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Wrecks’ Curse – The World of Wreck Diving

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wreck diving

By Pablo Mir

We all enjoy those unexpected encounters that come with wreck diving, no matter how small, during our open water scuba dives. Exploring those nearly vanished remains of a ship scattered across the ocean floor is frequently the climax of the otherwise regular dive.

What is Wreck Diving?

Wreck diving involves exploring underwater shipwrecks while scuba diving. Sometimes, the wreck we encounter is more than just the remnants of a small and forgotten old vessel. Or perhaps we didn’t deliberately choose it, but the charter we boarded had that destination planned that day. The Benwood, less than 14 meters or 45 feet deep, in the clear waters of the National Marine Sanctuary in Key Largo, Florida, or the Copenhagen of Fort Lauderdale, also Florida, are good examples. Divers, many beginners who haven’t even devoted half a second to thinking about wreck diving, enjoy exploring their remains and the fauna that inhabit them. In some way, and at different levels, we all seem to potentially be wreck divers, even without a higher and explicit intention.

First Encounters: The Unplanned Dive into Wreck Exploration

But the trek is long and has many branches. Wrecks present themselves in vast possibilities, from shallow and clear waters to deep and dark ones. The Ancient Mariner, Captain Dan, U352, Great Isaac, Grecian, Lady Luck, Hyde, Aeolus, Hydro Atlantic, RBJ & CC, Algol, U869, and the Andrea Doria -the Grand Dame of the Sea- are some of the names that resonate among thousands in the minds of many wreck divers on the East Coast of the USA. For many of us, getting ready to traverse that path of increasing challenges, increasingly demanding environments, and more astonishing, transcendent dives is a life goal in terms of recreation.

A Diverse World: The Spectrum of Wreck Diving Experiences

Now, it is well known that the label of wreck diving is not only applied to shipwrecks. It is common to extend it to any artificial structure or piece of it that can be explored during our dives. For example, Texas Tower #4, an Air Force radar station off the coast of New Jersey, toppled in 1961 by a storm, is frequently visited by numerous local technical divers and visitors who want to test their skills in those demanding waters. Similar structures of different natures and purposes exist in many other places, with the most different levels of certification and experience requirements we can imagine.

Is Wreck Diving Dangerous?

Wreck diving is not inherently dangerous, but proper training is required. Describing with words the feeling of wonder and the adventure involved in wreck diving is not easy. In the same way that regular open water diving is the entry point to another world, a unique, fascinating world, wreck diving is also an entry point to one of the additional levels of enjoyment and fascination the world of recreational diving poses. Wreck diving, we live the adventures others just dream or fear. We are there, explorers of a distant land. Often, we witness the remains of real human tragedies; other times, we are visitors to the most wonderful amusement park we can imagine.

Learning Curve: The Path from Novice to Experienced Wreck Diver

Sometimes, watching groups of recreational divers exploring a wreck might seem like witnessing a scene from a pirate movie. Two or three divers here, two or three more there, ascending and descending along its sides, from bow to stern, sticking their heads in to look inside compartments and passages. In some cases, entering and exiting the bridge or any space allows penetration in areas with abundant natural light and generous access points. Their expressions and body language make it easy to notice that they are having a great time. There is no doubt they are enjoying it, and it will be an experience they will vividly remember.

If they are a group traveling together, an instructor or divemaster may be there to ensure everything goes well. The passion for exploration, for discovery, and that thirst for adventures we all have within us can sometimes hinder us in making our best decisions. Therefore, to become actual wreck divers, we must not only desire to do so but also have the will to learn and gain experience, slowly and safely, in everything this specialty implies. While it is true that exploring the exterior of a wreck may seem like something that doesn’t require specific training, the reality is that it does. Fishing lines, sharp surfaces, parts that can easily come off, suddenly disappearing visibility, disorientation, etc., are dangers we must have learned about, developed strategies to avoid, and implemented procedures to solve with the proper tools.

And so it will be; many will traverse the paths of wreck diving by starting with proper training. Sometimes, the first step is part of the regular advanced diver certification many divers take; other times, it is going straight for a wreck diving specialty. They will learn and start practicing, gaining experience and ease in their procedures. They will fall more and more in love with those twisted iron environments and proudly display the rust stains on their diving suits as if they were scars from a well-fought battle.

Deepening the Dive: Advanced Wreck Exploration Techniques

But the journey continues. Sooner or later, some will want more than just hovering around the wrecks. Crossing well-lit passages with the exit in sight will no longer be enough for them. What they recently may have told themselves they wouldn’t do will begin to intrigue them, and they will want to continue training “just in case.” They will want to start moving away from those open corridors and see with their own eyes what lies beyond. They will no longer see wrecks as enemies to overwhelm in large groups but as a mystery to unravel slowly, passage by passage, room by room. They will split into small groups. They pursue a specific goal, have a specific plan, and seek to minimize unexpected situations, and this is more controllable and achievable when done by two or three rather than four or five.

They will keep learning, venture through narrow passages, dodge cables and pieces of metal hanging from what is now the ceiling, and proceed cautiously to avoid stirring up sediments. They will use different methods to establish positions at crossroads, place strobe lights, carry multiple penetration reels, and carry substantial knives, the kind they used to laugh at not long ago, thinking they were unnecessary exaggerations.

The Wreck Diver’s Journey: A Path of Endless Discovery

Over time, they will penetrate deeper and deeper into larger, darker, gloomier, more frightening wreck structures, simply because they can. They will descend to greater depths because that’s where they are in better condition and farther away from the boarding hordes.

They will transition from Air to Nitrox, later return to Air, and later delve into the world of Trimix. They will start planning and executing dives with decompression stops, as otherwise, their bottom times will be insufficient for their intentions. From one decompression gas cylinder, they will move to two, and in some cases, three or more. Those who can afford it will buy rebreathers; those who can’t will stick to open circuit, carrying multiple large cylinders.

The Eternal Call of the Deep

But genuine amazement will hit them hard on the day they, thinking carefully about all the steps they have taken and accounting for the time and effort dedicated, conclude without a shadow of a doubt that it was worth it. It will be too late for them; they will have fallen victim to this curse of shipwrecks that has trapped so many. There will be no escape for them; from now on, they will be wreck divers without cure or remedy. They will be condemned to spend the rest of their vacations and days off among twisted irons at the bottom of rivers, lakes, and oceans. Cheers buddies! And a warm welcome to all those newcomers to recreational diving who, unknowingly, may be destined to wander among old wood and rusted metal, seeking to put out that thirst for real-life adventures.

To find out more about International Training, visit www.tdisdi.com.

Main Image: William Drumm/International Training

From its humble beginning in 1994 to today, the group of training agencies Scuba Diving International (SDI), Technical Diving International (TDI), and Emergency Response Diving International (ERDI) form one of the largest diving certification agencies in the World – International Training. With 24 Regional Offices servicing more than 100 countries, the company today far exceeds the original vision the founders had when they conceived the idea on a napkin, sitting at a kitchen table in the early 1990’s.

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The Ocean Cleanup to Complete 100th Extraction Live from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

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the ocean cleanup
  • The Ocean Cleanup marks 100th extraction of plastic pollution from the Pacific Ocean by livestreaming entire cleaning operation from start to finish.
  • Occasion brings together supporters, partners, donors and followers as the project readies its cleanup technology for scale-up.
  • Founder and CEO Boyan Slat to provide insight on the plans ahead.

The Ocean Cleanup is set to reach a milestone of 100 plastic extractions from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Extraction #100, scheduled for 28 or 29 May 2024, will be the first ever to be livestreamed direct from the Pacific Ocean, allowing supporters and partners around the world to see up close how the organization has removed over 385,000 kilograms (nearly 850,000 lbs) of plastic from the GPGP so far – more than double the bare weight of the Statue of Liberty.

the ocean cleanup

The mission of The Ocean Cleanup is to rid the oceans of plastic. To do this, the non-profit project employs a dual strategy: cleaning up legacy floating plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (the world’s largest accumulation of floating plastic), while stopping the flow of plastic from the world’s most polluting rivers.

The Ocean Cleanup captured its first plastic (the first ‘extraction’) in the GPGP in 2019 with System 001, following years of trials and testing with a variety of concepts. Through System 002 and now the larger and more efficient System 03, the organization has consistently improved and optimized operations, and is now preparing to extract plastic trash from the GPGP for the 100th time.

the ocean cleanup

Extraction #100 will be an interactive broadcast showing the entire extraction procedure live and in detail, with insight provided by representatives from across The Ocean Cleanup and partners contributing to the operations.

This is an important milestone in a key year for The Ocean Cleanup.’ said Boyan Slat, Founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup. ‘We’ve come a long way since our first extraction in 2019. During the 2024 season, with System 03, we aim to demonstrate that we are ready to scale up, and with it, confine the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the history books.

the ocean cleanup

The livestream will be hosted on The Ocean Cleanup’s YouTube channel and via X. Monitor @theoceancleanup for confirmed timings.

www.theoceancleanup.com

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Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Book Review: Plankton

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Plankton: A Worldwide Guide by Tom Jackson and Jennifer Parker

This is a book that jumps off the shelf at you. The striking front cover demands that you pick it up and delve further, even if you may not have known you wanted to learn more about the most diminutive life in our ocean, plankton!

Small it might be. Much of the imagery in the book has been taken under huge magnification. Revealing stunning beauty and diversity in each scoop of “soup”. There is lots to learn. Initial chapters include interesting facts about the different vertical zones they inhabit, from sunlight to midnight (the darkest and deepest areas). I loved finding out more about the stunning show that divers oft encounter on night dives – bioluminescence.

The black water images are wonderful. So this is a book you can have as a coffee table book to dip in and our of. But, these tiny organisms are also vital to our very survival and that of all the marine life we love. They provide half the oxygen produced on our planet. They are also responsible for regulating the planets climate. And for a shark lover like me – they are food for charismatic sharks and rays like the Basking Shark and Manta Ray, along with a huge number of other species. This book contains great insight into their biology, life cycles, migration, and how the changes in currents and sea temperatures affects them.

This is a book that is both beautiful and packed with information about possibly the most important group of organisms on our planet. Anyone interested in the ocean should have it one their shelves.

What the publisher says:

Plankton are the unsung heroes of planet Earth. Passive drifters through the world’s seas, oceans, and freshwater environments, most are invisible or very small, but some are longer than a whale. They are the global ocean’s foundation food, supporting almost all oceanic life, and they are also vitally important for land-based plants, animals, and other organisms. Plankton provides an incomparable look at these remarkable creatures, opening a window on the elegance and grace of microscopic marine life.

This engaging book reveals the amazing diversity of plankton, how they belong to a wide range of living groups, and how their ecology, lifestyles, and adaptations have evolved to suit an enormous range of conditions. It looks at plankton life cycles, the different ways plankton feed and grow, and the vast range of strategies they use for reproduction. It tracks where, how, and why plankton drift through the water; shares perspectives on migrations and population explosions or “blooms” and why they happen; and discusses the life-sustaining role of plankton in numerous intertwined food webs throughout the world.

Beautifully illustrated, Plankton sheds critical light on how global warming, pollution, diminishing resources, and overexploitation will adversely impact planktonic life, and how these effects will reverberate to every corner of our planet.

About the Authors:

Tom Jackson is a science writer whose many popular books include Strange Animals and Genetics in MinutesJennifer Parker is a zoology and conservation writer and the author of several books. Andrew Hirst is a leading expert on plankton whose research has taken him around the world, from the Antarctic to Greenland and the Great Barrier Reef.

Book Details

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Hardcover

Price: £25

ISBN: 9780691255996

Published: 9th April, 2024

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