Over the previous weekend, I took the PADI Wreck Diver Specialty class from TL Sea Diving. The vast majority of the class was spent diving a couple of wrecks up in Nanaimo, BC. It was an incredible amount of fun, although admittedly a little nervous for me.
The wrecks we dove were the HMCS Cape Breton and the HMCS Saskatchewan. Both of these wrecks are not only wreck dives, but they are deep dives, with the decks of the ships at somewhere around 100 fsw. I actually haven't done very much deep diving, with my deepest dive to date being 112 ft, so triple-digit depths don't make me entirely comfortable. Combine that with the fact that access to these dives was via a fairly small, motion-sickness-inducing boat, and I'm more used to simple shore dives (or better yet, the diving platform at the Aquarium!), the whole environment made for a bit of discomfort.
Despite all this, I had a wonderful time. The visibility was fantastic on all of these dives (I'd say typically 50 feet or more), and there was a ton of life growing on the boats. Various species of rockfish, lingcod, cabezon were among the fish representing themselves, and just about every surface of the boats were covered with giant plumose anemone, sponges and hydroids.
Of course, we didn't just explore the exterior of these ships, as full of life as they were. The class also teaches skills necessary to safely penetrate a wreck (for the non-divers reading this, any environment that prevents you from having direct access to the surface, otherwise known as an "overhead environment" is generally a Bad Thing unless you have the proper training). The skills we did were:
- Swim-through a 3-walled environment. The Cape Breton has partially enclosed hallways/decks that are enclosed on 3 sides (top, bottom, and one side). We swam through this just to get used to the feeling of having something over our heads and practice good finning technique in a safe environment (a poor kick wouldn't silt up the area).
- Limited penetration without a line. These ships are great for this because before they were sunk, large access holes were cut out of the hull, meaning that you can swim through many of the hallways and always have an exit easily within view. We swam into the Saskatchewan's bridge and through a few different rooms, including the location where the ashes of Raymond Goode, a former crew member of the HMCS Saskatchewan, are kept.
- Penetration on a line. Again on the Saskatchewan, we wandered into the interior, but following a line strung by our instructor.
On the fourth wreck dive, we ended up doing a full-length penetration of the Saskatchewan, starting from the aft munitions bay and swimming through the halls until just before the bow. It was a little spooky, but also very cool.
And finally, while it wasn't a wreck dive, we were also given a chance to dive a nearby site named Snake Island Wall. This was another spectacular dive, with tons of life to see (probably the largest cabezon I've ever run across), and amazing visibility.
Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures or video of any of these dives. I decided that I didn't need the additional task loading of taking pictures and opted instead to focus on the skills. I wish I had some pictures, though, because the views were really spectacular. I guess that just means I'll have to go back. In the mean time, though, here are a couple of videos that someone else has taken of their dives on the sites.
(Courtesy of Youtube user Michael Meagher)