There is always something special about diving on the remains of a mighty ship that now lies on the seabed in its watery grave. Some shipwrecks got there because of a gross error in navigation, or as a victim of war, and some have been sunk intentionally. Whatever the reason, there is always a story to be told.
When you first dive, you are content to swim around the outside of a wreck, marvelling at the sight of it, often crumpled and broken, a discarded pile of junk that was once such a valuable collection of metal. You might venture a closer look within areas of twisted metal. As you get more confident, you will want to explore further and at this point you will need to know what you are doing.
Wrecks are interesting because you have access to areas you would not normally get to see in a functioning ship. The crew’s quarter and the engine room are especially intriguing. Once a wreck is established it becomes a haven for wildlife. The darker recesses harbour masses of smaller fishes together with the larger ones that predate on them. These dark corners shimmer with the light from your lamp that reflects off a thousand tiny fishes. The remains of a non-perishable cargo can be very interesting too. Although never in mint condition after being immersed in seawater for so long, some consumer durables are fascinating, frozen in time from the day they left bright sunlight for the dark depths.
Entering an overhead environment such as a wreck is not recommended without special training. It’s not just a matter of taking a big lamp with you, although that is essential. Entering into confined spaces with no direct route to the surface is a serious business. The clarity might be perfect but no matter how carefully you move you will disturb the sediment on the floor and your exhaled bubbles with knock down rust from the ceiling. Be careful how you move and fin and be aware that there may be someone behind you. If the visibility was good to begin with, a single diver can make it poor in a moment and it is at that point you realise you’ll need to know your way out.
It’s another use for that diver’s winder reel and line. If you tie off your line to a convenient point outside the wreck you can unwind it as you go in and wind it back to find the way out. You must be taught how to do this properly, because you need to belay the line, tying it off at points along your route so that it does not get pulled and take up a route you cannot later follow.
A shipwreck is a big thing but it’s easily missed if it’s in any great depth or the visibility through the water is less than clear. Your boat’s captain will find it by GPS and echo-sounder and mark its position with a heavy weight tied to a line and buoy. It’s commonly called a ‘shot-line’. You follow the line down to the wreck and you can later follow it back up to your boat.
If the wreck is very large, or there is a strong current running, you may not be able to make it back to the shot-line in which case you need to be able to put up your own buoy and line and ascend that.
The Wreck Diver’s Reel
Wreck divers often take a small pocket reel in their BC pocket or clipped to a convenient D-ring. Some training-agencies insist on the simplicity of a spool. The reel should have a ratchet and lock and carry enough line for the depth. A line rarely goes up vertically. Its buoy will be subject to current and wind at the surface. You will need a lot more line than the depth from which you deploy the buoy. Think in terms of 50 percent extra. Never attach a reel or spool to yourself or your equipment when launching a delayed buoy or you might get dragged up with it.
Happy Diving - John Bantin