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12 Great Wreck Dives You Should Visit

wreck dives

The Maru-Chuuk

It seems my old friends from the Professional Association of Dive Instructors are at it again – trying to lure me into SCUBA diving. And they know the right way to do it … show me a bunch of photos of sunken ships and sharks.

PADI has also compiled a list of its 12 favorite wreck dives in the United States. What I like about this list is that they’re relatively modern wrecks. Each will give you a glimpse of fairly recent history.

If you’re looking at this list and wondering how to get started, it’s pretty easy – get SCUBA certified. There are more than 6,200 dive shops worldwide where you can get a SCUBA certification. Not quite as numerous as Starbucks, but still easier to find than you might imagine.

Now, let’s check out the dive sites and see what PADI has to say about them! I added some of my own commentary in italics.

Maru-Chuuk (San Francisco) — This cargo vessel, sitting 200 feet below the water, had six 500-pound bombs rip it open and send it straight down, smashing to the bottom of the ocean floor.  Learn more here: trukodyssey.com

Carthaginian II (Maui) — This whaling-vessel replica rests at 95 feet and was sunk on Dec. 13, 2005, to serve as an artificial reef for marine life such as turtles and stingrays. Learn more here: mauiscuba.com

wreck dives

The Sea Tiger

Sea Tiger (Oahu) — This boat, which was originally apprehended carrying 93 illegal Chinese immigrants was sunk as an artificial reef in 1999 and is just a short boat ride off of Wakiki Beach. Learn more here: wakikidiving.com

YO-257 (Oahu) —This former World War II Oiler Boat sits 120 feet below water and is considered an advanced wreck dive. It is reported that it’s not uncommon to see reef sharks, spotted eagle rays and green sea turtles will often rest on the decks of the wreck. Learn more here: diveoahu.com

wreck dives

Yo-257

We can safely guess that PADI folks will use any excuse to get themselves to Hawaii. I’m not judging …

HMCS Yukon (California) —This ship is a 366-foot-long destroyer which lies 105 feet below water and is the crown jewel of Wreck Alley in San Diego. The best photo op for this wreck is the huge smokestack that is covered with bright-orange and pink corynactis anemones. Learn more here: loisann.com

Destroyer? More than 360 feet long? Wreck Alley? How can you NOT want to dive this?

wreck dives

The Yukon, which is in San Diego – nobody, not even Ron Burgundy, really knows what this means.

Oriskany (Florida) —The wreck titled the “Mighty O” is said to be the Super Bowl of wreck dives.  This 888 feet long ship is the world’s largest artificial reef. On this dive you’ll have the opportunity to see amberjack, grouper, red, snapper, butterflyfish and French Angels. Learn more here: floridapanhandledivetrail.com

Sounds like we have lots of fish – and lots of ship here. I’ll resist the temptation to take a poke at Florida and cite novels by Laurence Shames, Tom Dorsey and Dave Barry as evidence.

Manhattan (Great Lakes) — Lake Superior’s Alger Underwater Preserve contains several wrecks like the Manhattan, containing old nails, chains and pulleys and is a great representation of a 19th century steamer. Learn More here: Diversinc.com

wreck dives

The Manhattan

Well, not all wreck dives can be in warm tropical places. I suppose you could drop into  Chicago if you do this dive and have a nice bowl of ramen at the Slurping Turtle(keeping the aquatic theme) to warm you up.

LuLu (Alabama) — This vessel sank off the coast of Orange Beach, Alabama on May 26, 2013 making it the state’s first artificial reef. Now divers travel 90 minutes from shore to explore the boat 115 feet below the sea’s surface. Learn more here: downunderdiveshop.com

wreck dives

The Lulu

Papoose (North Carolina) — The Papoose was torpedoed by a German submarine in 1942 and below water is where it has remained ever since. On a daily basis, five to 10 sand tiger sharks can be seen hanging around the sunken ship. Learn more here: discoverydiving.com

If you like sea creatures as well as wreck dives, I say this is a winner.

USNS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg (Florida) — A decommissioned U.S. Air Force missile-tracking ship, the Vandenberg lies upright in 130 feet of water and is a favorite with divers, due to its large size of 520 feet. Learn more here: divekeywest.com

wreck dives

The Papoose, and a shark!

This one also sounds like a winner – though 130 feet down doesn’t sounds very easy! SCUBA experts, feel free to correct me and tell me I’m just being a big baby!

Spiegel Grove (Florida) — This vessel served in the U.S. Navy and was nicknamed “Top Dog,” as this massive warfare ship once carried 330 troops, 18 officers and eight helicopters. Divers have the opportunity to fin through the wheelhouse, find barracuda on the deck and swim through propellers at the stern.  Learn more here: horizondivers.com

I’d be all over a trip into the wheelhouse!

wreck dives

The Hoyt S. Vandenberg

U-352 (North Carolina) — This German submarine had a crew of 40 serving aboard the vessel. Of that 40, 15 remain inside as of May 9, 1942 when USCGC Icarus downed the ship. It now lies 115 feet and the must see for divers include the conning tower, gun mounts and torpedo-loading hatch. Olympusdiving.com

Oh, my! This sounds like a spooky, creepy winner. I have a soft spot for U boats since I visited the U-505 at the as a boy.

wreck dives

Call it the Top Dog …

wreck dives

I can’t resist a U-boat.

Mentioned in this post
  1. San Francisco
    City in California

    San Francisco California
  2. Hawaii
    State in United States

    Hawaii
  3. San Diego
    City in California

    San Diego California
  4. Florida
    State in United States

    Florida
  5. Slurping Turtle
    Restaurant in Chgo Illinois

    116 W Hubbard St
    Chgo Illinois
    (312) 464-0466
    http://slurpingturtle.com/chicago/
  6. Alabama
    State in United States

    Alabama
  7. North Carolina
    State in United States

    North Carolina

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