Throwback Thursday: Technical Wreck Training and USS Palawan
Wreck diving is the ultimate in underwater exploration.
I'm ashamed to admit that I wasn't into wrecks, at first. I didn't see the point. They weren't as pretty as real reefs, and it's not like I was going to go inside a wreck, like, ever. (Click through on that one to see my photo! Squee.)
And then I got some tech diving training, and it changed my whole world.
I feel like that one warrants a repeat: Technical diving changes everything.
Now, the USS Palawan wreck, at 125', is technically (ha ha) within recreational dive limits. But as with USS Hogan, one of my favorite wreck dives in the whole world ever, 125 feet is pretty deep for a no-decompression dive. A two-hour boat ride for what, a 12-minute dive? I can see why people think the wrecks aren't worth it.
Disclaimer: Please, please, PLEASE don't risk your life for a wreck. If you want to do the dives, get the gear and take the class(es). Don't engage in decompression diving without the appropriate training and equipment. Your family and friends, as well as the entire dive community, thank you for your good judgment.
But add a few years of tech training, and maybe throw a rebreather into the mix, and your diving world opens right up. Suddenly you get to spend a bit of time on these deeper wrecks. You get to know them. And suddenly you realize that the juxtaposition of shapes--the man-made angles of the ship side-by-side with the organic curves of sea life--it's beautiful.
Palawan is something of an acquired taste. As a former cargo ship, big, empty spaces were sort of her thing. And that's what you get to see when you dive her--lots of big, empty spaces. I'm not sure I can emphasize the bigness enough. Most people have never been on a cargo ship, I imagine. I certainly haven't. But when you dive one, the amount of room you have to maneuver is such a different world from the typical wreck dive. Some might find that boring, but I think it's fascinating--and humbling--in its own right.
It's wild to look back and evaluate how much has changed over my diving career. I'll never lose respect for wrecks, but the fear of going inside them is all but gone, replaced with compelling curiosity and an urge to explore.
This site has helped develop my love for wreck diving, too. I love receiving emails and comments from readers who served on the ships that I get to dive on and photograph. Wrecks are great, but wrecks with a story are even better.