Shipwrecks (Steven W Smeltzer)

Debris Field, Oro Verde, Grand Cayman

Some of the most interesting types of shipwrecks for scuba diving are the purpose sunk ships that have been scuttled to create artificial reefs. After adequate preparation, this is a wonderful way for older ships to give not only a benefit to scuba divers but also a shelter to a variety of marine organisms (see National Geographic article “Artificial Reefs: Trash to Treasure” February 5, 2001).

Shipwrecks (Steven W Smeltzer)

Port Side, Doc Paulson, Grand Cayman

Along with true shipwrecks, there have been and continue to be a large number of ships sunk to create artificial reefs (Wikipedia provides a list of some wrecks that have been reefed over the last twenty years including the HMAS Adelaide and the USS Kittiwake which were just sunk in 2011). These wrecks have come to be an important part of the local ecosystems*. In fact, these wrecks may also offer an opportunity to help improve the condition of reefs

Shipwrecks (Steven W Smeltzer)

View from above. Carthaginian, Maui Hawaii

globally. Studies from the Red Sea and other locations tend to show that there is little difference between developments of an artificial reef as compared to natural reefs. Artificial reefs made from steel vessels offers long-term development for the reef and immediate space for organisms to inhabit.

Shipwrecks (Steven W Smeltzer)

Decent, USS Kittiwake, Grand Cayman

PADI and NAUI offer specialty shipwrecks diving courses to train divers in “safety, hazards and cautions, special risks of overhead environments, entanglement, limited visibility, deep diving, equipment, site of wrecks, sources of information, search methods, underwater navigation, legal aspects, artifacts, treasure, salvage, archaeology, and much more”. Wreck diving can be a wonderful experience for any diver. However, before penetrating any ship the diver should have adequate training according to the state of the ship being explored. Deep water wrecks, “natural” shipwrecks, etc., should only be explored by experienced and trained divers using appropriate safety gear and precautions.

Shipwrecks (Steven W Smeltzer)

Frogfish Closeup, Carthaginian, Maui Hawaii

Unlike true shipwrecks many reefed ships such as the USS Kittiwake in Grand Cayman, have been extensively prepared for reefing to make entry, exploration and exiting the ship relatively safe and easy. However, many older reefed ships should be approached cautiously and if the diver is not “wreck” certified penetration of the wreck should not be attempted. They key is to understand the condition of the wreck and what the diver is likely to encounter before entering the water. Use of a high quality scuba diving operation will greatly add to the safety and enjoyment of the diving experience.

Shipwrecks (Steven W Smeltzer)

Port side, main deck, USS Kittiwake

As an underwater photographer, shipwrecks hold a special fascination to me. To be able to capture the mystery and character of the ship in a photo is a special challenge. However, there are those moments when you are able to get everything just right and the photo seems to come alive. The ability of a photo to transport the viewer into the image and experience the wonder of the moment is the real test of a truly amazing photo.

*Note: While there continues to be some debate about the benefits of creating artificial reefs, the benefit of these reefs can be clearly seen from many long-term – 20 year plus artificial reefs in the Atlantic, Pacific, Mediterranean and other locations. You can read more about reefing of ships at www.natgeo.com and many other websites and review “National Guidance: Best Management Practices for Preparing Vessels Intended to Create Artificial Reefs” which was developed by the USEPA and the US Maritime Administration.
Come explore my shipwreck diving photos in the following galleries on my website and remember “the pool is open”.

The Carthaginian II Gallery

USS Kittwake Gallery

Doc Polson Gallery

The Oro Verde Gallery

Ships sunk for wreck diving (from Wikipedia)

Date Ship Name Location Country
2011 USS Arthur W. Radford (DD-968) Cape May, New Jersey United States
2011 HMAS Adelaide Avoca Beach, New South Wales Australia
2011 USS Kittiwake >West Bay, Grand Cayman Cayman Islands
2009 HMAS Canberra Barwon Heads, Victoria Australia
2009 USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg (T-AGM-10) Key West, Florida United States
2007 HMNZS Canterbury Bay of Islands New Zealand
2006 Xihwu Boeing 737 British Columbia Canada
2005 Carthaginian II Lanai Hawaii United States
2005 HMNZS Wellington Wellington New Zealand
2005 HMAS Brisbane Mooloolaba, Queensland Australia
2004 HMS Scylla Whitsand Bay, Cornwall United Kingdom
2004 USS Oriskany Florida United States
2003 CS Charles L Brown Sint Eustatius Leeward Islands
2003 HMCS Nipigon Quebec Canada
2002 MV Dania Mombasa Kenya
2002 USS Spiegel Grove Florida United States
002 HMAS Hobart Yankalilla Bay, South Australia Australia
2001 HMCS Cape Breton British Columbia Canada
2001 HMAS Perth Albany, Western Australia Australia
2000 HMCS Yukon San Diego, California United States
2000 Stanegarth Stoney Cove United Kingdom
2000 HMNZS Waikato Tutukaka New Zealand
1999 HMNZS Tui Tutukaka Heads New Zealand
1995 HMCS Saskatchewan British Columbia Canada
1997 HMAS Swan Dunsborough, Western Australia Australia
1996 HMCS Columbia British Columbia Canada
1996 MV Captain Keith Tibbetts (formerly Russian-built Frigate 356) Cayman Brac Cayman Islands
1996 Inganess Bay British Virgin Islands
1995 HMCS Mackenzie British Columbia Canada
1992 HMCS Chaudire British Columbia Canada
1991 to 2001 Wreck Alley – The Marie L, The Pat and The Beata British Virgin Islands
1991 MV G.B. Church British Columbia Canada
1990 Fontao Durban South Africa
1990 T-Barge Durban South Africa
1987 to 2000 Wreck Alley San Diego, California United States
1987 USCGC Bibb Florida United States
1987 USCGC Duane Florida United States
1981 Doc Poulson Cayman Islands
1980 Oro Verde Cayman Islands
1970 Glen Strathallen (sunk to produce a diver training facility) Plymouth United Kingdom

The pool is open…..