If you have ever seen any promotional brochures about Thailand, you will have probably seen pictures of picturesque palm fringed beaches, glistening golden statues of Buddha, and smiling women selling wooden trinkets on a floating market. After all, Thailand is ‘The Land of Smiles’. Although the term ‘the land of smiles’ was originally a marketing ploy used by the Thai tourism board to attract more visitors, the name has now stuck and the country attracts millions of visitors each year to experience the kindness of the locals and the wealth of experiences Thailand has to offer.
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The Diving Bell
One human trait that has existed since the beginning of time, is that of curiosity. Our curiosity to explore the lofty skies, the insides of the earth and the depths of the oceans. This curiosity for exploration resulted in something that is now known as “The Diving Bell”. The diving bell was the world’s first submarine, the first instrument that allowed mankind to venture into the unknown deep blue sea and it is the first piece of equipment that helped us on our way to develop advanced marine technology. The diving bell is most definitely a milestone in the maritime history books. So, What Exactly is a Diving Bell? A diving bell is essentially a heavy, solid watertight chamber that is used to transport divers from the surface to a certain depth underwater and allow them to stay there for a period of time before re-surfacing. The diving bell is usually used to perform underwater commerical work, salvage wrecks and submarine rescues. How is a Diving Bell Made? In the earlier days, the bells were cast in all kinds of shapes and tried with all types of materials. There were wooden bells and cast-iron bells too. Some were bottle-shaped, while others resembled wine glasses. The only thing that each bell had in common was that they were all very, very, very heavy. This is why iron was commonly used to make these little underwater chariots. The reason it needs to be so heavy is because of the immense pressure exerted from the engulfing water. Nowadays they are made much differently and obviously the quality of the bell is far superior. Here’s the process of how a modern-day diving bell is made: The main part shape and design of the diving bell is created from very strong steel usually all in one piece. The bell is then cut and shaped with 3 primary sections: The body, the sides and the bottom. The 3 separate sections are hand-welded together by certified experts to ensure the welding is strong enough the endure extremely high pressures as well as being completely watertight. 2-3 windows or viewports are fitted, these are commonly made from cast acrylic. After all of the 3 sections have been welded together, the bell is inspected by undertaking ultrasound and visual checks, then proof testing is started. Proof testing is to ensure that the bell can withstand pressures that it has been created for. The bell is then sprayed with a specialist paint called a marine epoxy Lights, CO2 pumps, heaters and fans are all added to the diving bell interior along with wiring, pipes to ensure the bell is fit for use. How Does a Diving Bell Work? The concept of a diving bell is quite simple, which makes it believable that an early version of it was being used in the 4th century. The concept is so simple that you can try it in your kitchen sink! Here’s how: Fill your sink with water Get an empty cup Push the open end of it vertically into the water Remove the cup The water will not enter the cup. Why is that? Well, the pressure of the water creates an air pocket within the cup, which is the concept behind the diving bell. The force of the water pushes the air upwards: as air is lighter than water, which makes an air pocket. This air pocket is used by divers to enable them to breathe underwater from within the diving bell. However, this has its limitations. The diving bell could be submerged only so deep and still have a breathable pocket of air. It took a lot of research, trial and error, prototype development and the minds of some great inventors to create a version of the diving bell that allows the bell to enter greater depths and the person inside to be safe. What Is The Diving Bell Pressure Equation? The pressure equation is not so simple and to understand the diving bell pressure equation, we’ll need to refer to Boyle’s Law. Unfortunately, we don’t have any physicians that work at divecompare.com so we thought we’ leave this one to the experts and refer you to page 10 of the University of California’s document on scuba diving physics for the full explanation. “For any gas at a constant temperature, the volume of the gas will vary inversely with the pressure.” If an inverted bucket is filled with air at the surface where the pressure is one atmosphere (14.7 psi), and then taken under water to a depth of 33 fsw (10.1 msw), or two atmospheres (29.4 psi), it will be only half full of air. Any compressible air space, whether it is in a diver’s body or in a flexible container, will change its volume during descent and ascent. Ear and sinus-clearing, diving mask volume, changes in buoyancy, the functioning of a scuba regulator, descent or ascent, air consumption, decompression—all are governed by Boyle’s Law (see Figure 2.6). Examples of Boyle’s Law An open-bottom diving bell with a volume of 24 cubic feet is lowered into the water from a surface support ship. No air is supplied to or lost from the bell. Calculate the volume of the air space in the bell at depths of 33, 66, and 99 fsw (10.1, 20.3, and 30.4 msw, respectively). Boyle’s Equation: P1 V1 = P2 V2 P1 = initial pressure surface absolute V1 = initial volume in cubic feet (ft3) P2 = final pressure absolute V2 = final volume in cubic feet (ft3) Example 1 – Boyle’s Law Transposing to determine the volume (V2) at 33 ft.: V2 = P1 V1 P2 P1 = 1 ata P2 = 2 ata V1 = 24 ft3 V2 = 1 ata × 24 ft3 2 ata V2 = 12 ft3 NOTE: The volume of air in the open bell has been compressed from 24 to 12 ft3 in the first 33 ft. of water. Example 2 – Boyle’s Law Using the method illustrated above to determine the air volume at 66 ft.: V3 = P1 V1 P3 P3 = 3 ata V3 = 1 ata × 24 ft3 3 ata V3 = 8 ft3 NOTE: The volume of air in the open bell has been compressed from 24 to 8 ft3 at 66 ft.” Content Reference: https://www.ehs.ucsb.edu/ When Was The Diving Bell Invented? It is believed that the first diving bell was invented sometime around the 4th century BC: according to Greek philosopher Aristotle. Aristotle’s famous student Alexander the Great is often depicted in paintings sitting inside a glass cauldron at the bottom of the ocean, which suggests that the diving bell was in use. The foundation of what the modern world would come to know as “scuba diving” centuries later, was laid. Other diving bells were invented and used in various places in Europe, mostly to salvage treasure. The modern diving bell was invented by Englishman Edmund Halley (who is also known for the comet bearing his name). In 1690 Halley built a diving bell that used leather tubes and lead barrels to supply fresh air underwater. His diving bell was wooden, weighted with lead and fitted with a glass viewport. Inside, Halley hung a platform for the diver to rest and with the help of weighted barrels, when the diver pulled on them, water pressure from below forced the barrels to release fresh air into the bell. Helpers on the surface refilled the barrels with fresh air continually and Halley and a team of divers managed to stay underwater at a depth of around 60 ft (18.3 m) for as long as an hour and a half using his bell. The Modern Diving Bell Today we find the diving bell to be a modified version of its predecessor. It is a simple transport-bell, used to transfer divers from the deck of the diving-vessel to the area where they have to do their work and back again. This has proved to be a safe vehicle for travel to the limit of up to 100 meters on breathing mixtures. Despite the use of saturation diving techniques, decompression still is critical. A diver can reach a depth of 65 meters in 3 minutes, but it can take him more than 2.5 hours to return to the surface because of his decompression stops (off-loading nitrogen that has crept into the body). It is very dangerous not to obey the laws of decompression. How Deep Can a Diving Bell Go? Modern-day diving bells are made to reach depths of most and commercial diving is conducted between 65 (20 metres) and 1,000 feet (304 metres). However, some diving bells are made to only have a working depth of around 33 feet (10 metres). What is a Diving Bell Depth Record? Thanks to the advances made in technology especially the saturation diving industry, the diving bell depth record had been reached with the deepest dive to 2,300 feet (701 meters) by a human under the pressure of 71.1 atmospheres. Now that is one deep dive. What is a Wet Bell? It is essentially a platform for divers use to descend and ascend from an underwater work area, the platform includes an air-filled space, open at the bottom, where the divers can stand or rest without their heads being submerged. What is a Closed Bell? A closed or dry bell is a pressurised chamber for human transport which is lowered underwater to a workplace, equalised in pressure to the environment, and opened to allow the divers in and out, keeping this pressure equal without flooding the interiors. The internal pressure requires a strong structure, and a spherical ended cylinder is usually the most efficient. Closed bells are used in the commercial diving industry regularly and require the inhabitants to have a strong technical background. Closed bells once back on the surface attach to decompression chambers to aid with diver decompression once the underwater work is completed. They are used for submarine rescues and similar operations like it. Diving Bell Accidents In the nineteenth century and before scientists discovered the effects of pressure on the human body, decompression sickness and casualties because of “the bends” had become a common theme among deep-sea explorers. One diving bell accident occurred when a drilling rig called the Byford Dolphin, in 1983. Five crew members passed away and a sixth was seriously injured. The platform was drilling in a gas field when four divers were in two connected chambers. One of these chambers was also connected to a diving bell. Due to human error, the clamp of the bell was opened earlier than required and the higher pressure chamber rushed into the lower pressure of the bell. As a result, there was an explosion and the bell was blown away with unfortunate casualties. Newer bells have much more enhanced safety and security systems in place to prevent catastrophes such as these accidents. Diving Bell Submarine Rescue During the earlier days of the United States Navy Submarine Force, there were several accidents in which submarines sank with the loss of life. These experiences led submariner Charles Momsen to think of alternatives for rescuing survivors from sunken submarines, which at that time was still a virtual impossibility. Momsen soon conceived a submarine rescue chamber that could be lowered from the surface to mate with a submarine’s escape hatch. Since then, great advancements have been made to the chambers which have led to hundreds of successful rescue operations. That concludes our thoughts on the diving bell, I hope you enjoyed the article. If you have anything to add or would like to share your thoughts, please do so in the comments below and don’t forget to share with your friends on social media. Happy Diving!Continue reading
A Complete Guide to Wreck Diving
Wreck diving is one of the most fascinating underwater activities you can do. The sites and locations are always shrouded with mystery, tragedy and there are fascinating tales behind each wreckage. The wrecks have either been created through an act of war, natural disasters, poor decision making or they have been created deliberately. Each individual location has its own unique story, there is usually a glorious beginning, an insightful middle and of course an unwanted watery end to each of the wrecks. Wreck diving is totally different from a normal diving trip, it requires experience, different skill-sets and coolness, due to the multiple hazards that can be present in one location. If you are looking for the next challenge in scuba diving, wreck diving will certainly be upping the ante. You’ll need to go through specialist training and gain experience of wreck and technical diving before you’re able to safely attempt one of the world’s top wreck sites. Now that wreck diving becoming more and more popular, we’ve decided to take an in-depth look into all the topics, common questions and of course the wreck sites themselves. Let’s look a little deeper into the wonders of these underwater playgrounds. What Do You Mean by Wreck Diving? Wreck diving, by definition, is a professional or recreational dive, where divers explore sunken boats, ships, aircraft, land-based vehicles, shipping containers. It can also include, oil rigs, submarines and a wreck is basically any man-made object that shouldn’t naturally be resting on the seabed. When divers visit wreck sites, they either examine, salvage or record data for preservation purposes. If you are new to wreck diving, it might be worth taking a look at our blog for “an introduction to wreck diving” so you can grasp the basics. What Are The Different Types of Wreck Diving? Non-penetration – this is where the divers simply swim over and around the underwater wreckage. Penetration Dives – Where the dive consists of the divers entering the wreck site and exploring the contents of the structure going past the light zone into darkened sections of the wreck where natural light cannot reach. Partial Penetration – Divers enter the wreckage however they stay within the light zone where natural light can reach. Deep Wreck Dive – this is diving onto a site that is usually below 18metres in depth. Deep wreck dives usually degrade much quicker than normal wreck sites due to pressure and more underwater biological activity going on. Learning and Training How to Wreck Dive When learning how to wreck dive you should choose a place that has a purpose-made site to learn on, it is becoming more and more common for many commonly dived areas to sink or “scuttle” ships to train for wreck diving. Locations such as the ‘HTHS Sattakut’ on the island of Koh Tao, Thailand or the ‘Halliburton’ Utila, Honduras. These ships have been cleared, and have fewer hazards in them Also the oil and fuel have been taken out so it does not damage the environment. Diving at purpose-made wreck sites is the perfect way to gain experience for beginners and it allows you to dive in the safest conditions possible. What Does Scuttling Ships Mean? This is a practice where retired boats, ships and other marine craft are sunk on purpose. “Scuttling Ships” is a method used to help produce artificial reefs and additional marine life to the underwater area. Top Wreck Diving Sites in the World & The Best Places to Go Wreck Diving There is an abundance of beautiful and popular wreck dive sites all over the globe, in our oceans, lakes and even our some rivers. The range of wrecks is huge, most wrecks are of military orientation along with cruise ships, luxury passenger liners, submarines, aircraft carriers, battleships, etc… the list goes on. As there are so many to wreck diving locations to choose from, we’ve decided to make a top 20 list (because a top 10 list just isn’t enough) of the best wreck diving sites in the world (updated 2019). 1. SS Yongala Shipwreck, Australia Considered by many divers as one of the best wreck diving sites in the world, this wreckage doesn’t fail to “wow” it’s diving visitors. Located in sunny Australia, Townsville, Queensland, this 110m long shipwreck used to be a passenger and freight ship. On one fateful day in 1911, it was hit by a tremendously powerful tropical cyclone, which sank the S.S. Yongala, killing 124 of its helpless passengers. The wreck was discovered in 1958 and now is one of Australia’s main diving locations. Wreck size: Measuring 360 feet long (110m) Dive Site Depth: Range 108-49 feet (33-15m) Visibility: 32 – 48 feet (10-15m) Water temperature: 24°C (75°F) – 29°C (84°F) Needed Knowledge: Access only by boat. Penetration diving and taking items from the wreck are forbidden. Possible marine life you could see: Giant groupers Eagles Rays Manta Rays Sea turtles Sea snakes Barracudas Giant trevallies hunting around Bull Shark Tiger Shark Minke Whales Humpback Whales Whale Shark Gorgonians sea fans 2. USAT Liberty – Tulamben bay, Bali, Indonesia. A beautiful wreck dive site in Tulamben Bau, off the wonderful island of Bali, Indonesia. The USAT Liberty was freight boat conscripted into service during the WW2 era. Struck by a torpedo from a Japanese warship in January 1942 caused the USAT Liberty to head inland and grounded itself to prevent being sunk. The ship did finally sink in 1963 due to the eruption of the local volcano called Gunung Agung. The eruption caused the ship to roll, causing it to sink. Now it has become one of the main scuba diving attractions Bali has to offer. The wreck itself is approximately 120m in length, only 40m offshore and submerged in just 5-30 metres of water. As there is minimal current, the wreckage attracts some stunning marine life. From reef fish, to bump head parrotfish, potato cod and even the majestic sea turtles. This dive site is perfect for beginners as there is plenty to explore, its shallow and has a magnificent variation of marine life. Wreck size: 398 feet (120 metres) Dive Site Depth: 16-98 feet (5-30 metres) Visibility: 59 – 75 feet (18-23m) Water temperature: 23°C (73°F) – 28°C (82°F) Needed Knowledge: As the site is in fairly shallow waters, you can go snorkelling here. Access is easily made by swimming out from a nearby beach. Marine life you could see: Sea Turtles Scorpion Fish Pygmy SeaHorse Giant Barracuda Reef fish Bump head parrotfish Giant Grouper Nudibranch 3. Bianca C – Grenada, Caribbean The wreck site known as“The Titanic of the Caribbean” and is the largest wreck in the Caribbean where you can dive. The Bianca C used to be a luxury cruiser and it’s now located near the Isle of Spice. The French made vessel was launched in June 1944 before it was fully complete. The unfinished hull was attacked two months after the launch (and the Normandy landings) by retreating Nazi German forces, who torpedoed the ship. The cruiser was later raised from its sea bed in 1946 and was restored fully, in 1949. The ship was back on the water and had its last voyage in 1961. At its final stop on her return journey, just off St. George’s Grenada, her boiler room exploded and an almighty fire spread throughout the ship. Amazingly, all 672 passengers were rescued, however, one crew member sadly died. After burning for two days and with an attempted effort to tow the ship away from the busy shipping route, the Bianca finally sank. This dive site has strong currents making it very tricky, it is advised that only advanced divers attempt this wreck. Wreck size: Measuring 593 feet (180 metres) Dive Site Depth: Range 90 – 167 feet (27 – 50 metres) Visibility: 60 – 180 feet (18-55 metres) Water temperature: 26°C (97°F) – 30°C (86°F) Needed Knowledge: The wreck has taken a beating over the years and entering the wreck site is not recommended. Marine life you could see: Eagle rays Nurse sharks Barracuda Large moray eels Atlantic spadefish 4. SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm – Scapa Flow, Scotland A seasoned German Imperial battleship one of four in the König class (the most powerful warships in the German fleet in 1914). At the end of WWI, the German scuttled 74 of their Imperial battleships to stop the Allied forces taking hold of them. Most of these wrecks were salvaged for scrap metal, while seven others make up what is now a popular wreck diving site in the area. However, most wrecks lie beyond the recreational depth limits in a location known as the Scapa Flow, with only the SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm wreck accessible for divers of all levels. The wreck itself is huge and requires time and patience for you to fully understand the ship’s intriguing characteristics. Wreck size: 480 feet (146 metres) Dive Site Depth: 50-115 feet (12-35 metres). Visibility: 30-45 feet (9 -14 metres) Water temperature: 46-57 °F (8-14 °C) Needed Knowledge: Highlights include the 12-inch guns, typical of dreadnaught battleships of that era. This thing is huge and you’ll need to spend some time exploring this fantastically inquisitive piece of history. Marine Life you could see: You don’t go diving here for the marine life, you go for the guns and the history and marvel at the past 5. SS Thistlegorm, Red Sea, Egypt By far one of the most popular and well-preserved wrecks in the world, and a must on every diver’s bucket list. The SS Thistlegorm is a British WWII steamship that sank in the Red Sea, just south of the Suez Canal, in 1941, after being bombed by two Germans aircraft bombers. Today, the Thistlegorm wreck in Sharm El Sheik is one of the most popular dive sites in the world. She has her truly unique vast collection of historical artefacts, from motorcycles to locomotives, trucks, anti-aircraft guns other wartime supplies. Wreck size: 410 feet (125 metres) Dive Site Depth: 65-98 feet (20-30 metres). Visibility: 49-100 feet (15-30 metres) Water Temperature: 71-82 °F (22-28 °C) Needed Knowledge: Although accessible to recreational divers, the Thistlegorm is an advanced dive, where divers can expect strong currents. Marine life you could see: Trevally Teira batfish Crocodile fish Hawksbill turtle 6. USS Kittiwake – Grand Cayman Island Lying majestically just off the coast of Grand Cayman Island, the Kittiwake wreck is as noble as its history. The ship is an ex USA Navy vessel that served as a submarine rescue vessel for more than 50 years (1945-1994). Most of its deployments are still classified, but one of its best-known missions includes recovering the Blackbox in the Atlantic Ocean following the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster in 1986. The USS Kittiwake was decommissioned in 1994, and in 2011, the Maritime Administration donated it to Grand Cayman Island to be used as a recreational dive site and artificial reef. Beginners can explore the first three decks, while advanced divers can swim through all five decks. Wreck Size: 251 feet (76.5 metres) Dive Site Depth: 15-60 feet (4.5 – 18 metres) Visibility: 60-100 feet (18-30 metres) Water temperature: 78-82 °F (26-28 °C) Needed Knowledge: The USS Kittiwake wreck is one best wreck diving locations in the world and is easily accessible for beginners, snorkelers and freedivers. Marine life you could see: Horse eyed jacks Parrotfish Sea turtles Grouper Stingrays Barracuda 7. Fujikawa Maru, Truk Lagoon (Chuuk Lagoon), Micronesia This wreck used to be a cargo and passenger ship built in Tokyo, 1938. Her route would send her between India, North and South America, Japan and South China. Then during WWII in 1940, the Japanese Navy requisitioned the cargo ship into an armed aircraft transport or ferry. The Fujikawa Maru was sunk during Operation Hailstone in 1944, she was hit multiple times by US bombers and torpedoes. This wreck site is a wonder to explore and has so much history attached to each aspect of the wreck. From a British made bow gun to Japanese fighter propeller blades, this wreck is exceptional. Wreck size: 433 feet (13 metres) Dive Site Depth: 15 – 120 feet (5-37 metres) Visibility: 49-164 feet (15-50 metres) Water Temperature: 80-86 °F (27-30 °C) Needed Knowledge: The bow gun measures at a 6-inches (152 mm) and is said to be leftover from the Sino-Japanese war. You can also find parts of old Mitshibishi fighter planes. This site is considered the best in the Chuuk Lagoon area. Marine life you could see here: Various schools of multi-coloured reef fish Schools of glassfish Brightly Coloured coral Shrimps Gobies Mantis shrimp Turtles Rays Sharks 8. USS Monitor, “The Graveyard of the Atlantic”, USA Located in US waters and in an area known as “The Graveyard of the Atlantic” this wreck site used to be a Civil War ship. She was commissioned in Feb 1862 and later that year, sank in December. This wreck was involved in a pioneering moment for naval war. For the first time, iron ships fought on water but the battle wasn’t the demise of the Monitor (AKA “Cheesebox on a raft”) a brutal storm hit the ship whilst en route to North Carolina causing irreversible damage and 16 of her crew to die. The wreck was only recently discovered in 1973 and is now a protected site. Wreck size: 173 feet (53 metres) Dive Site Depth: 240 feet (73 metres) Visibility: 100+ feet (30 metres) Water temperature: 59-75 °F (15-24 °C) Needed Knowledge: This wreck site is not for beginners or even intermediates. This dive will prove to be very tricky even for the most gifted and experienced technical divers. Marine life you could see: Cetaceans Sea turtles Reef sharks Manta rays Greater amberjack Black sea bass Grouper Crabs Brittle stars Sea urchins Spiny lobsters Tree coral, Whip coral, Oysters Lionfish 9. MS Mikhail Lermontov, Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand This East German cruise ship was loved by all who boarded it. Luxury wine tasting, exotic locations, incredible decor, a live band playing whilst dinner is being served, this ship oozed class. The average age of the passengers on board the ship at the time of its sinking was 70. An amazingly intriguing dive site, with 12 decks to navigate, chandeliers still recognisable, beer cans with logos still visible, this site full of old stories. The Lermontov sunk due to the arrogance of the local Captain in control at the time (the commanding capt was actually below deck), he tried to take a short cut between the shore and the lighthouse. Not a good idea, as the cruise ship hit the rocks int shallow waters. Luckily, no one was killed when she sunk. Wreck size: 567 feet (175 metres) Dive Site Depth: 39-118 feet (12-36 metres) Visibility: 16-80 feet (5-25 metres) Water temperature: 54-64 °F (12-18 °C) Needed Knowledge: You must be careful and take a guide if you dive here. There have been more deaths from individual divers than there was at the event of the sinking. Marine life you could see: Blue Moki Red Moki Cod Blennies Triplefins Dogfish Carpet sharks Sea perch Spotties Octopus Kingfish 10. The Frederiksted Pier (Armageddon): – Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands A beautiful place for night dives and easily accessible from the shore. This old pier was torn down due to hurricane damage in 1989 and some of the pillars still remain making it the perfect artificial coral reef. Now it’s covered in coral and sponges and it attracts some exceptional marine life. The complexity of the structures allows for a lot of exploring. Most people describe this location as a gothic underwater palace. Very popular and definitely one to see. Wreck size: 1526 feet (465 metres) Dive Site Depth: 40-60 feet (12- 18 metres) Visibility: 66-164 feet (20 – 50 metres) Water temperature: 80 – 82 °F (26 – 29 °C) Needed Knowledge: One of the top-rated wrecks to dive for both amateur and advanced divers. The number of dive site to find sea horses! Marine life you could see: Sea Horses Reef sharks Batfish Frogfish Various eels Living shells Caribbean lobster 11. USS New York, Subic Bay, Philippines Subic Bay is home to over 10 wreck dive sites, with most of the wrecks being sunk here during World War 2. This location is perfect for advanced divers and beginners. The USS NEW York is located smack bang in the middle of the Subic Bay. Built during the 1890s she was labelled the fasted armoured cruiser in the world when it was operational. In 1941 she was scuttled here in the Subic bay to prevent her from being taken by Japanese forces. Her 8-inch twin cannons are still intact and this site is the most popular of all in the Subic Bay location. This site is for advanced and experienced technical divers. Wreck size: 377 feet (115 metres ) Dive Site Depth: 35-75 feet (10 – 21 metres) Visibility: 16 – 65 feet (5 – 20 metres) Water temperature: 50 – 60 °F (10 -15 °C) Needed Knowledge: It can be very tricky even getting to this site due to the location being in the middle of the harbour. You have to request a time to venture out to the site and if the shipping lanes are busy, you have no choice but to wait. You could spend a few days there waiting to be granted access to the site. Marine life you could see: Barracuda Eagle Ray Schools of colourful reef fish Coral fish Scorpionfish Stonefish 12. “Ghost fleet” of Chuuk (Truk) Lagoon, Micronesia It’s a very unique location, all the wrecks lie within a lagoon surrounded by a coral reef. Chuuk Lagoon used to be a main Naval base for Japan during the second world war and what happened here is known as “Japan’s Pearl Harbour”. This wreck site is the largest in the world and is very popular with diving enthusiasts due to the sheer number of wrecks in such close proximity. In 1944, over a three-day siege known as “Operation Hailstone”, the allies made sure that this Japanese base was no longer a threat. During those 3 days over 60 Japanese warships and around 200 fighter aircraft were sunk, along with tanks, bulldozers, ammunition, tankers and other various war and cargo vehicles. With so many different wrecks to see in one location and with such a powerful story behind it, it’s obvious why this wreck location is one of the most popular diving destinations in the world. Wreck size: The largest wreck is around 115m in length (The Heian Maru) Dive Site Depth: 16-196 feet (5-60 metres) Visibility: 60-100 feet (18-30 metres) Water temperature: 81-86°F (27-30°C) Needed Knowledge: This location is the largest wreck site in the world with some wrecks as large as 155m in length. Due to the location in Micronesia, you’ll need to spend at least 2 days getting to the location and spend at least 7 days in total if you want to get a good look into this amazing piece of WWII history. Marine life you could see: Sea Turtles Stingrays Eagle rays Manta rays Reef sharks Leopard shark Rare coral 13. The Inket Wreck, Duncan Island – The Andaman Islands, India The ‘Inket’ was a Japanese warship that sank here during World War II. During WWI the Japanese forces occupied parts of India (which is not widely known) and the Inket wreck is the perfect piece of evidence for this happening. The wreck sits upright showing off its huge, eye-widening propeller. Much of the wreck is still intact and you can see inside the ship’s hatches and see into the hold. This site is for advanced divers, however in calmer waters and more favourable conditions, beginner divers can venture out to this little beauty of a wreck. Wreck size: 299 feet (70 metres) Dive Site Depth: 16-98 feet (5-30 metres) Visibility: 32-49 feet (10-15 metres) Water temperature: 81-86 °F (27 – 30°C) Needed Knowledge: A common rumour is that in 2004 tsunami straightened out the Inket wreckage and it used to lay on its side. Marine life you could see: Schools of snapper Parrotfish Manta rays Eagle rays Lionfish Seahorses Triggerfish Lizardfish Stonefish 14. SS Andrea Doria, Nantucket Island, Massachusetts USA Known in the wreck diving community as the “Mount Everest” of dives, the SS Andrea Doria is a very large and highly difficult location to dive, this is due to the extremely low water temperatures and highly unpredictable currents. The Andrea Doria was a high-end luxury passenger liner and was very popular when she was in action. Unfortunately, she had a disastrous ending. On one of her busy voyages across the Atlantic, (Genoa to New York City) in 1956, the liner noted another ship on the radar. It was MS Stockholm, 17 nautical miles away, en route to Gothenburg from New York City. Both liners made adjustments to their course but both misjudged each other’s true course. Heavy fog descended and errors reading the radar were made by both ships. The Swedish ship made the standard course – a port-to-port pass (meaning heading to the left) and the SS Andrea Doria chose to manoeuvre to the starboard side (heading to the right). You know happens next…Travelling at a combined speed of around 40 knots the two liners were dead on course for a collision. The Stockholm smashed into the side of Andrea Doria opening all but 4 of its 11 decks. 51 people died. Luckily there were other vessels around that could come to the aid the SS Andrea. Wreck size: 697 feet (212 metres) Dive Site Depth: 250 feet (76 metres) Visibility: 10-100 feet (3-30 metres) Water temperature: 38-48 °F (3-8 °C) Needed Knowledge: Unpredictable currents, very cold waters, this dive is not one for beginners or chancers. There have been many deaths over the years attempting to dive here. Don’t go into this half-hearted, be prepared. Marine life you could see: This dive is all about the challenge of the wreck, negotiating the currents and most importantly staying alive! 15. MS Antilla, Aruba, Mexico When this ship was active, she was a finely constructed, mighty German freighter. At the very start of the second world war, the ship set course from a safe zone in Cartagena, towards Curaçao, then altered its route and headed for Aruba as the destination dock was full of other German ships. The British, and their highly sophisticated Royal Navy battleships sought after MS Antilla, which indirectly caused her sinking. After being hounded and hunted by the Brits, the MS Antilla crew decided to scuttle the ship near the coast in Aruba, ensuring she didn’t fall into the hands of the British. There can be very strong currents at this wreck site, meaning that dive is suited for advanced and experienced divers only. Penetration dive qualifications are highly recommended before you attempt to explore this beautiful wreck. Wreck size: 400 feet (121 metres) Dive Site Depth: 23 feet (7 metres) Visibility: 30 to 80 feet (9-24 metres) Water temperature: 79 to 84 °F (26 to 29 °C) Needed Knowledge: This wreck is the largest in the Caribbean Sea and broken into 2 sections Marine life you could see: Orange anemones Lobsters Angelfish Bluehead wrasse Yellowtail snappers Brain and star corals Hamlet Damselfish Four-eye butterflyfish Anemones Tunicates Bluehead wrasses Eels Frogfish White grunts 16. Zenobia, Cyprus Rated as one of the best wrecks in the world, the Zenobia is a Swedish ferry that sank on its maiden voyage in 1980, just off the coast of Larnaca, Cyprus. To dive the Zenobia wreck you do not need to be an advanced diver. Lying at a depth of 52-138 feet (16-42 metres), the Zenobia is an exceptionally deep dive for divers of all levels. For the more experienced and technical divers, the ship’s innards are an absolute must. With little current and excellent visibility, divers can soak in the view of the ship and all its cargo, including cars that are still chained to the decks or scattered around the seabed. Wreck size: 570 feet (174 metres) Dive Site Depth: 137-52 feet (42 – 16 metres) Visibility: 65-164 feet (20-50 metres) Water Temperature: 60-80 °F (16-27 °C) Needed Knowledge: the Zenobia is a protected artificial reef. Marine life you could see: Sea turtles Dusky grouper Mottled grouper Amberjacks Tuna Barracuda Sea breams Moray eels Triggerfish Lionfish Damsels Nudibranchs Parrotfish 17. HMS Hermes, Sri Lanka The HMS Hermes was the worlds first aircraft carrier. A British ship, launched in 1919 but wasn’t commissioned until 1924 due to design changes and the original manufacturer closing. She was used in the Mediterranean fleet and China Station fighting off piracy and working with other carriers in the area. She returned to the UK in 1937 as a training ship and then was swiftly recommissioned in 1939 to the home fleet when World War 2 started. Shortly after that, she was then assigned to patrol the Indian Ocean. In 1942, the Japanese sent a scout plane to the HMS Hermes location, shortly after the scout plane, a fleet of Japanese bombers soon arrived. The HMS Hermes had no aircraft of board her at the time and she was a sitting duck. Japanese bombers sunk the Hermes with ease, killing 307 men. The wreck is a hugely popular place to dive in Sri Lanka as there is a lot to explore on the wreck and much of the key features are intact. Wreck size: 600 feet (190 metres) Dive Depth: 164 feet (50 metres) Visibility: 65-98 feet (20-30 metres) Water temperature: 82°F – 88°F (28°C – 31°C) Needed Knowledge: The key features of the wreck are its showcase anti-aircraft guns and canons. Marine life you could see: Barracuda Schools of snapper Dogtooth tuna Potato cods 18. SS President Coolidge, Vanuatu This is the world’s largest wreck and is a truly fantastic place to dive. The SS President Coolidge was originally a luxury liner, during World War 2 she was used as a troopship. She was sunk by exploding mines in Espiritu Santo. There were over 5000 people on board when she went down and all of them lived to tell the tale. The SS President Coolidge wreck is a wondrous place, with many intricate sections to explore. Due to its monstrous size, you’ll need several dives if you wish to explore it all. There are many fascinating features that are still intact such as the doctor’s surgery, guns, barbers chairs, a statue called “The Lady” (porcelain statue of a woman riding a unicorn), guns, cars, helmets, trucks, jeeps, you name it, it’s probably down there. Wreck size: 656 feet (200 metres) Dive Depth: 68 – 240 feet (18-73 metres) Visibility: 131-196 (40-60 metres) Water temperature: 78-86 °F (25-30 °C) Needed Knowledge: This is a lovely shore dive and easily accessible from the beach. The size and depth of this site make it a very sought after location. You don’t need specialist equipment and there are lots of areas to discover. Marine life you could see: Barracuda Sea turtles Anemonefish Giant moray eel Flashlight fish Reef fish Lionfish Moray eels 19. Hilma Hooker, Bonaire Launched in May 1951 and the ship changed hands and names before her final sinking, yes she sank once before but was re-floated in 1975. In 1984 the Hilma Hooker began to have engine issues and was taken to a port in Bonaire, where authorities were keeping a close eye on the activity there. The authorities boarded and searched the ship, once the captain couldn’t produce the correct documents. During the search, they found a whopping 25,000 lbs of a well-known plant called cannabis. The Hilma and her crew were detained and the owners of the boat were not found. The ship had a lot of issues and needed to water pumped out of her so she was taken out of the dock to an anchorage location. Without the owners coming forward to claim and repair her, she finally sank. The wreck lies between two coral reefs in an area known as “Angel City” the Hilma Hooker is one of the top wreck sites to dive in the Caribbean. Wreck size: 263 feet (71 metres) Dive Depth: 91-100 feet (28-34 metres) Visibility: 49-98 feet (15-30 metres) Water Temperature: 79-82 °F (26-28 °C) Needed Knowledge: The wreck is easily accessible, just a short swim from the beach, over the coral reef and bingo, the cliff edge drops off all of a sudden and you’re there. Marine life you could see: Barracudas Butterflyfish Crabs Large tarpon Sea turtles Groupers Angelfish Seahorses Shrimp 20. The Gunilda – Rossport, Canada This wreck was once a steam-powered passenger yacht, she was designed by the English company Cox & Kings and built in Leith, Scotland by Ramage & Fergerson Ltd. She sank due to a poor captaincy decision. The captain was a very wealthy oil investor from New York called William L. Harness. He didn’t want to spend any money on hiring a local navigator. When he was tasked with moving his ship through the tricky islands at this section in the lake, the ship came into difficulty and hit the rocks near the shoreline. He refused to pay for a 2nd tug boat, which resulted in the Gunilda sinking. All her passengers had been safely escorted to land but left all their possessions on board! The descent to the wreck takes about 4 mins and penetration diving is not allowed due it the tight corridors, making entering this site highly hazardous. Wreck size: 195 feet (59 metres) Dive Depth: 265 feet (81 metres) Visibility: 70 feet (6 metres) Water Temperature: 36-50 °F (2 -10 °C) Needed Knowledge: The wreck is still very much intact and you can see gold-trimmed decorated wood at the bow. Some divers say she is the most beautiful wreck they have ever seen. Marine life you could see: This dive is all about taking in and observing the beautifully preserved wreck. That concludes our top 20 wreck diving locations. Read on to discover the dangers, safety procedures and what additional equipment you’ll need, whilst wreck diving. Is Wreck Diving Dangerous? Wreck diving, although fun and exciting, also can have its dangers and risks that you do not come across on a routine dive over a reef. This is why it is so important to have the proper training and equipment before attempting to penetrate a wreck. Let’s look at a few of the dangers of a wreck dive… Cuts Remember that most wrecks are made from metal, and metal corrodes underwater over time. You’ll find the outer layer of the wreck coming away and razor-sharp edges can be in place of a once smooth surface at the edge of the wreck. For this reason, wearing protective suits is a must and this includes gloves, your hands are most prone to touching than any other part of your body. Entanglement Wrecks make very good artificial reefs and as a result, they attract a multitude of varied marine life. Small fish, will inevitably attract fish, which in turn, attract even bigger fish, which will attract fishermen. Often they drop nets and lines about which causes deadly entanglement hazards for divers. Overhead environment If you penetrate a wreck there is no longer direct access from the surface, so if anything goes wrong you need to find your way out of a potential labyrinth before you ascend. You should already have some experience in a range of environments before learning to wreck dive and make sure you are relaxed and do not panic in stressful situations. Inside the wreck Inside the wreck can be even more of a hazard! Wreck sites can have cabling running through them, which can hand down making it very easy to get tangled on the yoke screw (one of the reasons why trained technical divers choose DIN valves over yoke). Confusion Some sites can be very complex to navigate, poor lighting, never-ending corridors and lots of different turns can make the dive very confusions to navigate. You’ll need to be trained in deep wreck diving and understand where you are at all times as well as checking your depth and gauges regularly to ensure you are safe at all times. Deep Wreck Dive Dangers The main danger on a deep wreck dive is the decompression dive. It can cause issues due to the diver carrying external decompression gases making entering the deep wreckage very difficult. Divers have to temporarily abandon their decompression gases on the exterior of the wreck in order to successfully penetrate the structure. Locating the decompression gas when leaving the wreckage then becomes the issue, even if the diver is ever so slightly disorientated. What Are The Safety Procedures of Wreck Diving? Connecting to the wreck dive site Firstly, you’ll need to be able to dive to the wreck site in the safest manner possible in the conditions. Anchoring the boat to the dive site allows you to easily and safely dive down to the wreck. There are different ways to connect to the wreck. You can do this by either snagging the structure with grapnel or anchor, however, the structure needs to be safe and secure. Or a shot line can be deployed, which will not disturb or damage the wreck and allows divers to descend to the wreckage easily if visibility allows it. Navigation Line Reel Wrecks can be very complex for navigating inside, with staircases up and down corridors twisting and turning in every direction. For this reason, it is essential that you take a reel with you. You deploy it before you enter the wreck in a place where you are not overhead. This is called the primary tie off, and then you make a secondary tie-off just before you enter the wreck, and then further tie-offs every few meters inside, especially when changing direction. It is essential to keep the line without slack as this becomes yet another entanglement hazard. The other reason is the most important rule of wreck diving is keeping a line is that wrecks, overtime gather a layer of what’s called silt. Silt is made up of fine particles of mud, sand, rust and many other bits. Silt is usually very fine, and even slightly disturbing this layer can produce an instant loss of visibility, called a ‘Silt Out’. By loss of visibility, I mean complete loss, like having parcel take stuck on to your mask. This is why having a line is so important, if you can’t see where you’re going at least you can follow your way out. So an important rule of using the line is that you never leave it, be at most an arm’s reach away so if there is a ‘silt out’ you can sweep your arm and grab the line. Then do not let go until you are out! What Additional Equipment Do I Need to Take On a Wreck Dive? Gloves – protect your hands from sharp metal edges on the wrecks Dive Knife – if you ever get entangles you can easily and calmly escape with this handy piece of kit Navigation Reel – you always need to know where you are and where you are going, stay orientated at all times Underwater lights – allows you to see better in the dark spots of the wreck If you have anything you’d like to add to our wreck diving article, be it a wreck we’ve not mentioned or some advice we’d love to hear from you. Just leave your comments below! Thanks for reading.Continue reading
The Sardine Run. An African Ocean Safari
Something stirs in the part of the southern African continental shelf known as the Agulhas Bank, where the warm Indian Ocean and the cold Atlantic meet. With a myriad of theories circulating about what exactly stirs, from the ideal temperature spreading up the coast between May and June, to current and water speeds, whatever has awakened drives hundreds of thousands of the South African Pilchard (Sardinops sagax) to spawn and then make their way up the coast in shoals up to 7km long, 1.5 km wide and 30m deep. These shoals pass through the coastlines of the Eastern Cape, and Kwazulu Natal, and up into Mozambique, where they leave the shoreline and move into the Indian Ocean. This migration triggers a feeding frenzy up the coastline that mirrors to the wildebeest migration in its magnitude. And it is this feeding frenzy, with the predator interactions, that makes this a bucket list event for any ocean lover. Because of the temperature variations between the currents, shoals are driven inshore making the action accessible by boat or even just off the beach. Dive operators throughout the country scramble to put together tours and packages to make the most of the short time that the run occupies. Most of the operators will launch from the various beach towns on the coastline of Kwazulu Natal. Still, by far the most spectacular experience comes from the small, almost isolated outpost of Port St Johns on the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape. This little town at the mouth of the Umzimvubu River exhibits some of the most spectacular landscapes in this part of Africa. Most of the lodges sit along the river, which means that boarding the RIB that will take you to sea for the day, is a lot more dignified, as they have small mooring jetties. Choosing an operator to work with, especially if you are overseas, can be complicated. Perusing the various tours on offer is very overwhelming, and very often people opt for joining a tour group rather than investigating options themselves. While this can be hassle-free, it may take a little away from the experience. As a responsible tourist, we want to try and enrich the areas we are visiting and support the local businesses as far as possible. That being said, the first search is to find an operator located where you plan to launch from. Despite what the internet tells you, in Port St Johns, there is only one. Offshore Africa, run by Rob and Debbie, offers year-round tours of the coastline for divers and photographers, from ocean dive trips to river cruises on the “Bobalong Barge”. Years of experience, their passion for the ocean, and particularly for this stretch of coastline, means that they pour their heart and soul into providing every single client with the best service. Debbie is informative and responsive and, because they work with most of the lodges in the area, their Sardine Run safari packages are incredibly flexible. Travelling for the Sardine Run, there are few things to consider. Port St Johns is a rural town, and the people will bend over backwards to help you and make you feel welcome. Still, there are no specialist shops, so if you have specific needs, you really should discuss it with the operator or lodge before leaving home to make sure that you bring everything that you need. The Sardine Run takes place in winter, and while the operator usually makes sure that you have a thick wetsuit, and an oilskin to put over yourself to protect yourself from the wind, don’t forget the winter woollies. Debbie and her team will meet you at whichever lodge you choose to go through your rental gear requirements, fill in the paperwork and check your certifications. Like all good dive operators, they need to make sure that you are safe to dive. The good news is, if diving is off the cards for you, you can still have a great experience snorkelling and watching from the boat. A typical day begins very early, most operators will collect you from the jetty at about 7 am, and you need to be breakfasted and dressed in your wetsuits and woollies before then. It isn’t fair to keep the skippers waiting so if timekeeping is an issue, get a thickskinned buddy to chase you. Space on the boat is limited, and things will probably get wet. Bear that in mind when packing a bag to take with you. You will are provided with a boat safety briefing while you are still on the river. The skipper’s job is to get you and the rest of your group safely through the waves to the flat ocean behind them. Your responsibility is to follow instructions, hold on tight, and enjoy the experience. Once the boat is through the breakers, you will be taken out to sea. The skipper keeps in contact with spotter planes and the other operators to make sure that you are taken to see as much of the action as possible. Hot drinks, cold drinks, snacks and even lunch are on board, so there is no need to go back to shore until the day is done. The variety of experiences take your breath away. Huge pods of dolphins surround the boat and follow for kilometres. Some come so close; you can almost reach out and touch them. The ocean silence was broken only by the hundreds of puffs as they clear their blowholes. Every so often a gigantic puff is heard and a whale breaches right in front of you, so close that you can feel the spray. If it is safe, you will be allowed to don your mask and snorkel and slip off the boat into the water, trying to slice the water and make no splash, and swim off to see the whale moving under the water, with dolphins darting all over the place. The action changes rapidly, and on the skipper’s direction you may need to don your dive gear quickly and after a synchronised backward roll, join the activity underwater. The sardines attempt to protect themselves by manoeuvering into whirling baitballs when attacked. Sharks, dolphins and other large predators dive in and out of the ball of fish, while the birds dive in from the top. It is heartstoppingly exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. You are reminded of how small you are in this vast expanse of water. A vigilant divemaster keeps a beady eye on you because, for most people, the movement is mesmerising. The boats head back to the river after about 8 hours, depending on the situation. After a hot shower, the evening can be spent either joining a sunset drink at the airstrip, a night out with your divemaster or operator staff, or simply having a quiet dinner at the lodge. Then it’s off to bed to prepare to do it all again the next day. Ah, life! Photo Credit(s): Chris Fallows via Biographic.com Offshore Africa Port St JohnsContinue reading
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