Wreck diving is a dive targeted at visiting a sunken vessel. Open water certified divers on a wreck dive may visit wrecks, explore the hull, peer inside and explore the exterior. Wrecks often act as man-made reefs, and are home to an abundance of fish who seek it for shelter from predators, so wrecks are often an ideal place to see unusual or elusive species of marine life.
Open water certified divers do not penetrate the vessel. Penetration – entering enclosed spaces within the vessel – is potentially dangerous and should not be attempted. All enclosed underwater spaces have potential danger, but wrecks especially so, since the structures can often be brittle, imbalanced or unstable, with poor visibility. Special wreck diver training is available for divers interested in entering and exploring wrecks.
One savory reverie about wreck diving is that you might discover a lost ship weighed down with Spanish doubloons and rusty chests full of rubies and pirate booty. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that you will ever find a lost ship full of Spanish gold. Though there certainly are hundreds (possibly thousands) of sunken treasure ships lost in the oceans and seas of the world, any that are under 100ft in depth have almost certainly been picked clean by the time you get there! As you plan a dive ask a local dive master where the most accessible and interesting wrecks are and if they can lead you to them. Treasure ships are usually lost in unimaginably deep water, beyond the reach of a scuba diver using conventional sport diving gear and are instead found using sonar and aerial surveying technology and deep-sea submersible crafts.
However, once in a while, scuba divers do stumble upon priceless artifacts. If you do find anything of great value underwater make sure you know the local laws regarding its removal. Many countries have tough laws governing the protection of archeological artifacts.
Wreck divers may also be interested in underwater archeology. For those willing to travel there are lost cities – entire towns engulfed by water and accessible for exploration by a scuba diver. Underwater archeology is a very young field, but explorers have already found large “lost cities” in the Mediterranean, underwater temples, sunken Neolithic constructions and even Japanese pyramids older and larger than any in Egypt!
Underwater tourists needn’t be limited to ancient architecture. In the 1930’s, a few small communities along the Colorado River were abandoned because they were in the flood space of the new Hoover Dam. These can still be visited as underwater “ghost towns” at the bottom of Lake Mead.
However you do your wreck diving, do it safely!