Dive Course Focus: Wreck & Advanced Wreck Diver

By Gary Ward

There are many people who are fascinated by the concept of diving around huge man-made structures, whereas for others the idea of diving on a wreck offers no allure at all.  Ships, airplanes and even cars can be fascinating to explore and are usually teeming with life.

There are three principal reasons why a wreck might exist.  Artificial reefs, contemporary and historic sinking’s.  All offer differing degrees of complexity and differing challenges.  The purpose of the Wreck Diver specialty is to learn more about how to find out information about a wreck and then how to approach diving on it.  Depending on the training agency you’re with will determine whether wreck penetration is something you’ll cover.  PADI’s Wreck Diver specialty will cover wreck penetration, but with SSI you would need to take the Advanced Wreck Diver course, which also covers more information on diving in overhead environments.

We get asked many times why people choose to do specialty diver courses, like Wreck Diver, with a dive professional.  Some people enjoy the challenge of jumping in at the deep end (so to speak) and learning based on their own experience, or from watching videos on the likes of YouTube.  Others however prefer the idea of being taught by an experienced professional in a controlled environment where the challenges that might be experienced are known and safety equipment can be on-hand.  The advice from any diligent dive professional is that a diver should not aim to dive in an environment or in conditions or in an equipment configuration which is beyond their level of training.  This is very true for the more technically challenging activities, like wreck diving.  We also like to walk you through the process of how you find out more about a wreck, so that you’re able to get a better appreciation of any historical context, which can make an interesting dive far, far more enchanting.

In Carriacou we have three wrecks which have been sunk to create excellent training sites.  They are all contemporary wrecks which have been sunk to create artificial reefs.  Our favourite for the Wreck Diver course is the WestSider.  This is a 30m (100ft) long tugboat sunk in 2004 and lies at a depth of 27m (90ft).  The main deck is at 23m (80ft).  The structure of the wreck has been made safe for divers, with hatched and doors welded open (or removed) and additional holes to dive through cut into the structure.  We’ve also removed all the debris, paneling and wiring that could cause a hazard in the wreck.

The Wreck Diver course (including Advanced Wreck Diver) usually consists of four open water dives on the wreck.  The first of these is an orientation dive whose aim is to provide a basic familiarization of the layout and structure of the wreck.  We’ll also be looking at safe diving limits and getting a gauge of how long you can potentially spend on the wreck from a no-decompression perspective and from a gas consumption too.

The second dive is a mapping dive.  We’ll be looking to map out the wreck so that we have a tool we can use for planning a potential penetration dive.  Here we’ll be focusing on the overall structure and layout of the wreck, but also trying to identify entry and exit points as well as potential risks and hazards.

The third dive you would look to undertake is as we prepare for diving in an overhead environment.  Here we would be looking to teach you the principals of running a line into the wreck, as well as how to tie off and navigate in very low visibility.  All of this is done whilst trying to use modified fin kicks and maintain amazing buoyancy control.  Its challenging when at depth, so we do this on land first (without the kicks and buoyancy control) before carrying out the exercise on the wreck’s external superstructure.

We’re then ready for dive 4!  If you choose, you can plan and carry out a penetration dive.  You’ll work with you buddy and our instructors to devise and agree and safe dive plan with clear objectives.  We’ll have the appropriate equipment with is to deliver the planned dive within safe limits and we’ll demonstrate role model behavior in terms of entry, passage through and exit of the wreck.  This will include laying line inside the wreck and maintaining buddy contact.  All things which are very challenging in a confined overhead environment.