This is a guest post by Gareth Phillips
Apart from the obvious lure of taking my first breaths underwater, the art of wreck diving is what drove me to pursue my now favorite activity - scuba diving.
I grew up in an age where technical advances allowed human beings to delve deeper into the abyss and return with crisp images and clear videos of what has been sitting on the ocean floor for what would seem to be an eternity. I was only 11 years old when James Cameron’s Titanic first hit the big screens in my hometown and I was immediately hooked. There is no doubting that the film is a masterpiece but what really grabbed me were the first images of the ship as it came into view, with her artificially illuminated bow breaking through the seemingly relentless darkness. I was fascinated by the way in which the cameras seemed to be entering a noiseless world, untouched by even the faintest light for over 80 years yet it all looked hauntingly inhabited. The stillness of the passageways combined with the mystery of what lay within the cabins completely enthralled me and I returned to that very cinema another 4 times during its release. The romance of it all has perhaps only grown during the last 15 years of my life, perhaps at that stage I simply wanted to uncover the treasure which lay somewhere inside, either way, my fascination with wrecks was born.
Let’s fast forward to the here and now. No, I am not an underwater adventurer, nor am I a ground breaking deep-sea videographer or filmmaker. I am however, proud to say that I am a scuba enthusiast. At least some part of my boyhood fantasies get played out whenever I get the chance to don my gear and get wet.
I’ll never forget my first wreck. I was completing my PADI advanced open water course when, during my deep dive, I noticed a massive dark object about 45 meters ahead of me. Those same feelings of wonder which I had experienced in the cinema years before immediately gripped me and my excitement was translated into stupidly fast kick cycles and incomprehensible giggles. I could not wait to get closer. The visibility was excellent and I could almost immediately make out the stern of an enormous ship, with the bridge towering about 10 meters above me. I felt small. Tiny, in fact. I signaled “OK” to my instructor but immediately knew that this was no place for messing around. I drew in a few deep, clear breaths and followed my instructor around the bridge and stared in amazement at the enormous sight before me. It stretched as far as the visibility would allow my eyes to see and well beyond. We ascended slightly, to where my instructor showed me a plaque which read the names of 9 workers who lost their lives while repairing this ship a few years before it was sunk as an artificial reef. It was sobering.
I’ll never forget the first time I penetrated the engine room, knowing that this is where those 9 valiant workers lost their lives. It felt warmer and calmer inside but extremely eerie, exactly how I had imagined it would have felt while watching those pictures of the Titanic many years earlier.
That is what wreck diving is to me. Yes, the chance of seeing some amazing wildlife is greatly enhanced in and around wrecks and the challenge of diving or penetrating something new is always brilliant but I find myself being absorbed into the history of the wreck I am diving. Every single wreck has a story to tell and countless treasures to hide. I never get tired of a wreck, certainly not yet and I doubt that day will come.
I have done over 50 dives on the wreck described above and it will always remain my favorite. Some others I’ve dived come close and even surpass it in many aspects but as my first, she will always be special.
Have you done any wreck diving? Which are your favorites?