Wreck diving is one of the most fascinating and rewarding aspects of scuba diving. Imagine diving in and around a piece of submerged history from the two world wars or some fascinating freight vessels. These underwater adventures can be yours, but we do strongly recommend that you undergo some specialized wreck diving training if you are serious about this aspect of diving. There are some wreck sites that lie in the shallows and can be enjoyed by novices, and many custom built marine parks cater for the beginner too, with their purpose-sunk novelty wrecks. But for the hardy adventurer, there are greater rewards to be found in deeper waters and for this you need to visit our training section to find a course, which will have you well prepared.
If you are interested in wreck diving, then it’s essential that you begin by gaining our scuba diving certification from PADI or another accredited body (see our Training section) If you are already a qualified scuba diver we still strongly recommend that you undergo some specialized wreck diving training if you are serious about this aspect of diving, and indeed the lure of exploring sunken ships, cars and even planes is something most divers can’t resist. PADI offer a very good wreck diving course, which is an excellent place to start. The PADI Wreck Diver Specialty course introduces you to wreck diving and helps you develop the skills and knowledge necessary for safe and fun wreck diving. In order to embark on the course you will need a PADI Adventure Diver certification (or qualifying certification from another organization) and you’ll need to be at least 15 years old.
Information contained in the wreck diver program includes:
- The planning, organization, procedures, techniques, problems and hazards of wreck diving
- The preparation and use of lights, air supplies, special equipment, penetration lines and reels
- Limited-visibility diving techniques and emergency procedures
Training normally takes 24 hours in total spread over a number of training sessions, and the minimum open water requirement is four dives over two days. You’ll need a pack of specialized equipment known as a Wreck-Pak, which includes manual, video and log insert. Your Adventures in Diving Wreck Adventure Dive may count towards a Specialty certification at instructor discretion. This Specialty certification also counts as one of five Specialty certifications required for your Master Scuba Diver certification, should you choose to take your scuba diving to a higher level.
SSI also offers a Wreck Diving specialty course. Each specialty course at SSI uses a complete training system. Their system uses their own special wreck-diving manual; including chapter review questions, and a short video to present key concepts and skills.
Required Wreck Diving Equipment
As wreck diving is a specialized discipline, you’ll need some specialized equipment.
The following equipment is required for each student
- Primary Cylinder(s): Cylinder volume appropriate for the planned dive and student gas consumption rate. Dual valve, double manifold or independent doubles. Labelled in accordance with TDI Standards.
- Travel or Decompression Cylinders as required by site conditions.
- Regulators: Primary and primary redundant required on all primary breathing cylinders. Submersible pressure gauges are required on all primary cylinder(s). A contingency use long hose second stage should be designated and appropriately rigged to facilitate air sharing at depth if necessary.
- Buoyancy Compensator(s) adequate for the open water environment.
- Back-up Depth and Timing Devices.
- Air decompression computers allowed for use as depth and timing devices.
- Light Systems, both Primary and Back-up.
- Ascent reel with lift bag/surface marker buoy or up-line. Adequate for the planned maximum depth. Minimum of eleven (11) kg / twenty five (25) lb. Lift.
- Exposure suit adequate for the open water environment.
- 2x Line Cutting Devices.
- Underwater Slate.
- Reels: Primary penetration reel and safety reel.
- Additional options that the instructor may require: Submersible dive tables, Bail-out cylinder with regulator, Jon-line, Slate, compass, surface signaling device (flare, strobe, etc.)
Great Shipwreck Dive Spots in the United Kingdom
The wreck of St. Chamond St Ives
This onetime French steamship lies at 27m of water having been torpedoed in WW1. It was carrying supplies including five railway trains that are still on the seabed providing a fascinating snapshot of this stage of the conflict. DEVON
The James Eagan Layne
One of the UK’s most popular dive destinations, The James Eagan Layne is a 7,176-tonne and 441 feet long American liberty ship which lies in Whitsand Bay in 21m. Sunk by U-boat torpedo in March 1945, she was carrying a cargo of tank parts, jeeps, lorries, wagon wheels and various other items. The wreck is home to a huge variety of marine life and it is possible to swim through many areas of the vessel without much danger or need for special training. DORSET
The Black Hawk
Lying in Dorset’s Lulworth Cove region, the wreck of the Black Hawk is popular with novices but still holds interest for more experienced divers. She lies at a depth of 16m with bollards, metal overhangs, swim-throughs and angular holes all offering great photographic potential. The Black Hawk is also known as the ship that refused to sink. It was original torpedoed off Portland Bill in 1944 with much of her stern sinking at this point. But the rest of her refused to sink so she was towed and run aground in Worbarrow Bay. By early 1945 she was only partially submerged and remained a navigational hazard until she was subsequently blown up twice! She now lies within Purbeck marine Wildlife Reserve and a skipper with good local knowledge is needed. HAMPSHIRE
A 4,078-tonned, fully armed merchantman which was en route from London to Colombo when it struck a contact mine in 1917. Today she sits on a silty, sandy bed at 29m. This is a huge wreck that will need numerous visits to fully explore her. Beware though, due to the low visibility it is possible to inadvertently swim into her interior. Be sure to bring a torch! SUSSEX
Seaford Beach and Newhaven Arm/ Gully
Good shore dives that are only 8-10m deep so they are suitable for beginners. One cautionary note: do not attempt to dive in south winds. THE NORTH
The Somali – the Farnes
Considered among UK dive enthusiasts to be the UK’s finest seal dive destinations, however the Farne Islands are also noted for their fine wrecks. The best time to dive this wreck is on a neap tide at low slack water. This occurs at about one, to one and half-hours after low tide at Seahouses. The Somali sank in 1941 after being bombed near Beadnell Point. She now lies upright in 28m of water with most of her 137m hull still intact. The Somali was carrying general cargo including gas masks, ammunition, guns and batteries; all of which are clearly visible. The boilers are also still intact while the seabed in front of the wreck is smothered in a number of small jars containing handcream, reels of film and fire extinguisher hand-pumps.
The Runnel Stone
Probably one of the most spectacular dive sites in Europe which can satisfy every diver’s taste. This is largely thanks to the spectacular reef systems and wrecks numbering in excess of thirty that have run aground on the reefs and pinnacles. The last remaining surface – breaking feature of these pinnacles was lost in 1923 when the City of Westminster hit the stone.
The region that boasts the Stone – the remains of that pinnacle – is within sight of Land’s End and the Longships lighthouse. It’s open to Atlantic seas which means that you must be sure that tides and weather are right before you dive. A strong local knowledge of the undersea terrain is essential. Expect a healthy swell at all times and occasionally vicious, unpredictable tides. The weather too is changeable, however under the right conditions the Stone is a magnificent dive. Underwater reef systems consist of walls, gullies and plateaus supporting a huge amount of marine life. Surprisingly the area is even occasional host to tropical species like triggerfish and sunfish.
Encounters with large shoals of bass, mackerel and pollock are common among the rocks and wrecks. Also common are sponges, cup corals, urchins and shellfish. The visibility here is generally around 20 metres although the plankton bloom around late spring/ early summer greatly reduces this. Wrecks here are often so piled up on top of each other that it’s hard to work out when one wreck starts and another one finishes.
Of the wrecks in The Runnelstone region notables include Febrero which sunk in 1910, Joshua Nicholson, which was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1917 and both the Moorview and the Lake Grafton which sunk in 1920. A drift dive across this region will guarantee sightings of at least five wrecks and diverse marine life. A must see for all enthusiasts.
The North East of England coastline boasts more wrecks per square mile than any other area. It also promises divers numerous walls and reefs covered in an abundance of marine life. Among the many wrecks is the huge Oslofjord. A 177m long luxury liner it lies at 15m.
A sheltered bay facing Northwest on the other side of St. Abbs Head. Head for a wall that is marked out by a low rock called Wick Gaut. The wall of Wick Gaut has a strata which rises at 45 degrees and forms narrow ledges which are inhabited by squat lobsters, sea urchins and gobies. Dean Man’s Fingers cover the vertical part of the wall.
Often referred to as the Scapa Flow of Northern Island due to the high number of wrecks, some of which date back 100 years. Discoveries are still being made with the bell of one major liner, The Tiberia, only discovered very recently. The wreck dives vary in difficulty with sites to suit all abilities. Visibility ranges from 3 to 10 metres and depth range from 10m to 60m.
Roaring Water Bay
Lying between Baltimore to the southeast and Crookhaven to the west this region boasts the Carbery 100 Islands which promise varied sites and sheltered diving.
Leybourne Lake Watersports Centre, near Larkfield, Kent
Numerous items like cars, a cabin cruiser, a speedboat etc., have been dumped in the lake for the benefit of divers. There is also a memorial to Jacques Cousteau on the lakebed