew, 1,012 died… the majority passengers.

I guess if I had to choose one on this list and one only, it would have to be the Empress. Even after more than 100 years on the bottom, she remains alluringly intact. Protected now, but formally picked over by souvenir hunters, she still keeps many artifact inside her labyrinth of corridors, storage areas and cabins. Probably one of the toughest “shallow” dives in North America, visitors have to adapt to strong variable currents (the river here is tidal), challenging visibility, seriously bone-chilling water, and many, many places to get turned around and lost. The reward is to visit a truly remarkable historic site that is a pinnacle wreck dive, but that is within a short boat ride of comfortable hotels and fantastic little French restaurants!

Now, there’s a bunch of options listed above and all of them just in the Great Lakes Basin. Conspicuous by their absence are literally thousands of cold-water wrecks off North America’s east coast, from Newfoundland to Southern Florida. We have not touched European cold-water sites including the amazing wrecks found in the Baltic Sea.

And then of course, we could move to warmer water, such as Truk Lagoon for instance.

OK, so here it is. My final pick… I believe the best wreck in the world is one I have yet to dive. My guess is that it lies in deep water off the coast of Malta… Anyone up for a trip to Europe!?

by Mark Powell:
How do you choose the world’s best wreck dive? Well for me there are a number of criteria involved. I find that the more history involved with the wreck the more interesting it is. Equally, the better preserved, the more you can appreciate the layout of the wreck. While there are some very interesting smaller wrecks it is true that the bigger the better definitely applies to wrecks. The environment where the wreck is to be found is also important as good visibility makes it much more enjoyable to dive as you can see the size and scale of a wreck. Finally if the wreck has not been dived hundreds of times by other divers and there is an aspect of exploration and discovery then this adds to the experience.

When you put all of these criteria together there is one wreck that stands out for me. HMS Hermes. There are not many diveable aircraft carriers in the world so diving any aircraft carrier is a special experience but diving HMS Hermes, the first purpose built aircraft carrier, is unique from a historical point of view. There had previously been a number of merchant ships that had been converted for use as an aircraft carrier but HMS Hermes was the first to be commissioned specifically as an aircraft carrier. The Royal Navy, despite a very traditional approach in many areas, was at the leading edge by ordering the first purpose built aircraft carrier in July 1917. She was laid down in January 1918 and launched in September 1919 and so was too late to be of any use in the First World War. She was finally commissioned in July 1923 and so didn’t see active service until the Second World War where she was based for much of her time in Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka.

In March 1942 the Japanese Navy was ordered to carry out an aggressive raid on Sri Lanka and any British shipping in the area. Vice Admiral Nagumo, who was also responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbour, had a large fleet of aircraft carriers, battleships, cruisers and destroyers. On 9th April the Japanese launched their attack with more than 80 Japanese Zero fighter bombers attacking HMS Hermes. Due to a lack of fighter cover Hermes had to defend herself but despite opening fire with every gun it was clear that she was almost helpless against such an onslaught. Numerous bombs struck the ship and she sunk in less than an hour with the loss of the Captain, 19 officers and 288 ratings on board.

Diving HMS Hermes is an unforgettable experience. She lies on her port side in 52m/170 feet. At the bow, the anchor chains as well as the anchor are clearly visible. The decking has come away from the bow and it’s possible to see right into the focsle of the ship. A row of toilets are clearly visible together with an intact lamp fitting in the ceiling. Beyond this it is possible to see down through several deck and light penetrating through the hull shows that there is a hole in the hull a couple of decks down. Looking in through these holes gives a clear indication of the layout of the forward part of the ship.

The flight control tower is lying on its side having collapsed down onto the sea bed. Unfortunately this has crushed some of the structure and the decks below but it is still very easy to make out the layout of this area of the ship.

Towards the stern of the wreck, where the flight deck should be exposed, the wreck has twisted and is almost completely inverted so it is difficult to see the layout of the flight deck. However, this does mean that the propellers are much easier to see. The starboard prop is standing clear and makes a very impressive sight. The portside prop is partly buried in the sand and is only partly visible.

Despite obvious damage and the collapse of the flight deck there are areas that are undamaged and look almost as they would have when the wreck sank. The control tower is almost intact showcasing gauges, complete with glass, are still present as well as a range of other fittings. Emergency lights are still in place with the light bulbs still preserved. Several of the guns stand proud of the hull with lockers full of ammunition next to them as if ready to be used in battle.

You cannot dive this wreck without thinking of the men who served, and in many cases died, on this wreck. The wreck serves as a museum to this unique piece of history as well as a monument to the men who perished on her. I hope that anyone who dives this wreck takes the opportunity to remember these men and treats the wreck with the respect it deserves.

The visibility in the area varies from good to fantastic; the worst it gets is 15m/45ft visibility but on some dives we could see the wreck from the surface. The wreck is also home to a large variety of marine life. Large tuna, grouper and jacks flock around the wreck as well as a huge number of other fish. Some of these are an impressive size with one grouper being considerably larger then me. Some of the tuna are also a very impressive sight. As well as the fish a huge variety of coral and other marine life means that there is significantly more life on this wreck than on the vast majority of reefs. Moray eels and even sea snakes also inhabit some of the more remote parts of the wreck.

Despite being an incredibly important historical wreck HMS Hermes has lain almost unknown until recently. This was because between 1983 and 2009 Sri Lanka was ravaged by a vicious civil war which had meant that the Hermes was inaccessible to divers due to the political situation. Since the end of the civil war it has finally come possible to dive her.

Despite the end of the civil war it was still a major effort to get to the wreck. Sri Lanka is a ten hour flight from the UK which is followed by a seven hour bus journey to get from the capital Colombo to Batticaloa which is the nearest town to the dive site. This all adds to the sense of uniqueness and adventure. Above the water Sri Lanka is an amazing country with a huge variety of history, culture, landscape and excitement. The setting adds to the historical interest and the state of the wreck to produce one of the best diving experiences in the world.

Survivor or Statistic… Which One are You?

Knowing that we are going to have some sort of equipment malfunctions, environmental/navigation emergencies, and will just simply make mistakes at some point in our technical diving careers, how do we avoid becoming a diving fatality statistic?

6 Skills Every Technical Diver Should Master

by Jon Kieren:

Technical diving is inherently dangerous. Diving in environments that restrict your access to the surface requires your foundational scuba diving skills to be second nature so when an emergency arises you can focus on solving the problem and aborting the dive. Whether you are just starting your TDI Intro to Tech Course, or have over 200 Advanced Trimix dives, these six essential skills should be practiced on every dive.

  1. Predive Check, Descent/Bubble Check, and S-Drill – While there are three skill sets listed here, we group them together because the overall objective is the same for all three: start the dive properly equipped and with fully functioning equipment.
    • Predive Check – Once fully dressed for the dive, as a team, each diver runs through their own equipment to verify primary cylinders are full and valves open with turn pressures verified, stage/deco cylinders are full with regulators pressurized but valves turned off, BCD inflates AND holds gas, dive computers/gauges are turned on and functioning properly, mask/fins/weights/etc. are donned and in good condition to dive.
    • Descent/Bubble Check – Depending on conditions and site, either on the surface or on the initial descent, the team inspects each other’s equipment looking for leaks and trapped or entangled equipment.
    • S-Drill – Each team member takes turns conducting the proper gas sharing procedure with another teammate.
    • The dive does not start until all of these checks have been conducted, any complication must be resolved before continuing the descent.
  2. Trim/Buoyancy/Finning – It’s not just for looks. The importance of being able to hold your position in the water column and prevent silting-out an environment cannot be overstated; and everyone can use a little practice. Every dive, try to spend some time focusing on different finning techniques and trim/buoyancy control. Grab the GoPro and let your buddies film you so you can get some valuable feedback on what you actually look like in the water as well.
  3. Valve Drills – On every single dive, you should practice shutting down and re-opening each valve. Make sure do to this with a teammate so they can verify each valve gets re-opened. Depending on your exposure protection and recent diving activity, you may find it more difficult to reach your valves than you remember. It is important to work on this flexibility and muscle memory on a regular basis, because when you really need it is not the time to realize that you cannot reach a valve.
  4. Remove and Replace Stage/Deco Cylinders and Bottle Swapping – It is important to occasionally practice removing and replacing stage/deco cylinders in order to maintain this muscle memory. Even if the dive does not require you to stage a cylinder, practicing this skill often will speed up and smooth out the process on the dives where it is required. Going over your bottom time because you were fumbling with a stage cylinder is both embarrassing and dangerous. You should also practice swapping bottles with teammates. This can be done while decompressing by swapping stages or lean deco gasses that you are finished with between your teammates. This increases team awareness, communication, and equipment familiarity. It is extremely important to check that no hoses or equipment have been trapped by the stage/deco bottle any time you replace one.
  5. Lift Bag/SMB Deployment and Reel Skills – Both deploying a lift bag/SMB and running a reel are skills that deteriorate quickly when not practiced regularly, and sloppy work in these skills can be extremely dangerous. Practice these skills as often as you can, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.
  6. Post Dive Briefing – It is extremely important to debrief every single technical dive. Discuss the highs and lows of the dive, where communication was good, where it was bad, and what areas can be improved upon for the next dive. You cannot see yourself in the water, so it is important everyone in the team provides some constructive criticism. This is often done with friendly banter, but it is important to remember that this feedback will help you improve your diving and safety.

While this is not intended to be an all-inclusive list of skills to be practiced for technical diving, these six skills are applicable to most technical diving scenarios, and can be easily practiced on just about every dive. What other skills do you like to practice regularly?

Why Divers Do Stupid Things

Why do divers do stupid things? Well the short answer is because they are stupid. Now I know that the majority of the readers of this article are going to be divers and it’s not usually a good idea to start off by insulting your audience but bear with me.

Grain at the Bottom of the Sea

by Cristiana Rollino and Maids Wallace (SDI/TDI Instructor 5280)

Sardinian wreck 1

Photos by Attilio Eusebio (SDI/TDI – Instructor Trainer 10319)

Many thanks to Maids, a beginner in scuba diving, who has not only managed to translate this account in to English, but who has also understood my struggle in the world of technical diving.

Attilio used to tell his friends: “She’s not interested in fish… she likes shipwrecks!” I was branded a tomboy.

Sardinian wreck 2
I sincerely do like shipwrecks because they epitomize nature’s quiet but unrelenting take over of everything that contaminates it. They lie on the seafloor, oblivious to the dramatic event which has sunk them. They are sometimes a tangible confirmation of a real war or an other-world image in a documentary, their shape deformed by fire, by the explosion of a bomb or a torpedo. They are colonized by marine life which is unaware of the history of its dwelling place. My curiosity about shipwrecks, many of which lie below the 40 meter mark, led me to attend a “Decompression” course and subsequently “Normoxic Trimix”, both held by TDI. So, this is also the story of my wary approach to technical diving.


Sardinian wreck 3The simplest part was using bail-out tanks. Bi-tanks (10 + 10 liters), however, posed a more serious problem. Despite modifying the equipment configuration many times, I kept descending head first: even though I kept counterbalancing with fins and back muscles, I used to get out of breath and sometimes had narcosis symptoms. At last, a sympathetic soul on a diving forum suggested I shorten the crotch of my inflatable jacket and add a tail weight, thus eliminating my trim problem.

The Mediterranean basin was frequently a theatre for battles between the Italian Regia Marina (Navy) and the British Royal Navy during the Second World War.

Wrecks from that period can be found in the seas south of Sardinia and divers from all over Europe go there to investigate.

Many of them, like us, go to “Pro Dive Diving Center”, run by Susanna Sabbioni (SDI Nitrox Instructor) and Stefano Bianchelli (SDI/TDI Instructor Trainer, specializing in rebreather training), which can supply gases for tanks and a competent guide. That’s Stefano himself, who knows the area very well and whose technical ability is widely recognized. He’s got a bit of a crafty look but he’s really very helpful and good natured.

Sardinian wreck 4The dive center is situated in Villasimius, a small village renowned for its marvelous sandy beaches: Simius Beach and the adjacent Giunco Beach , where the salt marsh lagoon hosts colonies of pink flamingoes.

The Loredan (-54/65 m) and the Isonzo (-43/57 m) (Fig. 1 and 2), which were part of a convoy torpedoed on 10th April 1943 by a British submarine, were our first diving destinations. The most curious wreck, however, was, in my opinion, the armed cargo ship Salpi. It was torpedoed by a British submarine on 9th February 1942 in the waters around Cape Ferrato and lies at around -47 to 60 meters depth. We planned our dive for 22 minutes at 58 meters with Trimix 18/40 and decompression with EAN50 and EAN99.

We descended along the rope, which reaches the central part of the ship. A big cannon was sitting on the stern (Fig. 3) and it was possible to get into the various holds (Fig. 4). There was a well preserved explosives magazine in one of these and it was possible to make out the lines of bullets laid out tidily (Fig. 5), ready for use. Two big anchors were visible just in front of the magazine.

Sardinian wreck 5The most extraordinary thing was, however, the load of loose grain, which filled one of the holds. It was at least one meter high! (Fig. 6). It was just like grain one could buy at the market; one could sink one’s hands into it. It was covered with a 20 cm jelly-like layer, floating over the grain like a cloud; perhaps it was secreted by the grain itself.

Why hadn’t the grain been eaten by fish? Perhaps there aren’t omnivore fish at that depth, or perhaps metabolic fermentation processes are drastically slowed down. Unfortunately, a scientific explanation was not forthcoming, even though I asked marine biologists.

In another hold, a 4 cm layer of paraffin was floating near the ceiling. It had probably been used to make light. Stefano claimed that it was perfect for lubricating the zips on our diving suits…an inglorious end for a historic relic.

I was enthusiastic about this dive (Fig. 7), but it’s well known that our emotions are but fleeting moments, memories recorded in our brain so that they can fill our future.

Sardinian wreck 6


Fig. 1: The Isonzo cannon
Fig. 2. The Isonzo cannon
Fig. 3. The Salpi cannon
Fig. 4. Wheeled carriages
Fig. 5. Charges
Fig. 6. The grain in one of the holds
Fig. 7. Going back up to the rope

Basic Wreck Diving vs. Advanced Wreck Diving


Photo Provided by Bill Downey

Divers are often confused between basic and advanced wreck diving certifications and why there is a need for two courses. This is a good question considering a wreck is a wreck and diving is diving. All wrecks present the same risks. The single biggest difference is the diver and what they want to do during their dive on the wreck.

Basic Wreck Diving
Basic wreck dives would consist of swimming around the outside of the wreck, with the occasional peek in the wheelhouse or cargo hold. That does not mean there is not a lot to learn, even though the plan is to stay on the outside, or that there is not a lot to see. For divers wishing to survey the wreck or watch the marine life it attracts, this is the perfect spot. The outside of a wreck is also where we get those dramatic photographs of the bow stabbing towards the surface, hoping to sail again. For the diver wishing to view a piece of history, diving on the wreck can show you what some will only read about or see in pictures. This type of wreck diving has been enjoyed by many and for some divers this is as close as they want to get to a wreck.

The equipment needed for a basic wreck dive is pretty much the same equipment used for any dive. There are some pieces of additional equipment that may come in handy: a large slate for drawing the wreck and noting depths and features, a small reel, and a lift bag or surface marker buoy (SMB) just in case you lose track of the anchor line or get blown off the wreck.

Advanced Wreck Diving
Advanced wreck diving is really an extension of basic wreck diving. Advanced wreck diving starts on the exterior with a survey that familiarizes the diver with how the wreck is oriented: on its keel, on its side, separated into halves or with a twist. No two wrecks are the same and all suffer different damages due to how they sunk, how long their journey was to the bottom or the severity of the storms that have battered them over the years. There are even vertical wrecks and wrecks clinging to the side of walls. Learning how to effectively survey the wreck is an extremely important part of any wreck course. This visual image, is the only thing the diver will have to rely on, since his compass will not work. Even wooden wrecks tend to have massive hunks of metal or boilers, which send the compass into a spin. But here is the point where advanced wreck diving waves goodbye to basic wreck diving; it is where we go beyond “the light zone.”

The light zone is where ambient light enters an overhead area and artificial light is required in order to see. Once a diver enters an area in a wreck where a light is required, the rules of wreck diving change. A diver in this area must have the knowledge and skills they need to go into and come out of a wreck should the worse possible scenario, a complete silt out, occur. In order to do this, divers must know how to use a reel for navigation and how to properly tie off lines so they will not get cut during the dive. But this is also where the fun starts for wreck divers craving to study the more intimate details of the wreck or seeking that hidden artifact that no one else has seen.

Many wreck divers don’t feel they know all there is to know about a wreck until they have explored every room, seen the engines that pushed this once mighty vessel through thousands of nautical miles. There are also those who want to see the artifacts, some still lying in place as if the ship had never sunk. To some, the best part of the wreck dive started before they even entered the water, it was the hours of researching and planning that lead up to the dive. But before a wreck diver can see these sights they need to undergo serious dive training and have an experienced TDI Wreck Instructor explain the safety protocols. Remember that worst case scenario of silting out? For divers who spend their time on the outside of a wreck, this silt would only come from the fin thrust as it hits the bottom or deck of the boat. For divers entering the wreck, this silt comes from above and is called percolation silt, cased by the exhaled bubbles as they dislodge rust, insulation or other debris trapped on the ceiling.

Another big area of difference between basic and advanced wreck diving is the equipment needed. Advanced wreck divers should carry at a minimum two lights a primary and a back-up, two cutting devices, two reels, two lift bags and a redundant air supply. While this may sound like a lot of equipment, a TDI Advanced Wreck Instructor can teach divers where to stow this equipment and still keep very streamlined in the water.

Wrecks have a mysterious calling to many people. Wrecks that occurred due to war or sank because of a violent storm draw divers in, some say this is because it closes that chapter in our lives. Others would go there because they read about it in history books and they wanted to see it firsthand. Whatever the reason, or if you are going to view the wreck from the outside or inside, it is always best to take the course from an instructor who has been there and done it. Sometimes the best lesson learned from a course is not what is in the book or the skills you had to perform, it is merely what you learned by diving with and watching how an experienced instructor handled himself underwater.

Every wreck has a story, even the ones that were sunk intentionally. So do yourself a favor…find out what that story is! Safe diving!

SDI Wreck Diver Course –

SDI Wreck Diver eLearning Course –

TDI Advanced Wreck Diver Course –