Technically Speaking: Values


It’s been some time since I wrote an article, and usually when I write an article it’s because there is a subject, or a topic that I am passionate about. This article raises points regarding values, in particular how these values are changing as wreck diving progresses.

When humans decide to pursue an activity, there is always a goal in mind to achieve. In the process of planning certain values on these activities and outcomes are placed.  Within diving this is also true, we dive to achieve a goal, whether it is for fun, gathering food, or finding lost human remanets of past eras - for wrecks divers, of course are shipwrecks.

There varying reasons divers descend onto shipwrecks; some for history, salvage, or it could be just to see the marine life. Whatever the objective we all have a goal that we set to achieve diving on wrecks.

But what are the values that wreck divers hold when they dive on shipwrecks? I guess this is a very broad question to ask, but it’s possible to look to the past and present, and compare where these values are now.

Back in the good old days, as they would say, divers dived anywhere they wanted, did anything they wanted - shipwrecks were fair game for all. There were no rules or laws to stop divers from looting historical wrecks and considered normal to dive for booty. With limited equipment and knowledge early divers were restricted on how deep they could go, though on occasion that didn’t stop them from doing daring dives.

These divers had their values in being tough, creative, and intuitive - wrecks were their domain. The historical context of the wrecks themselves was disregarded by some; removal of artefacts was the norm and not challenged nor questioned. Bringing up a heavy piece of brass as was their objective in diving wrecks. They had lots of values in their diving, just little for the shipwrecks.

These divers back in the days didn’t go removing artefacts just to prove their manhood, this was something normal to do and legal. With change over time they changed as well, and so did their values as well. At the same time the 90’s technical diving explosion occurred, and everyone jumped on the Trimix train. Before long rebreathers became mainstream and all the deep divers embraced the new gear and knowledge.

Suddenly these dramatic changes in short period of time have changed the tech diving community. We were in a period where values were put on gear and skills, rather than on diving. It became a fashion show at boat ramps – which diver had the most gear on the day, the brightest Trimix stickers on their tanks! It was like the circus hit the town. Until several fatal accidents brought everyone back to reality. Suddenly everyone had to re-assess their values, and ask; what exactly are we achieving? No one was finding any new wrecks, and those that are cave divers as well went away from the Ocean. It was the lazy period, where everyone valued their look at a boat ramp, rather than the quality of diving they were doing, and the sites they were visiting.

Then came the gold rush of shipwrecks, from Queensland, to Southern NSW and down to Victoria, divers started to find new shipwrecks and woke everyone up from their slumber. The new generation of divers that been trained and equipped, but with no wrecks to dive and the hunger to start exploring new sites arose. But this time values changed again and rather suddenly from looting to protecting.

The trend went towards ensuring that wrecks weren’t stripped from artefacts for all to enjoy. More and more divers put their values on these wrecks, so that the feeling of diving a new wreck stayed. This of course also created a big divide amongst the diving community. Not everyone agrees with leaving artefacts on shipwrecks, and their values tend to be towards the good old days of diving! But with new laws and more visibility on divers’ action in Australian waters, those that have the urge to bring up brass and artefacts turned towards overseas destinations, where there are no laws on such activity.

The South China Sea, areas with many historical shipwrecks, these sites are like honey to a bee for divers. Every year many divers visit these wrecks. All divers get the chance to dive some huge wrecks, full of brass and artefacts for all to see and take. I have pondered many times on doing such a trip, the story’s I hear after each trip sound like the place to be with good diving and good company. But it’s the other stories that discourage me from going.

I have travelled to several overseas destinations and diving the wrecks they offer. I always found that lots of respect and emphasis was put on leaving the site as found. This includes wrecks with war dead inside. Diving on a U-boat with 49 bodies still on board brings out all sorts of emotions, and the thought of removing a piece of that wreck makes you feel like you are removing a piece of a grave at a cemetery.

I have wrote before about interacting with shipwrecks that have dead on board, and it’s always been of my opinion that we should never restrict divers diving these sites, but it’s important for divers to respect what I consider is a tomb for these dead.

After hearing story’s that when some divers digging in the silt on the HMS Prince of Wales, they have come across skulls, and human bones. Then divers proceed to remove brass parts of a wreck to bring up. I guess this is when my personal values stand clear of the rest, the fact that when a diver visiting these shipwrecks, they are visiting a grave of war dead, these are the same soldiers we celebrate every 25th April each year. The ones that gave their lives in protecting our land and our future - how can someone even think of doing such an act? Does our generation still hold any values at all? Or is the good old day’s mentality here to stay, never to change?

Then how are we are to change and move forward, if we can’t even value the importance of our history, and human respect?

When new shipwrecks are found, its music to my ears; regardless of who found it, it means there is another piece of history I get to witness and enjoy. It makes me sad when people remove artefacts and don’t put a second thought that others have the right to enjoy these sites as well. But secrecy is not a solution, education is. There are still may more shipwrecks to be found, and new generations of wreck divers will come through. We must show the value of respecting these sites, if not for historical reasons, but for moral reasons.

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