Wreck Diving

Dive Expedition in the Bahamas

Stuart Cove, Liz Parkinson and David Benz set off aboard aboard a 65-foot Hatteras on an expedition to uncover new dive sites and extended itineraries beyond the reef, wrecks, walls, sharks, and underwater Hollywood dive sites that are in Stuart Cove’s extensive local playground off New Providence Island (Nassau). The team ventured out to the Abacos and went diving on sites like the Orange Bowl, Danger Reef, Andros Blue Hole and Autec Buoy in 3,400 feet of water. They also dived the newest wreck in Stuart Cove’s fleet of wrecks, the Sea Trader. Here is a sampling of what they found.

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Maritime History: See What Wrecks Were Discovered in 2015

Corsair wreck at Marshall Islands

Brandi Mueller

Corsair wreck at Marshall Islands

New wrecks are being found around the world, and we’ve got the scoop.


Exploring one plane wreck is good — but 150 is better. That’s what awaits divers in the Pacific Ocean’s Marshall Islands, where more than 150 WWII aircraft were found in 130 feet of water. “They should have flown more, lived longer, but they were sunk in perfect condition,” Brandi Mueller tells guns.com. She discovered the site while diving of the coast of Roi-Namur in May 2015. Although this site is called a “graveyard,” these planes did not crash — rather they were pushed of a reef and into the ocean after the war.


Lost off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa, in 1794, this Portuguese slave ship drew the attention of researchers who spent years searching for it — recently, the authenticity of the São José-Paquete de Africa was confirmed by the Slave Wrecks Project, which educates the public about the global slave trade. Now over 200 years old, the São José-Paquete de Africa sank after it ran into submerged rocks about 300 feet from shore, killing more than half of the 500 enslaved people on board, while it was on its way from Mozambique to Brazil. Surviving slaves were sold shortly after the tragic wreck incident. Divers can also explore nearby reefs.


After more than 60 years on the bottom, the “amazingly intact” USS Independence has been discovered of California’s Farallon Islands, though its depth — 2,600 feet — makes it undivable. Using an autonomous underwater vehicle and a 3-D-imaging sonar system, researchers created a detailed image of the 623-foot vessel. Independence was an American aircraft carrier during World War II; it was a target ship in atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll.


Two hundred feet down on Lake Superior’s bottom lies a 115-year-old ship with its name still legible — Nelson. Found intact, the 199-foot three-masted schooner sank during a storm in 1899 while transporting coal to Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. While conducting a side-scan sonar search of the area, Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society researchers discovered the wreck in August 2014.

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Top 100: Diving in French Polynesia

Honeymooners who arrive at the over- water bungalows of Bora Bora and Moorea are convinced they’ve found Eden. But what most of their blissed-out ilk never realize is they’ve hardly scratched the surface when it comes to all there is in fantastique French Polynesia. Divers, of course, are more clued in. Collectively known as the islands of Tahiti, this volcanic archipelago of 118 islands and atolls includes five island groups, and covers a swath of the Pacific as large as Western Europe. From bejeweled reefs to ripping passes blitzed by pelagics, it’s a lot to take in. Here’s a head start on where to get wet.

Shark Central

Many dive destinations can claim sharks, but it’s hard to think of one that delivers them in the insane abundance of the Tuamotu atolls, the largest of the five island groups, where walls of sharks are the norm. During drift dives in Rangiroa’s Tiputa Pass and Fakarava’s Tumakohua Pass, hundreds of gray reef sharks congregate on the atoll’s outer wall like puzzle pieces in a toothy jigsaw, and silvertips and whitetips make appearances too. “My dive buddy wasn’t lying when he said, ‘Ain’t nobody gonna out-shark us,’” remembers San Diego diver Mark Guinto, who traveled to FP for what turned out to be the sharkiest dives of his life (gray sharks, lemon sharks, whitetips, silvertips and more). “Almost everyone was there to dive with sharks, and there were several species of them in great number,” says Guinto. Great hammerheads also are spotted fairly regularly at the passes, and tiger sharks make appearances too — making it easy to see why FP also took top honors for Best Big Animals.

Wide-Angle Wonderland

French Polynesia’s dazzlingly clear seascapes are to wide-angle photography what Lembeh is to a macro lens: the dream destination for clicking the shutter on some of the world’s most singular underwater moments, earning FP the No. 2 spot for Best Underwater Photography in the Pacific and Indian Ocean region. Excellent visibility that consistently surpasses the 100-foot mark enhances your photos, with ambient light a particularly saturated shade of blue. From the plunging walls of the Tuamotu passes and the Opunohu canyons of Moorea to Fitii pass in Huahine in the Society Islands (a calmer version of a Tuamotu-style drift), a wide-angle lens is your best friend for capturing walls of sharks, schooling jacks, mantas, dolphins and the like. “There is nowhere on Earth that compares to the stunning atolls of the Tuamotu chain when it comes to reef shark photography,” says Mike Veitch, an underwater photographer based in Bali. “The clear water and amazing abundance of sharks there is unmatched anywhere.”

Migrating Humpbacks

From mid-July to late October, visitors to Rurutu in the Austral archipelago (the southernmost group in French Polynesia) are treated to one of the ocean’s most awe-inspiring experiences — the chance to snorkel alongside humpback whales and their babies, drawn to the shallow, sheltered waters as a stopover on their migration path to Antarctica. Whaling stopped on this lagoonless island in the 1950s, and whale-watching tourism and snorkeling tours have brought a new livelihood for the people living here. The seas can be rough at this time of year, and visibility can be compromised, but when you find yourself finning alongside one of the gentle giants that come here to reproduce, calve and nurse their young, you’ll be left humbled for life.

Pelagic Paradise

Coastal and open-ocean pelagic species abound in French Polynesia, and therein lies the excitement of diving here — you never know when a great hammerhead, manta ray or tiger shark will go cruising past you. On the pearl-farming coral atoll of Manihi, mantas can sometimes be seen carousel-feeding in about 30 feet of water at the dive site called the Circus. Jacques Cousteau’s explorations in Tikehau in the Tuamotus found a higher concentration of species there than anywhere else in French Polynesia (he called the atoll the richest on Earth). Tikehau remains a pelagic gold mine for shoaling barracuda, manta rays and the usual shark denizens. And on Rangiroa, a veritable underwater Serengeti awaits.

“The concentration of colors and species was a sensory overload,” remembers Katharyne Daughtridge Gabriel, a diver who lives near London. “We saw gray sharks, whitetip sharks, barracudas, manta rays. And on the exit, I remember thinking, ‘I just foated through Jacques Cousteau’s dreams.’”

Ripping Drift Dives

Drift dives are a bit of a misnomer for the experience that awaits when you find yourself aviating through the famed atoll passes of Rangiroa, Fakarava and Tikehau in the Tuamotus. Sites like Tiputa and Avatoru passes in Rangiroa and Fakarava’s famed south pass, Tumakohua, are considered advanced dives due to the strong tidal currents pushing you into the lagoon that range between 3 and 8 knots. (Plan some refresher-level drift dives on Huahine in the Society Islands if you’re out of practice.) “It felt like I was flying next to a mountain-side,” remembers Guinto, a pilot who teaches military parachuting, of a dive at Tiputa Pass. “As a sky diver, I’ve had similar sensations.” Indeed, if any diving experience approaches the sensation of aerial acrobatics underwater, it’s the roaring passes of the Tuamotus — one reason FP was lauded as Best Advanced Diving in its region.

Pearl Farms

One of the pleasures of French Polynesia is shopping for Tahiti’s famed black pearls — which come in many sizes, shapes and colors, from black to shades of green, blue, bronze, aubergine and even pink — at a local pearl farm. At destinations such as Rangiroa and Tikehau, you can borrow a bike from your dive resort and pedal along sandy lanes fringed with palms to inspect the goods, or take a tour at farms such as Gauguin’s Pearl in Rangi or Fakarava’s Pearls of Havaiki.

The Land of Gauguin

The goal is to spend as much time as possible underwater, but some of the planet’s most jaw-dropping tropical landscapes — old volcanoes glinting with rainbows and emerald slopes lapped by perfectly peeling waves — make any time spent topside a treat too. From the mist-carpeted mountains of the Marquesas, where the French artist Paul Gauguin spent his final years, to Moorea’s lush Route d’Ananas (Pine- apple Route), best explored by scooter, and the iconic extinct volcanic peaks of Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu on Bora Bora, you’ll need extra memory cards. Add to all that lushness the barren beauty of the atolls — sandy rings lapped by turquoise water and dotted with tiny motus (islets) that materialize as you descend toward the Tuamotus — and it’s visual overload in the very best sense, making it clear why readers named French Polynesia Best Overall Destination. “Everything feels exaggerated in its beauty,” remembers Janet Malin of time spent snorkeling with sharks and rays in Moorea’s lagoons. “The electric green of the land, fuchsia flowers, water this crazy royal blue, even the locals’ tattoos.”

French Style Crepes



For dining on the (relatively) cheap, alongside locals in Papeete, look for food trucks called roulottes. Skirted with picnic tables, they serve things like grilled mahimahi and French-style crepes and steaks. Can’t decide which? Look for the most crowded.

Le Cocos restaurant in French Polynesia



One of the best wine lists in French Polynesia — heavily French, of course — awaits at the new Moorea outpost of Le Coco’s, opened in March 2015 in Haapiti (lecocostahiti.com). Try the three-course sampler option to get a wider range of tastes.

Bungalow in Ninamu Resort

Courtesy Ninamu Resort


Mingle with big-wave surfers and kite surfers who also enjoy diving at Ninamu Resort (motuninamu.com) on Tikehau. The property has six bungalows and is completely of the grid, producing its own solar power and filtering its drinking water.


When To Go You can dive year-round in French Polynesia, but it’s rainier during the Southern Hemisphere summer, from November to March.

Travel Tip If you’re coming from the East Coast, consider staying a night in Los Angeles on your way to Tahiti. That way, you will arrive refreshed and ready to dive.

Dive Conditions Visibility in French Polynesia can reach up to 150 feet, and the water temperature averages 80 degrees.

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Secret Spot: Diving the Chrisoula K Wreck in the Red Sea

Scuba Diver and Eel in the Chrisoula K Shipwreck, Red Sea

Tobias Friedrich

Slithering Surprise

Sometimes encounters happen that couldn’t have been planned better. One of these rare situations took place at the Chrisoula K wreck in the Red Sea. I was situated by a door frame, waiting for another photographer, when suddenly a giant moray eel swam through the small space between the door and me. I was shocked at first, but I recognized that this could be a fantastic photo opportunity. I quickly swam after the eel and caught it right above some Italian floor tiles that were the ship’s main cargo when it sank in 1981. The encounter was so quick that I didn’t have time to double-check my camera settings — luckily, they were just right.

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Drive and Dive: Exploring the Wrecks of Tobermory

The Forest City Shipwreck in Tobermory

The Forest City Wreck

The Forest City met its fate after ramming Bear’s Rump Island; the most interesting parts lie between 100 and 150 feet.

Andy Morrison

The thrill of diving the shipwrecks of Tobermory came long before I made a giant stride into the frigid Canadian waters of Lake Huron. It was born of the countless stories told by Great Lakes divers who shared accounts of the magnificent shipwrecks and spectacular scenery. It also came from numerous accounts rating Tobermory among the best the Great Lakes has to offer.

I needed to see for myself. My much-anticipated first dive was on the Arabia, a striking three-masted wooden barque that sank in October 1884 in heavy seas, forcing the crew to abandon ship. Sought out because of its beauty and interest to divers, only the experienced should attempt the Arabia because its depth — about 120 feet — and cold waters can create difficult conditions.

I descended the line to the bow, where my dive buddy and I spent most of our air, despite knowing an intact captain’s wheel — a definite must-see — stood at the stern. The Arabia is an excellent example of how the chilly, fresh water of the Great Lakes preserves maritime history: Rigging hung from the bowsprit that pierced the water, and chains spilled of the windlass onto the deck. Deadeyes stared up at me as I hovered over the railings while taking my time exploring the mostly intact hull. I couldn’t ask for more.

Another of Tobermory’s more-challenging dives is the Forest City. A three-masted wooden schooner later converted into a steamer, the Forest City sank in June 1904 after running full-steam into an island in a dense fog.

The ship now rests almost perpendicular to the island, with the bow at 60 feet, gradually descending to about 150 feet at the stern. Stick to your dive plan on this wreck because the ease of the descent and the sights found among the ship’s broken decking can easily lead you beyond your planned depth. Thanks to 50-plus-foot visibility, I was able to observe the Forest City’s intact stern railing — its signature feature — while staying at my planned maximum depth of 120 feet.

Tobermory is located at the northern tip of the South Bruce Peninsula, a slice of land that juts out into Lake Huron, forming the western border of the Georgian Bay. Peppered with islands, the waters around Tobermory attract all sorts of water enthusiasts.

Divers come because of the abundance and variety of shipwrecks, ranging from novice depths to technical. Sharp underwater inclines, which loom into islands above the water’s surface, meant captains cruising along in deep water might unexpectedly find themselves colliding with a shallow shoal. The result: several downed ships, many of which can be reached on a single tank of air.

Fathom Five National Marine Park protects many of these treasures. Canada’s first national marine park, Fathom Five was designated in 1987 and encompasses 45 square miles consisting of 20 islands and 22 shipwrecks. Parks Canada charges divers a nominal fee before they can enjoy all Tobermory has to offer.


Not everything is inside Fathom Five, however, including one of the area’s best — the City of Cleveland. The boat ride out to the wreck is nearly two hours, but it is worth the trip.

A 255-foot steamer that sank in September 1901 after being forced of-course by devastating waves, the City of Cleveland has been called the most impressive shallow dive in the Great Lakes. While many of Tobermory’s shipwrecks are better suited for the experienced diver, the City of Cleveland is a playground for all experience levels. The only drawback is the long boat ride it takes to reach it, but it’s worth the lengthy round-trip commute.

The steamer’s bow sits at about 10 feet below the water’s surface, with its deepest point at about 30 feet. The shallow dive meant more bottom time to check out the steam engine with its massive boilers, the rudder, and the main attraction — an immense propeller resting upright in sand.

Just when you think you’ve seen all of Tobermory’s amazing offerings, your dive boat will drop anchor at one more. For us, it was the 182-foot Niagara II, also outside the park boundaries. The Niagara II was purpose-sunk in 1999 by the Tobermory Maritime Association to alleviate pressure on the area’s older wrecks. The 182-foot sand- sucker sits at about 100 feet, ripe for exploration. Locals had a bit of fun prepping this wreck for divers, adding items like a piano, which is fairly smashed up now.

We tied in at the bow and descended into the cold, clear water. We spent a lot of time at the pilothouse, where a ship’s wheel can be found, thanks to a replica placed by association members. We then slipped along the portside deck to the stern, penetrating the hull and slipping over rails along the way.

After four days spending as much time on and under the water as possible, it became clear — Tobermory definitely lives up to its reputation. We’ll return soon to dive some other don’t-miss sites: the 175-foot former barge James C. King and the 130-foot former schooner San Jacinto, as well as Dunk’s Point, North Otter Wall and the Caves, which is at the base of a limestone cliff and features two underwater entrances that lead to a picturesque grotto in 20 feet of water.

More Epic Diving in North America

Explore California’s Sonoma Coast

Wreck Diving the Straits of Mackinac

Tour the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail

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