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The Skills You Need to Become a Wreck Diver
Diving is an exciting activity in itself. It’s always a fascinating experience to watch sea anemones, fish and corals as they merge in a kaleidoscope of colours. But if you’re looking to venture beyond these colourful creatures, try wreck diving.
Before you head straight to a wreck diving center to try this out, check out this guide to find out a bit more about this adventure. Plus, we’ll give you a quick list of skills you need to learn to fully enjoy this adrenaline-rushing activity.
What’s the Most Exciting Thing About Wreck Diving?
Wreck diving is like taking a trip back in time. As you navigate the waters, you can find sunken ships, cemeteries and aircraft, as well as the marine life that found a home in the wreckage. These mysterious remnants of war, accidents, and past civilisations remain to this day as living reminders of mistakes, adventures, and the misadventures of people.
Although it’s risky, wreck diving will introduce you to the kinds of creatures that thrive in otherwise desolate, dark, and murky waters. And you’d be surprised at what you’ll discover!
What Are the Skills You Need for Wreck Diving?
Wreck diving isn’t for the faint-hearted and untrained. Yes, some sites are perfect for beginner divers, such as the Underwater Museum of Military Vehicles (Jordan), USAT Liberty Shipwreck (Indonesia), and P31 Shipwreck (Malta). These sites are 5 to 30 metres deep. But there are also wreck dive sites that are as deep as 500 to 600 feet of seawater (FSW). To tackle those technical dives, you should have learned the foundational diving skills by heart, plus many advanced techniques.
Specifically, make sure to learn these skills first:
1. Controlled Descents
To get started, divers need to learn the five-point descent principle wherein divers should make sure that they’re fully ready even before they start going underwater. This principle could be summarized through the acronym S.O.R.T.D.
S – Signal - inform your group that you’re all ready to descend.
O – Orientation – look for visual references and make sure that there’s nothing below you before going any further
R – Regulator – use the regulator and breathe
T – Time – note the time
D – Deflate and descend – let out some air from the BCD and start going underwater
Aside from this principle, it’s also important to learn how to equalize your ear pressure to avoid eardrum rupture due to a hasty descent.
2. Buoyancy Control
This skill allows you to hover motionless over corals and back out without much effort and commotion. Plus, this helps you conserve your energy for swimming, which also allows you to maximize your oxygen. Ultimately, honing your skills in buoyancy control allows you to take a closer look at all the tiny details of the seabed and enjoy a longer dive.
3. Emergency Ascents
Wreck diving is riskier than shallow water diving. Running low on oxygen, alternobaric vertigo, and decompression sickness are some of the common emergencies that could interrupt your diving. And you should prepare for these dire situations. But you shouldn’t panic! Learn dive emergency preparedness at your preferred diving centre and undertake a risk assessment. Most importantly, train and dive as a team.
4. Situational Awareness and Monitoring
Situational awareness is closely tied to a person’s presence of mind, which is extremely necessary during technical dives and emergencies. As you develop this skill, you’ll learn to monitor the dive profile (e.g., depth, level of difficulty), oxygen capacity, time, and location of the closest fellow diver. This skill helps you avoid emergencies and rescue a struggling diver effectively. Most importantly, you’ll develop your self-awareness as you’ll learn to know your comfort zones, panic triggers, and other underwater elements that could put yourself and your comrades at risk.
5. Rescue Procedures
Getting around huge shipwrecks could be complicated sometimes, and emergencies could happen. This is why you should practice your diving emergency response and rescue skills, be it for yourself or other divers. Learn how to spot and manage panic and stress. Each wreck diving level poses different hazards. And you need to be able to perform rescue operations effectively, be it at limited visibility, non-penetration, or beyond “light-zone” areas.
6. Preparation and Cleaning of Equipment (Before and After Diving)
Before you dive, make sure to know the best equipment to use, such as dive light, RAS, surface marker buoy, wreck diving reel, and diving knife. For more technical dives, you might need side-mount systems, high-performance regulators, and tanks. Aside from choosing the right equipment, you also need to know the best cleaning products to use to keep your diving gears in pristine condition. Remember, upkeep and preparation of equipment is a must for safety and health purposes.
7. Dive Planning
With excellent dive planning skills, you can navigate in and around a wreck diving site with ease, or at least with minimal risk. You can also plan what equipment to use and other preparations to do depending on the difficulty level, depth, and duration of the dive. You’ll also learn the do’s and don’ts when diving. It’s also important to have pre-dive, post-dive, and contingency plans.
8. Scuba Hand Signals
Lastly, learning the diving hand signals by heart is key to enjoying any diving experience, be it at a wreck or shallow water site. This is your only way of communicating with other divers, be it about an amazing fish you just saw, your dive leader’s instructions, or your ear problems. Learning advanced hand signals is even more important if you’re the dive leader as you’re going to be the one to look after your companions, relay instructions, and carry out rescue procedures if necessary.
Diving is a great adventure and weekend activity. But the skills you need to be an effective diver could take a long time to develop. And you need to get trained and certified by a reputable diving centre to ensure your safety. But don’t worry! You’ll reap the benefits soon when you’re out there among the mysterious shipwreck and marine life.