For many divers, wreck diving presents a tantalising challenge. Wrecks are ghosts of the past preserved on the seabed, which also connect the underwater world with life on solid ground. There are some wrecks that stand out from the crowd so we have put together this top 10 wreck dives worldwide.
The majority of wrecks are military ships, offering divers a glimpse into a life that most know little of. Wrecks become artificial reefs, so can often be found covered in coral and teeming with fish. Wrecks tend to be in deep water, and so are sometimes only suitable for experienced and technical divers, but interesting wrecks dives worldwide are found at shallower depths, too.
Please note the images in this top 10 wreck dives worldwide do not correspond to the dives mentioned. Unfortunately I have been unable to find matching images so instead have used inspiring wreck diving images
Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands is home to a variety of wrecks, most are from the German High Seas Fleet of nearly 100 battleships, which was scuppered here after the First World War. Visibility can be up to thirty metres -very high for UK waters.
The size of the fleet and the number of submerged vessels is the main attraction here; with so many wrecks to choose from, it’s unlikely you’ll ever get bored. The largest are the Kronprinz Wilhelm, the Markgraf, and the Konig, which is 177-metres long.
Bikini Atoll is known both for its excellent wreck diving and its varied reef diving, so there’s something here for all divers. Most spectacular of the wrecks is the USS Saratoga, a 300-metre long aircraft carrier, larger than the Titanic, with eight decks. Almost intact, she was sunk in the first underwater atom bomb test in 1946. Dive down the elevator shaft, and into the hangar past parked planes, bombs and rockets. Many personal objects, such as coffee pots and aftershave bottles, still remain.
The ‘Mount Everest’ of scuba-diving, the Andrea Doria was an Italian passenger liner before it was sunk near Nantucket in 1956 – the last of the great ocean before the age of air travel. It lies at a forbidding depth of 73 metres and is only for the most experienced technical divers – 15 divers have died here. Those who dive will find a ship that is beginning to crumble, although artefacts such as china and glass are still sometimes recovered, and revered among divers.
The remains of the Japanese fleet, more than 60 ships and planes attacked by the US in 1944, lie at the bottom of the Truk Lagoon. One of the best is the Fujikawa Maru, a 132-metre long freighter lying at a shallow depth – the top of the wreck is at 9 metres, the bottom at 34 metres, putting it within reach of all recreational divers.
Colourful corals grow all over its decks, and fossilised sake bottles can even still be found. The engine room is fascinating, but only suitable for those with the right training.
This area is home to wonderful diving of all kinds, but this wreck stands out. She was a British ship sunk in the Gulf of Suez in 1941 while transporting supplies to the British army stationed at Alexandria. These included gun carriers, rifles, radio equipment, jeeps and wellington boots.
This is also one of the top 10 wreck dives worldwide because you are likely to see schools of barracuda, giant tuna and snapper regularly. The Dunraven, a Victorian steam ship sunk in 1876, is also nearby.
Also in the Red Sea, the Umbria is an Italian cargo ship sunk in 1940. It sits in a quieter region than that near Sharm-El-Sheikh. Lying at a shallow depth of 5-35metres, the Umbria provides perhaps the perfect wreck dive: she is small enough so divers can cover the basics in one dive, yet large enough to not leave them bored, so they still want to come back.
Watch out for Fiat cars, wine bottles, lifeboats and munitions. Those trained in wreck penetration can reach the engine room and bakery – bring me back a multi grain loaf please.
A much newer wreck than many, the Zenobia sank on her first voyage in 1980 when her computerised ballast system malfunctioned. A roll-on, roll-off vehicle ferry, the Zenobia sank with 104 articulated lorries on board. The ship is huge at 178-metres long, giving plenty to explore.
The accommodation deck and canteen are interesting, and it’s even possible to sit in the ship’s lifeboats! The highlight though is surely the egg lorry, with its cargo still perfectly preserved.
The most intact wreck in Australia, the Yongala sits in that diving haven: the Great Barrier Reef. She was a passenger steam ship and went down suddenly in a cyclone in 1911, killing all on board.
As well as the obvious historical interest, the Yongala hosts a wonderful variety of fish and marine life. Because it acts as an artificial reef, you’ll see ten times more species here than on a simple reef dive. The ship is particularly famed for its sea anemones and clownfish.
At 200-metres this is a very large wreck, and highly accessible as it sits at between 21 and 68 metres deep it is one of the largest and most accessible ship wrecks in the world. The Coolidge was a luxury liner converted to use as troop ship by the US, and sank in 1942 when she ran into mines. It now ranks as one of the top 10 wreck dives worldwide.
There is so much to explore here: masses of military goodies, guns, tanks, trucks, helmets and gas masks. The medical area is fascinating, with medicine bottles and syringes visible, as is the captain’s bathroom. Many relics of her life, such as a mosaic fountain, remain intact, despite the weathering of the sea.
The Oriskany, or the ‘Mighty-O’, was deliberately sunk off the Florida coast near Pensacola in 2004, and now functions as the world’s largest artificial reef. She is a 275-metre long ex-US army aircraft carrier that was used in Vietnam. The flight deck has a depth of 40 metres – so for the more experienced – but the bridge and gun platforms are visible at much shallower depths.
Marine life, including grouper and tuna, gather all over the ship and its variety should improve the longer she sits on the bottom.
So come on tell us – are there any better wrecks out there which we have missed from our top 10 wreck dives worldwide?
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