Although most of the ocean’s wrecks are there quite by accident, a number have been sunk deliberately over the years to create both artificial reefs and to provide new sites for scuba diving.
USS Oriskany, Pensacola, Florida, U.S.
Also known as the Mighty O, the Oriskany is notable for a number of things, including its service during the Vietnam War — congressman and presidential nominee John McCain served on board). It’s also the largest ship ever sunk for diving purposes, and as the first U.S. warship to be deliberately scuttled, it established many best practices for those that followed. A formidable 904 feet long (276 meters), there’s plenty to see on multiple dives. The top deck of the island on the USS Oriskany is at 84 feet and the forward gun platform is at 107 feet, but visiting the ship’s flight deck, at 145 feet, requires technical training.
P29, Cirkewwa, Malta
A German-made minesweeper, the P29 was sunk in roughly 100 feet (30 meters) of water off the coast at Cirkewwa, Malta in the Mediterranean in 2007. The main sights include the .50-caliber deck gun, which is still in place, and a number of swim-throughs, though some of them are a tight squeeze.
USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Key West, Florida, U.S.
This former U.S. communications and tracking ship served the U.S. armed forces under various names from World War II up to 1983. In 2009, it was scuttled off of Key West, where it’s now the second-largest purpose sunk wreck in the world after the Oriskany. The Vandenberg rests between 40 feet (12 meters) and 140 feet (42 meters). Key attractions are the enormous satellite dishes and the Cyrillic writing found in a few places around the ship, remnants from its time spent portraying a Russian warship in the sci-fi/horror film Virus.
HMCS Yukon, Mission Bay, San Diego, California, U.S.
The newest site in San Diego’s so-called Wreck Alley, the HMS Yukon is also the largest wreck in the area, and one of the largest wrecks in California. A Mackenzie-class destroyer, it measures 366 feet (111 meters) long, and was scuttled in 2000. It now rests at around 100 feet (30 meters).
HMNZS Canterbury, North Island, New Zealand
This Scottish-built Leander-class frigate was scuttled in 2007 off Deep Water Cove on New Zealand’s North Island. It sits mostly intact at depths ranging from 121 feet (37 meters) at the bottom of the hull to 46 feet (14 meters) on the shallowest parts of the wreck, making it an accessible dive site for both experienced wreck divers and newbies. Its depth, combined with the protective features of the Bay of Islands, make this a good dive site even when weather conditions make other sites unsuitable.
USS YO-257, Oahu, Hawaii, U.S.
The USS YO-257 is a former U.S. Navy oil barge that saw service in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War before being scuttled off of Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii, in 1989. It now sits at roughly 100 feet (30 meters), with the decks at 85 feet (26 meters), and is one of the most popular dive sites in Hawaii.
Odyssey, Roatan, Honduras
The largest purpose-sunk wreck in the area, the Odyssey was a 300-foot cargo ship that was donated by its owners after a fire occurred during a rebuild. It now sits off of Mud Hole, in roughly 110 feet (33 meters). At 300 feet (100 meters) long, it is a massive wreck, and exploring its cargo holds is one of the main highlights for qualified divers.
Kittiwake, Grand Cayman
The ex-USS Kittiwake has become one of the highlights of Cayman diving. Having served for 49 years as a submarine-rescue vehicle, ending its career as a dive site is fitting. It now sits in shallow water, with the top of the wreck at only 15 feet (3 meters). The clarity of the water means that the wreck is easily visible from the surface, which makes it an easy dive for novices as well as snorkelers. Note that the Kittiwake is a marine sanctuary, and no touching or collecting is allowed. Gloves are also prohibited during dives on the wreck.
Um El Faroud, Qrendi, Malta
A Libyan oil tanker, this ship was hit by a tragic accident when an explosion in 1995 killed a number of workers while it was in dry dock in Malta. The Um El Faroud was subsequently scuttled off of Malta’s southern point, where it makes for an impressive wreck dive today. Resting at 115 feet (35 meters), it was ripped in two by storm a few years after it sank, adding to the drama of the dive. A commemorative plaque has been placed on the outside of the bridge in memory of the workers who lost their lives.
The Hermes is an American-built buoy tender, used in World War II. After the war, it saw service in the private sector as a transport ship before being scuttled in Bermuda in 1984. Today, it rests on its keel with a slight portside list at about 80 feet (24 meters), with the top of the structure at only 45 feet (13 meters). It’s famous for being a very accessible and photogenic wreck, and is one of the most popular dive sites in Bermuda.
Note: The Hermes is not to be mistaken with the HMS Hermes, a British World War II aircraft carrier, sunk in battle off Sri Lanka in 1942.
USS Indra, Morehead City, North Carolina, U.S.
Yet another World War II ship, the USS Indra was a U.S. repair ship that served in the Pacific Navy until 1967. It now sits off the coast of North Carolina in 30 to 60 feet (10-20 meters) of water, making it a very accessible dive site.
HMCS Saskatchewan, Nanaimo Island, British Columbia, Canada
British Columbia offers some of the best dive sites in the Pacific Northwest, particularly in the area around Vancouver Island. B.C. also boasts a number of artificial reefs, but the HMCS Saskatchewan is by far the most popular. A Canadian-built Mackenzie-class destroyer, it saw active duty along the European shore in World War II. It was scuttled off Nanaimo Island in 1997, and now sits at depth ranging from 45 to 130 feet (14 to 40 meters).
USTS Texas Clipper, South Padre Island, Texas, U.S.
A former training ship for the U.S. Navy, the mighty Texas Clipper now rests on its side about 17 nautical miles off of South Padre Island. It lies in 130 feet (40 meters) of water, but the shallowest parts of the ship are at only 50 feet (15 meters).
Alpha Funguo, Diani Beach, Kenya
The first purpose-sunk wreck off East Africa, the Alpha Funguo was scuttled in 2002. A 157-foot fishing trawler, it was set down specifically for divers in 91 feet (28 meters) of water. The easiest way to reach the wreck is from the nearby Diani Beach, one of the best beaches in Kenya.
MV Imperial Eagle, Qawra, Malta
Malta truly is the king of purpose-sunk wrecks, and the MV Imperial Eagle is the jewel in its crown. A classic people carrier, during its career spanning back to 1938, it has served as a day boat, a ferry, and a number of other things, under varying names, ending its career as a ferry between Malta and Gozo. In 1999 the local dive community sank the ship off Qawra Point. A year later, a 13-ton statue of Christ, originally sunk near St. Paul’s Island to honor Pope John Paul II when he visited Malta, was raised and placed next to the Imperial Eagle. Today, it is a popular dive site for both recreational and tec divers.
Rainbow Warrior, Matauri Bay, New Zealand
A wreck with a unique history, the Rainbow Warrior was a Greenpeace ship, which was docked in New Zealand as part of the organization’s protest against the French nuclear tests in Southeast Asia. French intelligence forces set off a bomb on the boat, sinking it in the harbor and killing a member of the crew. It was subsequently raised, only to be scuttled in Matauri Bay, as repairs would have been too costly.
USS Lincoln County, Koh Chang, Thailand
A tank-landing ship, the USS Lincoln County saw service in the U.S. armed forces from World War II up to 1960. It was subsequently sold to the government of Thailand, where it saw service until 2006, and was scuttled off of Koh Chang Island in 2012.
Glen Strathallen, Plymouth Sound, United Kingdom
First a trawler, then a private yacht, the Glen Strathallen is now a popular dive site in Plymouth Sound. First sunk in shallow water to be used as a dive-training site, it was found to be blocking the waterways to the harbor and explosions were deployed to move it to deeper waters, where it now sits in 50 feet (15 meters).
USS Rankin, Stuart, Florida, U.S.
An amphibious cargo ship serving the U.S. armed forces, the USS Rankin started its career during the late years of World War II, and continued in service until the 1970s. It was scuttled off Stuart, Florida in 130 feet (40 meters) in 1988.
Pacific Gas, Papua New Guinea
One of the largest shipwrecks in a country known more for downed airplanes, the 215-foot natural-gas tanker sits on the seabed near the capital city Port Moresby where it was scuttled in 1996. The ship’s rudder sits at about 145 feet (44 meters), while the bow reaches to about 50 feet (15 meters), making it accessible for experienced and novice divers alike.