Guest Writer: Julie A. Dunlap

An attractive scuba diving activity world-wide involves diving on shipwreck sites. With a little training and some reliable equipment such as a quality dive watch or computer, breathing equipment, and wet suit, to name just a few, it can lead to very rewarding dive experiences for the experienced and novice diver alike. Before taking on the risks of wreck diving, the uninitiated should get some safety training as there are dangers involved beyond open ocean diving. Having said that, the rewards of wreck diving can be numerous both for experiencing natures wonders as well as experiencing the history involved in what may be the result of an enormous life altering tragedy. While it is understood that the HMS Titanic is a wreck site left to professionals, many shallow water shipwrecks can be rewarding for divers of all experience levels.

There are hundreds of popular wreck diving sites throughout the world that routinely draw scuba divers and snorkelers to explore the wonders surrounding the wreck site. Some of these wrecks are artificial, meaning they are ships intentionally sunk to create reefs and deliberately attract divers. Examples of this include the USS Oriskany in Florida, and the wrecks of Recife in Brazil. The wrecks of Recife actually include both artificial and disaster related wrecks. Others are the result of vessels lost in disastrous events such as the RMS Rhone in the British Virgin Islands, the MS Mikhail Lermontov in the Marlborough Sounds of New Zealand, and the infamous "Ghost Fleet of Truk Lagoon."

During World War II, Truk Lagoon, part of Micronesia located in the South Pacific north of New Guinea, served as a forward anchorage for the Japanese Imperial Navy. Early in 1944, allied attacks launched from the Marshall Islands sank approximately 60 ships and 275 airplanes. Today, the area has become a popular attraction for scuba divers and snorkelers. A number of the shipwrecks lie in clear waters at shallow depths of less than fifteen meters below the surface. In waters devoid of normal ocean currents, divers can easily swim across decks littered with gas masks and depth charges. For the more experienced divers, artifacts can be found below the decks of many of the ships, however, be aware that there may be human remains found beneath the decks as well. In the massive holds of the larger ships are row upon row of fighter aircraft, tanks, bulldozers, railroad cars, motorcycles, torpedoes, mines, bombs, boxes of munitions, radios, plus thousands of other weapons, spare parts, and other artifacts.

It is little wonder that this region has become one of the most popular areas of the world for scuba diving. Over time, the wrecks have become encrusted in colorful coral and have attracted a diverse amount of marine life. Scientists studying the region have discovered over 266 species of reef fish along with turtles, manta rays, and sharks. In addition to the natural beauty of Truk Lagoon, pressure is mounting to begin the cleanup process before the impending release of tons of fuel oil from the rusting warships becomes an environmental hazard. Since the ships are classified as a Japanese war grave, participation of the Japanese is required.

Another popular wreck that draws recreational divers is the USS Oriskany. The Oriskany was one of 24 Essex Class Aircraft Carriers commissioned by the United States Navy. It earned two battle stars for service during the Korean War and five more for service during the Vietnam War. In 1966, one of the worst maritime fires occurred on board when a magnesium flare was accidentally ignited, killing forty-four sailors. The ship was decommissioned in 1976 and ultimately sunk in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida in 2006. Affectionately known as the "Great Carrier Reef", the intent of scuttling the ship was to create an artificial reef at a depth accessible to recreational scuba divers. The ships flight deck is approximately 145 feet below the surface of the water and its island structure approximately 70 feet beneath the surface of the waves. The island is easily accessible by recreational divers, however, access to the flight deck requires some training and specialized equipment.

These are just samples of the hundreds of shipwreck sites around the world that are attractive for scuba diving and snorkeling. There are multiple sources of research data and personal accounts of dive experiences available for those interested in discovering the history and wonders associated with wreck diving. Reliable equipment including water-resistant watches rated to the proper depth and training on how to safely dive wreck sites makes wreck diving an outdoor activity that can be richly rewarding.

Article by: Julie A. Dunlap

Julie is the founder and owner of [http://www.DiveWatchWorld.com], a website dedicated to providing quality name brand dive watches for divers with all experience levels. She moved to Southern California more than twenty years ago and has developed a love for marine life and the beauty of the ocean.

Specializing in quality name brand dive watches, she is dedicated to meeting budgetary needs and experience levels of recreational divers that share her love for the ocean and exploring the hidden treasures waiting to be discovered.

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