Last Updated: February 27, 2023
Wrecks fascinate almost every diver sooner or later. Their history is often mystical, the abundance of life enormous, and the diving experience something else entirely. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when wreck diving.
Top 12 Tips For Safe Wreck Diving
1. Use your common sense and listen to yourself
You don’t have to go wreck diving, no one does. Not even if you would otherwise miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. A certain experience in diving makes sense, sometimes it is even mandatory.
Those who are claustrophobic, don’t like it dark, are afraid of greater depths, find the steel giants and the rich, often large-sized life on them scary, or often have to struggle with seasickness, should think carefully about whether it has to be a wreck dive and which wreck is suitable for them.
No one should put themselves under pressure or let others put them under pressure. However, with a good gut feeling, a shipwreck dive can be a very special experience.
2. Planning is everything
Wreck dives have to be planned properly and there are a lot of things to consider. Before the trip, it should be clear:
- what the wreck looks like
- if it has dangerous cargo on board
- if there are any superstructures sticking out
- if there are diveable interiors or if diving them is strictly forbidden
- if you need certain equipment
- if you have to expect currents
- if there are any requirements for diving there (brevet, number of dives)
- and how deep the deepest part of the wreck is.
At the latest directly before the dive, it must be clarified at which point on the wreck you will start, how you will descend the wreck, whether one or more deco stops will be necessary and whether the compass on the wreck is working or whether the needle is deflected by iron parts.
When it comes to air consumption, it is best to stick to the 1/3 rule: 1/3 for the bottom time, 1/3 for the way back, 1/3 as a reserve.
3. Protect yourself from injuries and be well equipped
There are also a few things to keep in mind when it comes to equipment. For example, on wrecks, you should wear a long wetsuit if possible to protect yourself from sharp metallic edges, protruding wreckage, hidden coral, and stinging animals. Finally, tight spots may need to be dived through.
Lights are a must on some wrecks, especially when diving inside. A good dive knife can also be useful, as nets and fishing lines tend to get caught on wrecks.
4. Try to avoid seasickness
Diving on wrecks almost always means having to go by boat. Possibly on the open sea, away from protective reefs.
If you get seasick easily, you may reach your limit here. Therefore, before such a diving day, one should avoid alcohol, coffee, and dairy products, get a good night’s sleep and eat only light food with little fat. An empty stomach should be avoided as well as an over-satiated one.
Onboard, stay amidships and outside, bend down little and avoid smells. If seasick, it may help to fixate on a point on the horizon.
Other aids that should help:
- Seasickness medications (be aware of side effects)
- acupressure bracelets
- fresh ginger.
Those who vomit should pay all the more attention to their fluid balance: Dehydration increases the risk of accidents!
5. Grab the line
Above a wreck, it is best to descend and ascend directly on the anchor line. This is not only the shortest but also the safest way, especially in current.
That way, you’re sure to resurface where you started without having to snorkel a long distance on the surface. And the deco stop, which is often necessary after shipwreck dives, as well as the safety stop can be completed safely by everyone here.
6. Remember the starting point at the wreck
Once down at the wreck, it is important to remember the starting point. This is especially true if several boats are attached to it with anchor lines, and in this case, it prevents you from surfacing at the wrong boat. You should remember what the wreck looks like at the starting point and where exactly the anchor line is attached, so that you can find it safely even if visibility decreases.
7. Use the current
There are wrecks where the current pulls and pushes without end due to their exposed position. Depending on your diving experience, this can be very unfamiliar and cause stress.
Therefore it is important to use the current at such dive sites for your own benefit. If possible, start the dive against the current on the protected side of the wreck and let yourself drift back with the current on the way back on the exposed side. On some wrecks, the surface current pulls in a different direction than on the wreck itself. Here it is important to listen carefully to the descriptions of the diving instructors on the boat.
8. Be careful indoors
If diving inside the wreck is allowed, it can be a great experience. But, of course, it is important to pay special attention to safety here. In narrow places such as portholes, it is better not to attempt to dive through them right away. In addition, the rising air can loosen sediments on the ceiling.
This can cause a sudden loss of visibility, the way out may no longer be visible and the buddy may be lost – not to mention the psychological effect. Also, be aware that breathing without a regulator in air-filled spaces is not always safe.
9. Communicate with your buddy
Wrecks are special dive sites that not everyone necessarily responds to the same way and can make it difficult to maintain visual contact with your buddy.
The key is to not get too far away from your buddy and to communicate with him regularly. Is he doing well, is he comfortable, is he showing me convincingly?
Everybody should give his buddy the feeling already on land that he can indicate discomfort without shyness. Even a wreck dive can be aborted before a situation becomes dicey.
10. Behave respectfully
Not every wreck was intentionally sunk to provide an attractive dive site. Many have sunk tragically, often killing people, sometimes many. And they have not always been recovered. Sometimes they are graveyards. When diving in such places, one should show due respect, for the life encountered, but also for its history.
11. Take nothing with you
The looting of wrecks takes place all over the world, there are probably no real treasures left to discover. But you should generally refrain from taking souvenirs, even if they are not valuable. Wrecks are important cultural assets and as said memorials, looting is not allowed.
With all warnings, of course, the point is to enjoy wreck diving. Wonderful impressions are possible here, the scale of shipwrecks compared to us divers hovering above them, their mystical inner life and their sometimes mysterious past history, the often flowery and heavy vegetation and the inhabitants watching at many corners make wreck diving a special experience underwater. Enjoy it!
My unbounded love for the oceans and everything it has to offer motivated me to pursue my passion and become a professional scuba diving instructor.
I keep reading, exploring, and learning more about scuba diving and the underwater world all the time, so I’m excited to share my knowledge with fellow scuba enthusiasts and hopefully contribute a little to your development as a diver. I want people to fall in love with the oceans with as much passion as I have. Read more about me here.