13 of the Best Shipwreck Dives that’ll have you Reaching for your Flippers James Burnham September 11, 2015 Big Blue, Inspiration, Travel 10 Comments Seriously guys. They’re flipping great. For millions of years the big blue has given mankind endless opportunities to travel, explore and discover. It’s power should never be underestimated though, the big blue has cost many their lives. The sea has never been friendly to man. At most it has been the accomplice of human restlessness.” – Joseph Conrad There’s estimated to be over 3 million shipwrecks in the big blue. Eerie ghosts on the ocean floor just waiting to be explored. They’re vaults for bountiful lost treasures, homes for an abundance of sea life and graveyards for many merchants, fisherman, pirates and civilians. These ships have either been destroyed, intentionally sunk or simply lost in the deep and are now hotspots for scuba-divers, excavators, archeologists and treasure hunters. Don’t fret! I’m not going to be covering all 3 million, that would be silly. Instead, here are 13 of the best shipwreck dives that get me reaching for my flippers… I hope they have the same effect on you! 13 OF THE BEST SHIPWRECK DIVES 1. RMS Titanic – Atlantic Ocean (source) Since I started my homework for this blog post, I’ve read many articles on the best shipwreck dives. Almost every one kept the Titanic as the grand finale. So I thought I’d be different and keep you guessing which one I’ll finish on. I like to keep you on your toes so I’m starting with what is probably the most iconic ship of all time. The story of that fateful night when the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and sank in the Atlantic Ocean has been told countless times. On April 14 1912 over 1,500 passengers perished in the freezing waters of the Atlantic. And since that sad day; TV series, books, documentaries and Leonardo Dicaprio himself have all told us the tale. Where The Titanic now rests 12,500 feet below the surface on the Atlantic seabed, 370 miles from Newfoundland. (source), (source) Diving the Titanic There have been loads of companies offering deep sea expeditions down to the Titanic over the years, but many of these have since closed. Rob McCallum was once an expedition leader on such trips and said: “Now that the last survivor has passed I just think it’s time to move on … we’ve been to Titanic 197 times and it’s time to do other things.” There are still a couple of expedition companies about but they certainly come at a price. Bluefish offer extreme thrills at similarly extreme prices. The Titanic experience may require you to re-mortgage the house at a whopping $59,680 per person. Ouch. This is surely a once in a lifetime experience – and you may not have too much of a life to go back to after forking out that much! 2. MS Zenobia – Coast of Cyprus (source) This ferry was launched in 1979 but capsized and sank near Cyprus on her maiden voyage in 1980. Diving MS Zenobia The wreck is definitely one of the best shipwreck dives out there. It provides a load of different diving challenges, suitable for most levels! The starboard side rests just 52 feet below the surface, so it’s a suitable dive for newly qualified divers (a great place to complete your PADI course). To dive inside the upper deck however is a little trickier and it’s inside the car deck, accommodation block and engine room where the diving gets pretty extreme. This is something that only the most advanced divers experience. Although everybody made it off the ship before she sank, a few divers have lost their lives diving the wreck since, trying to navigate through the mass of rusted metal. (source) An author and friend of mine, Mike Lawrence, last dove the Zenobia back in 1988 and writes about his experience in the opening pages of his book; Aphrodite Conspiracy. (Shameless sales push there apologies, it’s a good read though!) Recently, when I was chatting to Mike about his dive, he told me: “It was amazing, but considering that was a few years back now it must be even more dangerous. The rust would have eaten away at the support chains that still hold up to 100 trucks on the car deck…” 3. Khanka – The Red Sea (source) Also known as ‘The Russian Wreck’, Khanka was a Russian spy (surveillance) ship. And due to her secrets being kept under lock and key, there is little to no public knowledge about her missions. The wreck is just one of many ships that litter the bed of the Red Sea and is thought to have hit a reef head on, causing the bow and forward hold to part from the ship. Where She now lies 24 metres below the surface just off Zabargad Island (between Egypt and Sudan). When the tide is low, her mast is just about visible breaching the water’s surface. Diving Khanka This is one of the most popular and best shipwreck dives and I think you’ll agree, despite being a wreckage, there is something beautiful about her. If you choose to dive this site then you may even be able to access the pilothouse and engine room. The ship’s holds may also be accessible which is where all the spy equipment remains. Ooooo interesting, you’ll be like a diving James Bond. 4. The Umbria – The Red Sea (source) Another wreck in the Red Sea now, The Umbria which rests at 37 19′ 38″ N, 19 38′ 19″E. That mean anything to you? No, it didn’t to me either but I’m no master mariner. The Umbria was launched in 1911 and served as a passenger and cargo vessel before becoming a troopship in 1935. As Italy entered World War II, the ship’s captain decided to sink the boat in fear that the British would capture it and use it against them. The captain ordered all valves to be opened, causing the ship to sink. Where Today, The Umbria rests on the reef bed. Just 16 feet at its shallowest and 118 feet at its maximum depth. Daylight often breaks through the surface, illuminating this boats unique details. Diving The Umbria When the Umbria went down, she was carrying 5,000 tonnes of bombs. As you can imagine, her resting place become a very dangerous spot along the reef. Despite its dangers, The Umbria is considered one of the best shipwreck dives in the world (if not the best!). There are numerous tour providers that offer dives of The Umbria. One of these is Cassiopeia Safari, offering a weeks expedition to many Sudanese dive sites complete with beautiful accommodation, dining and entertainment on board their boats. Sounds all very swanky if you fancy a scuba trip blow out. 5. SS Thistlegorm – The Red Sea (source) Still in the Red Sea and this time, for the SS Thistlegorm. The ship was sunk during World War II by German bomber planes. Where Close to Sharm El Sheikh and laying at a depth of just 30 metres below the surface, this wreck is a very popular site with its great visibility making it one of the best shipwreck dives in the world. (source) Diving Thistlegorm The boat’s bow is just 15 metres below the surface and much of the the Thistlegorm’s original cargo is still intact. There is plenty to discover! Visiting the Thistlegorm is more than just a dive. The great destruction and loss the boat and its crew suffered is clearly visible, making it a harrowing and emotional wreck to explore. It is now a giant underwater museum, graveyard and a harsh reminder of war. 6. The Tabarka – Scotland (source) The Tabarka steamship was a cargo ship built in 1909 in Amsterdam. Where In 1941 she was sunk deliberately as a tactic to block the bay in Kirk Sound. A few year’s later in 1944 though, she was raised and re-sunk (along with 2 other boats) to protect Burra Sound from enemy submarines. Busy boat! Diving The Tabarka The Tabarka is a very awkward dive site. She rests in waters as shallow as 15 metres, with a strong tidal flow to contend with. If you want to explore this wreck, make sure the tide is low! The ship is also completely upside down, making it an even greater challenge. What’s inside the ship however, is well worth the trip. The holes in the ship’s side allow light to flood in and illuminate the colourful sea life and vast open spaces. The perfect spot for beautiful underwater photography – if that’s your thang! 7. USS Kittiwake – Cayman (source) The USS Kittiwake was in service from 1945 to 1994 as a submarine rescue vessel. This was the ship that lead the recovery of the Challenger space shuttle disaster. Where Decommissioned and finally sunk off Five Mile Beach, in Marine Park, the USS Kittiwake now acts as an artificial reef just 64 feet (at its deepest) below the surface. (source), (source) Diving USS Kittiwake Deep Blue Divers is one of the only licensed scuba expedition companies offering trips down to the wreck. You can navigate around 5 open decks, enjoy a mass of sea life and even dive at night. Dive prices start from just $80 or you can snorkel for as little as $45. Bargain! 8. Giannis D – The Red Sea (source) Back to the Red Sea once again now and the Japanese cargo freighter; Giannis D. This ship was built in 1969 but in 1983 hit the Sha’ab Abu Nuhas reef at full speed which sent the ship down, below the tides, to its watery resting place. Diving Giannis D The centre of the ship is broken up but the bow and stern remain intact. Divers can enter through the ship’s stern and navigate up to a small pocket of air within the ship. You’ll be able to spot a mass of marine life including Angel and Napoleon fish before climbing up the mast which finishes just 5 metres below the surface. Sounds like an underwater jungle gym right? 8. USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg – Florida Keys (source) The Hoyt S. Vandenberg was originally built in 1943 as an American troop transporter. Later, she became a military missile tracking ship before finally tracking space launches from Cape Canaveral. Where The Vandenberg was sunk off the Florida coast near Key West in 2009 and is now the second largest artificial reef in the world (don’t worry, the largest is still yet to come). The ship is so huge that the boat’s structure actually begins just 45 feet below the surface and stretches for a further 100 feet down to the sandy seabed. That is one big shipwreck. (source) Diving the Vandenberg This ship is best known for its giant satellites that create an eerie atmosphere for divers who can explore the reef’s marine life. Many divers conduct marine research projects here too. It’s definitely one of the best shipwreck dives – does it make your list? 9. Sweepstakes – Ontario,Canada (source) Sweepstakes is one of the most visible wrecks from land. She was once a Canadian schooner, built in 1867. Where Sweepstakes suffered significant damage and sank in shallow waters just off Cove Island. She was later towed into Big Tub Harbour and stripped of all riggings. Although she lays in just 20 feet of water and deteriorates a little more each year, she is still one of the best preserved nineteenth century schooners to be found. 10.USS Oriskany – Florida Keys (source) Otherwise known as ‘The Mighty O’, the Oriskany Navy Essex-class aircraft carrier was built in aid of the war effort during World War II. After the war and numerous modifications to allow her to take on heavier aircrafts, she earnt 2 Battle Stars in the Korean War and five in the Vietnam War. The Mighty O actually launched more aircrafts and flew more missions than any other Navy aircraft carrier. Quite the résumé. Where In 2006, the Oriskany became the largest ship to be sunk in order to create an artificial reef in the Florida Keys. She was expected to take 6-7 hours to sink but reached full submersion within just 37 minutes. (source) Diving the USS Oriskany She now lies upright at 215 feet below the surface and is hugely popular with divers. The possibility of encountering whale sharks make this one of the best shipwreck dives in the world. What an experience that would be aye! 11. SS President Coolidge – Vanuatu (source) The Coolidge was once a luxury ocean liner and was built in the USA in 1931. She went on to serve as a troopship during World War II. Where In 1942, whilst at sea in the New Hebrides, she was sunk by mines making her the worlds largest wreck. (source) Diving SS Coolidge She now has dozens of varying dive maps for all scuba divers at all levels. Beginners are recommended to dive at her bow at a depth of 20 metres but the more advanced divers get a real treat with the chance to explore the promenade where rifles, gas masks and helmets can still be seen. If that isn’t enough for you, how about checking out the medical supply room and cargo hold complete with military tanks? The hidden artefacts in the SS Coolidge make this one of the most interesting and best shipwreck dives to explore. 12. Captain Keith Tibbets (Frigate 356) – Cayman Brac (source) Frigate 356 was a 306 foot long Soviet Warship. She is one of very few Cold War relics that are accessible to divers in the Western Hemisphere. Built in the early 80’s (as one of a trio of warships) she was a little late to the party… she didn’t see much action as by the time she was complete, the Soviet Union had collapsed. Where Frigate 356 sat as scrap for a decade before the Cayman government, along with a Spanish barmaid (who acted as translator…sounds like I’m making that up but it’s honestly true) purchased the ship from Cuba and sunk it in Cayman Brac as a diving attraction. They renamed the frigate, MV Captain Keith Tibbets. Diving Cpt Keith Tibbets Over the years, tropical storms have damaged the wreck and it slowly began moving. The government decided to move it back and split it into two. Today there are many entry points for divers to explore along with loads of sea life, including Barracudas and Groupers. Reef Divers, Cayman Brac are a popular local company that run dives that start from $65. 13. RMS Lusitania – Irish Sea (source) Last but certainly not least, the Lusitania. If I wasn’t going to end my list of the best shipwreck dives with the Titanic, it had to be the Lusitania right? I have been fascinated with this ship since I was young and my mum showed me a coin in the attic. It was a rare Lusitania Medal. One side of the medal shows the Lusitania sinking, and on the other side, there is a skeleton (representing Death) handing passengers their tickets before boarding. The medal was designed by a German medalist but later copied by the British and used for propaganda purposes during World War I. (source) A little history The Lusitania was a British passenger liner that made a total of 201 trans-Atlantic crossings. Unfortunately she never completed her 202nd crossing from New York to Liverpool in May 1915, during World War I. At this time, Germany declared the waters to be dangerous and even advised passengers not to sail on the Lusitania during this time. They placed this notice in 50 American newspapers: NOTICE! TRAVELLERS intending to embark on the Atlantic voyage are reminded that a state of war exists between Germany and her allies and Great Britain and her allies; that the zone of war includes the waters adjacent to the British Isles; that, in accordance with formal notice given by the Imperial German Government, vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or any of her allies, are liable to destruction in those waters and that travellers sailing in the war zone on the ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own risk. IMPERIAL GERMAN EMBASSY Despite this warning, the Lusitania set sail for Liverpool. She had serious balls. As she neared Ireland, a German U-boat fired a torpedo at her, hitting her starboard bow. Next came an explosion from within the ship and she rapidly began to sink. With little time to muster the life boats, 1,191 of the ships 1,962 passengers lost their lives. The fact that Germany had fired on an unarmed passenger liner caused an international outcry. America didn’t join the war immediately though, it would take a fabricated lie to change Woodrow Wilson’s mind (the American President at the time). The lie suggested that the German government had declared a school holiday for the children to celebrate the sinking of the Lusitania. LIES I tell you. It did the trick through and along with another German threat of unrestricted submarine warfare, was enough to prompt Wilson to declare war on Germany and the USA finally joined World War I in April 1917. In 2014, a release of papers warned divers to take great care as there were explosives and arms onboard the Lusitania. British governments have always argued against this (as it’s status as an ‘unarmed’ passenger liner was the very fact that drew the USA into the war), however the fact remains that there were. The argument between German and British/American governments over the sinking of the Lusitania is a taboo subject to this day. Diving the Lusitania Sadly the Lusitania is in much worse condition than the Titanic as she lies in much shallower waters (just 305 feet) and was a passenger liner for many years whereas the Titanic sunk on her maiden voyage. The Lusitania is very unstable and could soon, completely collapse. This is due to numerous depth charge explosions and salvage operations. All of this means she isn’t an easy one to dive as navigating around the wreck is almost impossible. You’d also have to go through the ships owner, who also holds all salvage rights, Gregg Bemis. ARE YOUR FLIPPERS ON YET? So there we have it. My list of 13 of the best shipwreck dives that I would someday love to explore. What wrecks are you itching to dive? Perhaps you’ve conquered a few already…. In which case, consider me turning a fetching shade of algae green with envy. I’m going to round this post up with a quote from one of America’s late greats. “We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.” – John F. Kennedy Like it? Be a diamond and pin it… 🙂 Hopefully see you next time on my final installment in this Big Blue series: Mysteries of the Big Blue. TweetShare on TumblrPrintEmail http://www.loonthego.co.uk/ Leonie Wow want an amazing post. So fasanating. Would love to dive some of these sites. Leonie ♥ Lo On The Go http://www.theglobewanderers.com TheGlobeWanderers Thanks, Leonie. Pleased you like it. Be pretty cool to tick them off a dive site list right? Hoping one day I can write a revisited post with my own photos someday soon 🙂 Thanks for reading. http://travellousworld.com Maaike – travellousworld.com Extremely fascinating! To realise that each of these ships have their own tale to tell: crew members, passengers, events that took place on there. And now it are the sees and oceans keeping those secrets http://www.theglobewanderers.com TheGlobeWanderers Hey, Maaike. Thank you for reading. Pleased you found it fascinating. It’s amazing right. And this is only 13 of millions. I could geek out about this kind of stuff all day. But won’t 🙂 http://chocolatour.net/ Doreen Pendgracs What a fascinating post, Gabby! I had no idea there were so many destinations that you could dive to shipwrecks! Quite the price-tags to dive to the Titanic! I can think of a lot better ways than to spend that $60K to the bottom of the sea! http://www.theglobewanderers.com TheGlobeWanderers Cheers for your great comment, Doreen (its James actually…we were a little confusing with Gabby uploading post to Facebook, sorry). Yeah, the Titanic is a little astronomical. The others are probably a little more realistic. Unless I win the lottery, in which case I better start doing a ticket 🙂 Thanks again! http://www.bloggingfromparadise.com/ Ryan Biddulph Fab images James! Not a diver here – yet 😉 – but I’ve been fascinated with diving for a minute. We lived next door to a diver in Koh Lanta. Stunning pics he shared with us. I also recall folks talking up a dive spot off of Northern Bali; US ship I believe. Thanks for sharing! Ryan Pingback: The Bermuda Triangle and other Secrets of the Deep - The Globe Wanderers() Armybeef68 Sorry but in my view you can’t own a wreck, I’ll dive wherever I want to. Armybeef68 Sorry but in my view you can’t own a wreck, I’ll dive wherever I want to.