scuba diving at wrecks

Wreck diving is a great adventure for any diver. It combines some archeology and history, some different underwater scenery with a unique habitat for marine creatures and special underwater photography opportunities. Its always interesting to hear or read about the wreck’s story- why did it sunk? How long has it been there? Who were on it, and many other questions, than working your imagination some extra hours during the dive.

Personally, as a biologist what I like best to see is how eventually nature takes over, and the wreck is turning to a habitat for numerous creatures, from small crabs and nudies to massive groupers, and sharks, an old wreck always seems like the place to be.

On this section we’ll go through the basics of wreck diving, including the hazards involving wreck dive and review the wreck specialty course for those interesting in penetrating wrecks.

Wreck dive penetration:

Penetrating wrecks may sometimes seem quite easy and harmless. Do not attempt to do so unless properly trained and certified as a wreck diver. Shipwreck penetration present risks beyond normal scuba diving circumstances, some of which might be difficult to evaluate, avoid, or deal with if not trained as a wreck diver.

Wreck dive hazards:wreck dive

No Direct access to the surface.

One of the potentially riskiest factors while scuba diving is not being able to reach the surface in an unlikely event of emergency. If you accidentally run out of air and need to ascent to the surface by completing a buoyant ascent, controlled emergency swimming ascent, you will have no immediate access to the surface, while completing an alternate air source or buddy breathing might be extremely difficult due to restricted passages.

Sharp objects-

Intentionally sunk wreck are prepared for scuba diving. Sharp edges and potentially hazardous object are removed. Nevertheless, over the years Shipwrecks condition may deteriorate. Things may be a lot worse when it comes to diving at shipwreck with a sad accidental history.  Be aware of rusted metal, nails, splintering wood, broken glass and others.

wear proper scuba exposure suits, and consider using dive gloves to minimize risks of cut.


although rare, it’s a possibility considering the uses of ropes around the sunken boat. Adding the fact the fishing lines and nets can easily get caught in the wreck and the potential for entanglement increases. Avoid entanglement by looking around you and above you when diving.

It’s a good idea to dive with a small dive knife just in case. Remember; if you are entangled do not panic. Twisting and turning might only get matters worse. Signal your buddy and slowly work your way to release yourself.

Unstable structure

as years go by, matters deteriorates. Eventually rusty, weak portions of the shipwreck are bound to collapse. Collapsing walls and falling objects may present serious risks to shipwrecks scuba divers.

Avoid swimming under object that appear to be unstable and dangerous

Bad visibility

Reduced sunlight and a good chance for stirred up sediments or silt can lead to very poor visibility. Air bubbles we exhale may cause more matters to fall off the shipwreck’s wall which can lead to even poorer visibility. Monitor your movements and stay off the shipwreck walls and bottom.

It is highly recommended you use underwater lights, and stay close to your buddy through the entire dive.

Aquatic life-

Shipwrecks attract all kinds of marine creatures. In a way there’s not much different from diving on the reef, but when diving on a shipwreck you might squeeze yourself in places, or put your hands where creatures might hide. None of these attacks might be intentional; it’s all a matter of self defense. Such creatures can be poisonous, such as lionfish, fire coral or scorpion fish, or might bite or pinch in defense like moray eels and crabs. Wear proper scuba exposure suits, and consider using dive gloves to minimize risks. Always be aware of where you place your arms, legs and where you stick your head to.

Dive conditions

strong currents and surge might cause you to brush against the wrecks wall unintentionally. As water movement might come from different areas of the wreck, strong current and surges may lead to unexpected water movement at some parts of the shipwreck. If dive conditions are bad, consider postponing the dive, or view the shipwreck from a short distance.

Wreck dive training dives:

To become a fully certified PADI wreck diver specialist one must complete 4 wreck training dives:

Wreck dive 1: wreck evaluation

The first wreck dive can be a part of the PADI advanced course as one of the adventure dives. During this dive, the training scuba diver learns how to assess and navigate the wreck:

Points of interest – as in any dive site, look for the main features and attractions, what makes this wreck special. Such can be anything from the wheel house to tanks and cannons sank during wars such as the SS Thistlegorm in the red sea.

Assessing the wreck’s conditions- as mentioned previously some parts and areas of the wreck can be hazardous to the diver. Look for the weak and flimsy spots of the wreck. Look at the entrances and exit points, check for anything that might put you on risk.

Wreck dive 2:  Wreck mapping-

This wreck dive is dedicated to mapping the wreck so that we can plan the wreck penetration better. The process is pretty simple and straight forward, but as most wrecks are deep, it takes some planning and preparation and might take longer than a single dive.

During wreck mapping you’ll need to estimate its’ lengths, depths, point out the points of interest, indicate the hazards and decide upon the wreck’s entrance and exit points. Some wrecks are marked by buoy line that can assist you with ascent and descent and also finding the wreck. These lines should also be included in the wreck’s map.

In order to map the wreck you and your buddy should have a rough sketch drawn on a dive slate prior to diving, start estimating depth at the deepest spot and work your way up, documenting the distances ( either by line, or estimating kick cycles, or arm spans) the depths and even the angle using a dive compass if possible.

Wreck dive 3: Practicing wreck penetration

No, you’re not going to penetrate the wreck just yet. This dive is dedicated to understanding how to work with the special dive equipment for wreck diving: dive reel, and underwater lights. You’ll practice on land techniques of tying quick release knots, holding the line while moving to avoid losing it in case of bad visibility and learn the communication procedures when penetrating the wreck. Later, during the dive you’ll practice the same techniques both as a leader and a follower of the wreck penetration, though all this is done outside the wreck’s interior without penetrating it.

Wreck dive 4:  wreck penetration:

This is it. You know what the wreck is like, where it’s risky and where to go, you’ve decided upon entrance and exits, and you’ve practiced the techniques. Now it is time to put all your training into a test. You’ll learn how to penetrate the wreck, how much air you need to keep in reserve before exiting the wreck, where you and your buddy are going to be in relation to each other and much more.

Wreck dive is serious fun. It should never be taken for granted and should be approached and done with care and responsibility. It is also an amazing experience recommended for all divers, even the ones who are diving especially for finding creatures and seeing nature sceneries.

Have fun and dive safely

Knows-Dive team

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