What’s even more fun than scuba diving? Scuba diving with ghosts. Okay, pirate ghosts. Okay…just scuba diving in shipwrecks will work for most people. Bring your imagination!
Luckily for scuba divers, ships have run into bad luck in nearly every corner of the ocean. There’s such a volume of ships lining the ocean floor that this is one of the more debatable lists in the history of listmaking, but here goes: ScubaSpy’s top 10 shipwreck scuba dives on the planet.
1. The Bianca C Shipwreck in Grenada, Caribbean
The Bianca C, a passenger ship, has the kind of luck that gives its captain a perpetual case of the Mondays. After all, she sank twice: first, in France–when she was being built. Ouch, huh? As if that weren’t warning enough, they commissioned her anyway. She sank again–of course–off the coast of Grenada in the Carribean. The Bianca has a much happier life under the water than on it, providing thousands of scuba divers a chance to play hide-and-go-seek with the one poor soul that remained on the ship when she went down. Any of the dive shops in Grenada can hook you up.
2. The President Coolidge Shipwreck in Vanuatu
The SS President Coolidge, a luxury ocean liner was the largest merchant ship in the 1930s. She was fast as heck, winning numerous speed records in her day, and was kitted out with massive staterooms, private telephones, two saltwater swimming pools, a beauty salon, a state-of-the-art gym and even a soda fountain for the kiddies. In 1941 the US decided that it was a sweet enough ride to carry troops, and commissioned it to haul soldiers around the South Pacific. The SS Coolidge bumped into an American minefield on the way back to harbor in 1941, losing only two hands (one, quite heroically) in the process. Scuba diving trips to the Coolidge are a fascinating mix of recreational and wartime history, as the ship shows ample evidence of its dual history.
3. The RMS Rhone Shipwreck in the British Virgin Islands, Caribbean
The RMS Rhone was a seaborne mail truck, belonging to the British Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. She was a crew favorite in her day, boasting plush cabins and a zippy top speed of fourteen knots. They called her “unsinkable” after she weathered a couple of intense storms, but alas–she was not. She went down on October 29, 1867, in a massive hurricane off the coast of Salt in the British Virgin Islands. Local dive shops in the British Virgin Islands habitually organize wreck scuba dives to the Rhone. Scuba divers can still see the teaspoon that the Captain wedged in the ship’s side as he flew overboard, never to be seen again (the story goes).
4. The Thistlegorm Shipwreck in Egypt
The SS Thistlegorm, a British Merchant Navy ship, was a badass with a short life. She was built in 1940, fitted with some serious firepower (an 120mm anti-aircraft gun, as well as a big ol’ machine gun on her stern), and sent to Egypt. She was only carrying cargo, but the Germans thought she was transporting a new batch of soldiers–so they bombed her. A couple of the rounds struck live-ammo cargo, and the resulting explosion was the end of her. The Thistlegorm sank in 1941, in the Red Sea waters near Ras Muhammad. The explosion that tore her open makes for very accessible wreck scuba diving (as you can see in Jacques Cousteau’s documentation of the wreck in The Living Sea).
5. The Cristóbal Colón Shipwreck in Cuba
The Cristóbal Colón, a Giuseppe Garibaldi-class armored cruiser, has a dual story: some say she was simply the cruise ship she appeared to be, and some say she was under the control of the Spanish Navy. When she smashed into the reef off the coast of Bermuda during the Spanish-American War, her crew was enslaved by the Bermudans and then transported to France–for execution, insist some historians. The wreck has been picked apart by pirates over the years, but it’s spread over such a significant portion of the ocean floor that it provides some really fascinating scuba diving.
6. SMS Köln Shipwreck in Scapa Flow, Scotland
The SMS Köln, a German Imperial Navy light cruiser, went down during the first world war (despite its high speed and heavy guns). It’s a classic British dive, and it’s a doozy–too big to appreciate in a single scuba dive. Your first dive will reveal the Köln from bows to midships (check out the optical rangefinder aside the bridge) and the second visit will allow ample exploration of the midship section and aft (with its sizable rear guns and torpedo tubes).
7. The USAT Liberty Shipwreck in Bali, Indonesia
The USAT Liberty, a United States Army transport ship, took a Japanese torpedo in January 1942 and beached on the island of Bali. Shaken off by an earthquake in the 1960′s, the wreck settled into the sandy slope of the shallow waters not far from the Tulamben beach. Now populated by thousands of big-eyed trevally fish, the Liberty is an awesome shallow-water shipwreck dive for newbies and old hands alike. Dive shops in Tulamben (as well as other local dive shops in Bali) can organize a dive to the wreck.
8. The HMS Maori Shipwreck in Malta
The HMS Maori, a Tribal-class destroyer built in Scotland, was sent to Davey Jones in an air attack on her moorings during the second world war. She now lies where she was dumped after being cleared from the totaled harbor, lying in the white sand 14m from the surface. Much of the Maori’s forward superstructure is still on display for her scuba diving visitors, including the two front gun bases and the teeming population of marine life that keeps her single ghost company.
9. The USS Oriskany Shipwreck in Florida
The USS Oriskany had a bunch of fun nicknames–Mighty O, The O-boat, and The Toasted O (for an unfortunate accident with a magnesium flare that torched forty-four of her crew). She was one of the Essex-class aircraft carriers built during the second world war for the United States Navy and, in her day, she was something to behold, earning a pair of shiny battle stars for her service in the Korean War. Actually, she’s still something to behold. Because she was intentionally sunk in 2006 to serve as an artificial reef off the Floridian coast, she sits proudly upright in her final home. Now, she’s known in local Florida dive shops as the “Great Carrier Reef.” Tee hee.
10. The Papoose Shipwreck in North Carolina
The SS Papoose, built in 1921, began life as an oil tanker–the WE Hutton. Unfortunately, the world went to war–and she ran afoul of a German U-Boat off the North Carolina coast in March of 1942. After drifting for several days, she slipped into the sea off Cape Lookout. Now, she’s an apartment complex for larger-than-average Sand Tiger Sharks, lionfish, stingrays and bait balls.