Diving on wrecks is a popular part of SCUBA diving. There is a recreational side to wreck diving as well as a technical side to wreck diving. Each aspect of wreck diving requires certain equipment. The gear required for a wreck dive dive should be selected based upon the specific type of wreck dive planned. Outlined in this section is the minimal gear required for wreck diving. This list is not all inclusive. When diving on wrecks safety is the foremost consideration. Stick to the dive plan and bring the gear necessary to accomplish the intent of your dive. Go to our main Gear Guide for information on all diving equipment.
Wreck Diving Overview
Diving on shipwrecks has been around since people started diving beneath the sea. Shipwrecks offer a certain amount of mystery and lure and are invariably equated to sunken treasure. Diving on a sunken ship brings questions like: Where did the wreck come from? Did the people parish when this ship sank? What caused the wreck to sink? What’s inside the wreck?
Whether the ship sank due to bad weather, navigational error, a wartime battle, or if it was sunk purposefully as an artificial reef, the lure of exploring a sunken ship is often intoxicating. Diving wrecks allows you to examine history and share an exhilarating experience with friends. Wrecks also are usually abundant with marine life of all kinds, and wrecks in cold, fresh water, such as the Great Lakes, are often well preserved.
There are basically two ways to explore wrecks: by exploring the exterior of the wreck (Recreational) or by exploring the interior (Technical) of the wreck (penetrating the wreck). Exploring the exterior of the wreck is the easiest and most common way of exploring a wreck. When swimming around the exterior of the wreck, you can see the deck, bow, stern, propeller, hull, pipes, deck equipment, external stairways and hallways.
In addition to the wreck itself, large quantities of marine life like to hang out around wrecks, turning it into an artificial reef. Many retired vessels are sunk intentionally as artificial reefs. This is especially common along the Florida coasts. Diving around the outside of a wreck requires no special training or equipment, as long as the wreck is within recreational diving limits. A number of training agencies offer basic wreck diving education/certification.
There are hazards when exploring outside a wreck, such as disorientation, sharp metal edges or objects and entanglement hazards created by rigging, nets, and fishing line. Diving around the exterior of a wreck is alluring and mystical and often leads to the desire to “find out what’s inside.”
A “Pony Bottle” or Spare Air is a common piece of equipment on wreck dives. The intent of the bottle is to provide the dive enough air to return to the surface in the event of an emergency. Depending upon the depth of the dive, a pony bottle may provide enough air to resurface, but not enough to make the necessary decompression stops.
Recreational Wreck Training
Recreational wreck diving is classified as diving the exterior of a wreck, meaning that you don’t penetrate or go inside the wreck. Recreational wreck diving is defined as any dive on a wreck or object that is at a maximum depth of 130 fsw and is conducted within the normal no-decompression diving limits. Recreational wreck diving training prepares you for planning and conducting wreck dives within the established recreational diving limitations. Wreck diving training involves taking a course or series of courses from a training agency such as SDI/TDI, NAUI, PADI, IANTD, or GUE. Your training involves learning about the potential hazards of wreck diving, such as disorientation, sharp metal edges or objects, and entanglement hazards created by rigging, nets, and fishing line. It also teaches you about the use of line reels, air management, safety procedures, and proper techniques for exploring wrecks. Wreck diving training also covers the location of wrecks, sources of information, search methods, navigation, legal aspects, artifacts, salvage, and archaeology.
In water training consists of up to four wreck dives over a couple of days. During your in water training, you’ll develop the skill and experience needed to safely plan and explore wrecks.
Technical Wreck Training
Technical wreck diving training is for motivated individuals who desire to explore wrecks beyond the standard recreational diving limitations. Technical wreck diving involves making penetrations inside a wreck beyond natural light zones, deeper than 130 feet and requiring stage decompression. Because of the lack of direct access to the surface and the potential for disorientation limited visibility, special procedures are utilized when exploring the interior portions of wrecks.
Technical wreck training involves taking a course from a certified training agency such as TDI, NAUI, PADI, IANTD, or GUE. Technical training is designed to provide you with the skills and knowledge needed to gain experience while minimizing the risks involved with entering wrecks, decompressing, and diving to depths greater than 130 feet . Throughout the training, you learn the skills needed to plan and execute dives that take you deep inside a wreck and back out again, safely.