Wreck diving can give as much excitement to a scuba diver as a roman coin does to a treasure hunter wielding a metal detector.
Not only do wrecks form part of our underwater cultural heritage, they really give a sense of a story behind them just from the way they lie on the sea floor, or poke their bows out of the silt waiting to be explored. Descending down to a serene wreck site can sometimes make you forget about the violent history that is behind many of the ships. That is until you see metal parts twisted out of shape by the force of explosions; heavy hatch covers blown off the cargo holds and gaping holes in the side of the ship.
It also happens that wrecks create some of the best diving as they provide habitats to various different species of fish and coral alike, which use the nooks and crannies as safe houses from predators, and decorate the metalwork into colourful patterns. It's hard to get the threatening sense of a deck gun when it looks more like a stuffed toy covered in sea anemones.
Wreck diving can also give a sense of achievement to the diver as you are required to have special skills to overcome the new challenges that a sunken ship can present you. PADI offer the Wreck Diving speciality course to make sure that you are fully qualified to take advantage of all that a wreck can present you. This is because penetration diving (submerging yourself into the wreck itself) can come with some associated risks.
Due to the fact that wrecks often act as "artificial reefs" for many species, they in turn become hot spots for fishing activity. Any nets that get caught on the wrecks therefore pose entanglement threats to divers. The small spaces can make manoeuvring inside a wreck difficult at the best of times, and sharp piece of lose metal could also cause injury. It is worth noting that insurance upgrades are often needed before wreck diving to ensure that you are fully covered. Don't let this put you off though as the rewards are well worth the risks!
As you leave a wreck site after an exhilarating dive, it often feels strange that so few people have the chance to explore these 'underwater museums'. Sometimes though it is all too easy to get caught up in the adventure of the dives and forget about the sacrifice and peril of the many men and woman who served on ships.
As the marine world celebrated 25 years since the discovery of the Titanic on the 1st September this year, now seems like a better time than any to try your hand at wreck diving.
SS Thistlegorm, Red Sea, Egypt
Why not stay at the luxurious Four Seasons Resort, Sharm El Sheikh and visit the SS Thistlegorm (pictured), renowned as one of the top wreck dives in the world, perhaps due to her strong ingredients of war, heroism and tragedy. The voyage of this British armed merchant navy ship was cut short when she was sunk by German bombers on 6th October 1941. First discovered by Jacques Cousteau in the early 1950's, it's not surprising he did not disclose her location. With a maximum depth of 32m, in warm waters with high visibility, and containing all manner of interesting objects such as motorbikes and trucks (!) this is a wreck dive not to be missed, or indeed forgotten.
RMS Rhone, British Virgin Islands
Another to put on the hitlist is the RMS Rhone, a British Royal Mail steam ship that was hit by one of the Caribbean's natural disasters - a mighty hurricane. Sunk on 29th October 1867, The RMS Rhone came to her fate in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) after colliding into Black Rock Point. Deemed "unsinkable" and despite being only 230m away from safety, only 23 people survived out of 146 aboard this ship. If you only have time for one dive in the BVI, make this it. With little of the wreck still enclosed, it is a fairly easy wreck dive, and easy accessible from Peter Island.
Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands
Rest assured that some extremely famous wrecks can also be found closer to home. Scapa Flow, a stretch of water located in the Orkney Islands, Scotland is a natural harbour, used as a navy based to control entrances to the North Sea during both world wars. With a scuppered fleet of 10 battleships, 5 battle cruisers, 5 cruisers and 32 destroyers to explore, you might just even forget about the cold water!