Guest Writer: Julie A. Dunlap

Two of the worlds more popular and well known wreck sites are the wrecks in Truk Lagoon in the South Pacific Ocean north of New Guinea and the USS Oriskany in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida. For divers interested in the west coast of the United States, several wreck sites can be found lying in waters sufficiently shallow for recreational divers as well. Wreck sites that range from ships intentionally sunk by Hollywood as part of filming for movies, or by the Navy as part of military training, to large maritime disasters borne out of mistakes made by the captain and crew. Many of these shipwrecks involved vessels running aground and ultimately leaving nothing to dive on for recreational divers. However, some wreck sites remain that are exciting and can satisfy the appetite for exploration by divers of all experience levels.

A wreck site that has become a favored dive location in Southern California is located off the coast of San Diego. The newest member of San Diego's "wreck alley" is the 366 foot long Canadian Mackenzie Class Destroyer named Yukon. It is one of the largest wrecks off California accessible to divers and, because its sinking is recent, it is one of the most intact vessels divers can visit. The ship was purchased by the San Diego Oceans Foundation, which intended to scuttle the ship off Mission Bay in July 2000. Before the planned sinking occurred, Mother Nature stepped in and the ship went to the bottom, not resting upright as intended but on its port side in approximately 100 feet of water. Nevertheless, the ship has become a popular dive location for recreational divers, as the ship is intact.

Divers visiting the Yukon should be aware that penetrating the interior of the ship is no different from diving into caves or other intact wrecks. The activity is dangerous, proven by a near fatality the first day the site was opened to the public. It is reported that a dive instructor lost his way within the interior of the ship and used up too much time during the dive finding his way out of the structure forcing him to resurface without the usual decompression stop. Divers wishing to enter the ships interior, like all sites with an overhead environment, should be trained for technical diving. For anyone interested in exploring the wreck of the Yukon and the abundance of wildlife in the area, its precise location can be obtained by researching the internet or speaking with local dive shops.

Further to the north of the Yukon lies a site that is popular among divers that have little to no experience. West of Los Angeles lies the Channel Islands of California Archipelago. Perhaps the most well known island in the chain is Santa Catalina Island (or just Catalina Island). Once owned by the chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr., the island served as the spring training facility for the Chicago Cubs between 1921 and 1951. Today, the island is part of Los Angeles County and draws tourists interested in fishing, snorkeling and diving along with various land related activities.

What is of interest to wreck divers visiting Catalina Island is the site of the Gaff-rigged Schooner named SueJac. Built in 1968, the ship sank at a protected area on the lee side of Catalina Island, immediately outside of Avalon Harbor, on November 14, 1980. The ship foundered during strong northeast winds known locally as the Santa Ana winds. The SueJac had a crew of three at the time of its demise, all of whom were rescued when rough seas swamped their dinghy that they had minutes before used to abandon the SueJac. Moments after their rescue, the waves slammed the ship into the breakwater resulting in a large hole in the hull and sending the ship to the bottom in approximately 75 feet of water.

Divers visiting the wreck site must first obtain a harbormaster's permit. The ship can still be viewed resting on its starboard side next to the breakwater. There is nothing left of value for salvage from the wreck, however, the ship is still popular for new divers and those interested in gaining experience diving on shipwrecks. The area is also popular for game fish including Calico Bass, White Sea Bass, Halibut, and Bonito. Seasonally, migrating Yellowtail, Barracuda, and Dorado may also be taken from the Island. Those interested, a little bit of research can reveal the precise location of the wreck site and what can be expected beneath the waves.

These are two more 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. With a little training on how to safely dive wreck sites and some reliable equipment, wreck diving can become an outdoor activity that is richly rewarding.


Article by: Julie A. Dunlap

Julie is the founder and owner of [], a website dedicated to providing quality name brand dive watches for divers with all experience levels. Specializing in quality name brand dive watches, she is dedicated to meeting budgetary needs of recreational and professional divers alike. To see her extensive selection of dive watches visit: []

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