Technically Speaking: Diving Naked

Diving historical shipwrecks, old mines or caves that were once inhabited by people is akin to travelling back in time. They are time capsules for objects and artefacts of past eras and, unless disturbed, lay in the same place they originally landed.

I held little knowledge of shipwrecks when I started my diving career and didn’t consider, let alone appreciate, the historical or cultural significance of these sites at the time.

Initial shipwreck sites I dived were naked; apart from their structures there tended to be no artefacts on them, or any objects of interest. As a novice who was diving wrecks as a first time visitor, I had no idea that there were once objects of various descriptions and interest. To me, I saw these shipwrecks as boring, uninteresting and just hulks of metal on the ocean floor.

As a result my wreck diving started to focus on trying to find the tightest hole, and try and squeeze through it! This was the level of boredom started to feel. My attention also started to focus towards marine life, as many man-made objects on sea floor tend to evolved into artificial reef systems.

Eventually I sought to learn the history of the shipwrecks I was diving. This was to bring some life and understanding to them. I started to consider them in a different light and injected some understanding as well as some mystery into the wrecks. This is still a major factor as to why I dive on shipwrecks.

Even though I found a new way to enjoy existing sites, I knew there were more virgin shipwrecks still accessible by divers. Although not all were in the shallows and meant my diving needed to improve. I also needed right equipment to access them.

Time and money spent accounted towards being able to dive new undisturbed shipwrecks; shipwrecks with artefacts still in their place untouched by any human since the ship sank.

My first virgin shipwreck totally changed my view of shipwrecks forever with a realisation of how precious time was when visiting deeper sites. I had taken for granted on the shallow wrecks. Now I tried to use every second to do something useful or just being to soak up the wreck of what I was seeing. That feeling remains exciting as that first dive, no matter how many times I descend to an undisturbed shipwreck.

Time flies on deeper wrecks and I can never get enough time to do and see everything I want to do especially when filming. The biggest challenge I face when filming a wreck is to focus on one particular aspect at a time, instead of trying to film all of the wreck in one dive. Though I must admit that I do go a bit crazy on my first dive an un-dived wreck, I just can’t help but go crazy with excitement.

Over time, I’ve become an avid protector of shipwrecks. My sentiment for protecting wrecks is because as a diver I want to have this feeling every time I descend to a shipwreck. I also want other divers to experience the excitement of descending onto a shipwreck abound with artefacts.

Once artefacts are removed, the shipwreck becomes a naked shell and no matter how historic, the site becomes boring. To me I find seeing an object on the sea floor while I am doing what I love best, is much more exciting than seeing it in someone’s lounge room, or even the museum. It’s the selfish diver in me.

There are valid causes for bringing artefacts to the surface in some circumstances, such as identification, restoration, preservations or protection, ideally for public viewing and examination. There are also invalid causes to bring artefacts to the surface, such as private holdings. This is the old age discussion/argument that will go on forever.

As a diver though, I’d rather see artefacts left on the site where they sunk to wherever possible and practical.

Whether or not artefacts are brought to the surface, all cases need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and put into perspective. We can’t possibly protect every object found on sea floor. Not everything is of value either historically or monetarily. Do I still agree with them coming up though – well no.

I have spent years developing my ability towards being able to reach deep sites and I would like to able to feel the excitement every time I dive.

Artefacts not only exist on ocean floor, they can be found in old abandoned mines and even caves.  This provides another look into the past, but these are a lot harder to access and often these sites become closed to diver traffic when fossils or manmade objects are found. Not exactly the best outcome to divers’ interest and something I don’t necessarily agree with as there are still sites to be found which still have objects of interest left behind. These are usually preserved quite well in fresh cold water.

So where do we draw the line with shipwrecks? What is the value of having everything protected if there is nothing to be gained? A site with historical values should be protected, with full access to them granted so that divers can enjoy and learn about the history. In return divers need to leave artefacts on the shipwreck for all to enjoy.

But what if a site is just old with little value, do we allow divers to bring up objects, stripping the wreck further of anything interesting?

A shipwreck rich in artefacts will always excite even the most seasonal diver, no matter how many wrecks he or she has dived.

I am a diver who enjoys diving shipwrecks and its artefacts. This regardless of whether the site is historic or not, if it’s naked it’s becomes another pile of junk on the ocean floor.

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