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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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
The Oro VerdeGallery
Ships sunk for wreck diving (from Wikipedia)
|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|
|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|
|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|