Wreck diving combines the thrill of exploration with the ability to explore living history, and few other experiences can rival your first dive on an unexplored shipwreck. Exploring any shipwreck or artificial reef, however, poses real hazards and requires experience, training, and preparation to dive safely. Jump at your next opportunity to go wreck diving, but seek appropriate training, and know the hazards before you go.
Recognize your limits
One of the leading causes of injuries in divers is a failure to recognize personal limits. The first step in wreck diving safety, or in any kind of dive safety, is to recognize your personal limits. Whether you are limited by your training, fitness, experience, or comfort level, you should never push yourself past your comfort zone without significant planning and preparation. This might mean that you wait to go on your fist wreck dive until you have an instructor with you, or you decide not to dive on a day when the seas are a bit beyond what you’ve experienced before, but what is important is that you recognize the limit of the diving that you can do safely. For wreck diving in particular, it should be noted that wreck penetration presents additional risks and should not be attempted without specific training and equipment. Only you can completely control your safety in the water, and it is up to you to determine if you are comfortable with your dive plan and location before you get on, or in, the water.
Plan your dive, dive your plan
Wrecks dives are often deep and multi-level, with square profiles. A dive all the way to the ocean floor might be 10, 20, or 100 feet below a dive to the wreck’s shallowest point, and you’ll need to determine your maximum depth, and the time you’ll spend at each depth, before getting in the water. Plan your dive with a contingency plan for emergencies or unintentional changes in depth or air consumption and you’ll be able to minimize your risk while maximizing the amount of the wreck you’ll see on a single dive. Careful and conservative dive planning is the key to safe wreck diving, and they best way to spend more time on the wreck, and have more fun while you’re doing it.
Be aware of your surroundings
Entanglements, silt, and currents are common around wrecks. Always be aware of where on the wreck you are, and what is around you. It is not uncommon to find a current just outside of the shelter of a wreck’s structure, or fishing line draped across a superstructure. Make sure that both your buoyancy skills and your knowledge of the wreck is up to par before attempting a dive, and that you have cutting implements and surface markers ready to deal with entanglements and high-current situations.
For more information on safe diving practices, visit www.DAN.org.